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In 1812, Adoniram and Ann Hasseltine Judson were missionaries to Myanmar, now called Burma. In 1824, during the Anglo-Burmese war, Judson was imprisoned for 17 months through horrid conditions and somehow survived. In 1834, Judson finished his translation of the Bible after working on it for 20 years. In 1850, Judson passed away at the age of 61, 37 of those years spent as a missionary, and he left behind 100 churches and 8,000 Christian believers. Today, Myanmar (Burma) has the third-largest number of Baptists worldwide, after U.S. and India.

06/02/2017 Burma (Goshen News) – The mention of Myanmar in a couple of recent Global Faiths columns invites us to take a look at how Christianity came to that predominantly Buddhist country. It came in the form of Adoniram and Ann Hasseltine Judson, two American missionaries who sailed for Southeast Asia in 1812. Intending at first to be missionaries in India, they were ordered out of India by the British East India Company (perhaps because the U.S. was at war with England at the time), and so they went on to Myanmar, then called Burma.

A student at Brown University and then Andover Theological Seminary, Judson had appealed to elders of the Congregationalist General Association for support, as a result of which they formed the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Judson married Ann Hasseltine, got ordained, and with Ann sailed for India in 1812, from there moving on to Burma. On board ship Judson’s study of the Bible persuaded him to adopt a theology of believers baptism, and as a consequence his mission in Burma was established on Baptist principles. This led to the formation of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.

Judson spent three years learning the Burmese language and baptized his first convert in 1819. He decided early on to preach the gospel, not anti-Buddhism, although his major success was among a Karen animist group rather than among Buddhists.

Because of an Anglo-Burmese war in 1824 Judson was imprisoned for 17 months under cruel conditions, no doubt because he was English-speaking, the Burmese authorities perhaps not recognizing the distinction between Britons and Americans. Judson somehow survived, but then his wife Ann died in 1826. He finished his translation of the Bible in 1834 after working on it for over 20 years. Judson also produced a grammar of the Burmese language.

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