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Lottie Moon: A Biographical Sketch
Mar 26, 2020
Pastor Shonn Looks at the Life of Lottie Moon
Charlotte “Lottie” Diggs Moon was born the third child of seven in 1840 in Albemarle County, Virginia. Her mother, having a strong Baptist faith, taught young Lottie and her siblings much about the Lord. However, Lottie “did not profess a faith of her own until college.” (bddconline.net) As a young girl Lottie did not want much to do with Christianity. She believed Christians were mostly hypocrites and that going to church was irrelevant. Once she told a friend, “Poking fun at sermons is always good for a laugh.” (Christianity.com)
Lottie’s dad left enough money for his children to receive as much education as they wanted in life. It was not common for young ladies to pursue higher levels of education. Lottie would eventually prove to be an uncommon lady both in her life and now through her legacy. “Moon was one of the first women in the southern United States to earn a master of arts degree.” (bddconline.net) After the civil war, Lottie would put her education to use by teaching in Alabama and Kentucky. It was during this time that she met a young lady, Anna Cunningham Safford, who would be instrumental in her journey as a missionary. After a time of teaching, Lottie and her new friend would open an all girl high school in Georgia. These two women were making a tremendous difference in the lives of young ladies; but somehow the impact they were making was not enough for either of them. “The door was opening for unmarried female missionaries, and Moon and Safford decided to enter the mission field in China.” (bddconline.net)
In 1873, Lottie joined one of her sister’s on the mission field in Tengchow, China. “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.” (imb.org) This was not an easy journey for Lottie. Girls in China had few rights during this time and there were no real opportunities for girls to be educated. Against the counsel of some and with very little encouragement, Lottie started a school in China with 13 girls in its first year. Because no one would pay to educate a girl, Lottie often sacrificed her own personal welfare for the benefit of educating young ladies. Many times she would do without so that others could learn. “Lottie served selflessly, through all kinds of trials, but it was her countless letters that may have had the biggest impact.” (Christianity.com)
Lottie wrote many letters home to challenge her fellow Baptists in the Women’s Missionary Society to give so the girls in China could be educated. Her passion for the young ladies to be educated and to have the ability to make their own choices spoke volumes to many back in America. Her passion along with her willingness to press forward in spite of obstacles still speaks in the 21st century. Today, she is remembered as a pioneer in the mission giving efforts of Southern Baptists. “In 1918, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) named the annual Christmas offering for international missions after the woman who had urged them to start it.” (imb.org)
Lottie died on December 24, 1912 at the age of 72 on the mission field. Her ministry has far exceeded her number of years on earth. Lottie’s legacy continues to both encourage and exhort Southern Baptists and many others to live selflessly and give sacrificially. She was ahead of her time in vision and the carrying out of the same. She was a dreamer and a doer. This is a vital characteristic in a world where most only dream and never do what it takes to see their dream become a reality or either do the work to accomplish the dreams of others while allowing theirs to pass by the wayside.
Modern missionaries will do well to learn from Lottie’s desire to race after her dreams even when the pathway to see them come to fruition is paved with trials and challenges. From the days of being one of the first young ladies in the Southern US States to receive a master’s degree to the days of raising funds for foreign missions when many mission agencies were struggling to stay afloat, Lottie demonstrated masterfully how to pursue and reach dreams in spite of major obstacles. Her tenacity and ability to push through the seemingly insurmountable circumstances are not only admirable; they are worthy of being imitated. These are similar qualities to that of the apostle Paul wrote about when he was defending his apostleship in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Lottie’s compassion for those that society had written off as one’s not fit to be recipients of such grace is another of her attributes that should be imitated by the modern missionary. Lottie not only aspired and achieved higher levels of education in a day where this was not common for women; she also educated young ladies in this same day. The women she educated in China faced even greater cultural pressures than that of those in the US. This would not rob Lottie of her compassion to educate these young women many times at her own expense.
The financial pressures caused by the opposition to her educating the young ladies in China caused Lottie to be creative. Her creativity led to the forming of the “Lottie Moon” Christmas offering for foreign missions. This creativity as a result of opposition should be in the toolbox of the modern missionary. Instead of asking “Can I do this?” The modern missionary will do well to ask a question like that of Lottie Moon, “How can this be done?” As an old preacher once told me, “Where the Lord guides the Lord always provides.”
Another important lesson for the modern missionary is that of the “ask”. Simply put, the modern missionary will do well to learn to ask others when a need arises. All too often, one is afraid to ask others to fill a need. This is not good for a couple of reasons. One, it may rob someone of an opportunity to be a blessing. Two, the one failing to ask others will be paralyzed in the quest to move the vision forward. Three, the one failing to ask may have to always live with the “what if” factor. Instead, of going through life wondering “what if” the modern missionary will do well to ask. The worst thing that can happen is that he/ gets a “no” for a response. A “no” response is not a loss, it simply leaves one where he started; but having asked and received a “no” is better than not asking and living with a “what if”.
Lottie Moon was an incredible person. She was filled with both compassion and passion. Her ability to translate her dreams into reality is a rare quality. Her life spoke volumes to those who knew her and her legacy speaks volumes today to those who learn of her life. She has left and continues to leave an indelible impact on the body of Christ around the world.