By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Rosalie Hunt says pickings are slim when it comes to finding out details about women who lived 200 years ago.
There’s first lady Abigail Adams, who exchanged more than 1,000 letters with her husband John over the course of their relationship — letters we can still read today.
And other than her, there’s pretty much only Ann Judson.
“She started a journal when she was a young girl,” Hunt said of Ann Judson, who was the wife of America’s first Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson. “That book went to 26 printings.”
And Hunt for one is grateful that it did.
The young missionary’s story is extraordinary, Hunt said. The courageous 19th century woman stared death in the face and decided the risk was worth it for the people of Burma to know Jesus. She told her family goodbye, took a months-long ship ride and planted her life among a hard-to-reach people in a land difficult to call home.
Not a history book
And she lost her life there too.
Hunt tells Ann Judson’s story in her new book, “The Extraordinary Story of Ann Hasseltine Judson: A Life Beyond Boundaries.”
But it’s not a history book — Hunt wrote it in a narrative, novel-type style.
“I know a lot of women who would say, ‘I don’t like history but I love novels,’” she said.
That realization spurred her to write in story form, “to put the conversation in people’s mouths,” Hunt said. “It has been well received.”
She wrote the story of a lesser-known missions pioneer in novel form in “Her Way: The Remarkable Story of Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend” in 2016.
That story came 10 years after she penned “Bless God and Take Courage: The Judson History and Legacy,” a book about the challenging lives of the three women who served alongside missionary Adoniram Judson in Burma.
In 2013 she wrote “We’ve a Story to Tell: 125 Years of WMU” for the 125th anniversary celebration of national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).
Candace McIntosh, executive director of Alabama WMU, said Hunt is “fully vested” in the lives of the missions heroes whose stories she’s written.
“What a blessing this has been to her readers as we get to walk alongside these characters through her books,” McIntosh said. “Rosalie has truly been a gift to us. She has taken our missions heritage and made it come alive. We learn so much as we hear the faith stories of those early pioneers in missions.”
Hunt, a retired missionary to China, first became fascinated with the Judson legacy when she and her husband Bob spent time in Burma (now Myanmar) teaching at a seminary.
“I thought, ‘How could you be in Burma and not look for the footprint of the Judsons?’ So we started doing explorations on the weekends and talking to people about the impact they had made,” Hunt said. “Even people on the street there knew who the Judsons were.”
Over time, she realized the information should be compiled into a book, and she decided to ask an author she knew if she would be interested in writing it.
“Somewhere along the way, one of my children said, ‘Mom, you should write it,’” Hunt said.
And after balking initially, she did.
“We as Alabama Baptists need to know the Judsons,” Hunt said. “We don’t even know sacrifice in this day like they did. They boarded the ship with the idea that they wouldn’t come back home. They waited three and a half years to get their first letter from home.”
Their story was wrought with joy, sorrow, adventure and fear, she said.
“I tried to get in her mind and imagine how she felt and convey that in the story,” Hunt said. “I want the generations still to come to know where we come from, that we have the same faith that Ann Judson had, and that we have the same source of strength.”
For more information, visit www.rosaliehallhunt.com.