“With Daring Faith: a Biography of Amy Carmichael” celebrates 25 years

I’m reminiscing. If you’ve ever seen a humble green workbook corresponding to the old fourth grade reader published by Bob Jones University Press, then maybe somewhere in that workbook you saw a very short paragraph about Amy Carmichael’s work in Japan (she was there for a brief time before she went to India, where she spent the rest of her life).

I wrote that paragraph. And while I was researching that lady, I thought, “I’d like to write a book about her sometime.” (Truth to tell, I’d wanted to write a complete book since I was young, but every time I tried to undertake one, it had crashed and burned before entering completion. Maybe that was because I never could figure out how to make those mysteries interesting and realistic.)

Not long after I indulged that little thought, an announcement was made at “The Press,” as we called it. No longer would they publish textbooks alone. Now they would accept unsolicited submissions for trade books—that is, the kind of books you check out of the library.

That was it. I borrowed a biography of Amy Carmichael from a friend (the one by Frank Houghton) and began researching and then writing.

I wrote late at night at the Press, on the computers there, because we didn’t own one—after all, PCs were new and super expensive. (One of my friends got an Apple, tiny and novel, and several of us played around with its absolutely stunning ability to change type styles.) I typed away on that dark green screen with the flourescent green letters, and read printouts on huge, long perforated papers with holes running down the sides.

I was excited. It was loads of fun, writing about Amy’s adventerous childhood. After all, I had devoured the Childhood of Famous Americans series when I was young, and several biographies of great Christians, at my mother’s behest, when I was a teenager. And Amy reminded me of Anne of Green Gables—always getting into trouble by accident. I loved writing about her passion for taking the gospel to lost souls, in England, in Japan, in India.

But somewhere along the course of the writing, two things happened. I entered the middle of Amy’s life, which just sort of went along and went along, as lives do sometimes in the middle.

And I became pregnant. I was sick, really sick. Throwing up many times a day.

So here I was. Awash in misery and nausea and boredom. I had begun books so many times. I had never finished one. It seemed like, well, there was a pattern established, and maybe this book would fall into the same deep, dark hole.

For weeks, maybe months, I stayed home sick from work. On finally returning, I had no interest in Amy Carmichael. I just wanted to survive my pregnancy.

But a very persistent co-worker who also wrote books, took it upon herself to become my own personal . . . nag.

“Becky Henry!” she said. (That was my name in those days.) “How’s that book coming along?” or “Where is that book? You need to finish that book.”

If it hadn’t been for her, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Out of sheer shame, I went back to my manuscript. I sighed heavily over the middle of Amy Carmichael’s life. The sagging middle.

Did I pray over it? I would love to tell you that of course I did. But I’ll be honest and say I can’t remember. What I do remember is that I realized I could skip the middle altogether and go right to the end, where, in my mind, her life seemed to become interesting again.

Somewhere in there, we got our own computer. An IBM PC Jr. In the evening after supper my husband and I played “Pong.” Then, late at night, I wrote.

My daughter Katy was born. I held her in my lap and nursed her while I typed.

And then the middle of the book was born. The middle of Amy’s life sprang to life for me. I wrote “Debates and Devils” and “A Festival and a Funeral,” displaying one episode from each of these crucial parts of the culture of India, to represent the constant challenges Amy faced in each aspect of ministry, as she sought to point people all around her to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

The book was finished, and was accepted and published before Katy turned a year old. Though  fifteen years passed before I wrote another book (other pregnancies intervened, child-raising, and homeschooling), With Daring Faith was the beginning of my true-adventure adventures. Thanks, nagging friend. Thank you, Lord. May Your Name be praised.


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