Many North Americans readers will know the second great anniversary that occurs this Sunday is that 200 years ago today, Adoniram and Ann Judson sailed from Massachusetts, on February 19, 1812, apparently the first Protestant American missionaries to travel overseas.
(I wrote yesterday of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin which also occurs this Sunday, which not even many Aussies know much about.)
The Judsons became pioneers in Buddhist Burma, a nation of tyrants and no freedom of religion, of war with Siam (i.e. Thailand), of cholera, malaria, and dysentery. Six years passed before they saw their first convert. In that time, their first two children died. A few years later, Judson was imprisoned and tortured. Caring for him over those 17 months broke Ann’s health. Eleven months after his release, she died, soon followed by their third and last child.
Explaining why she went to Burma, Ann wrote to a friend,
I feel willing, and expect, if nothing in Providence prevents, to spend my days in this world in heathen lands… I have about come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God, in his Providence, shall see fit to place me.
A comfortable life for their kids was not the Judsons’ great ambition.
Instead it was to see many Burmese converted to Christ and saved for all eternity from sin and judgement.
And by the time Adoniram died, there were 8,000 believers gathered in 63 churches; the Bible was translated and a Burmese dictionary complete. Today there are hundreds of Christian churches in Burma, often struggling, but tracing their origin to the Judsons’ work (many of them Baptist, since the Judsons were baptistic).
I imagine there are also Burmese congregations, often comprising refugees from that land, in a number of Western nations around the world. Certainly there’s a wonderful newish ministry at the reformed and evangelical Wollongong Baptist Church – our good friends just down the road from us at St Michael’s. It has services both in Burmese and Karen languages!
I am remembering to pray for their ministry this week. A number of their kids are in our SRE (Scripture) classes in our local public schools and they are lovely. Some of the Burmese refugees have some sad stories though.
Of course, numbers were not the real marker of the success of Adoniram and Ann Judson. Their success 200 years ago was seen in suffering, patiently enduring hardship and opposition for Christ’s sake.
Note: Readers in the know will realise that I have drawn heavily on John Piper’s biographical sketch of Adoniram Judson entitled “How Few There Are Who Die So Hard!”. Simply inspiring.
And to those few readers who have never checked out Piper’s back catalogue of biographical sketches of Christian leaders, check them out right now! (Audio is great to listen to for personal challenge and edification, though you usually need over an hour per talk. The full text is great to return to for the detail to use as excellent sermon illustrations.)
Lastly, a friendly thank you to Joy Horn over at Evangelicals Now for her excellent annual round up of anniversaries of relevance and interest to the evangelical world (at least those of us who care a bit about history!)