Adoniram And Ann Judson, Pioneer Missionaries To Burma (Part 3)
After three years of difficult, lonely service in Rangoon, Burma, the Judsons were cheered by the arrival of another missionary couple, Mr. and Mrs. Hough. At about the same time the Houghs arrived in Burma, a printing press, complete with Burmese type, was given to Mr. Judson by William Carey at Serampore, India. Most of the Burmese could read and had an almost "superstitious reverence for the ‘Written Doctrine.’" Because of this, Mr. Judson concluded it was important to teach by means of the printed page. He was most appreciative of the printing press that had come at this very opportune time and was grateful that Mr. Hough had printing experience and was able to operate it.
The two missionaries began to print tracts and portions of God’s Word and distributed these in large amounts. The first product of the press was a tract entitled, "A View of the Christian Religion." This was followed by a catechism and later by the Gospel of Matthew, which Mr. Judson had translated into the Burmese language.
On June 17, 1819, seven years after Adoniram and Ann Judson had landed in this pioneer field, Christian baptism was administered by Mr. Judson to the first Burman convert. A week later Mr. Judson wrote in his journal, "We have had the pleasure of sitting down for the first time at the Lord’s table with a convert Burman, and it was my privilege – a privilege to which I have looked forward for many years – to administer the Lord’s Supper in two languages."
It was about this time that the friendly Viceroy who had been in charge of this area was removed and another tyrannical ruler was substituted for him. It was only through divine providence that at this time the mission station was saved from abandonment. Through all of this trial and tribulation the faith of the Judsons remained firm. Although the government officials were never very heartily in favor of the missionary work being carried on from America, the coming of the new Viceroy made work even much more difficult for the Judsons. Some Burmese who were beginning to show interest stayed away now from services for fear of coming into disfavor with the new ruler.
Without government sanction there was little use to continue in Burma. Judson realized that little progress could be made unless the king saw the light and granted his consent for the missionaries to work among the natives. On December 27, 1819, Mr. Judson made his final decision to go to Ava, where the king had his palace, to entreat the protection of the king. Arrangements were made for Mrs. Judson to remain in Rangoon.
To gain admittance to the Emperor [king] was no trivial matter. One of the most essential arrangements to be made was to secure a gift worthy of his majesty. Mr. Judson, accompanied by the other remaining missionary, Mr. Coleman, took along with him a large amount of silver as well as other gifts for the minor officials. He was able to obtain an audience with the Emperor and pleaded for religious liberty. However, this request was not granted and the situation of the missionaries thus became more perilous than before. Judson would now be under suspicion by the royal authorities and at the mercy of any outlaw. A man of less courage than Judson might have become discouraged and determined to leave the land. Not so with Mr. Judson. His confidence was in God and his faith would not be shaken nor his trust broken.
He had at this time completed much of the translation of the Bible into the Burmese language and was fearful that the work would be destroyed in view of the decision on the part of the king. To add to this distress and trials, it was about this time that Mrs. Judson, because of her poor health, was forced to temporarily leave the land of her adoption. She sailed to England in 1821, where she made many friends, and then went on to America, her own native land. She was absent from her husband for more than two years. While in England and America, she consented to write a book, which was titled History of Burman Missions. She was also called on to speak before groups about missionary work in Burma. Gifted in both writing and speaking, Mrs. Judson’s ministry had great effect in stirring Christians for foreign mission work. Although urged to remain in America, she was ready to give her life if necessary for the people in Burma, dear to her heart. After two years, although she had not fully regained her health, she was, upon her return to Burma in 1823, much better physically than when she had left. She testified that her love for the natives was even greater than it had been before her furlough.
While Mrs. Judson was away, Adoniram had traveled again to Ava and met Dr. Price, a medical missionary who was well accepted by the king. Adoniram acted as his interpreter and was given a piece of land on which to build a house. Furthermore he was invited by the king to move to Ava. This new opportunity to move to the heart of the nation was greatly encouraging to the missionaries. So leaving Rangoon in the hands of several other missionaries now come to live there, plus the small group of loyal Burmese converts, the Judsons traveled to Ava after Ann’s return.
In May 1824, an army of ten thousand British and East Indian troops landed in Rangoon. This caused the missionary work being carried on by both English and American missionaries in India to become more tense than ever before. War was declared with England and the favor the missionaries had enjoyed among the officials in Ava no longer existed. All foreigners were viewed with suspicion and Mr. Judson and the other missionaries in Ava, including Dr. Price, were thrown into a Burmese prison, in what was called the death cell. The missionary prisoners were treated with indescribable cruelty. Judson was shut up in a room with one hundred men. There was no ventilation in this room except for the cracks in the walls. The stench and filth in the room were beyond description.
Ann Judson was kept prisoner in her own home at the time Adoniram was dragged away. After a period of three days, Mrs. Judson was released and was able to receive an audience with the governor in behalf of her husband. This governor was in charge of the fate of the men. The governor had not the power to release Adoniram but gave his word that he would make him more comfortable and he gave her permission to visit her husband. She was horrified to see the dreadful conditions which her husband was enduring, and her visit was cut short by a jailer. However, that night the missionary prisoners were taken into the prison yard and confined in an open shed, which was a great improvement over the terrible little cell.
Daily, as Ann passionately prayed, she constantly sought for ways to secure her husband’s release. She pleaded with the officials, seeking to convince them that the missionaries were not part of the war but were religious teachers. The only encouragement she received from them was the promise of future release.
(To be continued)
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.