On this day in 1811, Adoniram Judson set sail from Boston aboard the British ship The Packet. He was headed for a short stay in London, England. When Judson and the other four men presented themselves for foreign missionary work, there was no missionary society in the United States to send them. Through the effort of these men, the churches formed the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the first foreign missionary society in America. The young board realized that it had a lot to learn. Plus, there were no funds to send missionaries out with. So they sent Judson to London so he could present a petition to the large and fruitful London Missionary Society. The petition asked for a joint partnership between the boards and for the London society to help with some of the funding of the missionaries who were being sent out by the American board. With this petition in hand, Judson set sail to England.
As the Packet neared Europe, they ran into some major unexpected trouble. A French warship overtook the small English vessel and took all the passengers as prisoners. At this time, England and France were in the middle of one of their power struggle and the warships often preyed on smaller merchant vessels of the other side. Judson was placed with the rest of the crew into a cramped, dirty cell. For Judson, who was a germaphob and loved everything clean, this was a nightmare. They were taken to France, where, as they were being lead to prison, Judson called out to everyone he saw that he was an American and was being wrongly imprisoned. A fellow American heard Judson and was able to smuggle him out of the prison and across the English Channel. Once Judson arrived in London, he was able to clean up and present himself and the petition to the LMS. Though they were polite, they refused the petition. American Churches needed to learn to take care of their missionaries on their own, the Society responded. After a short time in London, Judson returned to America with the news that America needed to prepare to take on this missionary venture alone.
To the Golden Shore By: Courtney Anderson
On this day in 1857, Eli Smith, the pioneer Baptist missionary, translator, and printer, died. A graduate of Yale and Andover Theological Seminary, Smith began his work on the Island of Malta, where he stayed three years. Already competent in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Turkish, and Armenian, he used his time in Malta to master Arabic. In 1829, he went on an investigation into the prospect for mission work in the heart of Asia Minor with H.G. Dwight. Both of these men were impressed with the work that would be done with the Muslims in this area and took the task on full force. Dwight settled in Constantinople and began a work among the Turks there that grew very strong. Smith went to Beirut and set up the first printing press in the region that had Arabic type. The Syrian mission soon became a center of missionary printing and translation. Besides the regular missionary work he did, Smith began what he considered his greatest life’s work: Translating the Bible into Arabic. For the last ten years of his life, Smith poured himself into this work. Though he died before it was finished, Smith’s work was passed on to able friends who were able to finish and publish the translation. Today, it is known as the Van Dyck Version and is one of the most popular and widely used Arabic Bible translations. Over 10 million copies have been distributed since its publication.
Biographical dictionary of Christian missions By: Gerald H. Anderson
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