By Bill Webb
Burma was a blip that wasn’t even on the radar screen of Adoniram and Ann (Hasseltine) Judson when they set sail from New England as Congregational missionaries to India back in 1812.
The young missionaries arrived in Calcutta as Baptists; they converted while studying the Bible on their long voyage. Having effectively cut off their Congregational support by becoming Baptists, they welcomed fellowship with English Baptists in the city — including missionary pioneer William Carey.
Their joy was short-lived. The East India Company ordered the Judsons out of India. The couple boarded another ship and tried a different point of entry into India, but they were turned away again.
A monsoon tossed their next vessel about in the Bay of Bengal for three weeks before they finally arrived at the port of Rangoon in Burma. Ann had given birth on the ship, but the infant died and was buried at sea.
A filthy, diseased village awaited the missionaries, and they were tempted to return to America on the spot. They stayed on board and prayed throughout the night before sensing they were where God wanted them to be. The next day they disembarked, wondering if their lives might end prematurely because of disease or at the hands of Burma’s notoriously cruel officials.
Adoniram was subsequently placed in stocks and chains in a squalid prison on suspicion of being an English spy. Ann brought him food, looked after his needs and petitioned the governor as her husband was moved from prison to prison over the next 21 months. Disease attacked them both, and she did not show up for visits near the end of his captivity.
Upon his release, Judson — fearing the worst — hurried home and discovered her stretched across her bed, emaciated and near death.
They had been in Burma fewer than 14 years when the missionary buried his heroic wife. Over the next 24 years, he continued his evangelistic work — it had taken him and Ann six years to win the first convert — and completely translated the Bible into Burmese before his own death in 1850. A few years after he was buried at sea, a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians in Burma.
Today, Burma is known officially as Myanmar, and the city of Rangoon is called Yangon. The country and its people — reeling from the ravages of Cyclone Nargis on May 2 — need the help of Baptists again.
Likely 100,000 or more people perished in the disaster and as many as 2.5 million have been left homeless in Myanmar.
The Burmese are not the only people in crisis, of course. A 7.9 magnitude earthquake that shook China on May 12 likely left at least 55,000 people dead and another 5 million homeless. In Zimbabwe, a food crisis continues, and a third of the 12 million people require emergency food aid. On a smaller scale, killer tornadoes and flooding have disrupted life for many in Missouri and the broader Midwest.
Baptists naturally pray for disaster victims and those providing relief at such times, but they also ask, “What else can we do and how can we give to help the men, women, boys and girls that are affected?”
Here are some reliable avenues for responding:
• The Southern Baptist International Mission Board directs those who wish to give to a related organization — Baptist Global Response. Send checks directly to the organization at 402 BNA Drive, Ste. 411, Nashville, TN 37217. To give to meet needs in Myanmar or China, include the notation “DR Fund.” To provide food for Zimbabwe, note “ZIM.”
To donate to BGR by credit card, go to www.baptistglobalresponse.com and follow the prompts. A link to BGR appears on the IMB site (www.imb.org), too.
• The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, based in Atlanta, offers ways to assist Myanmar, China and volcano victims in Chile. The address for sending checks is PO Box 101699, Atlanta, GA 30392. Indicate which need in the memo line.
To give online, go to www.thefellow ship.info and follow the prompts.
• Baptist World Aid is the relief arm of the Baptist World Alliance. Forms for mailing checks or credit card information are available online at www.bwanet.org. Send gifts to Baptist World Aid WWW, 405 N. Washington St., Falls Church, VA 22046. Follow the same link to make gifts online. Be sure to note the specific purpose for each gift.
These are not the only channels for providing relief help, but they represent tried-and-true and effective Baptist approaches for meeting human needs. High gasoline grocery prices and high prices in general in the United States make it tempting even for people of faith to hold back in their compassion-giving.
But if saints like Adoniram and Ann Judson could address Baptists from heaven today, they would surely testify that ministering in Jesus’ name — even if it requires personal sacrifice — is well worth the cost.