10 Christian Women Who Changed the World - Part 4
When you think of an extraordinary woman, what thoughts come to mind? Perhaps, an extraordinary woman has a husband and children who rise up and call her blessed; the picture of the Proverbs 31 woman. Is she a woman who runs her own business? Maybe, she runs a ministry at church that is helping to change lives.
If you asked me that question, I would say that an extraordinary woman is one who answered God's call for her life and is giving 100% to see Him lifted high as she lives out her purpose.
This month at The Felicity Bee, we are featuring ten of these extraordinary women. Of course, this is just a small glimmer of the many Christian women who have changed the world, but I am hoping that in these ten, you can see yourself and emulate the traits that you admire.
In Part 1, we discovered the beauty and grace of Mary Magdalene and the mother’s heart of Susanna Wesley.
In Part 2, we found the courage and strength of Jarena Lee and the healing hands of Florence Nightingale.
In Part 3, we found the music of heaven in Fanny Crosby and the truth of freedom from Soujourner Truth.
And now, in Part 4 of “Ten Christian Women Who Changed the World,” we see two more women who through their strength and tenacity changed the course of history.
7. CATHERINE BOOTH
Catherine was born in England in 1829 to Methodist parents. Her parents were sure to raise her in the Christian faith, and it is said that she read the Bible through before she turned twelve-years-old. As a teenager, she had a spinal curvature which forced her to stay in bed for weeks and months at a time. She constantly read the writings of John Wesley and found the Lord calling her into public ministry.
With such a strong Christian upbringing, it was no doubt that when she was of age, Catherine fell in love with a young preacher named William Booth. They married and together had eight children all of which were also given a firm Christian upbringing.
Catherine was a firm believer in the equality of men and women; not based on any feminist ideals. Instead, she founded her argument on the absolute equality of men and women before God. She acknowledged that the Fall had put women into subjection, as a consequence of sin, but to leave them there, she said, was to reject the good news of the gospel, which proclaimed that the grace of Christ had restored what sin had taken away. Now all men and women were one in Christ. (source)
Catherine began to preach the Word of God in pulpits across England and became a partner in her husband's work.
Catherine and her husband were the founders of The Salvation Army.
In 1865, William began a ministry called The Christian Mission whose purpose was to preach to the poor and destitute in London's East End. Many of these souls were prostitutes, gamblers, drunkards, and the like. Most would not set foot in a traditional church; in fact, they most likely wouldn't be welcomed. Like Jesus, William and Catherine took their ministry out of the four walls of the church and brought His word to the people.
While William preached to these suffering souls, Catherine spoke to the wealthy trying to earn financial help for their ministry. Catherine organized "Food for the Million." These were shops throughout London where the poor could buy an inexpensive meal during Christmastime.
In 1878, The Christian Mission officially changed its name to "The Salvation Army." William was known as the General, and Catherine was known as the "Mother of the Salvation Army."
Seven of Catherine and Williams eight children became active in the Salvation Army all carrying leadership roles. As a mother, what greater legacy can you leave than seeing your children serving Jesus through actions and words?
Catherine believed that actions spoke louder than words and loving God meant loving His people through action. With this mission in mind, The Salvation Army converted 250,000 in the British Isles to Christianity between Between 1881 and 1885.
Today, the Salvation Army is active in virtually every corner of the world and serves in over 100 countries, offering the message of God’s healing and hope to all those in need. ( source) The Salvation Army helps over 2.5 million people each year in more than 10,000 centers across the world.
When she was a little girl lying bedridden because of her back, did Catherine imagine the legacy she would leave behind? Could she have fathomed the change that the ministry of her and her husband would bring to the world? I doubt she could have understood the impact of her life.
All she knew was that God called her to speak His words publicly. She, like so many of the remarkable women in this series, took the first step, God did the rest.
Catherine Booth died of breast cancer at age 61; may her life be a lesson for all of us.
We may not have the entire plan in front of us. We may not know what the next bend in the road will bring, but if we are faithful to say YES to God's call on our lives, He will direct every step and bring light to every path. Like Catherine, we can be sure that in His hands, the legacy we leave can make a dynamic difference on the world in which we live.
8. AMY CARMICHAEL
Amy Carmichael was born in 1867 in Ireland. Her parents were devout Presbyterians and raised their six children to be devoted to God.
A sweet story says that when Amy would go to sleep at night, she would say her prayers and then smooth out a section of her bed and invite Jesus to come and sit with her.
Amy's family moved to Belfast when she was a teenager. It was here in Belfast that Amy began to help the less fortunate. She made weekly trips to the slums with a local pastor to hand out food and speak to the people about God's love and hope.
On one particular trip, she discovered a group of girls her age known as "shawlies." These girls young girls worked in the mills and wore shawls instead of hats. They had a hunger and thirst for the word of God, so Amy set up weekly Bible studies. The ministry eventually grew so large that Amy was able to build a five hundred seat building to accommodate the girls coming to hear of God's wonderful Word.
It was in 1887 that Amy heard a message about missionary life by Hudson Taylor, President of the China Inland Mission. After hearing this message, she became convinced that missionary work was her life's purpose.
Her health, however, was not in agreement. Amy suffered from a nerve disease called neuralgia which made her whole body weak and achy. As a result of her disease, she often had to spend weeks and months in bed.
In spite of her illness, Amy answered the call of a friend in 1894 asking her to join the Zenana Missionary Society in Bangalore India. Knowing the climate would be better for her health, Amy made the trip overseas and began her missionary work in India.
While in India, Amy learned everything she could about the culture, the language, and the Hindu caste system. She learned about "devadasi." Devadasi is a young girl given by her parents to the temple gods. These young girls were forced into prostitution to earn money for the priests and good favor for their parents among the gods.
Amy knew she would not return to England when seven-year-old Preena came knocking on her door. The young girl had just escaped from forced prostitution at a Hindu temple. Amy knew she could not send her back. The little girl would most likely be tortured and killed for running away from the temple gods. Amy took Preena into her home, and her life changed forever.
In 1901 Amy established The Dohnavur Fellowship to help rescue and protect young girls who had escaped from their sexual assignments at the temples. Respecting Indian culture, members of the organization wore Indian dress and gave the rescued children Indian names. Carmichael herself dressed in Indian clothes, dyed her skin with dark coffee, and often traveled long distances on India's hot, dusty roads to save just one child from suffering. (source) These girls gave her the name ‘Amma’, their word for ‘mother.'
By 1913, The Dohnavur Fellowship was helping over 130 girls. In 1918, Carmichael built a home for young boys born to the former temple prostitutes.
In 1931, a fall seriously injured Carmichael, and she spent the rest of her life mostly bedridden. From her bedroom, she ran The Dohnavur Fellowship and published over sixteen books. At her death, it is estimated that Amy Carmichael wrote at least four dozen works.
Although India outlawed temple prostitution in 1948, The Dohnavur Fellowship continues, now supporting approximately 500 people on 400 acres with 16 nurseries and hospitals.
Our calling may not be to serve as an overseas missionary, but we are called to be "fishers of men" right here in our own spheres of influence. Amy Carmichael provides an example for all of us to follow. She once said, "You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Wherever you are, you can love your children, coworkers, neighbors, church community, impoverished, and destitute in your own towns; giving them the hope and love that only Jesus can provide.
Between her health and numerous failed attempts at missionary work, Amy could have become discouraged that the call on her life wasn't being fulfilled. But she said, "It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desires which He creates.”
Always remember that whatever God has called you to do, it is safe to trust Him with the desires which He creates!
Much like the women we have seen throughout this series, Amy Carmichael and Catherine Booth did not allow anything to get in their way when it came to fulfilling God's calling on their lives. Not sickness, disease, financial problems, circumstances or situations stood in their way from spreading the love of Jesus to a lost and dying world.
Let their example be a light to us as we walk on the path God has paved. Your name could be next for the generations ahead of you to learn from.
YOUR TURN: What lessons do you take away from Catherine Booth and Amy Carmichael?