Missionary to Burma
12 April 1850
From the Satucket Lectionary
Adoniram Judson, Jr. (9 August 1788 – 12 April 1850) was a Baptist missionary from the United States who labored for almost forty years in Burma. At the age of 25, Adoniram Judson was the first Protestant missionary sent from North America to preach in Burma. His mission and work led to the formation of the first Baptist association in America, inspired many Americans to become or support missionaries, translated the Bible into Burmese, and established a number of Baptist churches in Burma. Judson is remembered as the first significant missionary there, as well as one of the group of the very first missionaries from America to travel overseas.
Judson was born on 9 August 1788 in Malden, Massachusetts, son of a Congregational minister of the same name. He graduated as valedictorian of his class at Brown Univ. at the age of nineteen. He then attended The Andover Theological Seminary, and graduated in 1810. He had joined an earnest group of mission-minded students at Andover who called themselves “the Brethren.” Passionately eager to serve abroad, and convinced that “Asia with its idolatrous myriads, was the most important field in the world for missionary effort”, they appeared before the Congregational Church’s General Association to appeal for support to their missionary intentions. Impressed by the polite behavior of the four men and their sincerity, the elders in 1810 voted to form an “American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.”
Afterr some mishaps and delays, Judson arrived in Calcutta on June 17, 1812. While aboard ship on route to India, he did a focused study on the theology of baptism. He came to the position that believer’s baptism was theologically valid. On September 6, 1812, he switched to the Baptist denomination along with his wife and they were baptized by immersion in Calcutta by an English missionary associate of William Carey. They were ordered out of India by the British East India Company, to whom American missionaries were even less welcome than British. The following year, on July 13, 1813, he moved to Burma.
Buddhist Burma, Judson was told by the Baptists, was impermeable to Christian evangelism. Judson, who already knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, immediately began studying the Burmese grammar but took over three years learning to speak it. This was due, in part, to the radical difference in structure between Burmese and that of “Western” languages. Four years passed before Judson dared even to hold a semi-public service. It wasn’t until June, 1819, that he baptized his first Burmese convert.
First attempts by the Judsons to interest the natives of Rangoon with the Gospel of Jesus met with almost total indifference. By 1823, ten years after his arrival, membership of the little church had grown to eighteen, and Judson had finally finished the first draft of his translation of the entire text of the New Testament in Burmese.
The Karen people were a primitive, hunted minority group of ancient Tibeto-Burman ancestry scattered in the forests and jungles of the Salween River and in the hills along the southeast coast. Judson was the first missionary to make contact with them about 1827 when he ransomed and freed a debt-slave from one of his early converts. The freed slave, Ko Tha Byu, was an illiterate, surly man who spoke almost no Burmese and was reputed to be not only a thief but also a murderer. In 1828 the former Karen bandit, “whose rough, undisciplined genius, energy and zeal for Christ” had caught the notice of the missionaries, was sent south with a new missionary couple, the Boardmans, into the territory of the strongly animistic, non-Buddhist Karen. There, he was no sooner baptized then he set off into the jungle alone to preach to his fellow tribespeople. Astonishingly, he found them strangely prepared for his preaching.
While the Boardmans and Ko Tha Byu were penetrating the jungles to the south, Adoniram Judson shook off a paralyzing year-long siege of depression that overcame him after the death of his wife, Ann, and set out alone on long canoe trips up the Salween River into the tiger-infested jungles to evangelize the northern Karen. Between trips he worked untiringly at his lifelong goal of translating the whole Bible into Burmese. When he finished it at last in 1834, he had been labouring on it for twenty-four years. It was printed and published in 1835.
Judson developed a serious lung disease and doctors prescribed a sea voyage as a cure. On 12 April 1850, Adoniram Judson died at age 61 on board ship in the Bay of Bengal and was buried at sea, having spent 37 years in missionary service abroad with only one home leave.
— more at Wikipedia