Part V: Adoniram Judson
There are a thousand riveting, inspiring missionary biographies. But for my money, no one’s is quite like Adoniram Judson.
Adoniram Judson was born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1788 to a Christian family, even being the son of a minster. He was brilliant from an early age and enrolled in Brown University when he was only 16. But around this time in his life through the influence of a friend, he began to depart from the Christian faith. Coincidentally, the death of this very friend led him back to the faith. At that point, he enrolled in Andover Seminary, where his fire for missions, which never died until he did, was ignited.
There’s so much detail about his life in Burma (Myanmar), especially his sufferings (highlighted by numerous family deaths), one could write for hundreds of pages about it. And some have. But I will provide just a few of the most important details, beginning with how his life is the embodiment of these amazing verses:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:3-5
He was in Burma for six years before he ever saw a conversion. He was there 18 years before people began coming to Christ in mass. He lost two wives to death and several children. The loss of his first wife, Ann, hit him especially hard and he sunk into a deep depression for a long time. At one point before that, the British fleet arrived in Rangoon (where he ministered) and bombarded the harbor. All Westerners were immediately viewed as spies, and Adoniram was dragged from his home and put in prison.
There he spent 17 months. His feet were fettered and at night a long horizontal bamboo pole was lowered and passed between the fettered legs and hoisted up till only the shoulder and heads of the prisoners rested on the ground.
Only from constant pleading by his wife, Ann (pregnant at the time), to governmental officials was he released.
One of the key legacies of Adoniram Judson’s life was his translation of the Bible into Burmese. He worked on it for almost his entire 37 ministry in Burma, but he finished it before he died. He even worked on it in prison, hanging upside down at night and working by candlelight.
Not only did his ministry baptize 8,000 people throughout his time in Burma, but the millions of Christians in Myanmar today trace their spiritual heritage back to one man: Adoniram Judson. His work in spreading the Gospel and translating the Bible are everything. As of today, there are 3,700 Baptist congregations in this country, despite it being on Persecuted Lists. The fire Adoniram Judson started cannot be put out, even by evil men with power.
Adoniram Judson is a hero of heroes in the faith to me, and many others. For one reason among others, he wouldn’t quit no matter what evil was thrown at him. Also, when I look at his life, I feel conviction for how little I do, how little I sacrifice, and how I respond to suffering. Adoniram Judson helps disciple me, even almost two hundred years after his death.
And that’s why I can’t wait to hug him in Heaven.
“If I had not felt certain that every trial was ordained by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.”Adoniram Judson
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