Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Myanmar's Heroes of Faith: Adoniram Judson

Adoniram Judson (1788 - 1850)

Arrival in Rangoon:


          On July 13, 1813 Adoniram Judson took his first step onto the soil of Burma for the very first time. He had come west from India, across the Bay of Bengal and then headed North up the Ayeyarwaddy River. There may have been four things on his mind at that time. One was his ill wife Ann Hasseltine still on board ship. Second there was the missionary who he was about to meet Mrs. Felix Carry daughter-in-law of the missionary William Carry in India. The challenge here was that she only new Portuguese and Burmese. Her husband was up North at Ava where he had been summoned by the king. The third thing he would have began to see from a distant while sailing up the river was the Pagoda towering high above the shore line, a symbol that was built to pay homage to the religious faith of Buddhism. The fourth thing that he may not have seen but surely was wonder about was, could this really be the place that God had now called him to and are these the people that he would give his life for.

He had just spent 60 days at sea travelling from India to Burma. He had been rejected by the Indian government to stay there. He had also spent time with Dr. William Carry and after some discussion, him and his wife decided to go through with adult baptism. This was a subject he had been studying a lot about while they were at sea. So then on September 6th 1812 they both were baptized at the Lal Bazaar Church. The results of this decision meant that they could no longer be a Congregationalist Missionary and he would now lose all his financial support. Plus their hearts were still heavy over the loss of their son who was stillborn. With heavy hearts they buried their son at sea in the Bay of Bengal.

He now faced a new call and direction and had no finance to carry on this new work that would soon be made real to him by God. Even though he had faced many trials already to this point he would now be the arrow-head and apostle that Christ would us to penetrate the armor and stronghold of this beautiful land.

First Converts 


It was not until July 21, 1822 some nine years after their arrival to Rangoon that they received nineteen members into the church. The church was  gathered in the zayat, a little shed beside the Pagoda Road. The first convert was Maung Naw. He and the others would become the foundation, that both the Church of Jesus Christ plus the lighthouses that Christ would use to take the message of salvation and freedom to the spiritually bond people throughout the land of Burma. Another key disciple was Maung Shwe Ngong. Judson often referred to him as “the teacher”. He became Judson right hand man in translating the Bible into Burmese. Often we know the missionary receive a lot of the credit for things that take place in foreign lands but if the truth would be known it is the nationals who become Christians that carry the brunt and pain of bring the message of Christ to others. The missionaries is really the catalyst that gets the process of translation and discipleship equipping going forward but it is the indigenous people who pay the highest cost.

Call Of God

Adoniram was born on August the 9th 1788. His father and mother were devoted members of Congregationalist Church. Both his father and his grandfather were also pastors and served the Lord with deep commitment. They lived outside Salem Massachusetts and Judson Jr. showed at a young age, both a talent for learning and a desire to preach.

At the age of 16 he was already heading off to Brown University and by 1807 at the age of 19 he graduated and was blessed to be that years school valedictorian. But it was during his time at university, he began to have doubts about who God is and how does one know what He wants to do through one’s life. He had some friends around him that doubted the reality of God and often challenged him. One in particular was a man named Jacob Eames who was a real philosopher and one who used logic for everything. Because of this uncertainty about things in his heart Judson decided instead of being a teacher in a small school he would head off to New York to become an actor. Of course this did not work out and after a few months and owing lots of people money he headed back to his uncle’s place.

On his way back he decided to spend one night out in the New England country side in an inn. There was only one small room left but it was right beside a room were a man was sick and lay dying. He thought he could sleep but throughout the night he heard the man next store groaning and saying, “God, God, lost”.

By morning, things had quieted down and when he got up, and was going to go out and while paying the innkeeper he asked how was the man next door. The Inn keeper replied that the man had died during the night. Judson asked what his name was, and with great shock he heard the name “Jacob Eames”, his young university friend. This lead Adoniram to walk around for many hours in a daze contemplating things concerning life and death,. His friend had died all alone and was not ready for eternity and all he could hear over and over again in his mind was the words, “God, God, Lost.”

It wasn't long after arriving home he began to contemplate the idea of seminary but he thought not right now so he took up a job teaching in a school, again only after a few days of working he resigned and headed off to Andover Seminary. After his second year of schooling, on a cold winter day, he found himself out in the woods behind the seminary and there at 22 years of age, this place would be where he would give his life to Christ as Savoir and Lord. (Dec. 2, 1808)

Later the next year in September God was beginning to show Judson a call. His family hoped that it would be a call to the pastorate in the Massachusetts area but soon he told them with much fear and trembling he was going to be a missionary. This came about by first reading a copy of a sermon called, “Star of the East” written by an unknown English Chaplin (Buchanann) and a short time later he read a small book called “Embassy to Ava”, by Michael Syme. He also had been hearing what had been happening with William Carey in India. His heart and vision was now set. Then by February 1810 God had burned deep within his heart the message and need of the great commission.

Now the day of graduation had come and it was time to move forward. He had meet a very beautiful and gifted women named Anne Hasseltinea. They were married on February 5th in a small ceremony with family and friend. The very next day Judson and Ann would be the first American's to be commission for foreign missions overseas. This took place at the Salem Tabernacle Church before 2000 or more people. Judson and four others would be commission and sent out. This was an exciting time but there would be one problem. They still did not have the needed funds. They would have to raise over $5000.00 before they could leave. Within two weeks over $6000.00 came in, to the glory of God! On February 18, 1812 Adoniram and Anne embarked on their honeymoon and their mission trip to Asia. A trip that would lead them around Cape Code, Africa to India where they would arrive June 17 one day after the war broke out between Britain and America (War of 1812). India was a British colony so after 120 days at sea they were not allowed to disembark because they were Americans.

First Days


          Communication would be the first task that would need to be overcome. As they left the ship Ann would have to be carried about 3/4 of a mile through the stockade to the mission house that Chater and Felix Carry had built. Then came adjusting to the food, weather and the people would some days be overwhelming, but the key challenge would be loneliness.

          The first three years was language learning, trying not just to learn words but the culture and tradition behind these words. The language was full of different tonal words and meanings, to  Adoniram this was a bigger struggle more than it was for Ann.

Next came the printing press in 1816, which allowed them to print in the language of the Burmese.

Then on Dec. 25 1817 Judson decided to take a small trip that would take about three months. He wanted to go to Arakan to see if he could find an Arakawese Christian to help in the ministry. This trip ended up taking 8 months (3 months adrift at sea) and everyone thought that the ship was lost at sea and poor Anne did not know what had happen but she continued and to trust God. On August 1818 Judson return home sick and looking like death. A short time later after his strength returned they build a Zayat. This was built on the main road to the Pagoda. This would be a place where worshippers could stop in. People came with question and the Judson did their best to give back understanding and truth about who they served, Jesus Christ. This place consisted of a large porch and one large room inside that eventually became the first meeting place and church in the land of Burma.

Translation Work 

          His first step would be to establish a beach head and that would come by learning the language, culture and traditions of the land. Then to take this information and develop a written language so that in due time could begin translating the Bible into the language of the people. This alone would take up to three years just to learn the basic of communication and another three years to begin to start translation some of the books of the Bible. They both labored at this, spending up to 12 hours a day in study. Soon by 1815 they had completed a 4000 word dictionary. By 1816 with the help of missionary printer George H. Hough they were able to complete: a track called, “A View of Christian Religion, plus a 6 page catechism and 800 copies of the book of Matthew all in Burmese. By July 13, 1816 they completed an Burmese / English grammar book. The foundation were beginning to be laid that other would be able to come and build on.


             It was June 8th 1824 a day that started out normal but within hours the events of this day would change the history of  two countries. At the door came a group of men who would charge Judson as a spy, even though he was an American. He was accused of working for the British. He was tied up and dragged off through the streets to the courthouse and by the end of the day he was thrown into the inner cell of La Ma Yoon. The prison for death.

It would not be long before he would see two other of his friends, the Medical missionary Dr. Jonathan Price and Gouger a wealthy man of the community.

As the days began in prison Judson would be subject to tortured and questioning. He would on many occasions be lead to a place of where he had to watch other prisoners being tortured. Within a few days when Ann came to see her husband she could hardly recognize him at all.

Each day was horrible with temperatures often in the 100 degree range and being roomed with another 100 prisoners who were all lashed together on to bamboo with their feet being shackled with at least 5 shackles. But this was not all because each night at three, the guards would come in after the bell rang out, to take two prisoners for beheading.

Meanwhile Ann was left alone only with her two helpers and Judson assistant Maung Ing. In those first few hours they went about destroyed all kinds of journals and books that she thought might be used against her husband as evidence. Plus she rounded up all their valuables and carefully berried then in the back yard. There was one more treasure that they were concerned about and that was the New Testament, the Burmese manuscript. Ann had an idea and that was to roll it up, wrap it and coat it with a form of lacer and but it into a pillow for Judson to use at the prison. It was so hard and bumpy that the guard could not understand why Judson would ever want to use it but for months to come Judson laid his head on the Word of God each night.

The days turned into months then one day without notice the prisoners were going to be moved to another prison and they would have to walk with shackles and bear feet all the way. Soon Judson feet were all torn open by the sharp stones on the road, each step left foot prints of blood.  After two mile and the extreme heat Judson could walk no more so he was carried by Laird. But soon even Laired had no more strength and it was at that time a Servant of Gougers came. He was a Bengali Hindu, with in a moment and without thought he removed his holy turban, tour it into pieces and bandage Judson bleeding feet, then he gave Judson his shoulder and carried him the rest of the way to Amarapura prison. Judson later stated that for the rest of his life, he never forgot the golden act of mercy that was given to him, in his extreme hour of need.

After arriving, each day they feared for their lives because of the rumors that were being spoken and Ann had been told by her friend that 3 times Judson had been spared from execution. But after 21 months in prison the King needed a translator who could read and prepare documents that would be sent back and forth between Britain and the King of Burma.

Finally on December 31, 1825 he headed home to his beloved wife Ann. But soon there was mixed emotion, he was excited to be free but the New Testament manuscript that he had labored over for ten years was gone or was it. Then Ann pointed to the table and there lay the rolled up ball of paper. It seems that weeks later his fried Maung Ing went back to the old prison scavenging around looking for things and in the back, on a pile of garbage was the pillow of Judson. The pillow case was gone but the manuscript was intact. God had spared Judson life and the precious New Testament of the Burmese Bible.

First Churches         

          It was not until April 4th 1819 that Judson preach his first sermon. The seeds of hard study and work was about to bear forth fruit for God’s glory.

Over a period of time as Judson and his family moved to various location that churches started to birth forth. There was now ones in Rangoon, Moulmein, Ava, Arracan and Prome.

It was reported by 1849 every missionary was baptizing Burmese, Karens and Talings. At Moulein there were 1500 hundred baptized believers and in Arracan there was now over 3000.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ was beginning to spread throughout the land but one of the biggest challenges was getting enough labours to minister. Now there was so many open  doors now available throughout the country. The harvest was ready but the labours were few.

Outreach Ministries


          Outreach took place mainly because it seem that one of the greatest tools that was used beside publishing of material was the establishing of Christians school. Where schools where planted, churches and baptized believers followed soon after. Plus one other method was the training and equipping of local indigenous believers.

Later Days

           Over the year God had raised up three wives who would helped carry the load and the banner of Jesus Christ to this nation. They too need to be honored.

·        Ann Hasseltine dies October 24th  1826 at Amherst. Served 13 years in Burma

·        Sarah Hall Boardman dies September  1st 1845 at St. Helena. Served 18 years in Burma

·        Emily Chubbuck June 1, 1954 dies in Hamilton, New York. Served 5 years in Burma

   Their faithfulness and labors for the Lord have produce an eternal wait of glory.

Once Adoniram wrote in his dairy that the members of his family are scattered far and wide: burial at places like Rangoon, Amherst, Moulmein, Serampore and St. Helena.

During these last years he spent time in Rangoon trying to finish a Burmese dictionary.

Because of so many challenges the Judson moved back to Moulmein. This would be the last time for Rangoon and his heart was so heavy for the souls of that city.

On December 24, 1847 Emily Frances was born to them. Over the months Judson pressed on with long hours, just like he did for the Burmese Bible, his heart was driven to complete the dictionary and by 1848 English– Burmese section was now being printed on the press. But more challenges lay ahead. On April 3, 1650 he was carried aboard the Aristide Marie. The believers wanted him to stay, for if he was to die, they wanted it to be in the land where he had planted his life and heart.

Emily would stay because she was about to give birth to another child. On Monday April 8th the ship set sail. Then on the last day, he said to his faithful friend, “it is done, I am going”. While traveling home by ship to America Adoniram at a quarter past four on a Friday, he tock his homeward flight, at sea April 12, 1850. He now walks in glory with his beloved friend Jesus Christ. To God be the Glory.

Then on April 25 Emily started to hemorrhaging and just before midnight the baby was born stillborn. He was a beautiful little boy which she had names Charlie. It was not till August that Emily found out that her husband had gone on to be with the Lord. By January 22, 1851 Emily took the long voyage home on the ship name, the Canada and reached Boston harbor in October.

Today's Fruit

          At the time of service, the Judson would not have known that they were not only missionaries but would also be history makers. That the seeds that they would be planting would lay the foundations stone for many other people groups in Burma. Their lives also became a model for future missionaries both from America but also for many other countries and believers around the world.

          Today as this little pamphlet is being written there is still fruit coming forth from there labors. Soon we will celebrate in the land of Myanmar the 200th anniversary of their coming. This will highlight, many of the blessing that God has done through these two people who first stepped out in faith and obey the call of our Lord Jesus Christ.

          Some of the fruit that one should list are as follows:

·        1872, Rangoon College

·        1920, Judson College

·        1977, 90,000 gather for a Baptist Convention in Myitkyina and 6,200 converts were baptized.

·        50,000 Buddhist have converted to Christ.

·        40 % of Karen have come to Christ.

·        90 %  of Kachin have come to Christ.

·        95 % of Chin have come to Christ.

·        Over 2000 people have gone out as missionaries.

·        There has been numerous churches and bible schools founded throughout the country.

·        Now in Myanmar there are over 4 million protestants today.    

          Our prayers is that this information may cause others to pick up the torch for Jesus Christ and carry it off into lands and people groups that are waiting for a “history maker” who will come and sow their lives into the people who are still waiting for someone to come and be that lighthouse for Jesus Christ. This kind of a journey will not be easy and will be full of many mountains and valleys that will challenge one's spirit beyond its ability but in the end there will be great, treasure in heaven that will have been laid up for the Glory of God.

Bibliography & Resources


Baptist in Burma by Rondolph L. Howard.
Burma Baptist Chronicles by Maung Shwe Wa, Geneviene & Erville Sowards.
The Judson History & Lagacy by Rosalie Hall Hunt.
Adoniram Judson, Missionary to Burma by Faith Coxe Bailey


 The Moulmain Chronicle published in 1840 by Judson 

First newspaper in Myanmar language published in 1843.

One of the oldest printing presses that was used in Rangon

This location is where the first printing press was brought and set up. Also the place where the first Burmese Bible, dictionary and hymn book were printed. 

Judson Church Rangoon 

Maulmain Burmese & English Churches 
  Dr. James Paul Humphries in Moulmain

 Emmanuel Baptist Church: Rangoon 

 One of the first copies of Jadson Burmese Bible

The original communion set of the Baptist Church in Amherst

The old church bell that Ann and her helpers would ring to call the people to church and to school

 Dr. Judson wife, Ann's grave sight

 Original grave stone that was found alongside the river, then moved to this sight

Dr. Judson's son, Charles' grave sight

The School that Dr. Judson and Ann started are now large schools in Moulmain

Early Judson School where many Karen, Mon and Kachin leaders were trained

In Moulmain there is a grave sight where over 55 missionaries who gave their lives to balze a trail for Jesus Christ and for all those who would follow after in their footsteps: The Heroes of Faith.

Most pictures were taken by Dr. James P. Humphries