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Amy Carmichael :: Nor Scrip—16. ‘The Unfolding of thy Words Giveth Light’

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During the year and a half after the war things became more and more difficult; for exchange got worse and worse and the price of rice (because of drought), and therefore of all food-stuffs, rose. High prices for rice mean high prices for fodder for animals (as they eat rice-straw), and of course all coolie and therefore building, everything in short which means labour, rises with rice. And yet we were pledged to go on with the boys' work, begun in the last year of the war and confirmed to be our Lord's will for us by the signs following.

These our signs may cause questions in some minds. But our Lord has many ways of guiding His children, and this is the way, as we believe, He has chosen for us. Perhaps if we used the word 'indications of His will' instead of the more direct signs it might be less open to misunderstanding; but we use the word as it came to us first, so simple that a child can understand it, and yet so full of mystery that it baffles the wisest to explain. Delitzsch, in speaking of Isaiah's offer to Ahaz of any kind of miracle in the upper or the lower world ('Descend down deep in thy asking to Hades or ascend up to the height'), says that this cannot but perplex the adherents of the modern view of the world, and they think the prophet is playing a dangerous game and that, if Ahaz had closed with the offer, Jehovah would certainly have left him in the lurch; but, Delitzsch quietly notes, Ahaz had no such thought; he hid himself under the screen of a mock humility, but he never doubted the offer, charged deep with the mysterious, the miraculous, as it was.

But our concern is not to explain, still less to defend, it is only to bear witness. We knew (who does not?) that strong personal desire may be mistaken for the Lord's direction. We did not want to make mistakes and grieve His Spirit by running before Him. And as regards all our doings we wanted to run between guiding lines, and what guiding lines could be more clearly discerned than just this same coming or withholding of supplies? So, when the inward urging was insistent, and the word of the Lord, so far as we knew it, was with us, and yet special difficulties barred the way, we did humbly wait upon our, Lord and Master for some unmistakable token which no imagination could create, something outside ourselves. Sometimes the response to that prayer came in the old familiar, 'Ask, and thou shalt receive.' 'Descend deep in thy asking or ascend to the height.' Sometimes the choice was not left to us, but something, recognized the moment it appeared, was granted to us. In other words, sometimes the waters of Jordan were divided or ever we had to cross them, and sometimes our feet were dipped in the brim of the water before the way through was opened for us. The sign came, not before obedience as guide, but after it as confirmation. And this is of course a much more searching lesson in faith than the other.

We had for many years greatly longed to start work for little boys, for there are numbers in South India who are exposed to dangers as acute as those that attack the little girls. If I had been alone in 1914, I should almost certainly have gone on and crossed that river then; but I did not feel free in spirit to do so till we were all of one mind in an house, and the great difficulty present in some minds was the absence of medical help. Even English baby boys are known to be harder to bring up than baby girls, and Indian babies are very much more fragile than English. In September, 1917, faith was given for the first time to all, to be willing for anything, even for doctorless work (and only those who have clone such work know what it entails). On the eighth of that month a medical student, one of whom we had never heard, was called, and offered in England. We heard of her offer in October, and wondered at the ways of the Lord. While these words are being written she is landing in India, gift straight from His hand through the hands of His lovers and ours.

The first boy came on January 14, 1918. Then to the adversary was given power. A new compound must be begun, in other words a new work. Indeed, it had begun. To what would it lead? Words, met long ago and pasted because of the serious warning in them into my cash box, flashed into mind:

Thou hast enough to pay thy fate?
Well, be it so;
But thou shouldest know does thy God send thee there,
Is that it all? To pay thy fare?
There's many a coin flung lightly down
Brings back a load of care.
It may cost what thou knowest not
To bring thee home from there.

What would be the end of this new journey into the unknown? What would be needed of courage, patience, hope, faith that no disappointment can daunt, love that no heartbreak can kill. 'It may cost what thou knowest not to bring thee home from there.'

And for the immediate present, here was a new compound to embark upon, a new large nursery should be begun at once. The strong in faith will wonder; but I asked my God for a sign. The doctor had been prayed for (so far as I was concerned) for fourteen long years. Her call then, even though occurring in that exact month, could hardly be regarded for certain as a sign, though surely it was nothing less. It might be called by that convenient name, coincidence. So I wanted something more absolutely unmistakable, to assure and reassure us that the Presence would go with us and, whatever the storms by the way might be, give us rest.

Then it was as if the Lord in His infinite tenderness came near to the one who feared and said, 'Ask.' And I asked for one hundred pounds to begin the new compound, to be given by the mail due next day. Then I told my household.

The mail came. Who that has opened a mail under such circumstances but will understand how each letter was handled, how every eye watched the opening? A money order for forty-two rupees, six annas, another for three rupees. And that was all.

But, though I cannot explain it, I know there was no sense of disappointment. One of the younger workers who had been away when the last few letters were opened, ran in eagerly, 'Has it come?' 'No, but it will.'

'It has come.' As the younger one left the room an older one entered it. That mail had brought her a legacy. Not one of us, not she I think, had had any thought of it, nor had I any knowledge of its existence. She put the whole clear hundred pounds into my hands, and we all met together and worshipped.

Straight on from that day (February 6, 1918) the nurseries have been given. When this one was finished and another was needed, our friend Miss McDougall, Principal of the Women's Christian College, Madras, chanced to be with us. Usually we keep our matters of this kind entirely among ourselves, but this friend was one with whom it was possible to wait on God not only in prayer, but in that silence into which such prayer sometimes passes whether one will or not.

It was an evening early in January when we were brought to the point of having at once to decide to go on or to wait. Stone was to be had at a lower price than usual if we could buy at once. A man in our village had bought it meaning to build a house; but when he came to count the cost he found he had not the wherewithal (the parables are Eastern to the lightest syllable). He wanted to sell that stone as soon as possible to avoid the laugh of the village, and he had had an offer; but if we closed at once with him he would sell at a less price to us, because we would, he knew, pay honestly, and we should have our nurseries' foundations ready hewn for us, and so save time and money.

We do not have committees at Dohnavur, we commit, as one of our number recently explained to a questioning friend, in a different way. 'It sounds very unpractical,' said the other, tired out as she was by a long spell of committees. We have not found it so.

That evening round the dinner table we knelt down and asked for guidance. The servants were clearing away. We had not meant to have a long time of prayer, but we did not find access at first, and prayer passed into the silence of which I have spoken. The servants slipped in and out and did their work quietly. And still we waited. When at last we rose from our knees we all knew we had received the thing that we had desired of the Lord, even clear guidance. Next day the stone was ordered.

We had hardly begun when a letter came from home, from one whose name was unknown to us till then. A legacy (blessed be legacies) had fallen to him, and he wanted to give us a nursery as a praise offering for Peace. The next was not begun when from another country came the proceeds of the sale of a little motor-car, £100. Then came in the same direct way another hundred, gift of an old invalid friend, a gift so out of proportion to his way of living that the very angels must have wondered. That gift, according to his desire, is marked 'Anon.' in our gift book; but the angels know.

It was by this time September 1919. Rice was still very high in price; carts bringing it had to be escorted by police, so frequent were the raids upon it and so impossible was it ever to track the raiders. There was nothing particularly inspiring in the circumstances of the time and we did not feel at all like doing more building. Just then a palm-tree grower in our neighbourhood had to cut down his palms, and he offered the timber (the best of its kind for roofs) at a good rate if we would take it all, enough for eight new nurseries. But this meant more than we were prepared to consider; we had never done such a thing before, and we dismissed it as impossible.

Before, however, the refusal had gone, it came to us in a new way. What if there is in this an intended stimulus to faith that, whatever the difficulties in saving these children, many more will yet be saved and all required for their care will come too? Can we not gird up the loins of our mind and enquire of our God concerning it? So we did this, waiting on Him on the morning of September 13, having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. And contrary, if I may put it, to our expectations, we knew that we were to order the wood.

The order had not left the house before the post came. It brought two letters of widely different purport. The first was the one quoted before about the limelight, and advertising our needs thereby. The second contained £126, and the words the giver said were to be entered into the book of gifts were these: 'Have faith in God.'

So we went on, till the sudden fall in supplies stopped for the time our nursery building, as we had to use what had been given to us for nurseries, for food, sure that when the storm had passed the birds would fly to, us again with meat for us morning and evening, and then we should return what we had drawn from that ready money, the nursery account. And yet it was one of the perplexities of the time, for had not the guidance been clear to go on building? Some questions are not answered at once; we must wait till our tomorrow. But let no one think that it is a light and easy thing to be guided in this way, something that can be taken up in a casual 'It-will-come-all-right-in-the-end' spirit. Clouds and darkness are round about Him, and there are times when the breath of these eternal mists seems to hang round the ways of the soul that would press hard after Him.

The months passed. Supplies came. The refunds were made. Nurseries begun were finished, and the last of that group was called Thanksgiving.

Nor Scrip—15. Limelight and Another Illumination ← Prior Section
Nor Scrip—17. ‘Before Ye Ask Him’ Next Section →

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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