Charlotte Diggs “Lottie” Moon
Dec. 12, 1840 – Dec. 24, 1912
SBC Missionary to China
We have approximately 4,500 international missionaries serving around the world, outside of North America. Last year, those faithful servants, supported by our Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering dollars, were able to be part of…
• 1,993,368 people hearing a gospel witness
• 127,385 becoming new believers
• 54,762 new believers baptized
• 3,842 new churches
• 41,172 churches meeting
• 15,352 new and potential leaders being mentored
• 264,028 nationals meeting in on-going Bible studies
Every year since 1888 Southern Baptists collect an offering for International Missions during December. And since 1918 it has been named the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. But why her? What made this lady – who was less than 4’6” – such a missional giant?
Charlotte Digges Moon, born December 12, 1840, grew up on a plantation south of Charlottesville, VA. Nicknamed “Lottie”, her father died when she was 12 and her mother – a cultured, educated lady – was a staunch believer in two things: (1) Her faith in Jesus Christ; (2) Her commitment to her children’s education. At age 14 she went to a Baptist boarding school in Charlottesville, and on to college at Albemarle Female Institute. Here she committed her life to Jesus Christ and was introduced to missions. Proficient in Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish – Lottie earned both Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees.
From 1866-71 she taught at the female institute run by First Baptist Church, Danville, KY, where she first met SBC missionaries who had served in China. In 1872, Lottie’s sister, Edmonia, was appointed as a missionary to China, increasing her interest in foreign missions. In February 1873, having moved to be the co-principal of a new girls’ institute in Cartersville, GA, Lottie felt her call to China.
On July 7, 1873 she was appointed as a SBC foreign missionary, the first single woman ever appointed on her own, and sailed to China on September 1 of that year. Lottie was 32 years old, had turned down a marriage proposal and left her job, home and family to follow God’s lead. For the next 39 years – from 1873-1912 – she served as a missionary in China, chiefly in Tengchow and P’ingtu.
At first residents of the area distrusted her, calling her “Devil Woman.” Lottie responded by baking tea-cake cookies: The smell of the cookies attracted children, opening the door for her to share the gospel. Soon her concern for them and their families earned her the name of the Cookie Lady. Later she found that wearing local clothing went far toward gaining acceptance among the Chinese. This was a new approach, adapting to the local culture, which has been followed ever since.
Lottie fought many battles on behalf of the Chinese she grew to love: She was a leader in the effort to ban the foot-binding of young girls and broke down barriers against the education of girls.
She wrote thousands of letters home – detailing China’s hunger for truth and the struggle of so few missionaries sharing the gospel with 472 million Chinese in her day. She shared another message: the urgent need for more workers and for Southern Baptists passionately supporting them through prayer and giving.
Also, she was a leader among missionaries. She was among the first to suggest a furlough – a year off to come home and share the work with churches (a practice in effect to this day); and she inspired the formation of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), the Southern Baptist Convention auxiliary for mission support and education. In 1887 she pleaded with the head of the WMU, Annie Armstrong, to organize a special offering just for missions. In 1888 the first Christmas Offering for missions was received. The amount? $3,351 – enough to send three missionaries to China.
Lottie Moon was considered a rebel by many, going against the normally accepted way of doing things at times because of her empathy for the Chinese. Several times she was threatened with removal by the Foreign Mission Board, but they knew her actions were prompted by love. In her greatest act of empathy, as local Christians were facing famine due to floods and war, she stopped eating, giving instead her meager resources to others. It would cost her life.
Her unselfish act caused her weight to drop so dramatically – to under 70 pounds – that her health began to rapidly decline. After many pleas, Foreign Mission Board officials finally convinced her to leave China and get medical attention. Unfortunately, it was too late. On December 24, 1912, while on a hospital ship in the Sea of Japan, she raised her fists together in fond Chinese greeting and died. She was 72 years old.
Lottie Moon embodied the idea of being a GIVER. And her commitment should lead us to be givers as well. Since its beginning, nearly $3 billion has been given through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (formerly Foreign Mission Board) counts on the LMCO for 50% of its operating budget. Unlike Cooperative Program dollars given to the IMB, and every penny given through the LMCO goes directly to the missionaries in the field.
THE 2016 GOAL: $155 MILLION. HOW CAN YOUR DOLLARS HELP?
It costs approximately $58,200 a year to support an international missionary family. That equates $159 a day or just over $6.60 per hour (less than the price of a fast-food value meal). Few churches could support one missionary annually, let alone 4,500, but when you consider what 16 million Southern Baptists in 42,000 churches can do, the amount is staggering. Your giving enables missionaries to be sent to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. The reason? Because of who He is!
“How many million more souls are to pass into eternity without having heard the name of Jesus?”
That question seared Lottie’s heart as she planted her life in China more than a century ago. As a young Southern Baptist missionary, it compelled her to leave the safety of the Baptist missionary compound to live among those “heathen” to whom she felt called. In middle age, it gave her the strength to place her 4-foot-6-inch body in the path of an anti-Christian mob intent on harming Chinese believers, saying, “You will have to kill me first.” As an older woman, it compelled her to give away her food so others might live and have one more opportunity to find Jesus.
How many souls? What did she think? One million? Five million? Fifty million?
One hundred years later, we have an answer: 1.6 billion people, more people than populated the earth when Lottie lived, have never heard the gospel, according to missional researchers. During the past five generations, Southern Baptists have been motivated by Lottie Moon to plant their lives in missions by going or supporting others who are carrying the gospel light into the darkness.
What would Lottie think? Would she be impressed that 16 million Southern Baptists were supporting nearly 4,200 missionaries? Would she think $155 million was a worthy goal? Or would she, citing the 1.6 billion who live precariously in the Last Frontier, challenge us once again: “How many million more souls are to pass into eternity without having heard the name of Jesus?”