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A cloud of Witnesses- Adoniram Judson

Anthony Elswick

On Tuesday I got the opportunity to share at The Collective, the combined youth group of three churches, two of which, are partners of ours.  My talk was on the heart of missions and as an illustration I shared the story to Adoniram Judson.  Adoniram was the first missionary sent from America.  He spent over 30 years as a missionary in Burma which was ruled by a dictator who didn’t much like westerners. But he didn’t fancy going alone, he wanted to get married to a woman named Ann.  In those days, you had to ask the father’s blessing before you could marry so Adoniram penned him a short but powerful letter which you can read below. 

Ok, so let’s just pause there and I want you to put yourself in Adoniram’s shoes and consider what you would say to a father when you are going to take his little princess on a wooden ship to the other side of the world to be missionary.  This was in the early 1800’s before vaccines, airplanes and such.  I don’t know about you but I probably wouldn’t begin it this way…

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world?” (emphasis added).

That’s pretty crazy, right?  Oh… it gets better…

“Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death?” (emphasis added).

Adoniram sure was slick, right?  Well, he was honest anyway!  He wanted the father to know exactly what he was getting his daughter into!  The ending of his letter is perhaps its most powerful part:

“Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God?”

Adoniram was convinced that sacrificing in this life so that others can have eternal life was a perfectly reasonable transaction because he already knew he was going to have an eternity in glory. 

They’re story of sacrifice and hard work is amazing!  If you want to read more, John Piper wrote a relatively short but powerful bio here or you can read one of the longer biographies of his life available at amazon (that’s what I would recommend).