The first time I “met” Ann Judson was in 1987 when Bruce and I were preparing for service in the Philippines. We participated in the 175th Anniversary of the sailing of Ann and Adoniram, the first American missionaries sent to serve in Asia. After being commissioned in the same church as the Judsons almost two centuries earlier in Salem, MA, we and our two year old daughter Elena boarded a life-sized replica of the Caravan, the ship that Ann and her husband sailed on. Flash Forward: The Caravan I boarded last month was ‘harbored’ in the International Ministries booth at the ABC Mission Summit in Kansas City. I played Ann Judson in character, sharing stories of this remarkable woman with people from the U.S., the Philippines, Myanmar, Brazil, and Puerto Rico.
Ann and Adoniram sailed for India just a few days after their wedding(!) in 1812. Was this crazy? Unquestionably. But they were determined to follow the Lord’s lead no matter what it might cost. Through careful study of Scripture on the journey, they determined that baptism by immersion, not sprinkling, was the Biblical norm. This new theological position required them to radically change their support network and become “Baptists.” After a harrowing trip from India to Burma (present day Myanmar) in which she lost her first child, they finally set foot on Burmese soil in 1813.
An accomplished linguist and translator, Ann mastered the Burmese language quickly and translated the books of Daniel and Jonah after only four years of study (remember: there were no books or language schools in that day!). Two years later, she translated the book of Matthew into the Siamese (Thai) language. When war broke out between the British and the Burmese, Adoniram was imprisoned in unspeakably harsh conditions. Ann saved his life by courageously smuggling in small quantities of food and his precious manuscripts. These sustained both his body and his mind.
I was surprised to learn how crucial Ann’s letters were in opening the eyes of American Christians to peoples of other lands. The story of this committed, compassionate woman should cause us to reflect on our own spiritual journey. What are we willing to “leave behind” to faithfully respond to God’s call to serve others in the way of Jesus?
Com amor em Cristo (with love in Christ)