Lottie Moon: the missionary inspiration behind the offering
Well over 100 years ago, a single missionary named Lottie Moon, while serving in China, began writing letters challenging the American church to send and support more workers to go there. After her death on the field, her challenge was heeded in the formalization of an offering in her name. Even if you’re not a Southern Baptist who has given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, her life is a reminder of why we must give to send and support missionaries serving among unreached peoples in unreached places.
Born Charlotte Digges Moon, December 12, 1840, in Albemarle County, Virginia. Lottie rebelled against Christianity until she was in college. In December 1858, she dedicated her life to Christ and was baptized at First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Lottie attended Albemarle Female Institute, female counterpart to the University of Virginia. In 1861, she was one of the first women in the South to receive a master’s degree. She stayed close to home during the Civil War but eventually taught school in Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia.
Edmonia Moon, Lottie’s sister, was appointed a missionary to Tengchow, China, in 1872. The following year, Lottie was appointed and joined her sister there.
When she set sail for China, Lottie was 32 years old. She had turned down a marriage proposal and left her job, home and family to follow God’s lead. Her path wasn’t typical for an educated woman from a wealthy Southern family. God had gripped her with the Chinese peoples’ need for a Savior.
Lottie served 39 years as a missionary, mostly in China’s Shantung province. She taught in a girls’ school and often made trips into China’s interior to share the good news with women and girls.
People feared and rejected her, but she refused to leave. The aroma of fresh-baked cookies drew people to her house. She adopted traditional Chinese dress, and she learned China’s language and customs. Lottie didn’t just serve the people of China; she identified with them. Many eventually accepted her. And some accepted her Savior.
Lottie wrote letters home detailing China’s hunger for truth and the struggle of so few missionaries taking the gospel to the 472 million Chinese in her day. She also shared the urgent need for more workers and for Southern Baptists to support them through prayer and giving.
She once wrote home to the Foreign Mission Board, “Please say to the [new] missionaries they are coming to a life of hardship, responsibility and constant self-denial.”
Disease, turmoil and lack of co-workers threatened to undo Lottie’s work. But she gave herself completely to God, helping lay the foundation of what would become the modern Chinese church, one of the fastest-growing Christian movements in the world. Lottie Moon died at 72 — ill and in declining health after decades ministering to her beloved Chinese. But her legacy lives on. And today, when gifts aren’t growing as quickly as the number of workers God is calling to the field, her call for sacrificial giving rings with more urgency than ever.
Lottie frequently sent letters back home detailing Chinese culture, missionary life and the physical and spiritual needs of the Chinese people. Additionally, she challenged Southern Baptists to go to China or give so that others could go. By 1888, Southern Baptist women had organized and helped collect $3,315 to send workers needed in China.
This Christmas season, we continue that legacy by participating in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Together we financially support more than 4,000 Southern Baptist missionaries that share the Gospel all over the world. Our collective giving enables missionaries to be sent to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Prayerfully consider how you can participate this year. Give to your church’s LMCO collection, or give online anytime at www.imb.org/lmco.
Information and photography courtesy International Mission Board.