RICHMOND, VA – Well over one hundred years ago, a single missionary named Lottie Moon, serving in China, began writing letters challenging the church back here 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. In 1918, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) named the annual Christmas offering for international missions after her. 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.
Edmonia Moon, Lottie’s sister, was appointed as a Southern Baptist missionary to Tengchow, China, in 1872. The following year, Lottie was appointed and joined her sister there. 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. Lottie Moon was passionate about people knowing Christ and she didn’t hesitate to speak her mind.
Today’s China is a world of rapid change. It’s home to 1.4 billion individuals – one-fifth of the world’s population. Village dwellers flock to trendy megacities with exploding populations. And China holds its own in the world’s economy. It’s very different from the vast farmland Lottie Moon entered in the 1800s. But one thing hasn’t changed: China’s need for a Savior.
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. 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.