America’s First Foreign Missionaries

Adoniram Judson and Ann Hassletine were married on February 5, 1812, in Bradford, Massachusetts. Fourteen days later the newlyweds set sail for India, eager to fulfill God’s call to foreign missions.

But the British East India Company didn’t want any missionaries interfering with their money-making, and forced them to leave the country. But where could they go? God had called them to preach the Gospel to people who had never heard! In faith they boarded a ship heading for Burma—a country hostile to foreigners, ruled by a king whose whims had the power of life and death, where it was against the law to worship any other god than Buddha. But when they landed in Rangoon, Burma, the Judsons knew this was where God wanted them to be.

Their first task was to learn the difficult language. Bit by bit Adoniram worked on an English-Burmese dictionary and translated the books of the Bible. After six years they baptized their first convert. When the little church in Rangoon grew to eighteen, the Judsons sailed up the Irrawaddy River to begin a mission in Ava, the royal city.

But war between England and Burma broke out in 1824, and all foreigners were suspected of being English spies. Adoniram was thrown into the Death Prison. After a year and a half of torture and misery, he was released to help translate the peace treaty between Burma and England.

But tropical fevers and stress had broken Ann’s health. She died two years later; two-year-old Marie died six months later. (They had already lost an infant.) Adoniram struggled with grief and doubt for several years, but eventually finished his translation of the entire Bible. He died in 1850 at the age of sixty-two and was buried at sea.

1996 Dave and Neta Jackson, Hero Tales, Vol. I