Adoniram And Ann Judson, Pioneer Missionaries To Burma (Part 4)
Adoniram Judson was torn from his missionary work in Burma and imprisoned when war broke out between England and Burma and all foreigners were viewed with suspicion. He was forced to endure terrible jails for twenty long months and was kept almost continually in irons. As often as she could, his wife Ann brought or sent him food and provided him with as many comforts as she could. The terrific heat, together with the vermin, brought a severe fever upon Mr. Judson. Finally, through Ann’s persistent visits to the governor, Adoniram was placed in an old lion’s cage. Here he was protected from the tropical sun. This place was a palace in comparison with his former prison. Here Ann was enabled to more carefully provide his needs and he could enjoy many privileges hitherto denied. Her visits and words were a constant means of comfort and cheer to the faithful missionaries who were being held as prisoners. She suffered many hardships during this time, and was weak and frail in health. One time while suffering severe fever, she survived only by God’s restoration after doctors had given her up.
Ann was nearly beside herself one day when she learned that the prisoners including her husband had suddenly been marched to another location. Fortunately the climate was better there and the prison accommodations were an improvement. Heroically, Ann and her baby girl plus two adopted girls, traveled by boat and cart, so she could be near her husband at the new location. In the six months spent there under "wretched" conditions, Ann and the girls had only a small room with mats to sleep on, not even a chair to sit on. Procuring food was a constant struggle. Disease plagued them from time to time.
At last, in November 1825, word came that the king had ordered Adoniram’s release. It was only through prayer and the revealed power of God that Adoniram and Ann Judson were sustained during this period of their lives. Had it not been for Ann who brought Adoniram food and constantly sought betterment of the frightful conditions which he was forced to endure, the battle for Christianity in Burma would have ceased. God spared Adoniram for a work to be done, and His hand was on this man to whom the labor had been assigned.
When released, Adoniram returned to his mission station but found everything in confusion. The mission house was in ruins and all of his disciples had fled. Judson decided it would be a wise move to go to Amherst for a rest in this city that was now under British protection.
Shortly after his release from prison, however, Mr. Judson was ordered to a Burmese camp to be an interpreter of the negotiations then being carried on between the English and Burmese, as the war had ended. In order to save the city of Ava, it was necessary for the natives of Burma to agree to the most humiliating stipulations. During these negotiations for peace, Mrs. Judson fell ill with spotted fever. Her hair was shaved and her head and feet were covered with blisters. She was so far gone that the Burmese women who sat with her said to one another, "She is dead."
It was not long after this that God took this faithful servant of His to be with Himself. Ann’s home-going took place on October 24, 1826, at the age of thirty-seven, to be followed in a few months by the death of her young daughter. Ann’s had been a life lived to the full for her precious Savior, a life whose testimony is felt yet today. With civil and military honors she was buried in Amherst, where they were now making their home. This was perhaps the saddest event in all of Mr. Judson’s life as he was not even able to be present, as he was yet away at the negotiations, hoping to secure religious freedom to break down the barriers against the Gospel. The name of Ann Judson will go down through the ages as not only the first pioneer in female missionary history, but also as one whose will was completely lost in the will of her Lord.
Following the death of his beloved Ann, Adoniram, although lonely and heartbroken, was more determined than ever to bring the saving Gospel of Christ to the natives of Burma. He applied himself even more diligently to the task of translating the Bible into the Burmese language. He felt this the greatest means of presenting the Gospel to this benighted people. It was in October 1840 that Judson finished this great task. Those who have judged Mr. Judson’s translation of the Bible have pronounced it the most perfect of its kind that has yet appeared there. It was his greatest contribution to the people among whom he labored and served the greatest part of his life. By this time over one hundred natives had been baptized as Christians by Mr. Judson.
In October 1845 Judson returned home to America for the first time in thirty-three years. However, he remained home less than nine months. The world by this time was familiar with his work and his name was a household word. Churches were packed with people anxious to see and hear him. His movements were followed in all papers, both religious and secular; yet in spite of all this, Judson did not feel at home in America. His home was Burma, the land he loved. This was his first and last visit to America.
Back in Burma, Judson set himself to work with the translating of a dictionary for these people. He spent hours on end in this translation work as well as constantly occupying himself with the preaching of the Gospel to the Burmese. On the day that Adoniram and Ann Judson had arrived in Burma thirty-eight years before, there was not a professing Christian in the land. On the day that he died, a strong and flourishing church was in action, a church that to this day is being used of God as a lighthouse to many living there.
As a result of the strenuous life that he had lived, Judson was not strong in body. During the latter years of his life the doctors many times ordered him to take sea voyages to regain his health. During one of these travels to the Isle of France, God called this faithful witness to Himself. Adoniram Judson died and was buried at sea in 1850, more than thirty-eight years after he had sailed for Burma.
At the time of Mr. Judson’s death, sixty-three churches had been established among Burmans and Karens. Surely God used this man to lay the foundation of the Gospel in Burma – one that could never be overthrown. A work had been accomplished which will redound to the glory of God throughout all eternity. Although the Judsons had to wait six years for their first convert, few missionaries have as yet seen as much fruit for their labors as did Adoniram Judson before his death at the age of 61.
The ingathering of the harvest has increased throughout the years. Today the Bible is circulated in the Burmese towns as a result of the labors of the Judsons. It is reported that about 3,700 congregations of Baptists in Burma (Myanmar) today trace their origins to this man’s labors of love.
– Adapted and used with permission from An Hour With Adoniram and Ann Judson by T. W. Engstrom, and supplemented with information from the book Ann Judson by Basil Miller.
Editorial note: A recent email we received reports that a Bicentennial Jubilee is being held in Burma from the 5th to the 8th of December 2013, celebrating the 200th year of the missionaries’ arrival in Burma. The writer requests, "Please pray for this occasion to be one that brings glory to God."