Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael: A Lesson in Provident Self-Acceptance by Chris White

Amy Carmichael
Gladys Aylward
“ For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”   Eph. 2:10
Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael are two well-known 20th century missionaries.  Gladys served as a missionary to children in China while Amy Carmichael ran a ministry to morally endangered children in India.  In addition to having similar ministries, both of these ladies were actually famous in their lifetimes.  Amy Carmichael was known as a prolific author of devotional books that have inspired several generations of Christians.  Jim and Elisabeth Elliot and Francis and Edith Schaeffer also well-known authors and missionaries both claim that Amy Carmichael’s writings were instrumental in leading them into ministry.  Gladys Aylward was not an author but a book was written about her which was later turned into a Hollywood movie entitled “The Inn of Sixth Happiness” which also made her famous.  But there was another point of commonality that Amy and Gladys shared: both of them truly disliked their personal appearance.  When Amy was a little girl her mother taught her that she could ask anything of God in prayer.  She disliked her dark brown eyes and decided to ask God to give her blue eyes which she thought were beautiful.  When she woke up the next morning she was deeply disappointed to find her eyes were the same color.  Her mother used this as a teachable moment and pointed out that God hears our prayers always, but sometimes his answer is no and that too is a good thing.  Gladys never asked God to change her appearance, but she always felt her short stature and straight black hair were ugly and unbecoming.  But both of these women would later realize that they looked the way they did for a reason.  Several years into her ministry Amy Carmichael began rescuing children from Hindu temples who were being used as prostitutes.  To blend in with the crowd she would wear an Indian sari, and would use coffee grounds to give her white skin a brownish hue.  On one of her trips she realized that had she had blue eyes, she could have never passed herself off as an Indian.  In that day, she was quite thankful that God had not answered those prayers of her childhood.  Gladys Aylward came to the realization after arriving in China that when she put on Chinese clothing, she blended right in with the people she came to evangelize.  She too realized in that moment that she looked the way she looked because of her calling to China.  Our outward appearance truly is a small thing in the eyes of the Lord, and is usually in the realm of what most of us would think of as superficial, but there is still a spiritual point to this story: you are who you are (personality, temperament, intellect, physicality) for a reason.  And that one thing you may not like about yourself is exactly the thing God will use for His great purposes.

Amy Carmichael : Spiritual Activist by Chris White

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  1 Cor. 13:2-3

 “One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving”  --Amy Carmichael

Amy Wilson Carmichael  (1867-1951) was a well-known Irish missionary to India and the author of many devotional books that continue to read and loved even today.  What is remarkable about Amy’s story that she was an unlikely missionary and an unlikely writer.  She was a devoted evangelist and reached out to the poor and marginalized in England with great effect, but she had very delicate health and was frequently exhausted and bedridden.  God told her to "go“ to the mission field while her own common sense and her closest friends said “you’re not healthy enough to go”.  She went against all odds and against the will of her adoptive father, and ended up in India where she founded Dohnavur Fellowship, a village of refuge dedicated to the safety, education, and evangelization of morally endangered children.  Despite her health issues, Amy was a woman of action and personally cared for all of her children (which numbered in the hundreds) giving time to them every day, counseling them, even hugging them and giving them a goodnight kiss on the cheek.  But right in the middle of some of her most fruitful years of ministry Amy had an accident that greatly injured her leg and essentially left her an invalid for the final 20 years of her life.  Many attempts were made by doctors to fix and heal the leg, but, by and large they failed and Amy was bedridden.  During this time of being forced to slow down, Amy was to write her most well-known devotional books with the help of a stenographer and through them maintained a correspondence with thousands the world over long before the days of email and the internet.  Amy never set out to start of ministry to children or to minister as an author and probably would have preferred to do other things, but she firmly believed she was a servant of the Master and the Master, not the servant, is who decides what work is to be done.  Amy created an environment of family and love in everything she did which is why in Southern India, Amy was renamed “Amma” (mother) for this single woman and unlikely missionary was truly a mother to multitudes.

Katie Luther: Holy Counterpart by Chris White

     Kathryn von Bora Luther (1499-1553) was the wife of Dr. Martin Luther, the famous preacher and writer who is credited with touching off the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  She and Dr. Luther were wed in 1525.  He was 41 and a confirmed bachelor, she was 26 which was normally considered quite old for a first marriage, but Katie Luther had planned on living out her life in a convent as a nun until God changed her plans.  Mrs. Luther is called “the first lady of the Reformation” because she actually was the first lady.  For centuries the church’s priesthood lived by the tradition that ministers were not to have wives and children, but rather to be single and completely devoted to the church.  So Martin and Katie Luther became the example for others not only as Protestant clergy, but an example of Protestant Christian marriage.  Mrs. Luther was by nature quite industrious and was known to run a farm, breed and sell livestock, and even owned and operated the town brewery.  But beyond her strong work ethic, Katie’s bigger contribution was being a counterpart and encouragement to her famous, overworked and overloaded husband.  Because of his reforming activities Martin Luther lived a majority of his adult life with threats to his life, property, and family.  This often put the Reformer in a morose and depressed mood.  When her words of encouragement failed to lift his spirits, Katie quietly went upstairs and put on her black mourning dress.  When she came down, Martin asked who had just died and why he hadn’t heard about it.  She replied, “Oh, the way you were talking I thought God had just died and I wanted to be dressed appropriately for the funeral.”  Luther laughed at the absurdity of it but he also got the point.  Her brilliant husband was also completely oblivious as to the management of money and often gave so much away that the family lived on the brink of financial ruin.  Kathryn was quite good with money and ended up taking over the finances for Martin’s sake.  Dr. Luther said once “in all things domestic I listen to my lord Katie, in all other areas I am led by the Holy Ghost!”.  All of us who are married need to learn from the life of Katie Luther.  She made it her mission to serve God through serving her spouse well.  She sought not to be in competition with him or even to change him, but to be a counterpart to his particular weaknesses.  In so doing she found great blessing from God and made her husband a greater man than he could have been without her.

Mother Teresa and Serving God in Personal Pain By Chris White

  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”                             

                                        -- 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

     A.W. Tozer, wrote that before God can bless a man greatly he must hurt him deeply.  It was his perspective from scripture that personal pain seemed to be part of God’s curriculum for anyone He blessed greatly and that our sufferings should be understood in this light.  Since early adulthood the person we know as Mother Teresa had wanted to be a missionary to Calcutta.  For many years she ran a Christian school for girls and found it to be a very fruitful ministry in terms of building the gospel into the lives of next generation leaders.  In 1946,  Teresa went on her annual spiritual retreat and there she says the Lord gave her a call within a call.  On that retreat the Lord told her that He was pained by the neglect of the poor and the ignorance among the poor of his love and truth.  Then He asked Teresa to go with Him to the poorest of the poor and be His light.  From 1948 until 1997, Mother Teresa worked tirelessly in the slums of Calcutta ministering to the poorest of the poor.  Her work eventually expanded around the world with the help of many other sisters and lay volunteers.  She was also given the Nobel Peace prize and many other significant honors for her great humanitarian work.  But it wasn’t until after she died that her greatest secret was revealed.  Not even her closest friends knew that her interior life was marked with the deepest pain and sorrow of feeling she was rejected by God.  In personal writings that became public several years later, she expressed a longing for the feeling of Christ’s love, but instead found a feeling of being abandoned and forgotten by God.  She called this her inner darkness and it began when she consecrated herself to the Lord’s call within a call and remained with her until her last breath.  When Christ called her to go and love the poor, he also gave her the feelings of those she served on His behalf.  Teresa was able to fully comprehend the desolation and forgotteness that goes with being so poor because that is what she received in her heart.  Many Christians have experienced a “dark night of the soul”.  What is unusual is that for Teresa it was permanent, not a passing phase.  Though Teresa lived with this great spiritual pain, without fail she rose at 4:30 am every day to seek God’s face and strength in prayer.  God did strengthen her and blessed her labors and crowned them with many accolades in this life, but in withholding a sense of His presence in Teresa’s life there was a purification of her motives and a certainty that what was achieved was through God’s strength alone and not by human charisma and effort. Whatever we may think today, Teresa considered her abandonment by God her most shameful secret, but eventually she learned it aided in her gifting and calling from God.