Missionary in China
22 December 1912
From the Satucket Lectionary
Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon (December 12, 1840 – December 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.
Moon was born to affluent parents who were staunch Baptists, on the family’s ancestral fifteen-hundred-acre slave-labor tobacco plantation called Viewmont, in Albemarle County, Virginia. 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 underwent a spiritual awakening at the age of 18, after a series of revival meetings on the college campus. On July 7, 1873, the Foreign Mission Board officially appointed Lottie as a missionary to China.
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 girls 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 Tarleton Perry 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. 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?
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.
Lottie Moon has come to personify the missionary spirit for Southern Baptists and many other Christians, as well. The annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Missions has raised a total of $1.5 billion for missions since 1888, and finances half the entire Southern Baptist missions budget every year.
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