Burmese Christians Honor First Missionary

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MANDALAY, Burma -- Folklore of Burma's ethnic Karen tells of a golden book given to them by God. The book was either lost or destroyed, but prophecy foretold of a day in the future when a white brother would come and reunite them with a copy of the book and the one true God.

That prophecy was fulfilled July 13, 1813, when American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson and his wife Ann arrived in Rangoon.

The Buddhists and Animists of Burma resisted the gospel; Judson didn't win his first convert until six years later.

Pastor Maung of the Judson Baptist Church of Aungpinle explains why.

"Most people feared losing their jobs and they were not willing to get away from Buddhist and cultural tradition. They didn't want to abandon their deeply rooted traditions," Pastor Maung said.

Judson was jailed in June 1824 after war broke out between Burma and Britain. He was confined to a prison that used to stand in Ava. An ancient guard tower still overlooks the area.

Judson and other foreigners were held captive in shackles -- suspected of spying for the British. Judson wrote about his prison sufferings, saying he would gladly consign them to oblivion.

Burmese Christians built a monument. It was to commemorate the time that Judson spent in prison. This was the site of his first imprisonment, but the early 1990's, government officials tore it down.

But throughout the years, numerous Burmese governments -- including the current military regime -- have failed to stop the advancement of Christianity and Judson's legacy.

Judson endured a grueling six month journey after being released from the first prison. He was brought to the second prison in Mandalay. Today, it is home to the Judson Baptist Church.

Judson was held captive for a total of 21 months. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment after his release was translating the first Burmese language Bible. Initial copies were printed in October 1840. One is housed in Aungpinle at the Judson Baptist Church.

Pastor Maung is determined to see that Judson's legacy lives on...

"We need to know and understand the life of Judson and how he persevered because of the gospel. And secondly we need to learn from him the way he lived, the way he shared the gospel," he said. 

"Please pray that we should lead the way and please pray for this church also. It has a good legacy in the history of Burmese Christians and those who are doing ministry around the remote area of the country. Pray for them too," he added.

Evangelists working to assure that seeds planted by Judson nearly 200 years ago continue growing and bearing fruit for generations to come.

*Originally published July 13, 2009.

 

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Gary Lane

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