This year is the 200th anniversary of the departure of the first missionaries sent from American churches to foreign lands. Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice were commissioned by Congregational churches in 1811 and set sail for India in February 1812. Judson had married Ann Hasseltine just two weeks earlier. Her parents would never see their daughter again, nor the grandchildren that Ann would bear, but they had placed her into the Lord’s hands, come what may. On the way to India, the young couple came to the conviction through Bible study that baptism is for believers only, rather than infants, and by immersion rather than sprinkling or pouring.
When they arrived in Serampore, India, they were immersed on their profession of faith in Christ by William Ward, a co-worker with William Carey. Luther Rice came to the same conclusion independently of the Judsons. He returned to the States and traveled to Baptist churches to challenge them for world missions. In response, Baptist churches in America formed a missionary society of their own. Judson’s 67- year-old father resigned his pastorate in a Congregational church and was baptized scripturally, together with his wife and daughter (Adoniram’s sister), Abigail.
The Judsons settled in Burma, a Buddhist stronghold, in July 1813, and it was not until six difficult years later that they had their first convert. Six years after that Judson’s fledgling church still had only 18 members. Their second child, a son, died at age eight months. Judson was imprisoned for nearly two years under terrible conditions--half-starved, fettered in iron, sometimes tied up and suspended by his mangled feet. Soon after he was released, Ann died, followed by their third child, Maria. This nearly crushed Judson, but his faith in God endured and the gospel work began to prosper. When Judson died in 1850, there were 63 Baptist churches in Burma with 7,000 baptized believers.
(Friday Church News Notes, Aug 3, 2012, www.wayoflife.org, email@example.com, 866-295-4143)
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