Six Years and One Convert

Adoniram Judson was one of America’s first foreign missionaries. In 1812, at the age of 22, he left America for India, (eventually ending up in Burma), burning in his heart to obey his Master’s command to make disciples of all the nations (Mt 28:20). For a wonderful and riveting summary and application of his life, listen John Piper’s biological sermon for the 2003 Pastor’s Conference here.  My intent is to highlight passages from Courtney Anderson’s biography of Adoniram — To the Golden Shore.  May the Lord use it to encourage and send His workers into the harvest. This quote tells of Maung Nau, Judson's first convert. It came about six years after he landed in Burma. Imagine it: six whole years without a single person being saved. This is the stubborn, tenacious persistence of a man who would not let go of his dream to see Burma repent before the Savior.  The Lord honored his work, but He did it (as always) on His own timing.  May we work in His harvest and trust the results to Him.

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The important visitor had walked in off the street one Friday, the last day of April, and for several hours had sat silently on the zayat veranda listening to Adoniram debate various inquirers. His name was Maung Nau. He was about thirty-five years old, poor, without family, a man who had to work hard for a living. There was nothing remarkable about his appearance or manner, and he seemed to have no special abilities.  That first Friday Adoniram would scarily have noticed him except for his attentiveness and for the fact that the was unusually reticent for a Burman.

Saturday he came again. This time he hesitantly asked a few questions. His manner was that of one sincerely looking for information, not leading the teacher on into one of those hair-splitting metaphysical arguments the Burmese men enjoyed so munch.

Sunday he attended service, which was attended by about thirty people. …Monday and Tuesday Maung Nau visited Adoniram several times and Adoniram realized the man had "a teachable and humble spirit."

By Wednesday, the fifty of May, 1819, Adoniram was almost afraid to record the conclusion to which he was coming:

I begin to think that the Grace of God has entered his heart. He expressed sentiments of repentance for his sins, and faith in the Saviour. The substance of his profession is, that from the darknesses, and uncleanness, and sins of his whole life, he has found no other Saviour but Jesus Christ; nowhere else can he look for salvation; and therefore he proposes to adhere to Christ, and worship him all his life long.

It seems almost too much to believe that God has begun to manifest his grace to the Burmans; but this day I could not resist the delightful conviction that this is really the case. PRAISE AND GLORY BE TO HIS NAME FOREVERMORE. Amen.

It was really happening. After six years [of ministering in Burma without a single convert], day by day Maung Nau grew in grace. At the next Sunday's worship in the zayat he professed himself a believer in Christ in the presence of at least thirty people.

…On the sixth of June, a Sunday, only a little more than a month after first appearing at the zayat, Maung Nau bashfully presented Adoniram with a letter. That evening, after communion, all the missionaries but the dying Wheelock assembled to listen to it. Adoniram translated it, aloud:

I, Maung Nau, the constant recipient of your excellent favor, approach your feet. Whereas my lords three [missionaries Adoniram Judson, James Colman, and Edward M. Wheelock] have come to the country of Burma, not for the purpose of trade, but to preach the religion of Jesus Christ, the Son of the eternal God, I, having heard and understood, am, with a joyful mind, filled with love.

I believe that the Divine Son, Jesus Christ, suffered death, in the place of men, to atone for their sins. Like a heavy laden man, I feel my sins are very many. The punishment of my sins I deserve to suffer. Since it is so, do you, Sirs, consider, that I, taking refuge in the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, and receiving baptism, in order to become his disciple, shall dwell with yourselves, a band of brothers, in the happiness of heaven, and grant me the ordinance of baptism. It is through the grace of Christ that you, Sirs, have come by ship from one country and continent to another, and that we have met together. I pray my lords three that a suitable day may be appointed, and that I may receive the ordinance of baptism.

As it is only since I have met with you, Sirs, that I have known about the eternal God, I venture to pray that you will still unfold to me the religion of God, that my old disposition may be destroyed, and my new disposition improved. ...

It was … on Sunday, June 27, 1819, that Mang Nau was baptized. 

In the zagat, before the little congregation — there were several new faces this day, and it numbered somewhat more than thirty — Adoniram called Maung Nau before him, "read and commented on an appropriate portion of Scripture, asked him several questions concerning his faith, hope, and love, and made the baptismal prayer."

The whole party then left the zayat and proceeded to a large pond nearby, on the bank of which stood a huge state of Buddha. Here, with the Buddha benignly looking down on the scene, Adoniram led Maung Nau waist-deep into the dark water, immersed him, and received him into the Baptist faith, while a wondering crowd of gaily clad Burmans watched from the hill above.

One baptism was not much to show for six years of work. But as Adoniram and Maung Nau returned dripping to the mission house, followed by Nancy, the Colmans, and the rest of the company, he hoped: "O, may it prove the beginning of a series of baptisms in the Burman empire which shall continue in uninterrupted succession to the end of time!"

Anderson, Courtney. To the Golden Shore. Copyright by Courtney Anderson, 1987. Published by Judson Press, 1987. pg. 221-228