Growing up in rural western New York, I had never heard of Lottie Moon. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina and met the woman who is now my wife that I was introduced to this truly inspiring and innovative missionary.
Most Southern Baptists can identify Lottie Moon’s name and pair it with both the Christmas season and China, but that’s usually where the conversation ends. So recently, as part of my never-ending quest to teach kids about the importance of missions, I went to work on a Lottie Moon lesson plan. I couldn’t have imagined how much I would learn in the process. In fact, I discovered some fun facts that I think will help you retell her story in a way that will stick in kids’ minds. Let’s start at the beginning.
1. Lottie grew up almost 200 years ago. She was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, on Dec. 12, 1840, as Charlotte Digges Moon. That was 180 years ago. Imagine growing up then. What would it have been like? What was it like being a woman during this time?
This is where Lottie begins to make her mark. Let’s dive a little deeper. Lottie wasn’t a converted believer until she attended college (Yes, she went to college—a milestone for women at that time.) In fact, Lottie rebelled against Christianity until that time (Does that sound familiar to some of you?). Lottie later went on to be one of the first women in history to receive a master’s degree from Albemarle Female Institute, a sister institution of the University of Virginia. She later served as an army doctor during the Civil War, but she felt a different calling for her life.
2. In 1872, Lottie’s older sister was the first single woman appointed as a Baptist missionary. Edmonia Harris Moon actually went to China before Lottie, but the letters she wrote home about the dire spiritual needs of the Chinese people stirred her little sister’s heart and helped Lottie to make a decision to go. Lottie left behind a fiancé and a life of ease for the call to serve Christ. She then became the one of the first single women appointed by what was then called the Baptist Foreign Mission Board.
3. Lottie trusted in God to provide. Lottie struggled while she was in China. She had a difficult time learning Mandarin Chinese, her sister’s health was failing, there was hostility toward the missionaries in China, and financial resources were thin. Lottie once wrote, “My heart turns longingly to the city homes grimly closed against us, forbidding our entrance, and hating us with a hatred that would vent itself in blood if only they dared.”
In spite of all these trials, Lottie trusted God to give her a way to spread the gospel. She invited her existing relationship network to a Sunday school class. Few would show, but this didn’t deter her. Lottie would also bake tea cookies for children, and eventually the children would take her to their homes. She would then have the opportunity to share the gospel with moms. In this way, Lottie became a “door to door” evangelist.
4. Lottie was an advocate for girls’ education. Lottie Moon established a boarding school for girls. Chinese families at the time placed little value on girls’ education. Lottie was determined to change this. Even though she struggled to support herself financially, Lottie assumed all costs for the pupils at her school. As a result, even less fortunate girls were able to afford her boarding school. Some even escaped prostitution and lives in sex slavery as a result of her ministry. Lottie taught the girls in her school a catechism as well as reading, arithmetic, geography, and music. By 1883, her school was so successful that she was forced to turn away applicants.
5. Lottie became a pioneer missionary to China’s interior. Lottie and her team pioneered evangelism in the difficult and hard-to-each areas of interior China. This new work came with additional challenges. Lottie decided that she needed to look like a local, so she adopted Chinese clothing and customs in order to put locals at ease. In this way, Lottie pioneered missionary methods that are still in use today.
Learning from Lottie
So, what can we learn from Lottie?
First, Lottie helps us see that God doesn’t abandon us even when we rebel against him. We may refuse to surrender our lives to Christ just like Lottie did prior to her conversion, but God is still faithful. God has a plan to save and include in his mission even those whose hearts are far from him.
Second, Lottie helps us see that we can trust God to provide. Though she had many hardships, God was faithful to provide a way for his mission to go forward—even through baking tea cookies. What obstacles stand in the way of God’s mission in your life? Pray that Christ will show you a way to move forward and minister to a struggling friend or even a struggling nation or people group.
Finally, Lottie modeled what it means to fulfill the Great Commission. Christ has called every Christian to go and make disciples. Like Lottie, we must have a kingdom focus. We should take the risk to share Christ with people who are lost. Anyone at any age can be a disciple maker. We just have to be intentional about moving toward others. Is God calling you today? Surrender to him and listen. He has an exciting plan for you.