As I thought of all of the inspirational people I’ve met and learned about in my life, there is one person that abruptly came to my mind. She was a good hearted, strong willed, religious woman who never gave up. This amazing woman’s name is Lottie Moon. She transformed from a rich southern slave-holder daughter to a humble and philanthropic woman.
Charlotte “Lottie” Digges Moon was born December 12, 1840, just south of Charlottesville, Virginia. Lottie was the third oldest out of the seven children, five girls and two boys. She belonged to a very wealthy southern family. The family’s 1,500 acre tobacco plantation was known as Viewmont. Edward Moon, Lottie’s father, was the largest slaveholder in Albemarle, Virginia. Viewmont had at least 52 slaves to perform the family’s daily tasks. Edward Moon was a lay leader in a Baptist church. While on a business trip in Memphis, Tennessee, he had a heart attack on a river boat. Lottie was only 13 when her father died. When Lottie was 14, she went to school at the Virginia Female Seminar and she also went to the Albemarle Female Institute. She got her bachelor’s and master of art’s degree in teaching. Such a brilliant woman, and only growing to be a final height of four foot three.
While Lottie’s father was heavily involved in their local Southern Baptist church, she never found her place there. She reluctantly went every Sunday with her family but felt indifferent to the religion. This changed late in her teenage years. She was part of a very spiritual revival. This spiritual renovation brought her to finally dedicate her life to God. Lottie’s older sister Orianna, became a physician and was a Confederate doctor during the Civil War. While her sister helped in the war, Lottie helped her mother at Viewmont by keeping up with the plantation and doing daily chores. Once the war finally ended, she taught at a school in Danville, Kentucky. After teaching in Kentucky, Lottie helped to set up Cartersville Female High School in Georgia. Lottie’s sister Edmonia, surprisingly accepted a call to be a missionary in North China in 1872. It was when Lottie was an associate principal that she found herself wandering down another line of work - going to China as a missionary as her younger sister had. One year after Edmonia left for China, Lottie went as well. Edmonia did not last as a missionary very long.
Charlotte left her family, friends, job, and even a marriage proposal in order to become a missionary. There were hardly any unmarried women in the mission field. The wives of China missionaries T. P. Crawford and Landrum Holmes realized something very important, only women could reach out and educate Chinese women. The whole time that Lottie was in China, she would write letters home. Lots of the letters that she wrote were attempting to try and get Southern Baptist women to form organizations to help support other missionaries in the same line of work. This is how the group WMU formed, Women’s Missionary Union. They also organized Sunbeam Bands for children. This was to encourage missions and collect funds for the missions. Many of the letters she wrote were featured in denominational publications. The first “Christmas Offering for Missions” in 1888 gathered over $3,000. This was enough to send 3 new missionaries to China.
|Lottie Moon Christmas Fund (http://ime.imb.org/)
Lottie Moon was brought up in a family of “culture and means.” She first thought of the Chinese as a lesser group of people. In order to keep a strict level of distance between her and the Chinese, she continued to wear American clothes and follow traditional American customs. After learning more and more about the Chinese people, she shed her southern belle clothes and took on a new wardrobe, filled with traditional Chinese clothing. She learned and respected all aspects of the Chinese culture. In return, people loved and respected her too. Lottie Moon found that she was the most interested in direct evangelism. She continued to be a missionary for 40 years. She lived most of her time in Tengchow, today Penglai, in Shantung while she was a missionary.
The war with Japan (1894), the Boxer Rebellion (1900) and the Nationalist uprising (overthrew the Quing Dynasty in 1911) all affected mission work in China. Hunger and disease were infecting people greatly as well. After returning from a month of rest, she saw many people suffering everywhere. There were people literally starving to death. Lottie begged and begged for more resources to help and for more money, but the mission board was already in a huge amount of debt, they had nothing they could send. Most of the missionaries volunteered for their salaries to be cut. She shared her own money and food with everyone around her. This took its toll on her mentally, emotionally, and physically. In 1912 she weighed only fifty pounds. Other missionaries were shocked by this and decided she needed to go home for another break. While on the boat trip returning home, she died on Christmas Eve. She had lived a full life of spreading God’s message to others in desperate need of hearing it. She died at the age of 72.
In memory of Lottie Moon’s actions and teachings, there is an annual offering called, The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Every year the Christmas offering raises enough money to finance half of the Southern Baptist missions. It is taken up through participating churches. The International Mission Board uses all of the money received from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to support only the missionaries and the ministries they belong to.