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Amy Carmichael :: Nor Scrip—2. The Sign

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The work for the children dedicated, or about to be dedicated, or in danger of being dedicated to the gods of South India, began with the coming of the first Temple child in March 1901. The thought of money in connection with it did not come to mind. The burden concerning them was heavy. The relief of being able to do something was great. Quickened by the sense of relief, the only thing we felt possible was just to go on, using whatever there was in hand, and taking no thought for the morrow. It was not the will of the Father that one of these little ones should perish. That was enough to clear the way and carry us on in peace. But one morning early in February 1904, something happened which brought the thought of money to the front. A letter came from a trustworthy pastor living in a Hindu town a day's journey distant: 'Can you send by messenger at once a hundred rupees to me? The child of whom you know is about to be dedicated to Siva. They have spent that sum upon the festivities. I cannot get her unless I pay it. If possible, send it at once.'

It was then about 10 a.m. If a messenger could be sent off within an hour she might catch the train five or six hours' journey distant, and be in that town by night. An hour's hesitation on the part of one who had heard of her, had lost a child only a few days before. I dared not hesitate. But to pay so much money straight to the devil did seem most impossible. There was only time for a quick word asking for light, and the guidance came so far as I knew it, 'Send the money.' So it was sent.

Then there was time to think. The child's story was this: Her father had married out of caste. He had found it inconvenient and so he had hired people who do such things to 'cause the wife to depart.' One night therefore she quietly departed. As soon as the death ceremonies were over he had let it be known that his only little daughter would belong to the gods. We had heard of it when we stayed in the town, living with this same pastor and his wife. We had tried hard to get the child then, but had found it impossible, and the thought of that bright little girl and her fate had never been forgotten. Now Ponnamal, the dear and faithful Ponnamal, was on her way to save her. But that hundred rupees: it felt like buying a soul.

Then and there it was borne upon me that this was the beginning of something that would reach further than I had thought; there would be disapproval, perhaps, to face; doubt there would certainly be. How could I be sure my reading of our Lord's will was so clear that I could stand against anything or anyone however wise and good? And I asked for a sign, a Gideon's fleece, a round sum of one hundred rupees, no more, no less.

It came; the sender wrote that she had sat down to write a broken sum, but had been impelled to make it just that.

Awed and full of a most solemn joy, I called Ponnamal (who had returned with the child) and Sellamutthu, the members of our Women's Itinerating Band with whom I had fullest companionship of spirit. They too saw in this nothing less than a Sign, and much comforted and enlightened, they stood by me from that day forward.

But before the Sign came (the first of many such as will be shown hereafter) fears had time to sweep up. They came in waves, wave upon wave, and usually in the very early morning before it was light. 'It was now dark' is surely a poignant word. Expense would lead to expense, and difficulty to difficulty. This was the first time that the afterwards oft-to-be-repeated question, 'What will you do with the children when they grow up?' was asked, and it has been a help to remember who asked it, the tempter, not the Lord. But the main and immediate question was one of supplies.

Comfort came through the story of the feeding of the five thousand. 'When Jesus then lifted up His eyes and saw a great multitude come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?'

'We' was the first word of reassurance here. We, not you. Then the one hundred pennyworth of bread, something between six and seven pounds, was just about the sum I had had to send for that child. The remote became near as I thought of it. What are years to the King of Eternity?

But between verses 6 and 7 occurs, Westcott tells us, a break filled by the day's work. Can I in this new work go on all day sure that in the evening help will come?

Then as never again for fifteen years, I was allowed to taste of the cup which would be poured out for me if it did not come. Allan Gardiner for some hidden good purpose was allowed to starve to death. Therefore such an issue could not be regarded as impossible. The children…I need not track in writing the end of that thought. But I did that day tread every foot of it in imagination and came to this: Suppose the children die, and we all (of course) die with them, and the Christian world cries shame on the one responsible, what will it matter after all? The children will be in heaven, and is that not better than the temple?

But it did seem more likely to be to His glory that the little ones should live and be fed, just as the five thousand and their women and children were fed. It would be much more like Him. Only, one never can get past the 'But if not' of the three and the, fiery furnace. And once the thing is faced, it is faced for ever. The mind is at rest, there is no looking back, and no care.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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