Christian parents often worry about sending their sons and daughters to colleges and universities. Sometimes with good reason. Young people can “lose their faith” there. But some lose it only to regain it later with added strength.

Adoniram Judson grew up in parsonages around Boston in the 1700s. He entered Brown University at age 16 and graduated valedictorian of his class. While there he became best friends with Jacob Eames. Jacob was a deist and, in practical terms, an atheist. Ridiculing Judson’s faith, he challenged him with the writings of Voltaire and the French philosophers. When Adoniram returned home, he told his parents that he, too, had become an atheist. His mother broke into gentle sobs. His father roared and threatened and pounded the furniture.

Adoniram, 21, migrated to New York City to establish himself as a playwright. But then, hearing tales from the American frontier, he saddled his horse and headed west. One evening, weary from traveling, he stopped at an inn. The proprietor said, “Forgive me, sir, but the only room left — well, it’ll be a bit noisy. There’s a young fellow next door awfully sick.” Adoniram, too tired to care, took the key.

The night became a nightmare. The tramping of feet coming and going. Muffled voices. Painful groans. Chairs scraping against the floor. Adoniram was troubled by it all, and he wondered what his friend Jacob Eames would say about fear, illness, and death.

The next morning while checking out, he asked about the young man in the next room. The proprietor said, “I thought maybe you’d heard. He died, sir, toward morning. Very young. Not more than your age. Went to that Brown University out East.” Adoniram stiffened. The man continued, “His name was Jacob Eames.”

The West suddenly lost its lure, and Adoniram turned his horse toward home. Soon he gave his life to Christ, and, shortly afterward, devoted himself to missions. On February 6, 1812, Adoniram Judson was commissioned as America’s first foreign missionary. He, his wife, and companions sailed for Burma on February 18.

The Scriptures say that the Messiah must suffer, then three days later he will rise from death. They also say that all people of every nation must be told in my name to turn to God, in order to be forgiven. So beginning in Jerusalem, you must tell everything that has happened. (Luke 24:46-48)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Feb. 5.

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