Sculpture and service honours inspirational Co Down missionary

A bronze sculpture of Amy Carmichael created by Coleraine artist Ross Wilson was unveiled by Margaret Bingham, wife of the late Derek Bingham. Pictured are members of the Bingham family with left, Rev David Johnston, minister of Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, councillor Bill Keery, Lesley Stewart from Bangor Worldwide Missionary Convention, Ards and North Down Mayor Robert Adair, Margaret Bingham and Ross Wilson. Also pictured far right is Valerie Elliot Shepherd, daughter of Elisabeth Elliot who wrote a biography of Amy Carmichael.
A bronze sculpture of Amy Carmichael created by Coleraine artist Ross Wilson was unveiled by Margaret Bingham, wife of the late Derek Bingham. Pictured are members of the Bingham family with left, Rev David Johnston, minister of Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, councillor Bill Keery, Lesley Stewart from Bangor Worldwide Missionary Convention, Ards and North Down Mayor Robert Adair, Margaret Bingham and Ross Wilson. Also pictured far right is Valerie Elliot Shepherd, daughter of Elisabeth Elliot who wrote a biography of Amy Carmichael.

A Co Down missionary who spent most of her life working in India was honoured with a special celebration service in Bangor yesterday to mark the 150th anniversary of her birth.

Amy Carmichael from Millisle founded an orphanage mission which saved hundreds of young girls in Dohnavor in southern India from being forced into prostitution.

In recognition of her achievements, a bronze sculpture of Amy was unveiled on Saturday at a private ceremony at Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church.

The sculpture, created by artist Ross Wilson, will now be on permanent display in the small garden outside the church.

In a special service at the church yesterday, the story of Amy’s life was presented through words and music, in a new work specially written for the occasion by Etta Halliday.

It also featured a closing reflection from Jonathan Clarke – the current pastor of the Welcome Evangelical Church – on Amy’s legacy today.

Amy was born on December 16, 1867 in Millisle and later moved to Japan and then India to serve as a missionary.

In 1901 she set up the Dohnavur Fellowship to provide a safe home for young girls and the organisation still exists today providing care and education for around 120 children as well as 60 senior citizens.

Those that grew up in Dohnavur stay on to look after the next generation so there are currently between 250 and 300 people in the family, as they like to refer to the residents.

The compassion Amy had for the Indian children meant that she never returned to Northern Ireland again and died in India on January 18 1951.

Bangor Worldwide Missionary Convention has a strong link with Dohnavur Fellowship and donations were sent from as early as the 1940s.

The idea for the sculpture came from conversations that started years ago between the evangelist Derek Bingham and artist Ross Wilson to recognise Amy’s life.

Mr Wilson said: “The sculpture celebrates the childhood beginnings and the spiritual inspiration that helped inform Amy’s young heart.

“It portrays Amy in the 10th year of her life looking out from below her hat towards a purposed future that would be filled with devotion to others, a serving life, a giving heart that would impact generations of children to come.

“I found the process of translating the life of one of my Christian heroes a profound experience, visually reshaping a life, its personality and identity is a deep responsibility.

“In the sculpture Amy is holding her diary where she recorded her dreams, her hopes, her future. Because of Amy Carmichael’s vision countless children were given the hope of a new beginning, were given a future.”

Tom Clarke, chairman of Bangor Worldwide and clerk of session in Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, said Amy remains an inspiration to those who want to serve God in other parts of the world.

“Her tireless obedience to God’s call remains as new generations read her writings and the work that continues through the Dohnavur Fellowship today,” he added.

“We hope that the many children and people who see the sculpture will be challenged by Amy’s story and selfless sacrifice.”