A Missionary’s Look at Lottie Moon’s Impact

WMU graphic

Jack Swift* (Name changed) is an IMB missionary in East Asia where he serves on the student strategies team developing training resources for short, mid, and long-term student and young adult missionaries.

If you hear about something enough times, the topic can become mundane. That’s what the name “Lottie Moon” became to me growing up in the church. I knew the name was associated with a Christmas offering, but I couldn’t tell you who she was, why the offering was named after her, or why she was worthy of remembrance. I certainly didn’t know the hardship she endured as she sought to relieve the suffering of others — placing herself in harm’s way to provide hope in the midst of a physical and spiritual famine.

Now I realize that we need to know more about Lottie Moon, and we need to pass on her legacy through word and action.

Why is the Southern Baptist annual international missions offering named in Lottie Moon’s honor? Well, simply put, she started it. Charlotte “Lottie” Diggs Moon (1840-1912) was appointed as a missionary to China by the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission board, or IMB) at the age of 33. She spent a total of 39 years laboring for the cause of Christ in China. One of the key distinctives that made Lottie special was her ability to relate to two worlds: the Chinese world where she effectively ministered and the western world where she inspired hearts and challenged her constituents through the persuasive power of her writing.

In 1885, after serving in China for 12 years and at the age of 45, Lottie moved inland to the city of P’ingtu to continue her ministry. She believed there was no greater joy than leading another to faith in Christ. She immediately saw the need for more full-time workers and began to communicate the needs to churches in the U.S.

On September 15, 1887, Lottie penned an open letter to Southern Baptist women pleading for more workers, specifically asking that a week be set aside for prayer and for a special offering to be taken for new missionary appointments. Her letter was published in the Foreign Mission Journal the following December. A year later, in 1888, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) was formed, and a week in December was set aside for prayer and offerings. The first goal was $2,000, which would be enough to appoint two new female missionaries. In the end, more than $3,000 was given, resulting in the appointment of three new missionaries. The offering was later named in memory of Lottie Moon.

Lottie’s letters were effective because she embodied the type of sacrifice she called others to make. When severe famine hit China around 1912, she used her own money and belongings to provide for the needs of many. Giving everything she had to ease the pain of others, Lottie died on Christmas Eve 1912 at the age of 72 from severe starvation.

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Source: Baptist Press