The First Temple Child – An excerpt from Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur
On the sixth day of the month, at evening, the Dohnavur Family meets in the House of Prayer. Any little ones who have joined the Family in the preceding month are brought to the leader of the meeting and dedicated to the Lord, through whose mighty power they have been rescued from an environment in which they could not have grown up pure and good. Then there is a time of prayer for children in danger. In quick succession, but not hastily or carelessly, members of the Family mention the names of temple towns in southern India, and as each name is spoken all join in the petition, “Lord, save the children there!”
Many hundreds have been saved in answer to those prayers, including the great majority of those who take part in them. The custom—but the word sounds far too formal—dates back to January 6, 1905, when it seemed as if Amma’s hopes of saving temple children were fading into nothingness. But it is linked also with an earlier date—March 6, 1901—when the first temple child escaped, and was brought next morning to the bungalow at Pannaivilai.28 She was seven years old when she left the house of the temple woman at Great Lake, crossed the water to Pannaivilai, and was found by a Christian woman outside the church. It was already dusk, and when the woman found that the child came from a temple woman’s house, and that she begged not to be taken back, she took her to her own home for the night. She went hungry to bed because she was a high-caste child and would not break caste by eating the kind woman’s food. Preena—for that is her name—finds it difficult to remember how long she had lived in the temple woman’s house.
Once already she had escaped and made her way to Tuticorin, 138 Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur where her mother lived. But the temple women had followed her, and her mother unloosed her clinging arms and gave her back to them. They branded her little hands with hot irons as a punishment for attempting to escape. Then she gradually understood that she was to be “married to the god,” and though she was too young to appreciate what was involved, and that the training in singing and dancing was the prelude to a life of shame—“deified sin,” as Amma calls it—she knew enough to shrink from it all. Could she find her mother again and persuade her not to send her back? The temple women had tried to scare her with talk of the “child-catching Missie Ammal,” and, in a dim, confused sort of way, perhaps she felt that to be “caught” by her would at least mean escape from the clutches of the temple women. But it was surely her angel who led her first to a Christian woman, and then the next morning to Amma.
After that there was no more to be said. She loved Amma from that moment. Fifty years later, when Amma was with the Lord, she wrote: When I first came it was the early morning of March 7, 1901, about 6:30 a.m. Our precious Ammai was having her morning chota. When she saw me, the first thing she did was to put me on her lap and kiss me. I thought, “My mother used to put me on her lap and kiss me—who is this person who kisses me like my mother?” From that day she became my mother, body and soul. Now the Walkers and Amma, and the Starry Cluster, had been away from Pannaivilai for about a year.
Walker had paid his first visit to the convention of the Reformed Syrian Church in Travancore, while the rest of the family had been spending the whole time in Dohnavur and the surrounding villages. Who planned it that they should return to their old home in Pannaivilai on the very day when Preena took courage and escaped from the temple woman’s house? The devil raged, for this was a child whom he had ensnared, but what would have been his fury if he had known that this incident would lead to the deliverance of hundreds of others, of boys (eventually) as well as girls, and to the establishment of a work whose ultimate value to the cause of Christ in India, and in the world, only God Himself can measure?
Want to read more? Learn more about the life and ministry of Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur
India’s Temple Children
The devadasi system of dedicating young girls like Preena to be used as temple prostitutes was banned by the government of India in 1982 but the practice still occurs today amongst the most vulnerable and impoverished. In the Hindu religion, the only hope for a better life for these women is reincarnation.
Throughout the world, people are experiencing the devastation of abuse and exploitation through sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and forced labor. Reports indicate that human trafficking is a $150 billion dollar industry that holds 40.3 million victims hostage around the world (Polaris Project).
On September 22nd, “Freedom Sunday”, churches around the world will worship and pray to bring an end to human trafficking across the globe. In Jesus Christ, there is hope for a better life now and in eternity for these victims. Amy Carmichael knew that truth and acted on it.
Here are some CLC publications that we believe will help you prepare your heart to fight for freedom in Christ for those who are forced to remain silent.
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
-Proverbs 31:8-9 ESV
“The Facts.” Polaris, polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/facts.
A Handbook for Counseling Children and Youth in Crisis The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. – Psalm 34:18 (NLT)
Of the 2.2 billion children in the world, 1.5 billion-two-thirds-are children at risk or in crisis.
The strategies and methods outlined in Healing for Hurting Hearts are imbued with faith in the Healer who mends broken hearts.
The Shaping of an Indian Nurse Recounts the shaping of an Indian nurse. No work that is set on following the Crucified escapes the cross. Those who do not weaken on some point of loyalty to Truth find themselves bearing the reproach of Christ.
Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur tells the powerful testimony of a woman who gave herself unconditionally to Christ and ministry in India.
“We went to see an old lady who was very ill. She had not heard the Gospel before, but was willing and eager to listen… It was cold weather and I had on fur gloves. `What are these?’ she asked, stretching out her hand and touching mine. She was old and ill and easily distracted. I cannot remember whether or not we were able to recall her to what mattered so much more than gloves. But this I do remember. I went home, took off my English clothes, put on my Japanese kimono, and never again, I trust, risked so very much for the sake of so little.”
A cruel remark or a biting criticism can become like a curse. It has the power to set the course of your life. But, in Christ, there is freedom from that curse. Tom Elliff knows this from personal experience. In The Broken Curse, he shares his story of personal deliverance, along with God’s “secret” for breaking the curse of words.
Some helpful resources on Human trafficking:
About Freedom Sunday: IJM Freedom Sunday
Recognize Human Trafficking around you: A21’s “Can you See Me”
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