By Felicity Smith
Charlotte 'Lottie' Moon was born on a wealthy, Virginia plantation in the year 1840. She was one of seven children would be found fatherless in 1852. Yet Lottie and her brothers and sisters would be profoundly influenced by the faith of their mother. All were well educated, many fought in the civil war and some along with Lottie, made their way to the mission field.
During college Lottie rebelled against her strict religious upbringing until a campus revival that brought her to her knees in prayer. She became a teacher, and during this time she heard a message preached on the scripture "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." Lottie left her career as a teacher and sailed to China in 1873 as a missionary appointee with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Lottie begin her missionary career teaching Chinese children in the city of Tengchow. She soon became bored with the work of teaching children and longed to be involved in evangelistic work. This was radical for single, female missionaries at the time and Lottie begin to speak up for the role of women in missions in missionary magazines and letters home to the Southern Baptist Convention. "What women want who come to China," she wrote, "is free opportunity to do the largest possible work..."
Lottie begin to travel to villages and in 1885 begin full-time evangelistic work in the village of Ping-tu. By 1889 the first Church and Baptisms had begun in the area and in the next twenty years over 1,000 converts would be baptized. Beginning in 1890, Lottie divided her time between evangelistic work in Ping-tu and training new missionaries in Tengchow. One of Lottie's largest contributions to global evangelism would continue to be her writing. She would write home appealing to the Baptist convention for more funds and more missionaries for the field. "It is odd," she wrote, "that a million Baptists of the South can furnish only three men for all China. I wonder how these things look in heaven. They certainly look very queer in China."
She wrote to the women of the Southern Baptist Convention calling for a special week of prayer and a Christmas offering that would be given exclusively to foreign missions. To Lottie's delight, as a result of this first offering, three new female missionaries were sent to the field. The success of this first week of giving and prayer led to the creation of a permanent offering that would be called The Lottie Moon Christmas offering following her death in 1912. Millions of dollars continue to be given each year to this offering for the cause of global mission.
The turn of the century brought widespread poverty, disease and devastation in China. Lottie drained her personal bank account, giving food and money to those around her in need. After she had given away all of personal savings, depression overwhelmed her and it was discovered that she was starving to death. She was rushed aboard a ship to be taken back to America for emergency health care, but died on ship in the port of Kobe, Japan on Christmas Eve in 1912. Lottie Moon was a wealthy, Southern Belle who became poor, giving all that she could for the sake of the lost. She once wrote, "Surely there can be no deeper joy than that of saving souls."
Sources: Tucker, Ruth. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983. Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives