Lottie Moon, missionary to China from 1873 to her death in 1912, is the most famous person in Southern Baptist history. Our largest offering, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, is named for her.
In time, her life came to be mythologized by Southern Baptists and her name invoked in order to raise money for missions. Over $1.5 billion has been received for overseas missions use since 1888. I hope your church has and will receive a Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions this year. Do your best. There are many good things to support. This is the best thing for Southern Baptist churches and individuals.
Here are some things you probably did not know about Lottie Moon:
1. When funding from the Foreign Mission Board was not sufficient to provide additional workers for Moon’s lonely and arduous mission in Pingtu, China, Lottie loaned the Board $1,000 to help support a new missionary. The sum is equivalent to about $25,000 today.
2. Moon’s home in the seaport city of Tengchow was once hit by a shell from a Japanese warship. Moon was not home at the time. The bombardment was part of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905.
3. At the 1890 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Ft. Worth, Texas, it was said Lottie Moon: “She is the greatest man among our missionaries.” Let the CBMW chew on that and not choke.
4. The Christmas offering later named for Lottie Moon was an idea copied from the Methodists.
5. Lottie had a sister, Edmonia (“Eddie”) who preceded her to China being appointed in April, 1872. Lottie followed the next year. Eddie was often sick and left China for good in 1876.
6. Lottie Moon’s uncle once owned Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, post Jefferson, of course.
7. When Moon arrived in China in 1873, she found that there was serious personal conflict among missionaries in the mission. This would cause difficulty for decades. She had to contend with and endure this constantly; whereas, the wars, famines, and plagues were just sporadic. Truth be told, we still deal with this type of conflict.
8. Among other things, Lottie endured at least two outbreaks of bubonic plague. She would simply close the school she was operating at the time and wait for the plague to pass.
9. When a new missionary asked Lottie in 1909 what the secret was to her long success in China (she had been in the country for 36 years at that point), Lottie answered, “Early to bed and do not worry.”
10. Southwestern Seminary has a memorial to Lottie Moon that includes furniture and some of her house from Pingtu. I’d like to see it one day. The contrast between that memorial and the stained glass windows is sufficient to cause one to blush.
11. She was not the first single female missionary of Southern Baptists. Harriet Baker, sent in 1849 to China was the first and was considered an “experiment.” She returned to the states in 1853.
Most of this is from the latest biography of Lottie Moon by Regina D. Sullivan. The article is mostly a copy of one I did here in 2015. There are three biographies of Lottie Moon. The definitive bio has yet to be written. The photo above of the “stern Lottie” and two ladies is from IMB.
One might say that Lottie is timeless.
On a personal note, my ten year old church has always taken a missions offering and given most of it to IMB but we haven’t called it the LMCO or promoted it as such. This year we’re taking an offering exclusively for IMB and I was asked to say something about it, since I know some IMB folks well. With prior approval I secured the LMCO envelopes and we will use them, although I was told that “no one knows who Lottie Moon is in our church.” During my five minute explanation I said, “Many churches have this offering which is named for a 19th century, single female missionary to China by the name of Lottie…” and I cupped my hand to my ear. “Moon” was the answer that rumbled out of the congregation. Not a few were familiar. I thought so.
I appreciate my church taking this offering. We will do the best we can. It wouldn’t take much for Southern Baptists to hit $200 million which is less than than the University of Texas’ athletic budget. But they have folks who give big even if the results are mediocre.