Continuing a legacy of service

Continuing a legacy of service

On Tuesday, July 13, 1813, a battered ship carrying America’s first international missionaries, Ann and Adoniram Judson, reached the shores of Rangoon, Burma.

The remarkable story of the Judsons’ lives in the country now known as Myanmar spanned almost 40 years and was marked by innumerable hardships, sickness, political imprisonment and the deaths of all three of their children.

Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, their faith and joy in God’s strength, provision, and care led to the first Burmese translation of the Bible (the Judson version, which is still widely used today), the conversion of millions of believers over the next two centuries and the building of one of the largest populations of Baptists in the world today.
Though the results of the Judsons’ work in Burma are extraordinary, Ann and Adoniram merely sought to remain faithful to God’s call to love the people among whom they lived — meeting with them on their afternoon walks, building relationships with them, understanding their culture and meeting their needs. Ann later wrote of their arrival in Rangoon, “It was in our hearts to live and die with the Burmans, and we in this place induced to pitch our tent.”

Twelve years after Ann Judson’s death in 1826, a group of Baptists in Marion, Alabama, were still so inspired by Ann Judson’s story of relentless, selfless sacrifice and service to the people of Burma that they gave their new college her name. Desirous that the Judson Female Institute would be a “place of Christ,” the college’s founders emphasized the importance of missions and the improvement of society through the Christian education of women.

A new generation

On August 19, 2018, a new class of freshmen will “pitch their tents” at Judson College. Through the efforts of faculty, staff and Marion community partners, these new students can begin to learn about the legacy of service they join. Just as Ann Judson intentionally served her neighbors in her “everyday,” Judson students learn to share the gospel of Christ as they enter the lives, share the burdens and meet the needs of their neighbors in Alabama’s Black Belt.

This fall, new students and faculty will join the rest of the Judson campus in Judson’s community-wide annual service initiative called Marion Matters. This event gives students opportunities to meet some members of the Marion community, work alongside faculty and staff and think together about what it means to “love your neighbor.” Many Judson students are so inspired by their Marion Matters experience that they initiate regular service projects through Judson’s Faith-Based Service and Learning program.

Learning through service

Established in 2005, the Office of Faith-Based Service and Learning (FBSL) seeks to facilitate the meaningful engagement of faculty and students with the people and needs of the Marion community and beyond. In addition to coordinating service opportunities within the Division of Student Services, the FBSL office assists Judson faculty members in the planning and implementation of service projects that are integrated into course curricula. This innovative approach to service-learning garnered Judson the prestigious Community Engagement Classification from Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an honor held by less than 5 percent of all colleges and universities in America.

Serving ‘the least of these’

Monthly and weekly service projects, many initiated by students, give Judson women opportunities for sustained investment in their community as they get to know their neighbors’ names, stories and needs. In the 2017–18 school year, Judson students took part in such weekly service opportunities as tutoring third graders in reading, adopting “grandparents” at nursing homes, cooking meals for and visiting shut-ins, reading to children at a local Head Start and teaching high school students about career and college readiness. Still others built relationships with children in a low-income government housing community through organizing games, snacks and values lessons in a monthly event called Weekend Recess. Judson’s Student Government Association provided monthly meals for inmates at the Perry County Jail.

Judson students’ commitment to service doesn’t stop in the Alabama Black Belt. During Spring Break this year, 20 students and four staff members partnered with churches and ministry organizations in the Jackson Heights area of New York City to serve immigrants, homeless men and women, and victims of human trafficking by helping address their physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Students who participated in summer missions served others through the work of churches, camps and non-profit organizations in Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Cuba and Southeast Asia.

Serve ‘here’

Baptists in Alabama built Judson College 180 years ago to prepare young women to carry the gospel wherever God called them, just as Ann Judson had. The theme for the 2018–19 academic year at Judson is “here,” which emphasizes not only what has happened in Judson’s history but also the nearness of God and students’ opportunities to serve in the present. Each academic course, service opportunity, chapel service or interaction with faculty and staff is an opportunity for students to grow into the women God is calling them to be. As they embrace that calling “here” at Judson, they are preparing to be the hands and feet of Christ wherever they “pitch their tents.” (Judson)


Presidential search

Please pray for Judson’s Presidential Search Committee as its members seek the person God has appointed to lead the college. The search committee is composed of eight Alabama Baptists, which include five trustees and three employees.

More information about the search process can be found at