They Were Made of Sterner Stuff


On the way to his first mission assignment, a fellow team member suffered the loss of his wife and child. Shortly after arriving, a European nurse died and his own wife gave birth to a still-born child while still en route to Burma (present-day Myanmar). Two years later, another child, their first son, died.

Three years later, another co-worker died. Two years after that the teammate whose wife and child had died at sea nine years before also died. Five years later, his own wife of 15 years died. Less than six months later, their daughter, Maria, died at the age of 2 years and 3 months old. For over a year, Adonirum Judson fought a dark depression.


Seven years later, Judson married a widow (Sarah Boardman), seven more years pass and she gave birth to a still-born son and another son, dies at 1 year 7 months of age. Four years later, his second wife dies as does yet another son at 1 year 6 months. In 1848, 36 years after leaving for the mission field, he returns to the United States at the age of 60 and married his third wife, Emily, who would die three years later of tuberculosis. Another son, by Emily, also dies in infancy. 

Through all of these losses, Judson labored on his translation of the Bible and of a Burmese-English Dictionary and completes his work in 1849. A year later, he dies of the tuberculosis (he has been fighting  it for years) aboard a ship while sailing on the Indian Ocean. Doctors had recommended the trip in hopes of clearing his lungs with the salt air. He was buried at sea in 1850, 11 years before the war between the States ravaged his home country.

“When Judson began his mission in Burma, he set a goal of translating the Bible and founding a church of 100 members before his death. By the time of his death, he had accomplished those goals and more: leaving the translated Bible as well as a half-completed Burmese-English dictionary, 100 churches, and over 8,000 believers. In large part due to his influence, Myanmar has the third largest number of Baptists worldwide, behind the United States and India.” (Wikipedia)

I wonder how long Christians missionaries from the United States in our age would fare under similar circumstances? I wonder how long their own mission agencies would tolerate such a list of human loss. I wonder how long the pastors of America would fare? I wonder how long I would last given such soul-shaking losses? And the five paragraphs summarizing his life in this short post don’t come anywhere near to describing all of the difficulties and challenges Judson faced.

I am in awe.

I am in awe, not only of Judson but also of his Lord who sustained him and allowed him to complete his work and finish well. He who sustained Judson is the same God who can sustain you and me through all that we might endure before he takes us to be with Him.

“Lord, Rambo has nothing on this guy! Thank you for creating such men and such women to support them, with such passion to endure for the gospel of the Kingdom. Would you raise up a new generation of such men from the soils of our churches? Lord, would you raise up men and women to follow in Judson’s footsteps and take the gospel to the world from Hope Fellowship and Pioneer Church (Rock Hill, SC), and Trinity Church (Watseka/Ashkum, IL), and New Song/Compass Church (Bolingbrook) and all the churches it planted? Would You make me effective as a leader for Your glory and the joy of all people? For the glory of Your name. Amen.”

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