Sunlight picture

Sunlight picture
Some of our hostel girls gathering for a picture at sunset. "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Will Give Her a Heart to Know Me

Today I was encouraged by this devotional from Amy Carmichael:

     “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come … the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise … come with Me! The Lord your God is with you … He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
     This morning, my helpers turned my chair, so that I could see the leafy enclosure upon which my room opens … And all this sweet greenness and dewy freshness is a message:
     Leaves and flowers – down to the least bud – are nourished by the living sap within. They do not cause it to rise, or regulate its flow. They do not understand its mysterious power. But as it flows through them, it revives them. Renews them.
     We may have others to help us. Or we may have no one. But whether we are set in families or must face circumstances alone, we know that we must depend on something that is not of ourselves to keep us fresh and green.
     Sometimes we are too spent even to pray for this renewing life to flow within.
     We need not pray! There are times when all that is asked of us is just what is asked of leaves and flowers: They remain in the plant; the sap flows up to them: 
     “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Now remain in My love” (John 15:9).
     The most tired of us can remain, stay there, be there – no words can be too simple to explain what our Lord means by this: He says simply, “Do not go away.” 
     Even if we are completely silent, asking nothing, only letting our hearts rest in quietness in Him … He will cause the renewing life-sap to rise …
     The things we would least choose to have are ‘round about us. But in these things, says Rutherford, “Do not let yourself be thrown down or give in to despair. Stand evenly at the will of God ... For after winter comes summer. After night comes dawn. And after every storm, there comes clear, open skies.”

~ Amy Carmichael, excerpt Rose From Brier

We woke up early and traveled by car to Tirunelveli, a beautiful city, much more spacious than the other Indian cities I've seen. This is where Amma and Priscilla had to go to the hospital. We left them there and continued on -- Appa, Florian, myself and Appa's younger brother. As we drove, the landscape varied from flat, barren fields of scrub brush and electric towers, to lush, green paddy fields and forests of banana trees. It took us only a few hours to reach Dohnavur. As we approached the village (there is the village and the fellowship by the same name), the roads grew extremely narrow and rutted. Now I understand what Amy Carmichael meant when she wrote about the roads being bad. But it would have been much worse back then, and they travelled by bullock cart. We followed a path with red-coloured walls on both sides and then we were in Dohnavur.

Right away I was struck by its quiet beauty. All the buildings were perfectly situated, made of rust-coloured brick and Japanese-style roofing with curled corners. Everything was lovely and green, flowers of all colours and kinds to be found everywhere, bright red dirt paths. There were similarities to our village, in that when I looked around I could say, yes ... this is definitely Tamil Nadu (the tamarind trees, the ornate architecture, and of course the red roads) but I also felt I had stepped into another world, completely separate from the rest of India. There wasn't the same dryness found in Vadamalapuram, but a beautiful lushness and coolness and freshness ... everything clean and perfectly in order ...To see a place so clean, without any garbage or litter on the ground was shocking for me, because in India there is garbage everywhere.

We were taken into the house where Amy Carmichael lived. The moment we entered I was overwhelmed by a sudden sense of joy and peace. Everything about the house communicated to me the presence of God Himself. There was a holiness and cleanliness there; perfect order. Above one of the doors was one of the few photos of Amy, and under it a bible plaque: Love never faileth. Another plaque read: That in all things He might have the preeminence. There were photos of the Fellowship in early years mounted on the walls, as well as a picture of lotus flowers. "Lotus buds" was Amy's special name for her children. 

Two older ladies met us: Sura and Jewel. Sura is the current president of the Dohnavur Fellowship and Jewel is one of the workers. Both knew Amy Carmichael when they were very young. They wore plain saris of blue and green, without fancy prints. We sat in chairs at a low table and they gave us the sweetest, freshest lemonade I've ever tasted. Sura told us about Amy's life, how the work began with the first temple child named Preena, and what's happening today. Currently there are no boys at the home, only girls, because of some government problems. Many of the children are from missionary parents. They stay in cottages on the compound; about 8 girls per one akka (older sister).

Another lady, whose name I cannot remember, showed us the rest of the house. We entered the Room of Prayer, a circular room with wide windows from which hung plain blue curtains. There were beautiful bible verses on wooden plaques there as well. Here are some of the verses: How great is His goodness, how great is His beauty! (Funny how this is the very same verse I had read that morning). And ... They saw no man save Jesus only. This is also one of my favourites.

When I saw those words on the wall, so simple and powerful, my eyes welled up with tears. Oh the truth of it! The very truth ... which was expressed totally in the evidence of Amy's life; evidence which was then all around me.

It became more beautiful as we journeyed on. We came to Amy's bedroom, where she spent the last 20 years of her life in debiliatating sickness. Mounted on the wall was the real head of a tiger. One time, the Lord saved the children of Dohnavur from the danger of a tiger. Later the tiger was found and killed and Amy was asked if she wanted the head. She accepted, wanting the children to be reminded of God's miraculous protection.

More snippets of bible verses and other God-given phrases ... which encapsulated her life ...

For He hath not given us a spirit of fear ...

I know. Fear not. Ask Him. ...

A very present help ...

Good and acceptable and perfect ...

Our guide showed us a little table with a beautiful glass fish bowl from Japan. When the children came to Amy's room, she would show them the brightly-coloured fish swimming in the bowl. "What do you see through the glass, my darlings?" "Fish, of course, Amma," was the reply. And then she told them their lives should be like that glass: utterly transparent.

On the floor of the room, were four marks where Amy's bed once was ... where she spent all those years, writing letters and books, praying faithfully for her Dohnavur family and intimately acquainting herself with her Lord Jesus. There were wide windows ... open to the wonderful garden of flowers beside the verandah. The breeze that drifted in was drenched in the sweetness of those flowers. Birds often came to the windows and Amy fed them, we were told. And the birds still come. 

Next we went to the House of Prayer, where Sunday services are held. It is a beautiful old building, with a huge tower at the front, from which hangs thick green moss. The church was spacious and spotless; the architecture was amazing ... but what really struck me was how quiet and holy it was. We were told the story of how Dohnavur desperately needed a hospital. God specifically instructed Amy first to build His house and trust that He would afterwards provide a hospital. When they began to build, they had no money at all, but the money came at the perfect time.

We journeyed up to the tower -- the most narrow, winding stairs I've ever seen (literally the width of a chair). When we reached the top, we were in a square box with a huge set of chimes in the middle. We opened the windows and were overwhelmed by the gloriousness of the view. For miles, all you could see were lush green trees, mountains tall and majestic against the sky, and all the red-roofed cottages of Dohnavur far below. Our guide played a hymn for us on the chimes and it was inexpressibly lovely. There was something of heaven itself in that place ... the stillness broken only by clear, sweet chimes. Wind floated in, bringing with it rain. My face at the edge of the window was pelted by the drops as I looked out over that vast space ... 

How great is His goodness, how great is His beauty!

Hardly a word could I utter. Just to be still and feel those raindrops, to hear the chimes ringing ... was enough. Then I looked up and noticed there were the words of a familiar hymn painted on wooden boards against the roof of the tower: "Breathe on me, breath of God, Until my heart is pure, Until with Thee I will one will, To do and to endure."

My soul was watered in that place, flooded with rivers of God, for the work still left for me at CMML.

Last of all, we were taken to God's Garden, a cemetery. Under umbrellas we walked down a pathway, bordered by red-brick walls, and at the end of it came to a cross. A simple, stone cross, erected under a very old tree. Beyond that, almost invisible because of the trees, was a bird bath, marking the place of Amy Carmichael's grave. It was the only thing she allowed for her burial place, saying that, "If you must put anything there, then put a bird bath, so at least the birds can come and drink water."

I felt quite speechless at the end of the visit. When I was a small child I read the story of how Amy, a small child also, longed for blue eyes, instead of brown ones. In recent years, I read more of her and was astonished by her faithfulness as a missionary in India. Her writing has been a great source of comfort, joy, and encouragement to me, from one who walked the narrow road of the cross so faithfully. It was actually while reading Amy's book, "Mimosa," that my heart felt it's first tug to come to India. God is so good. Who would have thought, when I first heard God calling me there, that He would allow for me to come to Dohnavur? I feel blessed to have visited the place for just a few hours.

And now my words are quite done. So I will end with a photograph and a song.

The passion flower. This small thing gently reveals to us our Blessed Lord. LOOK ... three nails ... his hands and feet pierced ... five wounds ... head, hands, feet, side ... red ... his blood spilled ... purple ... the robe, the crown of thorns.

And the words of this song flow beautifully into this ...

"At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received
And You've won my heart
Yes, You've won my heart

Now I can trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

At the foot of the cross
Where I am made complete
You have given me life
Through the death You bore for me
And You won my heart
Yes, You won my heart"
- Kathryn Scott

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. No other word can describe what you have written here. I feel as though you have brought me to India, the way that you have so vivdly explained everything here. It seems to beautiful, so...pure. I wish you the best and continue to pray for you as you continue this awesome experience.

    Love Jamie