They say “never judge a book by its cover” and that is so true. I have books in my library with nice dust jackets with colorful pictures that look very nice on the library shelf, but they are like pretty, cumulous, summertime clouds. Pretty to look at but there’s nothing of substance in them. I also have the book in the photo above that most folks would pass over without a second glance. It’s a paperback, 520 pages long, dog eared, yellowed with age and taped up with masking tape to keep the cover together. It came to me in this condition as a gift from an aged friend that wanted to pass it on to someone that would enjoy reading it. It’s titled “To The Golden Shore” by Courtney Anderson. When I opened its cover I stepped into the world of Adoniram Judson, a young man that struggled with faith as he was coming of age but came to embrace the Christ of the Cross. Judson was so moved by the words “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” he was convinced that others in this world needed to meet this same Christ.
Today is July 14, 2013 and there have been a lot of July 14’s that have come and gone but I don’t know of any that were as momentous as the one that happened 200 years ago. July 14, 1813 was the first day that Adoniram Judson stepped off the good ship, Georgiana, onto land that was called in that day “The Golden Shores of Burma”. What followed for the rest of this man’s life is one of the most marvelous and amazing stories of Christian witness that this world has ever experienced.
In August of 1806 five young seminarians met in a grove of maple trees for prayer and from this prayer meeting the first foreign missionaries would be sent from America to other lands. The United States of America was a young nation and still in swaddling clothes and in the early 1800’s there was no Foreign Missions Society of any church or organization to send foreign missionaries anywhere. These five seminarians and their commitment to missions were instrumental in the Congregational Church establishing the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions to facilitate sending missionaries to foreign lands to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shortly after the forming of the new Missions Board, Judson undertook a voyage to the London Missionary Society in England to request assistance for financial support for the young Missions Board. In route the British ship he was sailing on was captured by the French and he spent quite some time in a French prison. His course of his life was being punctuated with, what can only be described as repeated moments of Divine Intervention and he was finally providentially released, made his way to London and eventually back to America.
In February 1812, after making their way through uncharted waters in forming a missions board and organizing financial support, Adoniram Judson and his new bride set sail from the shores of America as the first of thousands of missionaries to follow, carrying the gospel message to distant lands. They had dreams of going to India but India had all of the foreign missionaries it would allow and they were denied entry into the country. After the delay of some time and after much prayer they agreed to go to Burma.
Oh, there had been a few missionaries in Burma, before Judson, but the language was so difficult that they had to settle for ministering to some of the European workers that lived and worked there. Judson, after finding a Burmese man that would teach him, set about working for hours on end, day after day, trying to learn the Burmese language. Painstakingly he endeavored to learn the language listening and struggling to understand the words of various items and would write them down how he understood that they were said. He very methodically but ever so slowly, developed the first English dictionary of the Burmese language. He knew if he could accomplish this feat that other missionaries could follow him having learned the language before arriving in Burma and minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ more effectively.
I walked with Judson in my spirit through this book but I do not believe I would have been able to have made the same journey in the natural. This man left home with a new bride, knowing that he would probably never see his family again with limited resources, no phones, no internet, very crude medical services. He didn’t know the language and was a pilgrim and a stranger in a weary land. He buried his children, buried his wife, suffered the loss of possessions, went without food and raiment, suffered fevers, sicknesses, beatings and imprisonment, only to revive and lift up the Cross and continue on. When we get to heaven he won’t be hard to find. Just look for him among the group that have Faithful written on their crowns.
He worked with servants and potentates, soldiers and diplomats, beggars and kings. Through all he endured, somehow he managed to preserve his beloved dictionary that he worked on so tirelessly to complete. I have never been so moved and blessed of reading anything about any man’s life, aside from the Bible. This man’s life and journey has challenged me in my on life. We are so tied to this world and this age, how we need to become strangers and pilgrims who look for a continuing city.
My heart was quickened and rejoiced a few days ago when I was looking for a Bible App on my Iphone and to my surprise one popped up on the screen, produced by the Myanmar Bible Society! An app that could allow the Myanmar people to read the bible in the various dialects of their country. Myanmar, for those who don’t know was formally known as Burma! 200 years after Adoniram Judson of Massachusetts stepped foot on the Golden shores of Burma to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Burmese people, the people he lived and died to reach, there is a Myanmar Bible Society distributing a Phone App that enables the Myanmar people to read the Bible in their own tongue and various dialects. What a testimony to one man’s life and commitment to Christ!
Few people today know who Adoniram Judson was. There are no admirers or pilgrims that pay homage to his grave for he was gravely ill when he last left Burma to seek relief in the fresh air of the ocean. On April 12, 1850 he uttered the words “It is done! I am going”! A few moments later he stepped onto his final “Golden Shore”. There was no throng of people at his funeral, no songs, no sermon and there is no marker for his grave. Adoniram Judson was unceremoniously committed to a watery grave in the Andaman Sea at Latitude 13° North and Longitude 93° East. Many years had passed since he first asked himself the question “How shall I so order my future being as best to please God?” 200 years later I would like to dedicate this post to Adoniram Judson and say “Well Done Thou Good and Faithful Servant”!
That’s how I see it on this Pilgrimage to that Continuing City!