Even if someone is not a Southern Baptist, it is likely they have heard the name Lottie Moon. Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon who lived from Dec. 12, 1840 to Dec. 24, 1912, was a Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board and spent nearly 40 years living and working in China. As a teacher and evangelist, Lottie Moon is responsible for laying a foundation for traditionally solid support for missions among Baptists in America. That is why many Southern Baptist churches remember Moon in their annual support of the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions each year.
Grove Park Baptist Church, located at 609 Northeast Blvd., Clinton has an unusual method of raising funds for the offering and, at the same time, providing delicious and sometimes different homemade goodies for sale during their annual Goodie Gala. This year’s gala will be Saturday, Dec. 1, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., in the church fellowship hall.
Grove Park’s Women’s Missionary Union or WMU sponsors the Goodie Gala and they use it to promote international missions through helping others to know more about Lottie Moon while providing an assortment of goodies to help those people busy with holiday preparations with cookies, candy and other goodies. The cost is $6 per pound and they make useful gifts for anyone to enjoy.
Eleanor Matthis, WMU president, shared that the WMU begins teaching children about Lottie Moon when they are in Mission Friends, the youngest children’s group.
“Part of our commitment to missions is to make sure our children and adults know who Lottie Moon was and why her work is so vital to what we are trying to do today through spreading God’s love and salvation throughout the entire world. This is the legacy that Lottie Moon began and is why the international offering is named for her,” asserted Matthis.
A history of Lottie Moon tells us that she was born to well-to-do parents, Anna Maria Barclay and Edward Harris Moon, who were avid Baptists. When full grown Lottie Moon was very small, standing only 4 feet, 3 inches tall. Her ancestors owned a 1,500 acre slave-labor tobacco plantation called Viewmont, in Albemarle County, Va. Lottie was fourth in a family of five girls and two boys. Lottie was only 13 when her father died in a riverboat accident.
The family saw education as a very important attribute and, at 14, Lottie went to school at the Baptist-affiliated Virginia Female Seminary (high school, later Hollins Institute) and Albemarle Female Institute in Charlottesville, Va. In 1861 Moon received one of the first Master of Arts degrees awarded to a woman by a southern institution. She spoke numerous languages: Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish. She was also fluent in reading Hebrew. Later, she would become expert at Chinese.
Lottie Moon was an outspoken and very spirited young lady; she was indifferent to her Christian upbringing until her early teens. She underwent a spiritual awakening at the age of 18, after a series of revival meetings on the college campus. Leading the revival service wherein Moon experienced this awakening was John Broadus, one of the founders of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Because of the limited opportunities for educated females in the mid-19th century, Lottie’s older sister Orianna became a physician and served as a Confederate Army doctor during the American Civil War. It fell Lottie’s job to help her mother maintain the family estate during the war, and afterward settled into a teaching career. She taught at female academies, first in Danville, Ky., then in Cartersville, Ga., where she and her friend, Anna Safford, opened Cartersville Female High School in 1871. There she joined the First Baptist Church and ministered to the impoverished families of Bartow County, Ga.
The Moon family was surprised when Lottie’s younger sister, Edmonia accepted a call to go to North China as a missionary in 1872. By this time the Southern Baptist Convention had relaxed its policy against sending single women into the mission field, and Lottie herself soon felt called to follow her sister to China. On July 7, 1873, the Foreign Mission Board officially appointed Lottie as a missionary to China when she was 33 years old.
Lottie joined her sister Edmonia at the North China Mission Station in the treaty port of Dengzhou, and began her ministry by teaching in a boys school. Due to failing health, Edmonia had to return home a short time later. It was during a trip with more experienced missionary wives, that Lottie discovered her passion…direct evangelism. As customary in that time most mission work was done by married men, but the wives of China missionaries Tarleton Perry Crawford and Landrum Holmes had discovered an important reality. In the Chinese culture, only women could reach Chinese women. Moon became frustrated because she felt her abilities were being wasted and felt led to put her efforts into evangelism and church planting instead of teaching. She wrote an appeal for all the other female missionaries especially the single women missionaries. Her appeal was titled “The Woman’s Question Again,” published in 1883.
She wrote: “Can we wonder at the mortal weariness and disgust, the sense of wasted powers and the conviction that her life is a failure, that comes over a woman when, instead of the ever broadening activities that she had planned, she finds herself tied down to the petty work of teaching a few girls? ”
It became a fight for Lottie as she waged a slow but repeated fight to give women missionaries the freedom to minister and have an equal voice in mission proceedings. A prolific writer, she wrote the head of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, often to inform him of the realities of mission work and the desperate need for more workers—both women and men.
Because of her upbringing, Moon felt the Chinese as an inferior people, and insisted on wearing American clothes to maintain a degree of distance from the “heathen” people. Slowly she became to see and understand the more she changed and lost her western trappings and identified with the Chinese people, the people would accept her more readily so she began to wear the native clothing and also adopted the customs which made her more sensitive to the Chinese culture. This resulted in her gaining respect and becoming to be admired by many of the Chinese people to which she ministered The love and respect she gained led her to deepen her commitment to her work in China.
In 1885, at the age of 45, Moon gave up teaching and moved into the interior to evangelize full-time in the areas of P’ingtu and Hwangshien. She lead hundreds to Christ. Through her massive writing campaign Lottie wrote moving letters and articles that described the life of a missionary and pleaded the “desperate need” for more missionaries, which the poorly funded board could not provide. 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.
Moon wrote to the Foreign Mission Journal in 1887 and proposed that the week before Christmas be established as a time of giving to foreign missions.This is when Southern Baptist Women caught Moon’s vision. Southern Baptist women organized local Women’s Missionary Societies and even Sunbeam Bands, (today’s Mission Friends), for children to promote missions and collect funds to support missions. The Woman’s Missionary Union, in 1888 collected over $3,315, enough to send three new missionaries to China.
“This is where the roots of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions began. There is a lot of history there for we Baptists. The offering grew out of the letters written by Lottie Moon and the work she did in China and the plea she made all those many years ago is still being sent out for us to support missions. That is what we are doing with our Goodie Gala,” stressed Matthis.
Moon finally took a much needed furlough to the U.S. in 1892 and again in 1902. Because of her concern for her fellow missionaries, and the burn out of working so hard in difficult situations and being away from family and home, she argued that regular furloughs should be provided for missionaries every 10 years to ensure a more extended and effective life for seasoned missionaries. A practice that is now done through the International Missions Board of the SBC.
Lottie Moon experienced 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. After Lottie came back from her second furlough in 1904, she became deeply concerned by the suffering of the people who were literally starving to death all around her. She begged for more money and more resources, but the mission board was heavily in debt and could send nothing. Moon’s salaries were voluntarily cut. Her fellow missionaries did not know that Moon shared her personal finances and food with anyone in need around her, severely affecting both her physical and mental health. By 1912 Lottie had lost so much weight that she only weighed 50 pounds. So concerned, her fellow missionaries arranged for her to be sent back home to the United States with a missionary companion. Moon never made it home. She died on route, at the age of 72, on Dec. 24, 1912, in the harbor of Kobe, Japan. Her body was cremated and the remains returned to her family in Crewe, Va., for burial.
“Because of the efforts given by this feisty and strong little lady, Southern Baptists around the world have raised over $1.5 billion for missions since 1888 and finances half of the entire SBC missions budget each year. It is so vital that we spread the name of Lottie Moon and the history of her dedicated life to Christ and the spread of the Gospel to all the people around the world. Hopefully people will come support us in our efforts to raise funds for missions. The harvest is great and the need is huge. We must do all we can to spread God’s message to a world in so much need,” stressed Matthis.