Elisabeth Elliot wrote in her preface, "We read biographies to get out of ourselves and into another's skin." And getting out of my own skin has proven to be incredibly useful.
During the boys' nap time and between chores, I opened my book and flew to India. There, under some shades in the hot and humid jungle, I sat and watched Amy Carmichael as she taught her dark skinned toddlers to sing. She required even the smallest children to help, "A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a very great thing." As their hands swept the floor of their bungalow, peeled fruits, and husked rice, their lips sang these words,
Jesus, Savior, dost Thou see
When I'm doing work for Thee?
Common thing, not great and grand,
Carrying stones and earth and sand?
I did common work, you know,
Many, many years ago;
And I don't forget. I see
Everything you do for Me.
Motherhood for Amy Carmichael began one morning when Preena ran up to her as she was sipping her chota (early tea). The little girl climbed into her lap and began to chatter away, "My name is Pearl-eyes, and I want to stay here always, I have come to stay."
Preena ran away from a Hindu temple, where her biological mother offered her as a child-slave to the temple guardians. Amy was convinced that an angel helped her escape, because fleeing the temple would be quite an impossible feat. Crowds from the village and the temple women came to Amy's house to reclaim the child, but Preena would not go with them, and Amy would not force her. Amy later learned stories from this child that "darkened the sunlight," and Preena had the scars to prove her words.
More and more children were brought to Amy. Her home would sometimes be filled with thirty or more babies and children. She had rescued and raised hundreds of children into adulthood by the time she died at age eighty-three. Many stayed with her and helped her. Some were rescued from the temple; others were brought to Amy by pastors and Christians who found babies by roadsides. Since the day Preena arrived at her door, Amy gave her heart and her missionary feet to be bound by her beloved children, "for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed."
Inside the front cover of Amy's Bible were written these words:
These children are dear to Me.
Be a mother to them, and more than a mother.
Watch over them tenderly, be just and kind.
If thy heart is not large enough to embrace them,
I will enlarge it after a pattern of My own.
If these young children are docile and obedient, bless Me for it;
If they are froward, call upon Me for help;
If they weary thee, I will be thy consolation;
If thou sink under thy burden, I will be thy Reward.
I would return from these trips restored, rested. The toys on the floor and dishes in the sink do not seem so daunting. Even though the window announces that it is still winter here in Chicago, my heart is warmed by the heat of the Indian jungle.
*Pictures taken from the website of the Dohnavur Fellowship, home to thousands of children in South India, continuing the work that Amy Carmichael began in 1901.