When someone dies at the age of 37, whether we knew them or not we usually think of it as a great tragedy. That tragedy is founded on the belief that every life holds promise—for some extraordinarily so—but an untimely death snuffs out all that could have been. Yet, there are those whose short lives shine so brightly that we wonder how they could have lived such a full life in so few years.
Ann Hasseltine Judson resides high on the list of such luminaries. Converted at the age of 16, she devoted herself to Bible study and prayer. Her deep desire to be used by God led her to pray, “Direct me in your service, and I ask no more. I would not choose my position of work, or place of service. Only let me know your will, and I will readily comply.”
God answered this prayer in 1812 as she set sail for India with her new husband, Adoniram Judson. Many thought her “wild and romantic” to even think of leaving America and settling in a primitive land, but Ann knew this was God’s call on her life. The young couple’s arrival met with opposition from the Indian government, so they moved on to Burma (Myanmar) and began their missionary work among the Burmese people. Adoniram committed most of his time to translating the Bible into the native language, dealing with the same issues Bible translators grapple with today, such as finding words for concepts that are non-existent among particular people groups.
The Work of Translation
After three years of dedication to the task, the Judsons rejoiced to see a Burmese grammar, two Christian tracts, and a translation of the first Gospel (Matthew) completed. During this time, Ann also formed a group of indigenous women who met on the Lord’s Day to pray and read the Bible together.
In 1823, Ann and Adoniram received the happy tidings that they were to become parents along with the news that Britain and Burma were at war. Adoniram, being American, soon found himself in a death prison since he was viewed as a political enemy. Ann became a prisoner in her own home. The couple suffered separation well past the birth of their daughter but were eventually reunited when Adoniram was released.
Sadly, Ann’s health had declined in the interim, and a fever took her life in October, 1826 at the early age of 37. Her young daughter would follow her six months later. Adoniram wrote, “There lies, enclosed in a coffin, the form of her I so much loved—the wife of my youth, the source and centre of my domestic happiness.”
Ann Judson was the first woman missionary to leave American soil. Her passionate love for Christ blazed the trail for countless other women to serve on the mission field. Living her life with an eternal perspective, she encouraged others to do the same. “A little while, we are in eternity; before we find ourselves there, let us do much for Christ.” [You can download this quote at the bottom of the page.]
Although the Judsons suffered many trials for the sake of the gospel, their work bore the fruit of a translated Bible, over 100 established churches, and over 8,000 believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You are welcome to download Ann Judson’s quote below. The print measures 8x 10 inches.