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A further development in American Baptism was the evolution of its missionary organization. The rapid growth of missionary zeal, partly as a result of the many accounts by missionaries such as the Judsons, soon resulted in more than one societal ministry supported by the convention.
Meanwhile, Dr. Carey informed Adoniram Judson that he might as well abandon Burma as a missionary destination. He related the experiences of his son William, who had been in the country for four years and was all but ready to give up
. Unable to remain in India any longer, the Judsons then abandoned the Burmese idea in favor of Java or Penang. However, this was not to be. The East India Company continued hounding them to leave the country; the time-sensitive nature of their departure then led the couple to take the only ship available from Madras, which was bound for Rangoon in Burma. Here they were to suffer terrible hardship, although they never lost their faith or their fervor in sending accounts of their work to the United States.
In addition to natural elements such as tropical diseases, the Judsons also suffered at the hands of corrupt Burmese officials. In addition none of their children survived the hardship in this country, which also finally took Ann's life. There were however also some fortunate events among the tragedy, with the loss of their second child resulting in a friendship with the Viceroy of Rangoon and his wife. This provided some protection from the political corruption in the country.
Both Ann and Adoniram mastered the Burmese language, which helped them to access the culture and finally teach and translate the Bible. This, along with the arrival of the printer and press in the country, allowed Adoniram to print tracts and translations of Bible texts in the language. His first true cultural breakthrough was when he build a Zayat -- a mediation room -- where he held meetings and taught in a way that was familiar to the local culture. The couple's first convert was gained after six years in the country. This resulted in rapid growth for Baptism in Burma.
Despite Judson's attempts to petition for religious freedom in the country, the Emperor would not allow it, and believers were increasingly persecuted in the country. This however did not change the hearts of the believers. Further hardship came with the eruption of war and Adoniram's imprisonment for almost two years. This brought great suffering to Ann, who did her best to care for him and petition for his release, even while delivering and caring for a new baby. The wife and child however did not survive the ordeal for long after Judson's release. In addition, the nature of the mission had changed as a result of the war, and Burma was more difficult than ever before to penetrate5.
Judson did not give up because of these hardships, but removed his headquarters to Maulmain in 18271. Here he erected school buildings and a church, completed his translation o the Burmese Bible in 1833, and married Sarah Hall Boardman in 1834. In the years after this he also completed a Burmese grammar, a Burmese dictionary, and a Pali dictionary.
The couple returned to the United States in 1845 because of Sarah's ill health, and she died during the voyage. In America, Adoniram remarried a third time, to Emily Chubbuck, who was a well-known poet and novelist, as well as one of the earliest advocates for the higher education of women. They returned to Burma, and Judson devoted most of his time to rewriting the Burmese dictionary.
His work in the foreign missionary fields, as well as his continued fervor in the face of danger and hopelessness, mark him as not only one of the first Baptist missionaries across the ocean, but also as the "prototype" of the American missionary. Many were inspired to follow his lead, and great advances were made for Baptism particularly and Christianity in general because of his work.
When he returned to Burma with his third wife, Judson also worked with George Boardman to convert a member of the Karen People. This culminated in the baptism of 11, 878 Karen believers within 25 years.
Adoniram Judson was not only a pioneer in terms of his work in Burma, however; he also sent frequent letters and other writings to the missionary secretary in America. As seen above, some of these were meant to inspire Baptist congregations, but others were meant to enhance and facilitate the foreign missionary process. On 12 January 1833, he for example wrote a letter to the missionary secretary to protest against the appointment of short-term missionaries
. He referred to these as "mere hirelings" who were completely ineffective in helping to gain converts in the foreign country. He indicated that these missionaries accomplished nothing but the credit of having served in a foreign country. This not only defeated the purpose of the ministry, but also of missionary work itself. Judson indicated that it is precisely through the trials and difficulties in the foreign country that the missionary is able to not only grow in faith, but also to help his or her colleagues to grow and to set an example for potential converts to the faith. Furthermore, it was only by means of a long-term commitment that any missionary could hope to accomplish his or her goals, especially in a country as vastly different in culture from the United States and England. This ministry was something to which Judson and his colleagues were indeed devoted for life.
Today, it is a testament to Judson's work that the only means of entry to Burma (or Myanmar today) for the missionary is by means of "Christian Tent making," where teachers, academics, doctors, engineers or architects enter the country to continue missionary work from the platforms of their respective professions. The country now has an established national Christian leadership, which highly values the entry of professional Christians to assist them with their work.
Judson also displayed his passion for the work by means of highly emotional appeals only to those missionaries who intended to devote themselves to long-term service with himself and his teams of Christians. It is this fervor and emotion that earned him a reputation as typified American missionary, along with being one of the first Baptists to devote himself in this way.
With the help of his friend in the United States Luther Rice, Judson was also able to raise awareness among the Baptists of not only the need of foreign missionaries, but also of the need to cultivate a sense of responsibility and stewardship for this work.
The legacy of both Judson and Rice continue to this day in many shapes and forms. In addition to many moving bibliographies, such as those by Edward Judson
and Courtney Anderson
, there are many that draw on the inspiring work of these two men to continue inspiring the missionary cause among Baptists today. Their work together was indeed more than the sum of its parts. Judson worked in Burma, where his unique skills and talents served to further the Baptist cause and formed a platform for missionary work across the globe. At home in the United States, Luther Rice was able to use his unique skills and talents to establish a sound basis of support for foreign missionaries in an unprecedented way.
In this way, the Baptist Church was profoundly influenced, not only in terms of its missionary zeal, but also in terms of its general unity, size and strength. In a spiritual sense, the inspiration that many Baptist church members drew from the missionaries their church sent across the ocean created a strong sense of devotion and brought a sense of revival to the church as a whole. In a more concrete way, the Baptist Church gained recognition from other Christian denominations in terms of their additional establishments across the country, as well as their centralized conventions to support missionary work both at home and abroad.
In this way, the pioneering work of Luther Rice and Adoniram Judson had a profound influence on the nature of the Baptist Church, and created a legacy that survives to this day. Indeed, they created a sense of missionary fervor that has survived throughout the centuries and even across countries. The German Baptist Johann Oncken has for example adopted the motto "Every Baptist a missionary"
One might therefore say that, although the missionary purpose was already part of the Baptist doctrine before the arrival of Judson and Rice, that the work of these two men established it as a powerful, centralized force rather than a scattered endeavor only honored by a few devotees. This zeal today culminates not only in missionary work abroad, but also locally in the United States in the forms of evangelism, social justice, and liberty of conscience. Great names in the Christian world are associated with Baptism, including Martin Luther King Jr., pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist…[continue]
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