Remembering a life of courage and sacrifice
by David Krueger
One of the realities of our day is a growing absence of “denominational loyalty” among church goers. There was a time in American life when, if your grandparents were Presbyterian, it was understood that you would also be Presbyterian and so too your children. Generations of families often grew up in the same church. Times have changed. For a whole host of reasons I’ll not go into here, many Americans no longer feel obligated to remain in the same faith group as did their parents or grandparents. One of the results of this influx of other faith traditions into our churches is that many congregants in Southern Baptist churches have no knowledge of our history or traditions. Consequently, when I refer to Lottie Moon, and our annual Christmas Offering for International Missions, a growing number of worshipers have no idea who I’m referring to. It’s actually a wonderful opportunity to re-tell the story of a remarkable woman.
No one would think twice in today’s culture of Lottie Moon doing what she did. But in mid-nineteenth century America , her decision and her accomplishments were truly extraordinary.
Lottie was born on December 12, 1840. She was educated at Virginia Female Seminary (later known as Hollins) and at Albermarle Female Institute, Charlottesville . Lottie rebelled against Christianity until she was in college. She was converted in the spring of 1859 in a meeting by John Albert Broadus, then pastor at Charlottesville . She taught at Danville , Ky. , and Cartersville , Ga.
She volunteered for missionary service in Feb., 1873, in response to a sermon on the text, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest," and she was appointed to China, July 7, 1873, by the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention. 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. She was passionate about sharing Christ with the Chinese. In one letter home she wrote: “How many million more souls are to pass into eternity without having heard the name of Jesus?” That question compelled her to flee the safety of the Baptist missionary compound in order to live among those “heathen” to whom she felt called. In middle age, it gave her the strength to place her 4-foot-3-inch body in the path of an anti-Christian mob intent on harming believers and saying, “You will have to kill me first.” As an older woman, it compelled her to give away her food so others might live and have one more opportunity to find Jesus.
Lottie frequently wrote letters to the United States , detailing Chinese culture, missionary life and the great 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 . That first Christmas offering provided three additional missionaries. Lottie spent 14 years in China before taking her first regular furlough.
Toward the end of her days, she suffered with her Chinese people in the terrible famine. She gave away all she had. In the time of deepest trials she wrote, "I hope no missionary will be as lonely as I have been." Literally starving, she grew steadily weaker. Just before Christmas, 1912, Cynthia Miller, Lottie’s faithful nurse, started back to America with Lottie Moon. Death came to the frail missionary on Christmas Eve while her ship was at harbor in Kobe , Japan . The present Christmas offering for foreign missions, sponsored by the W.M.U., is named for Lottie Moon.
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. Let me leave you with the following quote from Lottie herself:
“Why should we not … instead of the paltry offerings we make, do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of him who, though he was rich, for our sake became poor?”
— Lottie Moon
Tungchow , China
Sept. 15, 1887