On February 19, 1812, the ship “Caravan” left Salem, Massachusetts. Aboard were Adoniram and Ann Judson, Luther Rice, and others bound for the mission field in India. Although no human planned it, these three followed the Spirit of the living God; they were personally transformed, and their transformation led to the creation of the denomination now known as American Baptist Churches USA.
The missionary service of the Judsons in Burma is legendary. They spent many arduous years there, suffering from both illness and ill treatment. Ann Judson lost her life in Burma as a relatively young woman. Yet the Bible was translated into Burmese, individuals came to know the love of Jesus, and a vibrant Burmese church was born. Still today, many Burmese Christians are able to trace their family heritage to the ancestor who first heard the Good News from Adoniram Judson.
The work of Luther Rice is equally significant. He was the one who returned to the United States to seek aid for his colleagues on the mission field. Rice found that Baptists in America quickly coalesced around the cause of missions, and by 1814, the Triennial Convention was formed to support the work. Today, that body of Baptists is known as American Baptist Churches USA.
For almost two hundred years, our denomination has worked to follow the model set for us all those years ago. We are whole-hearted supporters of the missionary endeavor, believing strongly in the Biblical mandate to “go…and make disciples.” We are also at work in the United States, providing a way in which churches can cooperate to serve as the hands and feet of Christ right where they are.
The journey aboard the “Caravan” was transformative to three individuals, to the more than 1.3 million believers today who are members of our denomination and to the hundreds of thousands who have been touched in the name of Christ by those women and men who dared to follow in the missionary footsteps of the Judsons.
This is truly an event to celebrate.
Yours in Christ,
A. Roy Medley
American Baptist Churches USA