I have three daughters. I look forward to the day when each one will get married. I pray regularly for the young men that God is preparing for them. So as a father, you can imagine why the story of Ann Hasseltine, and how her husband asked for her hand in marriage, affects me so deeply.
Adonirum Judson was the first American missionary to the Far East. Before he left the shores of the US for India, and then ultimately Burma, he asked Ann’s father for permission to be a suitor.
Adonirum Judson tells Ann Hasseltine’s father that she will never see him again.
Adonirum was completely consumed with taking the message of Yeshua to the Far East. He had been training for years to this end. In June of 1812, on the same day in which he presented himself to his missionary board to serve overseas, he met Ann—and was smitten. In his letter to Ann’s father he wrote:
I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteous, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
TO SEE HER NO MORE IN THIS WORLD! Can you imagine? This poor father had to choose between keeping his daughter close by and safe or allowing her to pursue the call of God. At least Adonirum was honest. In the end Mr. Hasseltine allowed his daughter to decide. She wrote in a letter to her friend Lydia Kymball of her decision:
I feel willing, and expect, if nothing in Providence prevents, to spend my days in this world in heathen lands. Yes, Lydia, I have about, come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God, in his Providence, shall see fit to place me.”
WOW! This reminds me of the words of the apostle Paul who referred to stonings and imprisonments as light and momentary afflictions that were achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Cor. 4:17). Paul endured the cruelest hardships in order to get the message of the gospel to those who had never heard it.
The Jewish rabbi wrote: “Woe is me, if I preach not the gospel of Messiah.” (1 Cor. 9:16) He was compelled to go, but that did not mean he did not suffer. In fact, he seems to say that the suffering that he endured to get the gospel to others actually released the life of God to those who were lost.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (2 Cor. 4:10-12)
We often think that to obey God, to be in His will, means we will always be sheltered from suffering. This certainly was not the experience of Paul and it was not the experience of young Ann.
Indeed Ann Hasseltine’s decision to become Mrs. Judson proved fatal in this world. She miscarried her first child. The second, Roger, died before his first birthday. And shortly after her third, Maria, was born Ann died of smallpox. Maria followed her to eternity before she was six months old.
But her decision also proved to bear much fruit. In all she spent 14 years on the mission field. Before email lists and blogs, she wrote of her life on the mission field and her calling as a missionary’s wife. Her letters were published in the United States. She translated the books of Daniel and Jonah into Burmese and Matthew into Thai (the first evangelical to translate any of the scriptures into Thai).
Her husband persevered with Ann at his side and after her death. Yes, it took him three years before he shared the gospel with his first Burmese. Another year before he dare preach in a public meeting. After a decade he had only 18 converts. He was still far away from his goal of 100. But he pressed on and in the end, not only did he compile a English/Burmese dictionary, but translated the New Testament into Burmese. Instead of hitting his goal of 100 converts, he planted 100 churches with 8,000 converts.
His dear Ann only saw the beginnings of this great work, but she was always there for him. When he was imprisoned for seventeen months she lived alone in a shack outside the prison so she could care for him. She was all in as they say in the poker world—but for the gospel.
I don’t think we are all called to follow in the footsteps of Ann Hasseltine Judson. We can only do what we are called to do and have grace to do. But we should honor her memory and be inspired by her witness to fulfill the call of God on our lives.