Emily Chubbuck was born in New York on August 22, 1817. She was the sixth child born into a very poor family, and before she turned 12, she found herself working in a wool mill to help support them. At a young age she was inspired to be a missionary when she read the memoir of Ann Judson, who was a missionary in Burma. Emily was quite clever and took every opportunity to advance her education, and by the age of 15 she was teaching at a local school. She used all her free time to write poems, Sunday school books, and children’s stories that were published by a Baptist publishing company. Her burden for the mission field only waned in the face of her deep desire to help her family, and she often stayed up long into the night writing. “I must write; I must write;” she said, “I must do what I can to aid my poor parents.” By the age of 19 she had made enough money from her writings that she was able to purchase a comfortable home for her parents. For seven years her fame as a teacher continued to take her from one school to a more important school. Eventually she found herself teaching at Utica Female Seminary. She started writing more secular style articles and stories under the penname, Fanny Forester, which drew the attention of popular entertainment magazines and she began to gain notoriety.
At the age of 28, she met Adoniram Judson for the first time. He was a famous missionary to Burma and had been one of her personal heroes since her early teen years. He had recently made the voyage home for the first time since leaving America 34 years prior in the hope of helping his wife’s failing health, but Sarah passed away while they were still at sea. He arrived in America in October of 1846, and a few months after that took a trip with his friend, Dr. Gillette, from Boston to Philadelphia for a meeting. With the hopes of passing the time and lifting Adoniram’s spirits, his friend read him a book penned by a Miss Fanny Forester. Adoniram was impressed with her writing skills but not her subject matter, and he felt her writing could be of much more value if it were centered on more important matters. He decided right then and there that he wanted to meet her and secure her services to write his wife’s biography. The two met for the first time on Christmas Day and spent many hours together over the next couple of weeks. Nothing more can be said but that they fell instantly in love. Within a few weeks they were engaged. Their whirlwind romance was met by opposition on both sides. He was 30 years her senior and his colleagues felt the worldly author was completely unsuited to be the wife of such an esteemed missionary. Adoniram on the other hand could see past the exterior sheen that comes with earthly renown and connected with her heart that still held true to an abiding faith. Emily’s friends in the literary circles felt it was nothing short of piracy for Adoniram to whisk her away to heathen lands where her fame and talent would surely be wasted. Neither Adoniram or Emily cared what others thought as they loved each other dearly. They were married six months later and set sail to return to the mission work in Burma.
Emily adjusted to the work of a missionary quite easily and set out to learn the language as soon as she arrived. In no short amount of time, she was holding Bible studies for the ladies, counselling, and translating Sunday school lessons, hymns, and other various religious materials. Adjusting to the life of a missionary in Burma on the other hand was more difficult, but she handled it with courage and grace. It is said that the house they lived in at Rangoon had hundreds of bats roosting in the rafters. These pests robbed them of much needed sleep in the night, and there was a constant mess on the floor every morning. The house was also plagued with hordes of “cockroaches, beetles, spiders, lizards, rats, ants, mosquitoes, and bedbugs.” Besides these horrible creatures, from their house they could hear the inhumane actions of the local government official who particularly hated Christians. At this time most of their missionary work had to be done in secret. Eventually guards were posted outside their house in the hopes of catching anyone going in or out that didn’t work there. Added to these problems was the stress of their support waning from the churches back home and both of them being so sick they could barely leave the house. In all of this though, they never wavered from their purpose of reaching as many for Christ as possible.
On December 24, 1847, their first daughter, Emily Frances, was born. By April of 1850 her husband had become gravely ill and was sent back to America in hopes of recovering. Emily was unable to go with him as it was nearing the end of her pregnancy with their second child. A few weeks later her son, Charles, was born and died on the same day. Her husband also passed away just a few weeks into his voyage, but Emily did not find out until the month of August.
In 1851, less than five years after she arrived in Burma, Emily found herself ordered home to America by her doctor because of her failing health. Once she returned to America she set herself to compiling materials for her husband’s biography and started writing again to supplement her income. She was able to author three more books before she succumbed to tuberculosis and died on June 1, 1854, at the age of 36. In her own words, “It is not the pearly gates and golden streets of heaven that attract me; it is its perfect rest in the presence of my Savior. It will be so sweet after a life of toil and care like mine, though a very pleasant one it has been.” She lived a short but full life and is remembered not only for her literary works, but also for the faithful companionship and help she was to her husband in the closing days of his missions service here on earth. She was truly a woman of whom it could be said, “She hath done what she could.”
Her Story/My Story:
Upon Emily’s marriage to Adoniram, she became the mother of his five living children, Abby Ann, Elnathan, and Adoniram, who were attending school in the States, and the two youngest sons, Henry and Edward, who were yet in Burma awaiting their father’s return. In a letter to a friend, Emily writes, “I do love the dear children that a saint in heaven has left me. I love them for their own sakes; for sweeter, more lovely little creatures never breathed; brighter, more beautiful blossoms never expanded in the cold atmosphere of this world. I love them for the sake of one still dearer, who had the power to break all the ties which were twined within tenfold strength about my heart; and I love them because they are immortal beings, because for them a Savior died, even as for me. I love them; I pray to God to help me train them up in His fear and love.” Once her husband passed away and she was forced to return to America, the only thing that kept her from being crushed by her excessive grief of losing her beloved was the reuniting of Adoniram’s children under one roof and being a mother to them. These children who had suffered many hardships on the mission field as well as long periods of separation from their parents and then ultimately their parents’ deaths, found in Emily a woman willing to show them a mother’s love.
As for me, the Lord did not grant me the opportunity to bear a child of my own, but He has given me many opportunities to show a mother’s love to His precious children. There have been bus kids that needed a friendly smile, teens that needed a listening ear, and babies that needed a calming touch. God reminds me often of the verse Psalms 113:9, “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”
Recently I found myself sitting next to one of a pair of identical twins I somewhat affectionately/somewhat seriously call my Tasmanian Devils. I couldn’t help but remember the first day they visited our church with their grandmother just over a year ago. She brought them upstairs to the nursery, told me their names, handed me a switch, and gave me her permission to use it. My first thought was, “Umm, this is going to be interesting.” My next thought was, “They are so adorable, how could you possibly need to switch them.” With a little love and direction, the girls settled in and played quite nicely with the other children. I was beginning to think that maybe the grandma was the problem, and then it came…the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moment. It was time to go home and the kids were starting to clean up the toys and the girls just went crazy. I’ve worked with children a long time and have never seen anything like it. They were running around in circles, grabbing and throwing toys from one side of the room to the other, and laughing in quite an evil sinister laugh. I was just dumbfounded. Every time at the end of each service, when they could hear the parents coming up the stairs to collect their children, they became completely uncontrollable. They were not afraid to go with their grandma, but it was as if they didn’t want her to know they could sit calmly and play for 45 minutes without being totally out of control. It didn’t take long for the girls to learn that I wouldn’t put up with such nonsense.
The past year has afforded me many opportunities to get to know these girls better, to choose to show them love instead of anger, and to show them patience instead of frustration. I wish I could say I responded correctly each time the occasion arose, but a bond has formed, and now they run up and hug me each time they see me because they know I love them. Since the girls have turned five recently we’ve had many more “teaching” opportunities with them sitting in Junior Church and the main services, but they are getting better. This particular church service when one of the twins was sitting next to me trying not to wiggle, I laid my hand on my lap facing upward and she quickly grasped it with her little hand. It seemed to have a calming effect on her, and we sat like that for the duration of the service. As I looked down at her little hand in mine, I was amazed again at the opportunity the Lord gives us to touch the lives of the ones He loves so much, and when I got home, I wrote this little poem.
Study: Loving a Child
I’m not sure when it starts…this inborn desire to nurture, protect, and care for another human being…but I know it is God-given. I mean, honestly, why else would we be willing to change a baby’s diaper, wake from a deep sleep to wipe a fevered brow, or help someone with their 6th grade Science project. When we carry this thought over to the realm of ministry, this nurturing characteristic manifests itself in ways like being willing to inconvenience ourselves to bring a child to church, sitting a child on our lap that hasn’t bathed for days, or hugging a little one who has a head full of nits.
Motherhood comes in so many different shapes and sizes. Sometimes the child is born from your very womb and other times they are born from your heart. Sometimes a child is thrust upon you, and others you seek out. No matter how it comes to be that you find yourself with an opportunity to love a child, take it. It is our greatest privilege to be the earthly vessel sent to them to show them their Heavenly Father.
Here are four ways to love the children in your life.
1. Accept them where they are and love them without reservation.
Jeremiah 31:3 "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
2. Teach them and be kind to them.
Mark 6:34 "And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things."
3. Make time for them and be willing to sacrifice for them.
Luke 18:15 & 16 "And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
4. Lead them by example and be patient with them.
2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."