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Amy Carmichael :: Nor Scrip—12. The Wall

toggle collapse

But the building of the twelve nurseries, the care of the children already saved, the search for and the saving of others, the teaching of enquirers and their preparation for baptism, the caring for Indian guests, and what little medical work there was strength for, besides the evangelistic work which is very part of life-the provision required for all this did not exhaust the goodness of the Lord to us during those years of war. Nor did the gift of the Forest and Forest House to be told of later. There was that large need (the wall) and its supply. And as more than any other it impressed the Hindus round about us, we tell it now.

On the night of December 16, 1913, after solid sheets of rain, the deep rumble of crashing masonry awoke us, and the eight foot high wall with its weather-proof coping half a foot higher was flat. It was the story of Jericho, only unhappily reversed, and we gazed in consternation at the immense length of sloppy rubbish, every foot of which would have to be scooped up and carried off by a battalion of coolies. And that wall was built of sun-dried bricks and had cost what felt to us like a fortune, Rs. 3,080 or about £205, money which had come as all the other had come in direct answer to prayer, and so had been rejoiced over equally in its coming and in its spending.

The wall was a necessity. More than once suspicious people had been found in the compound at night. For our business is not with the unwanted children. The whole point and force of the work is that it touches those who are very much wanted. 'I will give you three hundred rupees for her,' said a Temple woman to a worker of ours who was bringing a tiny child to us by train. 'See, I will pay it down this moment.' Notes to the value of a thousand rupees have been offered for another. 'Pile the gold on the floor to her chin, but I will not give you the child,' had been said to me by a famous Temple woman living within six miles of Dohnavur about a little girl we had tried to save. (Not that I had suggested piling gold on the floor, but the word shows the fact). Yes, that wall was a need and so had been supplied, and there it lay, within six weeks of its completion, a mass of miserable rubble.

'Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing I And one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father.' How soothing is the cadence of familiar words. Would not our Father who regarded the falling of a bird regard the falling of the wall? Then, like the clear notes of a song: 'The Lord is able to give you much more than this.' This meant just then that tangible thing, a wall of sun-dried bricks that had cost £205.

Then we counted our mercies. The floods of that night had demolished bridges and swept many a costlier fabric than our wall like straws upon its stream. Many lives had been lost that night. Not one of our little ones had perished.

One night while the wall was still flat, a tiger, finding the forest too hopelessly wet, strayed down and marched in upon us. Our children were asleep on their verandahs. The cows upon whose milk the lives of the babies depended were in open sheds. The tiger walked past them all, repassed them, not touching anything, and went out as he had come in. We traced his spoor with feelings of mingled excitement and awe. He was shot next day, and we could not help being relieved, though we could not possibly be glad.

But tigers from the forest were as nothing to the greater perils our unprotected state invited. And yet we knew we were not unprotected. There was the wall of fire.

All through the remaining days of December we watched, wondering what our God would do. A family like ours with its many requirements easily convertible into cash, to lie on the open waste, undefended and undefendable (so far as the sight of man went) was a tempting thing, too tempting our Robber clan people felt. We pay a kind of blackmail to them according to the custom of the country, and they engage to protect us to the best of their ability. At any rate they see to it that none of their clan molest us. But they were not happy about us, and after a few patient weeks said so. We told them about the wall of fire, but they wanted something they could see. There were, as I said, far more serious anxieties than mere properties to be cared for. Apart from the matter of the very little children, India is not the safest place in the world for girls living, not in a shut-up institution, but in cottages too small to allow of sleeping indoors in heat. Meanwhile the heaps of mud bricks, now a mass of mud, blocked the outlets of the compound, and had to be dug through to let the water out. And the Hindus looked on. On January 22, 1915, the first large gift for a new wall came, £125. £40 of this was marked for it, and all was to be used if required. It was indeed required and we used it all.

In April, on the 28th, came the next ear-marked gift, Rs. 750 or £50, and from that time on the money came steadily, ear-marked 'for the new wall.' It was most wonderful to watch it coming, the gifts for the nurseries never mixed with it, each gift was marked by the giver, so that we had no doubt but went steadily on, till He who had said 'much more than this' (the mud-brick wall) did as He had said, and a wall, not of sun-dried brick but of burnt brick on stone foundations, was finished.

It had its difficulties. Misled by a too confiding recommendation, we found ourselves in the hands of an unscrupulous mason who changed his prices whenever a new advance had to be given. Our part of India insists on the pernicious habit of advances (unless one is able to pay a contractor to take all off one's shoulders), so this came to mean that we soon were in his power. He could threaten to stop the work at any moment, and did.

We tried to get at his conscience, but he did not appear to have any. He knew our only way was an appeal to the Courts, and this, as of course he also knew, was the last thing we wanted to do. So he played his cards accordingly. Then came a new loving-kindness of the Lord. As we waited upon Him for help, a strong good man from the Public Works Department called upon one of us who was a friend of his. We said nothing of our distress but, noticing the wall in building, he offered to have a look at it. He looked and then, 'Can I help you in any way?' was the question that ended our troubles. He sent his sub-engineer to pay flying visits and overawe the builder. We were kept out of the Courts, delivered from our fears, and enabled to get the wall completed in peace. It took nineteen months to build, and cost £480. It is not a vain thing to trust the Lord.

But even this does not complete the story of the wall. The P.W.D. man, sent to our help by our English friend, was a Hindu, and we had many talks about the things of God. At the end of the work, when we wanted to pay him for his trouble, he refused to touch an anna, 'No, I do not want it; only pray to your God for me.' He became and continues to be our steadfast friend, always ready to help us if he can, though he knows that the one prayer of our hearts concerning him, towards which all our intercourse with him is bent, is that he may become a living stone in the spiritual house.

The soul of the East is never wholly submerged in mud. One day lately, a man whose life is given to the material was discussing these matters with us-the visible answers to prayer with which this place abounds. We were standing outside the children's part of the compound at the time, and I had been telling him of a new hope we have for reaching further afield, and showing more clearly than has yet been possible how loving the Lord is.

'It will cost much money,' he said slowly, 'but that does not make any difference to you. We shall see you do it.'

'But why?' I asked, surprised at his way of looking at things, and wondering for a moment if he thought we were sailing on seas of gold (we very much are not). 'Why would it not make any difference to us?'

And this world-absorbed man answered, 'Is it not known in all the country round that your God hears prayer?' And he pointed to the walls, built as it were of prayer-wrought bricks, and continued almost in the words of the psalm, 'Among the gods there is not one like unto God, the Doer, there is not one that can do as He does.'


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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