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Amy Carmichael :: Nor Scrip—10. The Twelve Nurseries and the Baskets

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By 1913 we had very much felt our need of more nurseries. An epidemic of whooping-cough, another of measles (worse here than smallpox), smallpox twice, fever often, dysentery sometimes, had taught us the need of a children's hospital and isolation room. We are surrounded by an insanitary neighbourhood; there is no sanitation whatever in rural India. However clean we might be inside, close round about us on three sides was unabashed uncleanliness, we could not always be well. So we began to ask for small nurseries, which would set the larger rooms already built free for these purposes.

But we had to wait as we were not clear that we could go on, for unexpected expenses on behalf of our dear Ponnamal, now stricken by cancer, were upon us, and just at this time something occurred to test to the bottom layer those thoughts and decisions which till now we had held unquestioned. Two friends came to spend a day with us. They asked us if we were in need of help.

I shall not soon forget the quick response to my quick question, 'May I tell them, Lord?' The answer did not come back so much in words as in an assurance that He knew, and that was enough. So they went away without knowing anything.

Then full upon us blew a hot blast of temptation over this. How foolish not to tell. It was not as though they had not asked. But peace returned. He with whom alone we had to do, He knew, He understood.

A few months later the war burst upon the world.

Who does not remember that day of shock when the first headlines appeared in the paper? Who, alone among the heathen in any land with not a white man within a day's journey, does not remember the sense of bewilderment as the people of the country, becoming by a thousand devious means aware of trouble, pressed round asking for explanations? To explain politics is a man's business; we were women alone. The people in whose midst we are set immediately prophesied two things so far as we were concerned: supplies coming, as they knew they came, from heaven alone, would stop (they seemed to think heaven would have enough to look after without this small corner of India as an extra), and they would see our wall fall flat. They had already seen one fall as will be told hereafter, and we were then slowly rebuilding, but this second falling was to be more extensive. It would include the nurseries. In brief, it meant the work, invisibly and supernaturally sustained thus far, could not possibly survive this new condition of things. 'You have not "the mission," what will you do?' some asked in real concern. 'We have God,' we said, 'wars in the world make no difference to God.' But they looked at us with faces all wrinkled and puckered. God is, doubtless is; every Eastern admits that. But this way of counting on Him, was it safe? 'You will see that it is safe,' we said.

One evening a large company of Muhammadans came to look at the illustrated papers, and hear about the war. They were accurately informed about some matters and much at sea about others, and we had a splendid time with them. They, too, could not imagine how we were going to carry on, and we could not help feeling we had a chance the very angels would rejoice in, to show forth the loving-kindness and faithfulness of the Lord.

At first very little money came. We read the figures and look back at the months, and wonder at the power that kept us in peace.

We had, however, gifts for new nurseries. The first was the birthday gift of the little first daughter of those two friends to whom no word of the desires of our hearts had been spoken. 'You told us nothing,' wrote her mother, 'but it has been laid upon us to send you this; so we know you will take it from the Lord.' We did indeed. And guided, as we believed, surely, we had promised the workmen to go on, so that they had engaged themselves to us and thus lost other work. But though we had this and soon other money for building, enough did not come in apart from such gifts for the ordinary needs of the work. And yet we could not feel it would be honouring to our God to go back on our word with the workmen and seem to confirm the saying of the heathen, who watched to see what was going to happen. 'Lead me in a plain path because of those which observe me' is a word for such times. So we told the men we would go on, and we watched for an increase in the gifts. This did not come.

In September, £57 1s. 11d.; in October, £32 18s.; in November, £57 10s. 5d.; in all, £147 10s. 4d. as compared with £566 12s. 5½d. in the three previous months, was perplexing enough to cast us upon our God.

Then-will the reader wonder?-in all sorts of insidious ways, the thought of those friends returned. Perhaps He had sent them before this happened on purpose to smooth our way, and we had mistaken His kindness and presumptuously refused it. That was one of the little lashing thoughts of the time. But again and again comfort came and there was not the sense of having grieved Him. So we took it that this was a needless distress and ceased to look back on our guidance (always a vain folly), and drew from the Baskets.

Rs. 4,143.9.8 (£276 4s. 9¾d.) we drew that year, a very large sum for six months in proportion to the whole amount, but over twenty-two thousand miles were covered that year in trains alone, and there were many long slow bullock-cart journeys too, in search of children in danger, and in connection with their deliverance. And over all that region Gospels were scattered, and in some places at least a true witness was borne, so that apart from the saving of children, something, we trust, was done that will bear fruit in the end.

To me personally, it was not at first an easy thing to draw from the Baskets, for I had thought of them as provision for what might be for a little while a difficult time when I was not here to help. I had wanted to make it easier. But what foolishness it was, as if the only One who mattered would be away too. And so this fear very soon lost its power and we went on happy and care-free. How could there be fear or care once it was made plain to us that what we were doing was not foolhardiness, but just faith in the word of the Lord?

And yet I well remember how careful we had to be about such matters as reading and talk. (Not that there is not always need of care if the Spirit is to be ungrieved, but that this need was emphasized for us then.) For a book or a newspaper article written from the world's point of view, or talk along these lines, had a curiously troubling effect, and so had 'religious' reading of the nerveless sort, common enough everywhere. It was as if such had nothing in it for the nourishment of the kind of faith required for this particular way of the Lord. But to read strength was to be strengthened. Science, that makes God's thoughts visible to men, all forms of noble biography and poetry, converse with those who do business in great waters and see, and expect to see, the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep, above all, to breathe the atmosphere of the Book of books itself, was life and joy and confidence. Fed thus, the fibres of faith were nourished with food convenient.

So we went on, keeping our contracts, using the money sent for nurseries for that purpose only, and with the other gifts continued our search for children in danger, and supplied the needs of the work, supplementing them once and again from the Baskets provided beforehand. Living upon our balance is doubtless the accountant's way of putting it, but we prefer our way, which after all is quite as true as his. And no one, workman or child, had ever the shadow of a cause to feel forgotten of the Father.

Once a crowd of people came round the one who was buying milk.

'We hear there is not enough money coming to buy food.' (A good deal of what comes is known to the village as it passes through the village post-office, so they knew there was very little.)

'Of that I have heard nothing,' was the Indian woman's answer, 'only I know all the milk that is required is still being bought and paid for, as you yourselves are witnesses. And I have not heard of any child being unfed.'

So the people went away saying, 'Their God feeds them.' Later they came again, and this time with fresh stories of what was going to happen in Europe. It was the time of the submarine trouble, and the bazaars were full of whispers. Two mails had been lost and more might be. 'And what will you do then?' We told them in plain words that we believed if need arose the crows would fly to us with food or the ground would be white with rice-cakes in the morning. 'When the mail stops coming, come in and see it,' we told them. And they wondered and went away.

When the war ended not a workman or a coolie had been kept waiting a day for his pay, not a child had ever hungered, all twelve nurseries which had been our dream in 1913 were built and filled, a wall nearly a mile long was built, the Forest place was found and bought, and a house was built up there. And we still had in the Baskets, as a later page will show, Rs. 2,164.3.0 or £144 5s. 7d.

Thus, to revert to an older story, we poured from our pot of oil, and as we poured, more came to pour, according to the custom of the Lord.

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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