That Way and No Other, Amy Carmichael (Introduction by Katelyn Beaty). Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2020.
Summary: A curated collection of writings of Amy Carmichael, the missionary to India who became house mother to girls saved from sex trafficking.
Amy Carmichael had visions of missionary service fired by interactions with the likes of D. L. Moody at Keswick conventions. She tried to work among Manchester factory workers but her health failed. Later, she was rejected for missions in China due to health concerns. After working in Japan for fifteen months, she returned home with excruciating headaches. Finally she sailed from England in 1895 for service in India. She never returned. Even there, her visions of evangelistic ministry took an unexpected turn as young girls started arriving at the compound in Dohnavur–girls brought there as an alternative to sexual slavery in the local shrines. She questioned, “Could it be right to turn from so much that might be of profit…and become just nursemaids?” Then she remembered Jesus washing the disciples feet and realized that it was not hers to question where the Lord would assign her to serve. She oversaw a growing ministry to these girls until her death in 1951.
She also wrote. Her books inspired generations of Christians, many to mission service. In this book, Carolyn Kurtz has collected excerpts of her writings under several themes: Nothing Kept Back, Always a Soldier, Prayer Hunger, Your Chief Love and Friend, Forget Yourself in Serving Others, Poetry in Childhood, and Embracing God’s Will. Some are short, aphoristic in character, some are longer, many filled with lush descriptions of her setting. One example:
The Gloriosa Superba is native to South India. During the autumn rains you find it shooting in the lane bordered thickly by huge cactus and aloe. Here and there you see it in the open field. In the field it will have a chance, you think; but in the lane, crowded down by cactus and aloe, great assertive things with most fierce thorn and spike, what can a poor lily do but give in and disappear? A few weeks afterward you see a punch of color on the field, you go and gather handfuls of lovely lilies, and your revel in the tangle of color, a little bewilderment of delight.
Other excerpts describe the alternative to the refuge they offer the young girls, the horror of the form of sexual trafficking to which they were subject:
A medical missionary, a woman of wide experience, was talking to a younger woman about the temple children. She had lived for some time, unknowingly, next door to a temple house in an Indian city. Night after night she said she was wakened by the cries of children–frightened cries, indignant cries, sometimes sharp cries of pain. She inquired in the morning, but was always told the children had been punished for some naughtiness. “They were only being beaten.” She was not satisfied, and tried to find out more through the police. But she feared the police were bribed to tell nothing, for she found nothing through them. Later, by means of her medical work, she came full upon the truth.
Many of the writings describe the challenges, compensations and joys of work with these girls. So much of this is seen through a life surrendered to Christ. She writes:
Can you find a promise that if we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, life is going to be fairly easy? I do not think we shall find even one. But we shall find ever so many promises assuring us that however things are, we may count on strength to make us brave and peace to keep our hearts at rest.
This is a wonderful collection that captures the essence of Carmichael’s spirituality, her love for the people and place to which God called her, and the struggle and joy she found in entrusting herself to the Lord’s calling. The quotes are accompanied by as short biography by editor Carolyn Kurtz, and an introduction by Katelyn Beaty, reflecting on Carmichael’s life and the role of women in missions, then and now.
I also came across this quote for lovers of books that might be a good way to conclude:
It matters a good deal that your book-food should be strong meat. We are what we think about. Think about trivial things or weak things and somehow one loses fiber and becomes flabby in spirit.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.