LOTTIE MOON

Born DECEMBER 12, 1840

[PD-1923]

[PD-1923]

Few missionaries have inspired so many to give so much. Lottie Moon survived extreme culture shock to present the gospel to the people of China and fought for fairer treatment of those sacrificially serving on the mission field. Lottie was a petite servant of God whose bold ideas and strong spirit accomplished big things for God.

BEGINNINGS

Charlotte “Lottie” Moon grew up on a large plantation in pre-Civil War Virginia. She and her six siblings were educated by a governess, with tutors adding music and French lessons. The young lady who came to be called Lottie enjoyed her privileged upbringing. She wasn’t as enthused about her parents’ Baptist faith.

In her thirteenth year, tragedy struck. Her father died in a riverboat accident. Lottie’s world changed again when she was sent off to a boarding school. After graduating from Hollins Institute, Lottie enrolled in the Albemarle Female Institute in Charlottesville.

She excelled in learning foreign languages. She soon became well-known and well-liked among the other female students. But she was known for choosing to opt out of church services. She even ridiculed her classmates for their religious devotion.

THE NEW LOTTIE

When the Baptist church across the street hosted revival services, Lottie’s classmates attended, not expecting to see her. To their surprise, their antagonist showed up.

(Free photos from OpenImageBank.com).

(Free photos from OpenImageBank.com).

Lottie couldn’t sleep that night. Not because of the sermon, but due to a constantly barking dog somewhere outside her bedroom window. Her mind, unable to rest, wandered. She started thinking about the teachings of Christianity. By the time the sun’s rays peeked through her bedroom window, Lottie had decided to live for God rather than herself. The next night at the revival meeting, she responded to the altar call and was baptized the following evening. Lottie changed. She began leading other students in Bible studies and prayer meetings. In May of 1861, she graduated with a Master of Arts degree, a much different person than on her first day at Albemarle Female Institute. The nation too had changed; one month before her graduation, the first shots had been fired in the Civil War.

HER LIFE’S CALLING

Lottie returned home to Virginia. At one point during the war, fearing the Union Army was heading toward the Moon plantation, the family prepared to evacuate. The troops never showed. In the wake of the war, Lottie helped her mother deal with their family’s part of the South’s financial vacuum. Then came an offer to teach in a church-operated school in Kentucky.

[Photo by Pierre Terre. Licensed for reuse under creative common license]

[Photo by Pierre Terre. Licensed for reuse under creative common license]

Four years later, Lottie answered a similar call at a girl’s school in Georgia. Mean-while, her sister Edmonia received a missionary appointment to China. Her letters caused Lottie to wonder if she too, although a single female, might be grant-ed such an appointment by the Foreign Mission Board. Then she heard a sermon from the text John 4:35: “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” Lottie took that sermon as God’s personal call to China. Excited for her, the women of the Baptist church in Cartersville, Georgia pledged to financially support her.

TO CHINA

Lottie arrived in China in October of 1873. The Moon sisters worked in Tengchow with a missionary husband and wife. Lottie hadn’t anticipated the country’s living conditions nor the prejudice she faced. She was frequently called names like “Foreign Devil” and “Devil Woman.” Lottie prayed, worked, and endured, but the day-to-day barrage took its toll on Edmonia. Her physical and emotional health failed.

Lottie returned her sister to the United States. After a year, Lottie went back to China. The unmarried female missionary from Virginia who stood only 4’3″ tall was to make a difference in China and in world missions. She enjoyed starting a girl’s school in Tengchow. Bible memorization became a key feature of study. She wasn’t as enthused at first about venturing into the frigid cold with another female missionary to share the gospel.

Seeing firsthand how the rigors of committed service wear down a missionary, Lottie wrote some very pointed letters to the Foreign Mission Board. In one she said, concerning newly appointed missionaries, “Please say to the missionaries they are coming to a life of hardship, responsibility and constant self-denial.” In another letter, she campaigned for missionary furloughs instead of being sent to a foreign country to serve until death.

EXPANSION

Positive changes came. Converts increased. More workers arrived from America. God enlarged Lottie’s burden for the Chinese. She envisioned missions stations in the outlying villages.

Dramatization of Lottie serving cookies. Image: courtesy of International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention.

Dramatization of Lottie serving cookies. Image: courtesy of International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention.

In 1885, Lottie traveled to P’ingtu. She rented a house and attracted visitors by baking  cookies for them. The severe winter caused her to don Chinese clothing. That too brought Lottie greater acceptance. Instead of  “Devil Woman,” she was now called, “The Heavenly Book Visitor.” Lottie wrote in one of her letters, “We need to make friends before we can hope to make converts.”

Back in America, an ongoing movement to organize Southern Baptist women to support missions formally became the Women’s Missionary Union in 1887. Lottie meanwhile sent a letter to the missions department suggesting a Christmastime offering be received for missionaries. The newly formed WMU carried out Lottie’s suggestion.

A group in nearby Sha-ling sent messengers requesting Lottie to come tell them about Jesus. Lottie and another female missionary explained God’s love through Jesus Christ. Many in the group converted to Christianity. Some would pay the price.

FAITHFUL TO THE END

Many of the Chinese didn’t like their people turning to the foreign religion. Persecution ensued, sometimes in Christianity’s favor. The family of one elderly man who converted mistreated him. Among other things, they had the man’s nephew, a scholar of Confucian-ism, to ridicule his faith while reading his uncle’s New Testament to him. The plan back-fired, resulting in the nephew’s conversion to Christianity.

Boxer soldiers  [PD-USA]

Boxer soldiers [PD-USA]

In 1900, the anti-foreigner Boxer Rebellion drove Lottie to safety in Japan. During the rebellion, thousands of Chinese Christians were killed, as were over 200 Christian missionaries. Lottie refused to flee during China’s 1911 revolution. Always thinking of others, when the failing crops lead to famine, Lottie refused to eat so those around her could be fed.

Her health suffered. In 1912, her doctor demand-ed she return to the United States to recover. She never reached America. Lottie died on board a ship in a Japanese harbor on Christmas Eve, 1912 (100 years ago this month).

Lottie faithfully served China for thirty-nine years. In 1919, the Southern Baptist Church’s annual Christmas offering was renamed the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It raises millions of dollars every year for missionary support.

What drove Lottie Moon to give her all for China? She once expressed her drive with the words, “How many million more souls are to pass into eternity without having heard the name of Jesus?”

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LET ME KNOW:  How has Lottie’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.

Bibliography————————————————————————————————-

  • Benge, Janet and Geoff. Lottie Moon: Giving Her All for China. Seattle, WA: Youth With A Mission Publishing, 2001.
  • Hosier, Helen Kooiman. 100 Christian Women Who Changed the 20th Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2000.
  • Woodbridge, John D., ed. More Than Conquerors. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992.

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About William E. Richardson

I'm married to a wonderful woman named Deb. We're the parents of a son and daughter who bring great joy to our lives. I currently pastor the Assembly of God church in Afton, Iowa.
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