One peculiar aspect of the Burmese people proved to be a pathway for the Gospel into Burmese hearts during Judson’s ministry, and it continues to be Adoniram Judson’s legacy to this day.
In 1817, a printing press arrived, and Judson and his colleagues began printing translated Gospel material into the Burmese language. Adonirum Judson translated the Bible into Burmese, compiled an English – Burmese Dictionary and wrote, translated, and printed dozens of tracts, booklets, and pieces of literature to explain the Gospel to the Burmese people.
Judson suffered much, including the death of all three of his wives, and only six of his eleven children survived to adulthood. He was imprisoned a total of 17 months in two different prisons in 1824-25 and nearly died several times.
After many losses, much heartache and often in discouragement, God did something wonderful and unusual among the Burmese people. Burmese people began to be interested in Christianity, and many turned from idols to the Living God (1 Thess 1:9). Suddenly literature was highly desired and sought after. In May of 1830, while traveling by boat up the Irrawaddy, he began to go on shore at different points and pass out “tracts”, Gospel booklets with a brief explanation of the way to salvation. “At one village farther up the river, he gave away thirty and was sure he could have distributed two hundred.” Judson and his fellow missionaries were so pestered for tracts that the captain of the boat they were on had to move out from the shore so the group could sleep in peace. But, to no avail. People arrived on the shore and began calling out “Teacher, are you asleep? We want a writing” . It seemed that all of Burma was now interested in the Gospel.
After distributing over 500 tracts in one area, Adoniram and his disciples had to flee persecution once again but still handed out over 500 more Gospel booklets on their way down the river.
By 1831, Adoniram had completed Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Daniel. (The New Testament was completed in 1823). By this time there had developed what Judson called “a spirit of inquiry, spreading everywhere through the whole length and breadth of the land.”
Later this same year, he wrote “I sometimes feel alarmed, like a person who sees a mighty engine beginning to move, over which he knows no control.” On March 4th Adonirum Judson recorded this: “During the festival, we distributed nearly ten thousand tracts, giving to none but to those who ask. I presume there have been six thousand applications at the house. Some come from two- or three-months journey, from the borders of Siam and China – “Sir, we hear that there is an eternal hell. We are afraid of it.” Others come from the frontiers of Kathay, a hundred miles north of Ava – “Sir, we have seen a writing that tells about an eternal God. Are you the man that gives away such writings? If so, pray give us one, for we want to know the truth before we die.” Others come from the interior of the country, where the name of Jesus Christ is a little known – “Are you Jesus Christ’s man? Give us a writing that tells about Jesus Christ.”
It was in this same country where Adoniram Judson labored for all those years that The Ancient Path was first introduced in 2013. Since that time, two million copies have been distributed in Burmese, Shwe Palaung, Zomi, Intha, Shan, Danu and soon the Pa’O languages. The national partners who use The Ancient Path have found it is still true- when given this Gospel Booklet, Burmese people will immediately stop and read it. Adoniram Judson’s Legacy continues.
The Ancient Path, a chronological presentation of the Bible, written to overcome the most prevalent objection to Christianity in SE Asia – that it is a western religion- is now available in over 75 languages. Many of those languages are the Mother Tongue languages of unreached people groups, too small in number and in remote locations which makes it uncertain if they will ever have a Bible or even Bible portions in their heart language.
In July of this year, distribution of printed copies of The Ancient Path went over four million copies. No one knows how many people have read digital versions available on the Live Global website and through mobile apps and digital libraries. We are thankful for Adoniram Judson’s Legacy!
Thank God for the love of literature in the hearts of the Burmese people. Thank God that millions of “those who have never heard” have had a chance to understand that the Gospel is for them too! Thank God for national partners who believe in a tool that can launch Gospel conversations in areas where the name of Jesus is yet unknown.