break out your badges for
9.8.1788 – 12.4.1850
Born in the USA the same year as the foundation of the colony at Sydney Cove, Adoniram Judson was a pioneer missionary to the Burmese people and landed near Rangoon (now Yangon), Burma (now Myanmar) in 1817. He learned the Burmese language, adopted native dress and laboured with little response among the Buddhist Burmese, waiting seven years before the first conversion and without any idea that 3 million people were ready for the Gospel. But during that time he was able to do a most important translational work paving the way for the explosive work of God that was to follow among the Karen people which then swept on to involve the Kachin, Lahu, Wa, Shan and Lisu peoples.
Many of these tribes had a ‘legend’ of how a white man would come with a book and tell them the story of the true God. In fact a diplomat had written of his experience in 1795 meeting some Karen people and them being very excited at the prospect of him being the fulfilment of the prophecy, but he shrugged them off because the Burmese official was getting agitated and he was fearful of trouble. He recorded this incident in a manuscript published 32 years later but it attracted little attention for the next 175 years.
In 1816 a Muslim traveller entered a remote Karen village with a book and seeing their intense fascination with the book, he offered it as a gift to an elderly Karen sage. The book – subsequently shown to be the Book of Common Prayer and Psalms – was wrapped in cloth and put in a basket and the people kept watch for the person who would come and interpret it. The Karen also sang hymns to the one true God who they did not know but believed would one day be revealed to them – an 800,000 member welcoming party ready for the first missionary.
And then Ko Thah-byu – a rough, violent tempered man who confessed to killing about 30 men during his robber days – came looking for work which Judson arranged. He became a Christian, and enthusiastically read the Bible as fast as Judson could translate it and, understanding the incredible significance of the ‘lost book,’ couldn’t wait to take the message back to his people, and whole villages responded with wonder and committment to Jesus Christ.
But the work among the Buddhist Burmese remained extremely difficult. On one occasion, following unspeakable sufferings in a filthy prison, he appeared before the king of Burma and asked for permission to go to a certain city to preach. “I am willing for a dozen preachers to go, but not you,” was the king’s answer. “Not with those hands! My people are not such fools as to take notice of your preaching, but they will take notice of those scarred hands.”
Permit us to labour on in obscurity, and at the end of twenty years you may hear from us again (to the churches back home).
The motto of every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be “Devoted for life.”
If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.
I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet when Christ calls me home, I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from his school.
If such exquisite delights as we have enjoyed…with one another, are allowed to sinful creatures on earth, what must the joys of heaven be?
Sources: Don Richardson Eternity in Their Hearts; Hampton & Plueddeman World Shapers; Michael Green Illustrations.