Heroes of the Faith: Lottie Moon
Growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, each Christmas we take up the Lottie Moon Foreign Mission offering. This goes to fund and assist foreign missionaries around the
But, who was Lottie Moon? Why do we take up an offering in her name?
Charlotte Digges Moon was born on December 12, 1840 in Albermarle County, Virginia. She was the daughter of Edward Harris and Anna Maria Barclay Moon. She was raised in the baptist faith on a tobacco plantation in Viewmont, Virginia. She was the fourth of five girls and two brothers.
She was only thirteen years old when her father died in a riverboat accident. At the age of fourteen she attended the Virginia Female Seminary and later the Albermarle Female Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. She received one of the first Master of Art degrees in 1861 from a southern institution.
Lottie Moon is said to have only been 4 feet 4 inches tall. She is said to have spoken Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and Spanish and could read Hebrew. She would later become an expert in Chinese. “A Baptist educator called her the “most cultivated woman” he had ever known.”
She is said to have been indifferent to her Christian upbringing, until she attended a revival meeting in December 1858. At a revival meeting she gave her life and heart to the Lord.
During the Civil War, she helped her mother maintain their family estate. She had an older sister who served as a physician and doctor in the American Civil War. Afterward the war, Lottie began a teaching career.
In 1872, Lottie’s younger sister Edmonia accepted a call to go to North China as the first single woman Baptist missionary. Lottie soon followed her sister and was appointed as a missionary to China on July 7, 1873. She was thirty-two years old.
She joined her sister in China and began teaching at a boys school. She soon discovered her passion of direct evangelism. Her sister returned home a short time later for health reasons. According to one source, “Lottie soon became frustrated, convinced that her talent was being wasted and could be better put to use in evangelism and church planting. She had come to China to “go out among the millions” as an evangelist, only to find herself relegated to teaching a school of forty “unstudious” children. She felt chained down, and came to view herself as part of an oppressed class – single women missionaries. Her writings were an appeal on behalf of all those who were facing similar situations in their ministries.”
“Lottie waged a slow but relentless campaign to give women missionaries the freedom to minister and have an equal voice in mission proceedings. A prolific writer, she corresponded frequently with H. A. Tupper, head of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, informing him of the realities of mission work and the desperate need for more workers—both women and men.”
In 1885, she began full time evangelism. Her converts are said to number in the hundreds.
“She fearlessly traveled across more than 10,000 square miles, visiting with women and sharing the gospel in their homes and on the streets. She explained the source of her strength amidst this difficult work in a letter to the Secretary of the mission board: “As you wend your way from village to village, you feel it is no idle fancy that the Master walks beside you and you hear his voice saying gently, ‘Lo! I am with you always even unto the end.'”
Lottie Moon often made cookies for the children and became known as the “Cookie Lady”. She told the children about Jesus as they ate the coolies. Later she would start a school just for girls. “Trying to arouse as little suspicion as possible, Moon made a practice of acting and dressing as the Chinese did. She waited to be sought out by the locals, setting a plate of cookies in her doorway to attract neighborhood children.”
She continued to write and campaign through her letters for the “desperate need” for
more missionaries. “She encouraged Southern Baptist women to organize mission societies in the local churches to help support additional missionary candidates, and to consider coming themselves. Many of her letters appeared as articles in denominational publications. Then, in 1887, Moon wrote to the Foreign Mission Journal and proposed that the week before Christmas be established as a time of giving to foreign missions.”
Her vision caught and Societies were formed to promote missions and collect funds.
In October 1889, Lottie Moon formally established the first Christian church in Pingdu at Shaling.
In 1892, she took a furlough back to the United States. She was concerned about the burnout and early deaths of missionaries. She argued that missionaries needed regular furloughs every ten years. In 1902, she took a second furlough.
Throughout her missionary career, “Moon faced plague, famine, revolution, and war. The First Sino-Japanese War (1894), the Boxer Rebellion (1900) and the Chinese Nationalist uprising (which overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911) all profoundly affected mission work. Famine and disease took their toll, as well. When Moon returned from her second furlough in 1904, she was deeply struck by the suffering of the people who were literally starving to death all around her. She pleaded for more money and more resources, but the mission board was heavily in debt and could send nothing. Mission salaries were voluntarily cut. Unknown to her fellow missionaries, Moon shared her personal finances and food with anyone in need around her, severely affecting both her physical and mental health.”
By 1912, she only weighted 50 pounds. Her fellow missionaries arranged for her to return home to the United States.
She died en route on December 24, 1912 in the harbor of Kobe, Japan. She was seventy-two years old. Her body was cremated and her remains returned to her Virginia home for burial.
However, her legacy remains and her fight for better conditions for foreign missionaries lives on today.
“In China, a monument to Lottie Moon was erected in the yard of Dengzhou Baptist Church in 1915, bearing her name, a brief explanation that she was an American missionary, and the words “How she loved us.”
Lottie Moon wrote countless letters for support leading to a foreign missions offering in her name #faithfulheroes #heroesofthefaith Click To Tweet