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Unusual Man, Unusual Mission

Which American man entered college at age 16, graduated as valedictorian at age 19, and eventually carried the gospel to a country which killed people who didn’t worship their national god?

If you guessed Adoniram Judson, you were correct. This unusual American with the unusual name-- and his wife-- influenced many Burmese (modern-day Myanmar) people with the gospel during the 1800s.

Judson showed great intellectual prowess at a young age. His mother taught him to read when he was three years old, and he surprised his father by reading an entire chapter from the Bible.

Though young Adoniram embraced Christianity while growing up, he forsook his faith in college, due to the influence of an amiable friend, Jacob Eames. Caught up in the French philosophy of his era, Eames, an athiest, convinced Judson to follow suit.

After graduating college, Judson decided to pursue a wild and carefree life. He rented a horse and traveled, seeking adventure. An experience at an inn, however, changed him forever.

Stopping at an inn for the night, Judson had trouble sleeping. Through most of the night a man in the next room lay dying. Groans and moans of deep agony filtered through the walls. In the morning he asked about the commotion next door and received shocking news. The man next door had died—and it was his friend Jacob Eames!

The news jolted the young Judson. In fact, he began having second thoughts about being an atheist. Realizing his cherished friend died a terrifying death, the young man agonized himself when he realized his friend wasn’t prepared to meet God—and neither was he.

Judson returned home and renewed his faith in God, with the help of his minister father. And, finding new friends, he entered seminary, preparing to be a minister himself.

It was at seminary that Judson became interested in carrying the gospel to a foreign land. He married Ann Hassletine in 1812, and fourteen days later the pair sailed for India. The British East India Company, however, didn’t want anyone interfering with their money making, and forced them to leave the country.

Where could they go? Ah, Burma! Now called Myanmar, the country in southeast Asia was home to Buddhists. The problem was, the king could have a person killed for worshiping any other god than their national god, Buddha. The Judsons trusted the God of heaven to protect them.

Detailing the almost 40 years Adoniram and his family spent in Burma would take too long for this post. However, a quick illustration of God’s special care will tell the story.

One day government officials knocked on the Judsons’ door and accused Adoniram of being a British spy (the British were fighting for control of Burma at this time). They arrested him roughly and forced him to march in chains to a filthy prison. While there he endured extreme torture and humiliation. His wife visited the prison often, bringing him food and begging officials to remove the five leg-irons which chained her sick husband to the wall.

Judson’s biggest concern, however, was his previous years’ work translating the Word of God into the Burmese language. It would be lost. Not if his wife had her way. She smuggled it into the prison in a lumpy pillow; however, the pillow was confiscated and thrown away. Miraculously, a Burmese Christian found it on the refuse heap and brought it back to the couple.

Eventually, Judson was released from prison to help translate a peace treaty between England and Burma. And eventually, Judson completed a Burmese dictionary as well as a translation of the Bible into the Burmese language.

Nearly forty years of hard work as well as the loss of his wife and children to disease, didn’t stop Adoniram Judson, the man with the unusual name, to accomplish an unusual mission.

What about you? Had you ever heard or read about Adoniram Judson? Feel free to comment below.


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