Reflections on Adoniram Judson’s 200th Anniversary

“I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet, when Christ calls me home, I shall go with gladness.” – Adoniram Judson

This past Saturday passed with many of us spending time with family or doing household errands. Most of us missed the fact that Saturday June 13 was the 200th anniversary of Adoniram and Ann Judson’s arrival in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar).

This man was one of the founders of North America’s missions movement and has inspired millions to look beyond their own circumstance and seek ways to share the love of Christ across cultures and great of distances. His optimism in face of great challenges has always been an encouragement to me. Especially the quote,

“The prospects are bright as the promises of God.”

I attended Judson University and so there was a fair bit of prominence given to Judson’s missionary work. I remember watching the film of his life and being struck by the huge challenges he faced.

Now that 200 years have passed since Judson began his missionary service on the field, I think it is worth a question: “How has this great missionary endeavor faired over the past 200 years?”

What is incredible to me as I look at the data and maps showing the growth of Christianity is how many across the whole globe have heard the Good News and responded. See these maps based on Operation World data showing the difference between the status of Christianity in 1900 and in 2025.

Operation World Data showing the status of Christianity in 1900

Operation World data showing projected status of Christianity in 2025

It is appropriate to look at these two maps and be amazed at how God has moved among the peoples of the world. We should stop every time we are faced with this information and praise our Lord for what He is doing as He reclaims His world and brings in His Kingdom.

But what about the challenges that Judson faced? Have they really changed that much? Well, some have decreased significantly. It took him a significant amount of time to get from the US to Burma. Today that is no more than 48 hours at most. Judson suffered significantly from death in his family as a result of the difficult conditions on the mission field. Today that is much less of an issue, even though sickness still can be a great challenge for many in missionary service. Judson had few language learning tools and no Bible resources translated into the languages of the Burmese people. Today there are many ways to learn languages and the number of resources available in a variety of languages is growing all the time.

On the other side, the challenges of reaching Burma are just as real today as they were at that time. This country is just now coming out of years of isolation and Operation World puts its Christian population at only 8.9%. In the larger missions movement, the same challenges of being culturally relevant, incarnationally engaged and partnering with local believers exist today. In Judson’s day the global might of the British empire defined much of how Christianity was viewed. Over the past 50 years it has been North America’s influence that has defined many people’s perceptions.

Today, many of the challenges that Judson faced would be much easier for a Filipino, Chinese or Kenyan missionary to relate to. They are the Judson’s of today. With every wave of people that God sends out into His world, there are initial challenges and then challenges that always stay the same. Just because the logistics get easier doesn’t mean that the task is really any easier from God’s perspective.

Let’s keep Judson’s pioneering spirit and sacrifice in our minds. Even as we thank God that we do not have some of the challenges he faced, let’s remember that our professional missionary enterprise doesn’t solve the greatest challenges of cross-cultural missions!



What does this Quote Have to do with Missions?

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are.” ~ Mother Teresa

Some might here this quote and say, “Why was Mother Teresa discouraging people from addressing the great poverty in places like India?” That is a good question. Many people came to seek her out and get the experience of serving the poor in Calcutta along with her.

But let me ask you this question, “If I’m not willing and actively serving the poor in my home town, then what right do I have to serve them anywhere else?” This isn’t to say we should not have cross-cultural missionaries. But I am saying that when we go, it must be out of an authentic calling that has permeated every part of our lives.

If I am not willing to serve the sick or the poor in Des Moines, Iowa, then why would God as me to do so in Calcutta?

Where are you today? Where do you feel God wants you to serve? Don’t wait till your big opportunity to serve in some large or recognized way. Start serving today, where you are and then let God lead you to the mission field as you grow in your passion for the cause he has put on your heart.