Lottie Moon

 

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Lottie Moon

Missionary to China
Born December 12, 1840
Albemarle County, Virginia
Died December 24, 1912
Kobe Harbor, Japan

Charlotte Digges "Lottie" Moon (December 12, 1840December 24, 1912) was a Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board who spent nearly forty years (1873-1912) helping the Chinese. As a teacher and evangelist she laid a foundation for traditionally solid support for missions among Baptists in America.

Virginia plantation roots

Moon was born to affluent parents who were staunch Baptists, Anna Maria Barclay and Edward Harris Moon. She grew up (to her full height of 4 feet 3 inches) on the family's ancestral fifteen-hundred-acre slave-labor tobacco plantation called Viewmont, in Albemarle County, Virginia. Lottie was third in a family of five girls and two boys. Lottie was only thirteen when her father died in a riverboat accident.

The Moon family valued education, and at age fourteen Lottie went to school at the Baptist-affiliated Virginia Female Seminary (high school, later Hollins Institute) and Albemarle Female Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1861 Moon received one of the first Master of Arts degrees awarded to a woman by a southern institution. She spoke numerous languages: Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish. She was also fluent in reading Hebrew. Later, she would become expert at Chinese.

 

Spiritual awakening

A spirited and outspoken girl, Lottie was indifferent to her Christian upbringing until her late teens. She underwent a spiritual awakening at the age of eighteen, after a series of revival meetings on the college campus.

There were very few opportunities for educated females in the mid-1800s, though her older sister Orianna became a physician and served as a Confederate Army doctor during the American Civil War. Lottie helped her mother maintain the family estate during the war, and afterward settled into a teaching career. She taught at female academies, first in Danville, Kentucky, then in Cartersville, Georgia, where she and her friend, Anna, opened Cartersville Female High School in 1871. There she joined the First Baptist Church and ministered to the poor and impoverished families of Bartow County, Georgia.

To the family’s surprise, Lottie’s younger sister Edmonia accepted a call to go to North China as a missionary in 1872. By this time the Southern Baptist Convention had relaxed its policy against sending single women into the mission field, and Lottie herself soon felt called to follow her sister to China. On July 7, 1873 the Foreign Mission Board officially appointed Lottie as a missionary to China. She was thirty-three years old.

 

Missionary work in China

Early years in China (1873-1885)

Lottie joined her sister Edmonia at the North China Mission Station in the treaty port of Dengzhou, and began her ministry by teaching in a boys school. (Edmonia had to return home a short time later for health reasons.) While accompanying some of the seasoned missionary wives on “country visits” to outlying villages, Lottie discovered her passion: direct evangelism. Most mission work at that time was done by married men, but the wives of China missionaries T. P. Crawford and Landrum Holmes had discovered an important reality: Only women could reach Chinese women. Lottie soon became frustrated, convinced that her talent was being wasted and could be better put to use in evangelism and church planting. She had come to China to "go out among the millions" as an evangelist, only to find herself relegated to teaching a school of forty "unstudious" children. She felt chained down, and came to view herself as part of an oppressed class - single women missionaries. Her writings were an appeal on behalf of all those who were facing similar situations in their ministries. In an article titled "The Woman's Question Again," published in 1883, Lottie wrote:

“"Can we wonder at the mortal weariness and disgust, the sense of wasted powers and the conviction that her life is a failure, that comes over a woman when, instead of the ever broadening activities that she had planned, she finds herself tied down to the petty work of teaching a few girls?"

Lottie waged a slow but relentless campaign to give women missionaries the freedom to minister and have an equal voice in mission proceedings. A prolific writer, she corresponded frequently with H. A. Tupper, head of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, informing him of the realities of mission work and the desperate need for more workers —- both women and men. 

Cultural sensitivity

Raised in a family “of culture and means,” Lottie at first thought of the Chinese as an inferior people, and insisted on wearing American clothes to maintain a degree of distance from the “heathen” people. But gradually she came to realize that the more she shed her westernized trappings and identified with the Chinese people, the more their simple curiosity about foreigners (and sometimes rejection) turned into genuine interest in the Gospel. She began wearing Chinese clothes, adopted Chinese customs, learned to be sensitive to Chinese culture, and came to respect and admire Chinese culture and learning. In turn she gained love and respect from many Chinese people.

 

Expanded work (1885-1894)

In 1885, at the age of forty-five, Moon gave up teaching and moved into the interior to evangelize full-time in the area of P'ingtu and Hwangshien. Her converts numbered in the hundreds. Continuing a prolific writing campaign, Moon's letters and articles poignantly described the life of a missionary and pleaded the "desperate need" for more missionaries, which the poorly funded board could not provide. She encouraged Southern Baptist women to organize mission societies in the local churches to help support additional missionary candidates, and to consider coming themselves. Many of her letters appeared as articles in denominational publications. Then, in 1887, Moon wrote to the Foreign Mission Journal and proposed that the week before Christmas be established as a time of giving to foreign missions. Catching her vision, Southern Baptist women organized local Women’s Missionary Societies and even Sunbeam Bands for children to promote missions and collect funds to support missions. The Woman's Missionary Union, an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, was also established. The first “Christmas offering for missions” in 1888 collected over $3,315, enough to send three new missionaries to China.

 

Faith (for Content):