We go through our days setting out to accomplish our long list of things to do. From taking the kids to school and going to work to running errands and cooking dinner, we run across people every day. Each person has a life and their shopping list of things that need to get done. It is an endless cycle. We are so busy with what we “need to do” we do not take notice of each soul we are passing. Never once considering the condition of the souls around us. We need a glimpse, just as Adoniram Judson received. A wake-up call that people need the Lord.
Adoniram Judson: Do We Feel for the Lost?
God has given each of us a heart to feel with. He expects us to use it to help others. He gives us eyes to see, but do we really ever look at others? Our hearts? Do we ever really use them to feel for others? What about the lost? Do we move on from day to day in ignorance or do we take the time to consider the one God loves and sent his Son for?
- Adoniram Judson’s Experience – Adoniram was born into a devout Christian home. His father was a pastor, but he did not come to know Christ personally until he was 20 years old. He had entered college and was enticed by a Deist and his beliefs. After graduation, he chose to travel. Amidst his travels, he happened to stay at an inn, and there was a dying man in the next room. His groaning kept Adoniram up all night.
Childish memories rose within him, wondering about the condition of the man’s soul. He passed it off and wondered what his deist friend would have to say about his thoughts. However, the thoughts continued to eat at him. He asked the owner about the man who died, to his amazement the name he was given was the name of his friend from college, the Deist. Adoniram Judson was convinced that the man died, lost. He was also convicted enough to return home and reconnect with family and his roots.
- Our Experiences – We are often like Adoniram Judson. We move around with the thought process that we create our own destiny, giving God little consideration. Even as Christians, we either do not think God takes an interest in the monotony of our life, or we ignore him voluntarily. Either way, we are not the vessels, He desires to use. We can’t let popular opinion sway our faith and beliefs. We need to surrender to those “childish memories” and remember that God loves everyone; the Bible tells us so.
Adoniram Judson: Real People with Real Needs
Adoniram Judson saw the state of his friend’s soul, but it was too late for him. Through this pain, he returned home and attended Seminary, gave his life to Christ, and dedicated himself to the Masters’ service.
- Praying for the Lost – Throughout seminary, he met with like-minded friends. They began to pray for lost souls. And for the opportunity to get into the ministry. The Congregationalists formed the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and gave Adoniram, along with his friends, the opportunity to missions to the East.
- Heading into the Mission Field – Three years later, in 1812, Adoniram Judson had the biggest year of his life. He got married, ordained, and commissioned to ministry to India. His intention was to relocate and live in Calcutta. He and his wife and the other team they were traveling with would be the first Americans to fulfill this purpose to spread the Gospel.
The Burmese Bible
One of Adoniram Judson’s greatest contributions was his translation of the Bible into the Burmese language. This was not an easy task; he had first to learn the language.
- The Language Barrier – Adoniram and his wife spent three years, pretty much in seclusion spending 12 hours a day learning the Burmese language.
- The Cultural Barrier – Much like other missionaries Adoniram Judson began to dress like the Burmese people. However, he made one adjustment; he wore white instead of yellow. Yellow signified Buddha, the religion that is overwhelming within the region. After a while, he realized that the people, acclimated or not, would always see him as a foreigner.
- The Custom Barrier – One custom that helped was the building of a traditional reception area to his home, called a zayat. He began attracting a few males here and there, they listened but were for the most part unreceptive. But he did not let this get him down.
Adoniram Judson completed his translation of the Gospel of Matthew in 1817 he began to see some changes. He would call out from his zayat for people to visit who ‘thirsted for knowledge.’ It was a slow process, but by 1822 he had 18 converts.
Adoniram Judson and the Anglo-Burmese War
As with all foreign missionaries, they are always at risk with the political turmoil of the country they are serving. Many missionaries faced wars and persecution, with Adoniram, it was no different.
- The Imprisonment – During the Anglo-Burmese War, the government was arresting any white visitor. They feared them to be British spies. Adoniram Judson was arrested and imprisoned for 20 months. He was released after much petitioning from his wife and the British government.
- The Aftermath – One of the conditions for the British stepping up to assist with his release was that he would serve as an interpreter for peace negotiations.
- The Seclusion – He suffered a major tragedy shortly after that. His wife and one of his children died within months of each other. This placed Adoniram in a depression, and he secluded himself for four years.
- The Rejuvenation – This time of isolation gave Adoniram time to evaluate his life. He determined that he should continue to preach the Gospel because there were still lost souls out there, like his friend who passed away in his lost state.
The Word of God continued to spread through the ministry of Adoniram Judson for the next 20 years of his life. He completed his translation of the Bible, and more and more Burmese came to the knowledge of the Lord. He also mentored the next generation of Baptist missionaries. Adoniram Judson passed away in 1870. Shortly after his death, a government survey calculated around 120,000 Burmese Christians.
Missionaries just like Adoniram are still in action today. They still face the same challenges as always from governmental opposition and established religion to the reluctance of the people to hear. The battle is constant, but the reward is great. Adoniram Judson had great successes, but he also had to face many difficulties. He knew about sacrifice, but he welcomed it with open arms.
“There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice, it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success, it is because someone will succeed after.” – Adoniram Judson
This article was written by Jeff S. Bray.