One Person’s Impact
What does love look like? It has hands to help others. It has feet to go to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and sadness. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.
After the mutiny
The story of “The Mutiny on the Bounty” has fascinated readers and moviegoers for generations. What happened afterward, however, isn’t well-known—yet is equally fascinating.
For reasons that are still debated, in 1789 the crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied against the alleged cruelty of their captain, William Bligh. Bligh and a few others were set adrift in a small boat, but the mutineers stayed with the Bounty and eventually landed on an isolated, uninhabited speck of land in the South Pacific called Pitcairn Island. There were only twenty-five of them—nine British sailors and six men and ten women from Tahiti—and shortly after landing they burned the Bounty and set about forming a permanent settlement.
But their experiment soon turned into a disaster. Conflicts rose between the rough British sailors and the Tahitians, leading to violence and murder. One sailor also discovered a method for distilling alcohol from a native plant, turning their tropical paradise into a den of drunkenness, vice, and debauchery. Finally only a handful of the Tahitians and one British sailor, John Adams, survived.
One day Adams discovered the ship’s Bible that had been rescued from the Bounty years before, but then forgotten. He began reading, and God used its words to convict Adams of his sins and lead him to faith in Christ. His life was dramatically changed, and almost immediately he began sharing Christ with his fellow exiles. Both Adams’s changed life and the Bible’s message spoke to them, and they too were converted. When some American sailors stopped by Pitcairn Island in 1808—the first visitors they had ever had—they found a prosperous and harmonious community… God had used the witness of one man, John Adams, to transform the … colony.
—Billy Graham, The Journey (Barnes & Noble, 2006)
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants.
Stephen Olford, a well-known preacher (now deceased), was asked, “What is the secret of ministry?” He replied, “Bent knees, wet eyes, a broken heart.” Nehemiah wept sorrowfully and for days mourned and fasted and prayed over the brokenness of God’s holy city and the people he loved.
What is it that sits so heavily upon us about the needs of this world which expresses itself from the deepest core of our being? Sadly, there are people who not only don’t go to that place within themselves, but can’t even get there because of defenses they’ve built around themselves. But the needs of our broken world can only be met by people with broken hearts. Something inside us must resonate with the heart of God, and until we have felt the pressure of His pain and compassion deeply within our souls, we will not fully participate in the work of God.
… It is ordinary men and women He uses for His purpose, and it is the condition of our hearts that He looks upon. It is this brokenness, the very depth of touching the heart of God, and God touching our hearts that will sustain and energize us. We are actually fed by our tears.
Nehemiah was impassioned and driven to fulfill the will of God, not out of pity, but out of genuine sorrow and compassion that resonated with God, and became a driving force. If the ingredients of fruitfulness in the Christian life are bent knees, wet eyes, and a broken heart, then as people of God, we need to make ourselves available to Him and, like Nehemiah, be driven by compassion for God’s agenda in this world.
Amy Carmichael lived for one reason, and that was to make God’s love known to those trapped in darkness. She was born in northern Ireland in 1867 and was the oldest of seven children. Her father’s unexpected death when she was 18 had a profound effect on her, leading her to think seriously about her future and God’s plan for her life.
At the age of 19, after hearing Hudson Taylor speak about missionary life, she realized that nothing could be more important than living her life for Jesus, who, with nothing of worldly possessions, had given His life for her. She knew He was calling her to do the same and give all of herself to Him. This meant she must become “dead to the world and its applause, to all its customs, fashions, and laws.”
In many ways she was an unlikely candidate for missionary work. She suffered neuralgia, a disease of the nerves that made her whole body weak and achy and often put her in bed for weeks on end. Still, Amy wanted to be a missionary. She prayed about it and wrote down the reasons she thought it couldn’t possibly be God’s intention. One of the first things on the list was her sickness. But in her prayers she seemed to hear the Lord speak as if He were standing in her room, saying “Go.”
For over a year Amy tried to find a place to go, but no one wanted her. Eventually she set off for Japan in the company of three missionary ladies. She had a constant passion to witness. On board the ship, even the captain was converted to Christian faith after observing how cheerfully Amy faced the dirt and insects onboard.
Amy’s neuralgia later became so bad that the doctor told her she must leave Japan for a more suitable climate. After some struggle, Amy accepted that she would be better off in India.
“There have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might: ‘It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.’ Praise God, it does not say ‘successful.’”—Amy Carmichael
In 1895, Amy was commissioned by the Church of England to go to Dohnavur, India. She eventually served 56 years there without a furlough, difficult though it was at times.
Mission work in India was hazardous. With each conversion of a high-caste Hindu, a wave of persecution followed. The community would leave no stone unturned to make life difficult for the Christians. They would force mission schools to close, burn others, vandalize churches, beat up missionaries, and file endless lawsuits.
Amy traveled and preached at first, going native in her dress, which was considered disgraceful by all the other missionaries. Dressed in a sari with her skin stained, she could pass as a Hindu.
In the end, a major part of Amy’s work was devoted to rescuing children who had been dedicated by their families to be temple prostitutes. Amy used to say, “You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving.” She lived this so deeply that it got her into lots of trouble.
One time it seemed certain that Amy would be arrested and sent to an Indian prison on kidnapping charges. And technically Amy was a kidnapper—many times over, because she often sheltered temple runaways. Temple children were young girls dedicated to the gods and forced into prostitution to earn money for the priests.
More than a thousand children were rescued from neglect and abuse during Amy’s lifetime. To them she was known as “Amma,” which means mother in Tamil. Her work was often dangerous and stressful. Yet she never forgot God’s promise to keep her and those in her care.
“There were days when the sky turned black for me because of what I heard and knew was true . . . Sometimes it was as if I saw the Lord Jesus Christ kneeling alone, as He knelt long ago under the olive trees. … And the only thing that one who cared could do was to go softly and kneel down beside Him, so that He would not be alone in His sorrow over the little children.”
“It cost God Calvary to win us. It will cost us as much as we may know of the fellowship of His sufferings, if those for whom He died that day are ever to be won.”—Amy Carmichael
Amy died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave; instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription “Amma.”
How can one person make a difference?
Even the little things you do can mean a lot: A little bit of love goes such a long way! The light of your smile, the kindness of your face, the influence of your life, can shed light on many, and have an amazing effect on some people you think might be the least likely to be impressed.
When people feel your love and you tell them it’s God’s love, they kind of feel like, “Maybe somebody up there does love me!” It changes their whole outlook and gives them a real uplook.
There are so many people searching for love. People everywhere are looking around for some little ray of hope, some salvation, some bright spot somewhere.—A little love, a little mercy, someplace where they can find some relief. If you can show them that love exists, then they can believe that God exists, because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
—David Brandt Berg
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
—Attributed to Helen Keller
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