Lottie Moon: All in for Christ

Lottie Moon, circa 1870

This time of year is full of rich traditions. Many of us have traditions that are always significant parts of our celebrations, traditions that are meaningful and that we look forward to each holiday season.

WMU also has a holiday tradition to look forward to. Every Christmas season, WMU promotes a denomination-wide offering for those serving with the International Mission Board, using 100% of the funds collected for missionary support. This tradition has impacted thousands of missionaries and is significant because it is named after an important figure in Southern Baptist history. It is named for Lottie Moon, a remarkable missionary and pioneer of WMU. This offering is a tangible representation of her legacy and a continuing result of her willingness to be “all in” for Christ.

Coming to Christ

Charlotte “Lottie” Moon was born into a wealthy Southern family in 1840. Though her mother was a devout Christian and member of the Baptist tradition, Lottie was not converted until adulthood. For many years, she was a skeptic, due in part to the influence of her older sister Orianna. Orianna was one of the first women to graduate from medical school in America; she was incredibly intelligent, politically progressive, and intensely cynical of religion. The Holy Spirit was working on behalf of these 2 sisters despite their disbelief.

While on a trip to the Holy Land in the spring of 1858, Orianna’s eyes were opened to the gospel, and she returned home a believer in Jesus. God used Orianna to speak into Lottie’s life, and the younger sister began to reconsider religion. By winter of that same year, Lottie also came to know the saving power of Jesus. She professed her faith in Christ and was baptized December 22, 1858.1

Lottie was highly intelligent and one of the first American women to earn her master of arts degree. While in school, the desire to serve overseas began to grow in Lottie’s heart. She was ready to go immediately, but the Lord had her wait. She worked as a teacher and a nurse during the Civil War, trusting God with her desire to go overseas. Finally, after many years of uncertainty, Lottie’s dream became a reality. On September 1, 1873, she boarded a boat and set sail for China, leaving behind everything familiar to bring the gospel to those who had never heard it before.2

Lottie was accompanied by another one of her sisters, Edmonia, and other women and men who shared the call to missions. Upon their arrival in China, they quickly realized there were great challenges to the missionary life. While serving on the field, Lottie and her partners faced incredible difficulties, including political unrest, severe loneliness, debilitating famine, and funding needs.3 Edmonia eventually returned home, unable to take the pressure and hardships of life on the field.4 While the trials were deep and the difficulties constant, Lottie faithfully continued in her call. She taught in schools, traveled to many villages, planted churches, cared for children, and advocated for woman-to-woman discipleship. Missionary life was not easy, but Lottie was committed. She knew God had created her for this task, and she wasn’t going anywhere.

While on the field, Lottie communicated frequently with Southern Baptist women. She was vocal about the difficulties of the missions field and challenged those in the States to provide better support for missionaries. Her determined and insistent push for improvement was a pivotal factor in the formation of WMU. In addition to assisting in the establishment of the organization, Lottie also inspired WMU to take up an offering to support foreign missionaries. This began when Lottie refused to take her much overdue furlough until missionaries were in place to continue her work. She pleaded with WMU to raise the money to send 2 people to take over in her absence. WMU delivered, raising enough money to send not 2 but 3 people to relieve her.5 The 1888 fund-raiser was such a success that WMU continued to take it up every year, eventually developing into the Christmas offering we collect today.

Lottie served on the field faithfully, sacrificing her home, energy, and even her food for the sake of others. She gave her life for China, ministering there for almost 40 years until her death in 1912.6 Five years after Lottie died, WMU’s fund-raiser for foreign missions was named after her, engraining her name and her legacy into Southern Baptist history forever.7 The Lord honored Lottie’s commitment to His mission and blessed thousands of people through her work.

Go All In

In December, we, too, get to participate in this holiday tradition. As you prepare to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, reflect on the ways God used Lottie and ask Him how He wants to use you. The same God who used this tiny woman (she stood only 4 foot, 3 inches) in the 1800s to advance His kingdom is ready to use you too. God used Lottie’s life to bring many people to Himself and continues to use her legacy to bless those serving Him overseas. So go all in. Seek God’s call for your life, follow it wholeheartedly—and watch Him do more than you could ever ask or imagine.

Interested in learning more about Lottie? Check out Send the Light: The Story of Lottie Moon.

Selah Ulmer is a recent seminary graduate in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

Notes

1Regina D. Sullivan. Lottie Moon: A Southern Baptist Missionary to China in History and Legend, (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2011), 23–24.

2Catherine B. Allen, The Legacy of Lottie Moon, (International Bulletin of Missionary Research, vol. 17, no. 4, 1993), 146.

3Sullivan, Lottie Moon, 150.

4Allen, The Legacy, 147–48.

5Allen, The Legacy, 150.

6Sullivan, Lottie Moon, 7–8.

7Sullivan, Lottie Moon, 8.

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