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Amy Carmichael :: Nor Scrip—5. Anathoth

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When we came to Dohnavur, the house which had been empty for many years stood in the midst of a small waste, over whose low mud walls the animals of two villages strayed at their pleasure, and in which half the neighbourhood seemed to camp as a matter of course. Gradually things became more orderly; and, as the work began to grow and more space was wanted, we added to it slice by slice as we were able.

Buying land in India is no trifle. Every minute section is possessed, not by one man, but by his family, and the consent of each member of the family, major and minor, has to be sought and bought. These small transactions are not counted in the price of the land nor did we include them in our accounts. They were as nothing in comparison with the expenditure of time they demanded, the endless agreements and changes, as some lost and objecting paternal uncle's second wife's brother's son was retrieved, and had to be placated, the leisurely palavers, and the various involved 'makings of friendship' necessary for even the simplest negotiations. For this is old India, not modern, and we do not pay people to carry our burdens, we carry them ourselves.

Finally, thirty deeds of sale of various sorts accomplished, the required legal formalities completed, the minors' matters happily settled, and the documents safe, we began to possess our good possessions. But in all this buying we walked softly.

One evening-it was December 23, 1913-we went up to the tree that then bordered our dominion, and considered the question of refusing or accepting an offer that had just come from two sets of owners, who till then had been unwilling to sell. And we prayed, standing under the tree, for wisdom and guidance, and then (for we could not help fearing these expenditures, and wanted to be very sure indeed) for a Sign by the mail, due next day. The sum required as an advance to secure the land was Rs. 450.

That Christmas Eve mail brought Rs.500 from one whose name was till that day unknown. All through that month gifts had been very small. This gift stood out distinctly as apart from all others and, coming on that day so close upon our prayer under the tree, carried a sense of conviction to us which quieted our fears. 'Great cheer' was the entry in our note book that day, and the Christmas festival over, on December 26, the first advance payment for that land was given, Rs. 450. Thus we continued, buying as we could, for ten years and five months. The first payment of Rs. 50 was made on April 1, 1904, the last of Rs. 1,217.4.0 on September 8, 1914. And I never understood the story of the buying of the field at Anathoth as I did at the moment I handed the last cheque to Little Brother (a tall and otherwise huge landowner of that name) who, after years of refusal, consented to sell it just before the war made such buying feel most impossible. 'And Thou hast said unto me, O Lord God, Buy thee the field for money.' For truly it had been little less than that.

One day, long before there was the least need of it (before even in dreams I had passed the limit of the new mud wall, thrown round what had seemed a purchase sufficient to last for years, for ever indeed), as I stood on the nearly completed last new nursery-verandah which commanded a view of a fair field beyond, reaching in fact right up to a village on the north, the word came as clearly as ever I had known it, 'Ask for that piece of land.'

'But, Lord, we do not want it.' And again the word came, 'Ask.'

I had never asked for an unwanted thing and was puzzled. I recalled the first time it had been shown that 1 John 5:14-15 was not a word to be whittled away till it ended in practically nothing, but literally and limitlessly true. Standing there on that unfinished verandah I traversed the long road between that day and this, and could not recall one instance when an undesired thing was asked. But there was no escape from that strange urging as of another will than mine; so I asked for the field, adding though, I remember, 'But have we not enough?'

This was the field whose purchase was completed during the trouble and uncertainty of those early days of war.

For in the most direct way gifts had come that paid for it. One from South Africa from an unknown friend; one from another who said, 'Write no name in your Gift book, only write "His hand,"' and obeying I so entered it, and now cannot remember the name. Do the angels keep a roll of the names of the Lord's anonymous givers? There are many anonymous angels, perhaps they have charge of that roll. Then came another large gift from one who felt sure, though I did not then, that there were plans for extension in His mind for us. And so I knew that this was the word of the Lord. And I bought the field, subscribed the evidence, and sealed it according to the customs of the land, and it became ours. And Anathoth means Answers.

Was ever name more fitting? Answered are the questions about the need to have it. It is all used. Answered too the wonder about the means to buy it. All the money spent on it was special and apart. And answered the question about why, so previously, I had been directed to ask. Close upon that time people round us sank wells and began to cultivate. Our being here, we were told, made them feel safe. Right round that field these field-gardens rose, but never one encroached on it. Once wells are sunk land becomes much more valuable. Had even one crossed the limit set by that strangely commanded prayer others would have worked their way in, paying for little plots of it almost as much as we paid for the whole. Now our wall is bounded by these outer cultivations, green fringes for the pleasant place that is our Anathoth.

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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