The First American Missionaries

Adoniram Judson couldn’t sleep. In fact, the noises coming from the room next door were so disturbing that he feared for the life of the person there. When morning broke, 20-year-old Judson learned from the innkeeper that a man had indeed died of an illness in the neighboring room overnight. Judson was stunned to discover that this man had been none other than his college friend Jacob Eames.

As a student Eames had led Judson to doubt his childhood faith. Now, reeling from Eames’s untimely death, Judson reconsidered his commitment to God. He soon enrolled in seminary and dedicated himself to missions service. In 1810 he and his classmates established the country’s first mission society, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (a Congregationalist group).

Visiting the Hasseltine home as part of this effort, Judson was smitten with the family’s youngest daughter, Ann. He soon proposed marriage, asking Ann’s father:

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 exposure 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?

Ann and her family struggled with this request, ultimately deciding to trust her future to God. Adoniram and Ann were married in 1812 at the ages of 24 and 22, and immediately set sail for India.