|Adoniram & Ann Judson|
A Story of Endurance
When I think of endurance, my mind goes to Adoniram and Ann Judson, whom it is my joy to introduce to you. I first met this couple in the summer of 2006, in their biography. Though they lived 150 years ago, their story shows me the everlasting promises of God. It encourages me to keep serving without giving up. I hope that same encouragement fills your heart as you read the remarkable testimony of their faithfulness to the Kingdom of God.
Adoniram was born in 1788 to a godly home. His father was a Congregational pastor and his mother was a prayer intercessor. However, it wasn’t until Adoniram was 20 years old that he trusted in Christ. All throughout his childhood, he excelled mentally and even entered Providence College (now Brown University) at age 17, after taking a year off of school due to sickness. It was at Brown that a friend, who was a brilliant Deist, destroyed the faith of Adoniram. His parents were crushed when they found out that Adoniram had lost his faith.
While traveling on horseback one night through a small town, he stopped at a hotel to stay the night because of stormy weather. The clerk explained that there were not any available rooms. He pleaded with the clerk and said he was willing to sleep anywhere just to get out of the weather. The clerk remembered that there was a room with two beds; the problem was that a man was sick and dying and if he could handle the noise throughout the night, he could have the other half of that room. Adoniram agreed and the clerk hung a blanket separating the two beds.
All night, the dying man next to him struggled to breathe, coughing and chocking. Adoniram knew he was near death. Throughout the night, he wondered to himself if the man was ready to meet God? Was the man right with God and ready to have his soul from judgment? He then thought of his friend at Brown and how he would laugh at him for thinking such silly thoughts.
The next morning, while checking out, Adoniram asked the clerk the identity of the man who had died next to his bed. The clerk said, “He was a brilliant young man from Providence College named….” It was the same young deists that had destroyed Adoniram’s faith just 3 years earlier.
Adoniram stood there in shock…“he was lost” he kept thinking, “Lost! Lost! Lost!” The words kept ringing in his head and roaring through his soul. In that moment, Adoniram realized, he was lost too! He immediately returned home and entered Andover Theological Seminary and “sought God for the pardon of his soul.” After being born again, he dedicated his life to God’s service!
It was soon after that Adoniram would help form America’s first Missionary Society. He and his new bride, Ann, would set sail on February 19, 1812, as America’s first missionaries only seven days after their wedding!
After spending a short time with William Carey, the young couple was rejected by the East India Company to be missionaries in India. That would prove to be a sovereign decision made by God! The heartbroken couple was filled with frustration and failure…but God was working, leading them to Rangoon, Burma!
What a dark land Burma is! In the mid-1800’s, Christianity was illegal in the Burman Empire. There wasn’t a single Christian or known Church in existence. Oh how endurance would make this man and his young bride! They settled into Rangoon, which was a crime-infested city. In complete loneliness, God blessed them with a baby boy. Sadly, even that joy was only for a short period. Eight months after Roger William Judson was born, he died of cholera. Because the Burmese wouldn’t touch a dead foreigner, Adoniram had to bury his baby with his own hands. Grief stricken, he dug the grave for his son and conducted his funeral.
For the next 6 years, Adoniram and Ann would labor among the Burmese before seeing their first convert. Moung Nau was the first Burmese known to believe the Gospel and be baptized! Adoniram would write in his journal, “Oh, may it prove to be the beginning of a series of baptisms in the Burman Empire which shall continue in uninterrupted success to the end of the age.”
Adoniram saw as many as 18 Burmese saved and baptized before deep opposition came. God blessed the Judson’s with healthy children, but it was at this time that a war had broken out between the Burmese and the English. Even though Adoniram and Ann were Americans, he was arrested by the Burmese government as a British spy. He was imprisoned for 21 months and condemned to death. He worried about his family…how they were eating, what they were doing for money, if they would be robbed or worse. God took care of them through the 21 months. God also preserved the project Adoniram had been working on for years…the first Bible translated into the Burmese language.
After those agonizing months, Adoniram was freed by the government and he went on to continue his translation work. He and Ann had spent 31 years in Burma before coming home to America for a few months of furlough. They returned to Burma to serve for another 7 years before his death on April 12, 1850. He was 62 years old and was buried at sea.
The Bible that took him nearly 21 years to complete was (and still is) the only Bible the Burmese have in their own language. This was the spirit of this mighty man, once at the capital city of Ava, looking at the enormous Buddhists Temples Judson challenged, “A voice mightier than mine, a still small voice, will ere long sweep away every vestige of thy dominion. The Churches of Jesus Christ will soon supplant these idolatrous monuments and the chanting devotees of Buddha will die away before the Christian’s hymns of praise.”
38 years before arriving in Burma, there was not one single known Christian in the Empire of Burma. Upon his death, the government had legalized Christianity and through the efforts and endurance of Adoniram and Ann Judson, there were legally recorded 300,000 Christians throughout the Empire.