Well-researched, well-written, and compelling biography
May 29, 2016
I always find biographies on the lives of missionaries to be fascinating, moving, and inspiring, and To the Golden Shore is no exception. Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) was sent to Burma (now Myanmar) as the first American foreign missionary in 1812. He traveled there from Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife Ann (or Nancy, as she was commonly called) accompanied by a fellow seminary student and another young couple. Judson remained in Burma for 33 years before returning to the United States due to health issues facing his family, but after a year he went back to Burma, where he finished his last four years on this earth.
As the firstborn son of a stern Congregationalist minister, the precocious young Adoniram exhibited exceptional intelligence and giftedness early on in the areas of mathematics, logic, languages, and rhetoric, his father was convinced that Adoniram would become a great man one day and told him so. But Adoniram faced a dilemma:
"He had always wanted to be truly religious. He had been learning the lessons of religion since he first understood words. Yet how could he be religious and accomplish any ambition in this world. There was a terrible contradiction here. ...In a flash of inner anguish, he saw that he did not really want to be a Christian at all, for being a Christian stood in the way of his being a great man. Yet his father, a Christianhad predicted that he would be a great man, and encouraged Adonirams ambitions; and ever since Adoniram could remember he had set himself to fulfill his fathers prediction."
After a brief rejection of his parents rule and the religious beliefs that hed been raised on, God turned Adonirams heart back to Himself, at which time he "banished forever those dreams of literary and political ambition in which he had formerly indulged, and simply asked himself, How shall I so order my future being as best to please God?
After reading a book describing Burma as a very literate and advanced nation, welcoming to outsiders, but a land of Buddha-worshipers, Adoniram saw it as a place ripe for the harvest and felt compelled to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ there. As he shared his enthusiasm with his fellow seminary students, he found others who were excited at the prospect of being foreign missionaries as well. But how and where would they go, and who would send them? For there were no foreign missions organizations in the United States at the time. Eventually a sending organization was formed by the Congregationalist churches and sponsored the small team of missionaries.
As they made their way towards Burma, the Judsons began to learn that most of the positive aspects of Burma that Adoniram had read about were not accurate. In reality, the government was corrupt, the ruler a despotic tyrant, the laws oppressive, and the Burmese antagonistic towards foreigners. Not only had two missions already been unsuccessfully attempted by British missionaries, but to propagate the Christian religion would likely put the missionaries lives at risk of imprisonment or even death. The Judsons were strongly discouraged from going to Burma by everyone they spoke to on the way. But a series of events during their problem-ridden voyage east convinced the Judsons that Burma was where the Lord was sending them. Nancy and Adoniram had come to regard a mission to Burma with feelings of horror, but it was beginning to seem almost as if their destiny were linked in some strange way with that terrible Golden Kingdom. Adonirams ambitious nature came into play as he realized that the Bible had not yet been translated into Burmese: There would have to be a Burmese Bible before Burma could become Christian. Adoniram wanted to be the one to provide it the first to give the Scriptures to a great nation. In spite of being discouraged by everyone they spoke to, the Judsons were determined to take the Gospel to the Burmans.
There was much to learn, overcome, and adjust to when the Judsons finally arrived in Rangoon, Burma, in July 1813. For the next 13 years, together Adoniram and Nancy would dedicate themselves to building relationships with the people, learning Burmese, teaching and translation work, interfacing with government officials, and raising a family. During these years, they suffered the heartache of losing more than one child, government persecution, Adonirams 18-month imprisonment, terrible illness, poverty and starvation. However, there were also successes and triumphs along the way: by 1823 Adoniram had completed a translation of the New Testament in Burmese, and 18 Christian converts had been added to their number. More hardships yet lay ahead for Judson, but also much more to be accomplished for the cause of Christ. Remaining tirelessly committed to his life work of translation, Judson completed the whole Bible in 1834, and later, the first Burmese-English dictionary.
Andersons compelling biography on the life of Adoniram Judson (not to mention his three amazing wives!) describes the faith, commitment, sacrifice, and perseverance, accompanied by pain, tragedy, and heart break, that would result in establishing a lasting Christian presence in the dark land of Burma. This book is a must-read for every Christian!
To the Golden Shore is a biography by Courtney Anderson on Adoniram Judson, a Congregationalist (later converts to Baptist) missionary with a call to preach and live God's word among the natives of Burma, a cruel and arrogant people. Through the book one will read of Adoniram's trials, hopes, and dreams in not only missionary work, but also marriage and fatherhood.
I do so very much like the layout of the book as, unlike many other biographies, when telling the story of Adoniram, Anderson (the author) does not jump from one year to three years later without telling you. He starts with telling the reader a little of Adoniram's father, Adoniram Judson Senior's, history and then changes into Adoniram's history so smoothly one hardly notices this sudden change. The overall book flows nicely and is very coherent while holding my attention. I also appreciate the kindness of Anderson in taking a few unscholarly liberties with paragraphing and spelling in order to make it easier to read for the common individual and offering less interruption to the story.
And I do so like how Anderson describes not only places and smells as if you where there, but also over time, people. Their personalities as if you already knew them and what to expect them to say next.
The book is a very good one and I would recommend it to any Christian.
I was compelled to read the biography of Adoniram Judson after hearing a John Piper message in which he challenged his hearers to count the cost in embracing a call to missions. Anderson's book is lengthy but easy read which draws the reader into a life of sacrifice and service not unlike that of the Apostle Paul. Judson experienced many "personal deaths" and severe tests of faith in order to reach the Burmese people with the Gospel. One cannot help but wonder how weaker men--particularly in our day--would have abandoned the cause in the face of so many difficult circumstances. Loss of loved ones, imprisonment, loneliness and solitude, near loss of faith, and years without a convert, Judson persevered by God's grace to make a lasting impact as America's first foreign missionary. Recommended for those considering a call to missions and those who need encouragemenbt to stay the course.
Not only for missionaries, this book is for everyone who loves the gospel! Well written, engaging, and inspiring. You will follow Adoniram through his brilliant childhood, through his years of agnosticism, through his conversion and call to ministry, through his trip to Burma, through tradgedy, suffering, and repentance. Through his three amazing wives (it is worth reading it just to hear about them!), and to his eventual death. This is a story that should not die, not in our generation or the next.