My wife and I found great instruction, encouragement, and inspiration in the reading of missionary biographies. I am distressed at how little is known of the lives and ministries of the missionaries of past generations by the present. Missionaries, pastors, and lay people are so uninformed about these great men and women. Some are well known and others unknown, even to the student of missionary history. A great source of valuable help to the current generation of missionaries is thus being ignored.
Some of the old out-of-print books, to my mind, are much better than some of the current publications. I make a plea to you to get into the habit of searching out and reading these valuable source books, such as those of Justinian von Weltz His works are kept in the University Library in Tubingen, Germany. The Moravian history at Herrnhut in Germany is also interesting. The London School of Oriental and African Studies has the archives of the London Missionary Society. Regents Park College, Oxford, is the guardian of much of William Carey's writings and memorabilia. These are to name but a few.
I want to mention now some of the early notes on Ann Judson. Adoniram and Ann Judson were the first American missionaries to work overseas. In my reading I learned there was a church near Boston that had some artifacts of Judson. When I was involved at a missionary conference in a church in that area, I began to inquire about this church and also about the birthplace of Judson. The pastor vaguely knew something about it, but he did not have any details. It was only a few miles down the road where, in another town, Judson was born. His house is still standing, as well as the church that has the Judson Chapel with the plaque giving details of his life and ministry. We were able to view these, yet the local people were not aware of these rich sources of inspiration and blessing.
I want to talk briefly of Ann Hasseltine. She was a very beautiful and very popular girl in Bradford, Massachusetts. She was the apple of her father's eye. He had built a special party room on the house just in order for Ann to have special parties with her friends. There was many a merry party with dancing, gaiety, and singing. She had to have special party dresses, etc. It was Mr. Burnham, who was the new principal of the academy in the village, who started her on her search for God and peace. She accepted Christ at age 16. She in turn was the instrument God used to bring her father to faith in Christ. Do you know Christ in a very personal way, and could your life reach out and touch someone in a similar fashion?
One of her closest friends was Harriet Atwood, from the village of Haverhill, just across the Merrimac River. She was four years younger but a sincere believer in Christ. Her diary, which she began to keep at age 13 when she came to faith in Christ, is one of the most outstanding missionary diaries I have ever read. The spiritual insight of this young girl was remarkable.
At the meeting house in Bradford, Adoniram Judson and a friend asked to be sent to the heathen world by the church. Later, that same day, he had dinner in the Hasseltine home where he first met Ann. It was love at first sight. He wrote a letter of proposal, in which he mentioned that if she were to marry him she would go to heathen lands and no doubt suffer great hardships and perhaps never again see her home. He painted a very dismal picture to a vivacious young girl. It was quite a struggle for her to accept such a call, but in the end, she did accept and became a very faithful helpmeet to her husband. She accepted the call of God. Harriet also met the same struggle when she responded to the proposal of Samuel Newell. Ann and Adoniram Judson were married on the 5th of February, 1812, in the Hasseltine home.
A day later there was the ordination, at the Tabernacle Church in Salem, of five men: Adoniram Judson, Samuel Newell, Samuel Nott, Gordon Hall, and Luther Rice. These were the first ordained Americans to go to the heathen world. Ann slipped out of the family pew to kneel during the ordination prayer. As surely as the men, she accepted the hand of God upon her life. On the 19th of February, 1812, the Judsons and the Newells set sail for the East. Harriet was only 18 years old.
That first year the lives of Ann and Harriet were knit together more than ever before but then were separated—Harriet by death (the first American missionary to die in overseas service) and Ann to go on to years of faithful service in Burma.
An excerpt on Ann Hasseltine Judson:
Ann Hasseltine Judson has become a role model for the missionary wife. Leaving a comfortable New England home to become the first overseas missionary to leave the shores of America, she sailed with her husband Adoniram Judson in February, 1812, to be a missionary in Burma. She was a dedicated, selfless, devoted helpmeet for her husband and an outstanding missionary in her own right.
During his long months of violent imprisonment, Adoniram most certainly would not have survived had it not been for Ann's loving care. Her ingenious preservation of the manuscript of the Bible in Burmese is a remarkable story. She loved her Lord supremely and gave until there was nothing left to give but life itself. All of her children died. She died as well at the early age of 37. Where are those today who are willing, with such devotion, to serve their Lord?