There are many things about Adoniram Judson that I find inspiring and I’m sure many of those things will become more inspiring as I grow older, but what has struck me most about him at this point in my life was his simple resolve before he set sail for India. This is the letter that he sent to Mr. Hasseltine–the father of his first wife Ann–before they left for India. This is a 24-year-old man writing to the father of his 23-year-old future wife:
"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? 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? 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? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
I would encourage you to read back over the above paragraph out loud. Let your throat feel those words passing through it and try to put yourself into the time that this man was living in. For him to ask of his father-in-law "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?" was no exaggeration. The boat to India would alone take half a year and regular sabbatical was entirely out of the question. This is a part of the world of which William Carey had warned Judson not to go if that gives any perspective to the weight of the letter above.
This was Ann's response written to her friend Lydia:
"I feel willing, and expect, if nothing in Providence prevents, to spend my days in this world in heathen lands. Yes, Lydia, I have about, come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God, in his Providence, shall see fit to place me."
Her father’s response to the letter was simply that she was free to make up her own mind on whether or not she would go.
There are three things here that I believe we can take from these words that would greatly help the missions movement coming out of the West.
1) We need young men like Judson who will write letters to their future fathers-in-law like this. We need men who will emulate the example of Judson in being crystal clear in relaying their purpose and calling to those they love and care for. Judson is giving young men permission to not have it all figured out in their finances, life, marriage, or family before giving their lives to spread the knowledge of God to those who do not have it.
When the conviction of God comes to a man to obey the Bible we need men who will write letters like this.
2) We need young women like Ann who will respond with trust in the providence and care of God. We need young women who are willing and determined to spend this life thoroughly on the benefits of the eternal age.
When letters like this come we need women who will say yes.
3) We need fathers who are willing to consent and to give their daughters for this purpose. We need fathers who can see this as the end goal of parenting--not necessarily being a missionary, but living in such a way that God is made known and worshiped. Good parenting should aim to produce a consciousness of eternity in the minds and hearts of our children.
When letters like this come we need parents who will say yes.
Judson was America’s first missionary. He first set sail for India in 1812, but after only a little time in India he felt that they should risk going to Burma (Myanmar). Adoniram and Ann were married for 12 days before getting on a boat in 1812 and he buried her 14 years later in 1826. Judson returned to America only one time in 38 years. His accomplishments as a missionary were born out of 38 years of tremendous suffering, loss, and pain. He buried 2 of his wives and 7 of his 13 children, but in the midst of this he also produced the first Burmese translation of the Bible as well as a Burmese-English dictionary that those who came after him would use. He was buried at sea in 1850.
There are now more than 3,500 Baptist congregations in Myanmar who trace their origins back to Judson.
God is looking for people who will say "yes" with their lives--young men, young women, and their parents together in the work of the Great Commission.