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Amy Carmichael :: Nor Scrip—7. Jacob's Ladder

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There are many such in our records. There was seldom time to write them down, but a cutting from a home magazine, with a date or two and a note, makes yesterday as today, clean-edged in every little fine-carven memory.

After some six years of search for and the gathering in of children, it became clear that they must somehow be taught, and, nurseries being unsuitable for school-rooms as a permanence, that meant a school-house must be planned and begun as soon as possible.

We had not thought of anything large, but as we pondered the matter 'as it were the appearance' of something large was shown. Our way where buildings are concerned is to ask for a pattern. At that time we did not think of any other way, hardly knew, indeed, there was another way, for we are far out in the country here, and by sheer force of circumstances do sometimes what must seem rather audacious things. Years after our school was built a friend, in telling us of building tribulations, told us the price paid for plans such as could be submitted to Government, and it did seem very wonderful that this expense had been saved, for we knew nothing whatever about building, and might so easily have made mistakes. I can only gratefully believe that, the Perfect-in-Knowledge directing, we were saved from such mistakes, and guided into wise ways by His great kindness.

Now the perplexing thing in this case was that the pattern that seemed to be shown was much too large for our requirements. We had enough money, a special gift, for a building framed on a smaller pattern. Why then the larger, costlier plan? But it was drawn, and considered, and on January 17, 1910, the estimate was made. It far passed the limits of that gift.

We were, puzzled, just as we had been about being caused to ask for the unwanted land. We did not want more than was required. The children come slowly. They are never saved in shoals. Should we ever have a number large enough to use profitably such a building? Also, if our whole thought in educating them is only that they may be winners of souls, would not the least costly of buildings suffice? Why this so costly pattern? Not that it was extravagant. It would not have passed Government requirements. It was quite a simple building, though it seemed a great adventure to us.

In India the custom is for mission schools to be under Government. Plans are submitted, and if passed half the cost is borne by Government. Sometimes when we read statements about costs (for example, 'for so Much a year you can have a child') we wonder for a moment why no such sum, with us at least, would honestly cover expenses, forgetting that such items as buildings are not counted into that alluringly small sum. But our Father never forgets, so it does not much matter that we do.

These thoughts, however, did not trouble us on that day, January 17, 1910, when the plan that was to supply the need of the then unimagined future, lay before us sketched on a piece of paper in red lines and blue. 'And look that thou make them after the pattern that was showed thee on the mount,' was the only thought in mind. And I well remember the questions which led at last to the definite request, 'Show me a token for good that we may know what to do.'

There was much else to think of then, for the time was full of distress, and the great toil of the Court case was just beginning. There was little leisure therefore for thought about such things as buildings. Flesh and spirit were spent out to the uttermost, and except when something recalled that prayer of January 17, it fell out of mind. But on the 20th of that same month, what we then and ever since have regarded as a three-fold token for good was given.

The 20th was our mail day. In the Life of Faith we found a gift unusually large, £31 11s. 6d. from ten givers. A money order for £5 came from the father of one who had just offered to us, 'A thank-offering for great joy.' And the C.I.M. book, Faith and Facts, was sent to us.

So rich a gift coming immediately upon our prayer, so loving a gift from a father who was already giving so much ('Shall He not with Him also freely give?' was a word opened then), so inspiring a gift as this book which swung faith and expectation high, for God is not the God of China only, He is the God of India too-these three tokens for good together had a voice that could not be mistaken. I remember taking the paper down to the place where our school was to be, and looking again at the initials of the nine givers. (The name the tenth chose was 'the truth of God.') And I flew across the sea to them in thought and asked God to thank them.

We took it then as settled that the larger plan was of the Lord's counsel and that therefore what was required for it would come. The masons agreed to work on these somewhat novel lines. They were to go on and build exactly as the money came, and to that limit only. Much wondering, they began. What we had in hand was enough for the foundations.

In February a letter came from a new friend. It was dated January 17, the day we had waited upon our God about the pattern. It told of £100 on its way to us. We took that letter to the masons and translated it. Who that has had such a happy thing to do will ever forget the doing of it? We had told these men that our God heard prayer. They knew all about the prayer of January 17. Here was that very date on the letter. And we looked to see them kneel before Him, convinced that in very truth He is the God of gods. But we had to wait for that. Caste bound them hand and foot. Not till he had wandered far from the Lover of souls did the chief of that little group 'fall at His lotus feet' saying as he passed into the life beyond, 'Not Siva now, not Siva and Jesus. It is Jesus the Lord only.' We stood with the men awhile, and there under the clear sky among the heaps of building stuff we worshipped. And turning, we would not have been surprised had we seen Him under the trees, as we passed into their cool shadow on our way back to the house.

And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Gennesaret, but Thames.

Blessed be the truth in such words.

Steadily on from that time forth gifts, over and above supplies for other needs, came to us for the building, for they were so marked that we were free to use them as required. Not one of these special givers knew anything of what we were doing. They were not in touch with us in any way and the gifts (as indeed all ours are, for we count nothing as a subscription) were among those delightful mercies whose pleasure is doubled by the element of surprise. Do not little children love surprises? And what are we after all but our Father's little children?

So the building was finished. In it is a large room which holds all our present family; in it we celebrate our festivals and our joyous Sunday worship, that half-hour's Adoration which colours all the week. And among the words written up in it is this, chosen by the child for whom the Court battle was fought and by God's grace won, 'I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel.' Counsel in plan; as we have long ago proved, our thought would have been all wrong. Counsel in prayer; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought. 'His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor…the everlasting Father.' 'Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him,' yes, and before we even know them ourselves.

Those who possess a microscope know how, in examining into any minute work of the Lord, detail opens into detail as a higher and higher power is used. And so it seems to us it is with these accounts. For example that first gift opens as we look into it. It came through the generous comradeship of a member of the brave little Ceylon and Indian General Mission, who in taking meetings for his own mission in Australia, spoke of us. Then one whose life is given to the interests of a keen mission there, was moved to send the sum which started what we look upon as our training ground for evangelists. Could any gift be more fragrant, more steeped in the spirit of the Master?

But time would fail to look into these matters. Perhaps the angels see them spread like pictures before them, and looking, laugh for joy. Only let us end by noting that single date, January 17, 1910. In India, prayer for guidance and for the money needed to follow it. In England, prayer for direction about the giving of a gift. Thus shines

The traffic of Jacob's ladder,
Pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross.

There is no ancient, no modern, where the things of the Lord are concerned.


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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