• Caleb Nel

ADONIRAM JUDSON: A MAN WHO DIDN’T WASTE HIS LIFE

In 1812, Adoniram Judson left his home country as the first protestant missionary sent out from the United States. He was born in 1788 in Massachusetts and at the age of 20 years old, radically converted from atheism to Christianity.


It was soon after his conversion that he felt a call from God to preach the gospel to the people of Burma. A few months later he also fell in love with a lovely young lady named Anne. But Adoniram felt called to Burma. So, after much deliberation with Anne, Adoniram wrote a letter to Anne’s Father, asking for her hand in marriage. The letter read:

"I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"


At age 24, on the 5 February 1812 Adoniram married Anne. And on the 19 February, just 2 weeks later, Anne and Adoniram set sail for Burma. 4 months later they arrived in the port of Calcutta, India. And finally, one year later they were able to make their way to Rangoon, Burma. They landed in Rangoon with no knowledge of the language, no support system and no one to receive them. It took Adoniram and Anne 3 years to learn how to speak Burmese. Their first contact from home came over 2 years 4 months after their arrival.


Medicine at the time was limited and there was no course of antibiotics available if you got sick. There were also no doctors in Rangoon. Anne once got so sick that she had to seek medical help in the west and so boarded a boat and set sail. Adoniram only saw Anne two years later.


Adoniram and Anne spent year after year in Rangoon, learning the language, learning the culture, and building bridges with the people - all in an effort to fulfil what they felt God had called them to do: preach the Gospel to the people of Burma.


But progress was painfully slow. Their first convert only came after 6 years of hard labor! And after 12 years, they had made just 18 converts. Adoniram would spend 33 years in Burma before going home to the United States to visit his family - this visit would be his first and his last.


But by far Adoniram’s greatest pains were that of his family life. Adoniram Judson had 3 wives – not because of divorce, but because everyone of his loved wives died. Anne was his first wife – they had 3 children, but all 3 children died. Their first baby died nameless on a ship between India and Burma. Their second baby – Roger Williams – died at 7 months old. And their third baby - Maria – outlived Anne by 6 months. Sarah was his second wife and they had 8 children together – and Emily was his third wife and they had 2 children together. Adoniram had a total of 13 children, of whom just 7 survived.


Finally, in 1850 Adoniram Judson fell sick and boarded a ship in the hopes of finding medical help but died at sea – and with not a single family member by his side, the crew threw his dead body overboard.


Adoniram faced great hardship, attacks, and sorrow, yet his life was not wasted. In fact, quite the opposite! By the time Adoniram passed away, he had completed the first translation of the Bible into Burmese – it took him 38 years. Likewise, he completed the first Burmese-English dictionary, which would prove instrumental for the wave of missionaries who joined in after his death.


When Adoniram died, he left behind 8000 converts and over 100 churches in Burma. And today the fruits of Adoniram’s radical commitment and obedience to Jesus, means that Burma has over 3700 Baptist congregations, and millions of Christians.

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