This past week most of us have become familiar with Myanmar for the very first time. As Jamie's previous point reminded us, 100,000 souls went into eternity by the cataclysmic event. It has ushered all of us into remembrance of how our lives here on this earth are both precious and brief. Yet I have been especially drawn to this story, because it is the mission field that one of my "heroes of the faith" served faithfully for many years. Adoniram Judson devoted his life to what was then called Burma (Myanmar), seeking to take the gospel to ears who had never heard of Jesus. He buried wives and children in that country, giving all to the mission field God had called him to serve.
Judson was born in 1788 to a Congregational pastor in New England. Even as a small boy it was clear that he was blessed with an amazing intellect. At the age of two or three he could read Scripture passages to his father in the evenings. By ten years old he excelled in advanced arithmetic, studied navigational theory, and had become skilled in the Greek and Latin languages, all the while reading great works of theology. He went to Providence college at 16, graduated with highest honors at 19, all the while teaching in a private academy and writing textbooks in both English and Arithmetic. Through this time he left the Christianity of his parents and became a convinced agnostic. Yet God radically saved him through the untimely death of a college friend (an amazing conversion story to read).
Shortly after his conversion his heart was softened to the great need of missionary work abroad. He and several other young men formed a mission board, gathered sponsors and support, and planned to devote their lives to the going "to the ends of the earth." Coinciding with that he met and married Ann Hasseltine who had herself also devoloped a heart for mission work. Both Adoniram and Ann, along with a fellow missionary named Luther Rice, became convinced baptists while heading overseas to their assignments. This led to resigning from the Congregational board and seeking to begin a Baptist missionary board. He served in Burma his entire life, seeing only a few converts the first years, dug the graves of his children who died on foreign soil, and spent three years in an underground prison hanging from stocks because of government tensions with the West. Yet his grammar of the Burmese language and translation of the Bible into Burmese were used for generations and are still the foundation for works done in the language today. His name is still known in that land because of how important he was in the gospel coming to Burma.
The moral of the story is this: pray for Myanmar, because faithful men and women gave their lives hundreds of years ago to see the gospel penetrate an unreached nation. While we may have just heard of it this week, it has been the place where God has used believers to reach men and women for Jesus. Thank God for Adoniram Judson, and may God challenge us as well to go even to the ends of the earth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
(To read more about Judson, see "To the Golden Shores," by Courtney Anderson, and chapter 6 of "Baptists and the Bible," by L. Russ Bush and Tom Nettles).