Amy Carmichael, missionary to India with two of the children in her care
The Inspiration for the Heroine in the Governess of Highland Hall
By Carrie Turansky
As a young believer I often wished I had a mentor who would take me under her wing to guide me and help me grow in my faith. But as the years passed, I never seemed to connect with an older woman who could instruct and encourage me in that way. One day I was bringing that need to the Lord again, bemoaning the lack of mentors in my life, when I suddenly realized I had been blessed and mentored by many women through reading the books they had written. My moaning turned to thanksgiving as I reflected on the lessons I had learned from my unlikely mentors.
I especially love reading missionary biographies, and one missionary I admire is Amy Carmichael. When I read her biography, A Chance to Die, written by Elisabeth Elliot, I was inspired and touched by her faith and commitment to God and her whole-hearted service to the children of India, many of whom she rescued from being temple prostitutes.
Just a little background on Amy Carmichael. She was born in Ireland in 1867 to loving Christian parents, and though she did not have good health, she was determined to become a missionary. She served in Japan first for a short time, and then in 1895 she followed God’s call and traveled to India, where she spent the rest of her life. She went first as an evangelist, but soon started a home for abandoned and rescued children. She also wrote several books and taught many the truth of the Gospel through her example of love and faithfulness.
As I began preparing to write The Governess of Highland Hall I wanted to weave faith elements into the plot and the lives of my characters to make the story as meaningful as possible. Part of my research involved reading about Christians who lived during the late Victorian and Edwardian time period in Great Britain. As I scanned my bookshelves, I remembered Amy Carmichael and pulled down her biography again.
As I reread her story I knew her life would provide a wonderful background for my heroine. I began jotting down notes and thinking how I might weave some of Amy’s faith and life lessons into my heroine and novel.
As The Governess of Highland Hall opens, my heroine, Julia Foster, has recently returned to England after spending twelve years in India where she and her parents were missionaries and ran a home for abandoned and rescued girls like Amy Carmichael. Julia’s father is ill, and needs medical care, so the family must return to England. One of the issues Julia faces in the story is whether she should stay in England to help provide for her parents and be near them, or return to India and carry on their missionary work alone. As she develops a deep love for the hero and his children, this becomes and even more difficult question for her to face.
How can we understand God’s call? Is the calling to foreign missions a higher calling than staying in your own country and taking on the role of wife and mother? How do we determine the best path to follow in life? These are all questions Julia must face, and I hope as she seeks her answers readers will be challenged to consider their own lives and how they can follow God’s call and have a greater impact on others.
What about you? Have you ever gone on a mission trip or felt called by God to a particular ministry? How did that impact your life? If you haven’t gone yet, where would you like to go, and what would you like to do?