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August 5, 2021

CU Ministry Center Named for Brown’s 1807 Valedictorian

By Tom Campisi, Managing Editor


The Adoniram Judson Ministry Center is a strategic meeting place at Brown University.

Christian Union Libertas uses the facility for a wide range of events and functions, including fellowship, Bible courses, one-on-one mentoring, prayer, training, meals, and administrative work.

The Judson Center helps Christian Union fulfill its mission of developing and connecting transformative Christian leaders at some of the nation’s most prominent universities. The plan or vision is for those leaders, by God’s grace, to make an impact for the gospel in every sector of society as they assume positions of influence. 

It’s a mission that would certainly make the namesake of the ministry center proud. Adoniram Judson was one of the foremost leaders to emerge from Brown University. He graduated in 1807 as valedictorian. A few years later, he dedicated his life to missions, and through prayer, faith, and obedience to his calling, emerged as one of the nineteenth century’s most catalytic Christians.

Adoniram Judson full 1846 editedJudson is known as one of the nation’s first foreign missionaries. He served faithfully in Burma (also known as Myanmar) for 38 years and translated the Bible into Burmese. When he died in 1850, “he left behind him in Burma 26 churches and nearly five thousand converts,” according to Encyclopedia Brunoniana.

After graduating from Brown, he spent a few years drifting from his childhood faith and pursuing a career in theater. He then regained his moorings and enrolled at Andover Seminary, where he began to consider the call of missions.

Jason G. Duesing, author of Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of The Pioneer American Missionary, wrote about how Judson was impacted by missionaries David Brainerd and William Carey and a sermon by Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican priest and chaplain in the East India Company. That sermon was entitled, “For we have seen His Star in the East, and are come to worship Him":

“Judson said that the reading of Buchanan's sermon had two effects on him. First, in February, 1810, while walking alone, he arrived at a moment of decision: ‘The command of Christ, 'Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,' was presented to my mind with such clearness and power, that I came to a full decision, and though great difficulties appeared in my way, resolved to obey the command at all events.’ Thus, at age 21, the Word of God, brought to his mind by the Spirit, solidified his future course. Second, Buchanan's sermon focused Judson’s gaze on the East.”

Duesing also noted how Judson searched for likeminded compatriots among the students and professors at Andover and how that network impacted worldwide missions: 

“With newfound clarity regarding his life and ministry, he soon found friends among the members of a student missionary society. The Brethren had first formed at Williams College after committing to the missionary task while meeting in a field under a haystack during a storm. Led by Samuel Mills, these ‘Haystack Prayer Meeting’ Brethren were joined by Judson and came to share his sanctified ambition for the East.”

“In response to a request from Judson and the Brethren, the Congregationalist General Association voted to form an American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.”

Judson resigned from the Congregationalist denomination after coming to believe in full immersion baptism on a long boat ride to serve as a missionary in India. He later was instrumental in the formation of the General Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States for Foreign Missions, which was formed in 1814.

In an article entitled “How Few There Are Who Die So Hard!,” theologian and pastor John Piper writes about Judson and the cost of bringing Christ to Burma. Piper quotes author Patrick Johnstone in Operation World, who estimates the Myanmar Baptist Convention to be 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members and 1,900,000 affiliates — the fruit of Judson’s labors.

judson BRO editedThe Adoniram Judson Ministry Center“Of course there were others besides Adoniram Judson — hundreds of others over time,” Piper said. “But they too came and gave away their lives. Most of them died much younger than Judson. They only served to make the point. The astonishing fruit in Myanmar today has grown in the soil of the suffering and death of many missionaries, especially Adoniram Judson.”

As students with CU Libertas and other Christians at Brown University use the Adoniram Judson Ministry Center, let them be inspired to follow the example of its namesake and serve the Lord boldly in Providence and in vocational pursuits.

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