(Excerpted from Bill Federer’s American Minute:)
The first missionary sent out by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was Adoniram Judson, born in Massachusetts. At age 23, Adoniram, and his wife Ann, age 22, sailed from New England on February 19, 1812, for Calcutta, India. Another missionary who sailed with the Judsons was Luther Rice.
The Judsons and Luther Rice switched from Congregationalist to Baptist, which jeopardized their financial support. They were forced to leave India by the British East India Company, as it wanted favorable trade relations with the local authorities, who were non-Christian. If the Company was perceived as supporting missionaries, it could diminish their profits.
The Judsons sailed for Rangoon, Burma, and Luther Rice returned to America. Luther Rice dedicated himself to raise money for missions, which led to the establishment of the Southern Baptist Convention. Brother Rice helped start numerous Baptist seminaries and universities, including George Washington University in Washington, DC, in 1821.
When war broke out between the British and Burma, Burmese officers burst into the Judson's home. They threw Adoniram on the ground in front of his pregnant wife and tied him up with torture thongs. Accusing him of being a spy for the British, they dragged him away and threw him into the infamous Ava death prison. After twelve months, Judson was marched with other prisoners, ill and barefoot, to a primitive village near Mandalay. All but one of the other prisoners died.
While Adoniram was in prison, his wife Ann was alone as the only western woman in the entire country. She lived in a tiny shack outside the gate and brought him meager food, as the prison did not feed him.
It took Judson twelve years to make eighteen converts. One of the first Christian converts was from the Karen people, a man named Ko Tha Byu. He had been a murderer with a diabolical temper. After being captured, he was sold into slavery. Adoniram Judson and George Boardman began witnessing to him, teaching him to read and write. Ko Tha Byu converted to Christianity and was baptized on May 16, 1828. For the rest of his life he was a tireless evangelist to the Karen people.
Adoniram Judson died in April 12, 1850. His life's work resulted in Burma having 100 churches, 123 ministers and over 8,000 baptized Christians.
The leader of the Myanmar Evangelical Fellowship stated in 1993:
“Today, there are 6 million Christians in Myanmar, and every one of us trace our spiritual heritage to one man - the Reverend Adoniram Judson.”This Christian Brother and Sister make my feeble efforts seem so insignificant. I remain so thankful for the Almighty Lord’s wonderful grace and patience with me. May His name be praised always!