Amanda Berry Smith

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Being that February is Black History Month I find it a great opportunity to look back at some of our black Christian sisters who battled Darkness bravely in the name of the Father of Lights.

While researching (and by researching I mean I skimmed a child’s book called Heroes in Black History) I ran across Amanda Berry Smith. Amanda Berry was born into slavery in Maryland in 1837. Her father worked endlessly until he was able to purchase his family’s freedom. They moved to Pennsylvania where their home became a station on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves.

Life was not easy for Amanda. At the age of seventeen she married a drunk who was later killed during the Civil War. Amanda had not seen much need for God, although she had been raised in a Christian home, but before her husband had died she experienced the “saving grace of Jesus” through a Baptist revival. Now her only desire was to share the Good News of salvation with anyone who would listen.

After the death of her first husband Amanda married an aspiring preacher named James Smith. However, the hopes of living in a Christ-centered home collapsed as James eventually lost interest in all things spiritual and spent much time away from home. During these years Amanda had five children, only one, a daughter named Maizie, lived past infancy. In 1869, James died and Amanda, now 32 years old, took in washing and ironing to support herself and her young daughter.

The following story is what struck me to the heart. A deep gut remembrance, a stopping and asking, a call to obedience. It is a simple story of Amanda obeying God in something small, something that you and I might be faced with daily. Her sacrifice was little, but the potential impact of her obedience was eternal.

One night, after church, Amanda wearily started her way towards home. Her whole body was tired and sore after the washing and scrubbing of clothes. She looked forward to a small supper, some time spent in prayer, and an early bed time.

But a friend from church called to her and asked if she were going to the fundraising fair that night. Amanda had not planned on it; she really just wanted to go home and rest. Besides, fairs were for the younger crowd.

The friend explained that she had two extra tickets to give away and was hoping Amanda would use them.

This is where I would have repeated the whole dinner, prayer, bed routine and said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” But Amanda Berry Smith stopped to pray, “Lord, are you trying to tell me something?” She took the tickets explaining that if God wanted her to go to the fair, she would go.

She went home for her small supper and continued to pray. She felt God was clear – He wanted her to go to the fair. But why? She tucked some tracts about salvation and holiness in her coat pocket before leaving. The fair was in a brightly lit hall filled with bustling people having a good time. Amanda slowly wandered the area still wondering what she was supposed to be doing, but she kept her spiritual ears tuned into God’s directive.

Then she saw him. Charlie. Charlie was a young man who rarely came to church with no claim to faith. He was walking down the stairs with a friend she did not know. The Holy Spirit seemed to say, “Speak to that young man.”

As the two men passed, Amanda called out, “Charlie, I have a tract for you to read.”

Charlie stopped and addressed her politely as he took the tract. He admitted to having been raised with “this stuff” but saw himself as having lots of time to “sober up”. There was a bit of snickering between the two friends. Once they parted ways Amanda knew her mission was complete. She went home.

Several days later the friend who had given her the fair tickets approached with bad news, “Did you hear? Young Charlie was found dead in his bed this morning!”

Amanda’s heart was both sad and glad. She prayed Thank you for giving me the strength to obey you the other night and go to the fair. I don’t know whether Charlie responded to the message in the tract or not. I leave that in your hands. My job was to obey.

[Jesus] replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28

Can you think of a time you felt God was asking you to do something, but you didn’t feel like doing it? What did you do? What happened? 

For more information you can read a synopsis on the mostly-reliable Wikipedia or order her autobiography The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith.

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