“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Whisking across the ocean at 45,000 feet in a controlled and comfortable atmosphere with plenty of food and drink in a matter of hours to the final destination is not too hard to take. Luggage unloaded by others to the conveyor belt as you go through short lines of immigration in an air-conditioned arrival hall is not too hard on the body. And then off to a hotel with its hot and cold running water, dependable electricity—and the next morning an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. It’s all a great way to begin a mission trip at the destination of Yangon, Myanmar.
This is all a far cry from how it was two hundred years ago when the first Protestant missionary came to what was then called Burma. Adoniram Judson—who changed from Congregationalist to Baptist on his trip—set sail in 1812 from Massachusetts. And I do mean ‘set sail,’ for that was how they traveled for months and months on end to their destination of Burma. Storms at sea, seasickness, and diseases taking lives on shipboard were their lot. Of Judson’s co-workers, a Mrs. Newell and her child died at sea.
You might remember that we were in our second war with Britain in 1812, which added to the dangers—and these from civilized nations.
Judson’s first wife Nancy died in 1826, his second wife Sarah in 1845, and his third wife Emily died of tuberculosis four years after Judson himself passed away. Stillborn children, children dying in infancy, diseases, wars, and imprisonment plagued the life of a missionary family in those days.
And yet the gospel must go forth! Christ won for us what the world cannot give.
Two hundred years ago to the visible eye and the eagerly attendant ear, earthly results of the gospel work were not too great. It was six years into the work before the first convert, Maung Nau, praised the name above all names. For all of Judson’s thirty-eight years of work, at least a dozen and perhaps up to twenty-five became enduring Burmese converts. The deaths of missionaries and their family members in Burma during that time period likely exceeded the number of converts. Ah, but he did translate the Bible into Burmese, and that is truly enduring work that yields results. In a country of nearly 50 million perhaps two million are considered Christian.
The Lord has given us the opportunity to work in a far easier day than Judson’s. We work with the CLC of Myanmar in Chin State along the India border since initial contact with them in April of ’08. More recently, it is possible that we will have the opportunity to work with a Lutheran pastor in Yangon itself, if it is discovered that we are in agreement on God’s Word.
Pray for this. Our task today is so much less burdensome than it was for missionaries two hundred years ago. We thank God for making us His co-workers today.