In my November 30th post earlier this year, I touched on the annual International Missions Emphasis undertaken each year by the in the 40,000 plus member churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. At that time, I mentioned the fact that throughout the month of December, most of these churches typically undertake a season of prayer, conduct international missions studies to raise awareness, and collect an offering for international missions purposes.
(The goal for this year’s offering is $175 million. The theme of this year’s emphasis is “Because of Who He Is”, referencing the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you desire, you can read more about all of this at: http://www.imb.org/main/lottie-moon/default.asp.)
I also shared that Southern Baptists' most famous international missionary was Charlotte Griggs “Lottie” Moon – the namesake of the annual missions offering. (Her convicting story can be found here: http://www.imb.org/main/lottie-moon/details.asp?StoryID=13793#.Vl0SPdoo45s.) I thought I would share a little more about Lottie Moon in today’s post.
In their masterful 2003 work titled The One Year Christian History: A Daily Glimpse into God’s Powerful Work (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003), Michael and Sharon Rusten relate in 365 successive daily devotionals the various stories of men and women throughout Christian history who have experienced the extraordinary hand of God upon their lives and work.
Their December 12th devotion is titled “LITTLE WOMAN, LONG SHADOW”. In it, they tell us more about the story of “Lottie” Moon. Even though this woman stood just four feet three inches tall, they make it clear that she cast a very long shadow! They write:
Two WEEKS before Christmas, on December 12, 1840, a baby girl was born into an aristocratic plantation family in Albemarle County, Virginia. Her name was Charlotte Diggs Moon, but everyone called her "Lottie." She grew to just four feet three inches, yet her intellect and force of personality were enormous. In a day when embroidery and dancing distinguished most young ladies, Lottie spoke six languages fluently and earned a master's degree in education from the Albemarle Female Institution in 1861, making her the most educated woman in the South. Lottie's older sister became the first female physician in the state.
Lottie came from a family of dedicated Southern Baptists and attended church most of her life. But at seventeen, Lottie was a staunch skeptic. Faith seemed antithetical to intellect, and Lottie had no need of it.
In December 1858, Dr. John Broadus, later to be one of the first four professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was holding evangelistic meetings for students at his Charlottesville Baptist Church. Lottie went to one of the services, intending to scoff.
That night after she went to bed, a barking dog kept Lottie awake. She was in the habit of using otherwise wasted hours to consider various intellectual propositions. That night she decided to ponder the merits of Christianity. As she lay in the dark, Lottie mentally reviewed Dr. Broadus's sermon, adding to it the Bible texts and arguments she'd heard throughout her life. By the time she got to the evangelist's altar call, the Spirit of God prompted her to respond, and Lottie Moon, the brilliant skeptic, believed. When she finished her prayer of commitment to Jesus, she realized that the dog had stopped barking.
At age thirty-three, Lottie was working as a teacher when she heard a call to missions "as clear as a bell." In July 1873 the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention appointed her its first unmarried woman missionary to China.
Lottie arrived in Shantung (now Shandong) Province that year and settled in the city of Tengchow (now Qingdao), where she opened a school for girls. Over time, the focus of her ministry became personal evangelism among the poor. She wrote to her supporters: "I have never gotten so near the people in my life. . . I have never had so many opportunities to press home upon their consciences their duty to God and the claims of the Savior to their love and devotion. I feel more and more that this is the work of God."
Through such letters, Lottie tirelessly advocated for the needs of the people in China. In 1888, she persuaded the women of the Southern Baptist Convention to take an annual missions offering on Christmas Eve. But by 1912, despite such gifts, thousands of people were dying of starvation every day in famine-ravaged Shantung Province. Lottie's cupboard was always open to the poor, even when she herself had to go without food.
On Christmas Eve that year, as Southern Baptist women collected their special missions offering, many were looking forward to meeting the woman who inspired their gifts. At seventy-two, Lottie Moon was coming home. But that same night, aboard a ship off Japan, she died—of complications from starvation. A few months before she had written, "If I had a thousand lives, I would give them all for the women of China."
Lottie Moon walked with God for fifty-four years and with the people of China for thirty-nine. She helped pioneer the role of unmarried women missionaries in evangelism and planted more than thirty Chinese churches. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering continued after her death, and by 1995 it had raised over $1.5 billion dollars for missions.
In a day and age in which far too many men and women seek to make a name for themselves and their respective “ministries”, broadcasts, and/or publications, it is indeed convicting to see how God used a humble woman who was willing to give her life, literally, in relative obscurity solely for the sake of the propagation of the Gospel.
As I read her story, I could not help but be reminded of the words of Jesus in the twenty-fifth chapter the Gospel of Matthew (verse 31-46):
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
My suspicion is that little Lottie Moon’s shadow was so long as to be seen even in Heaven!
BOOK SOURCE: Rusten, Michael and Sharon. The One Year Christian History: A Daily Glimpse into God’s Powerful Work (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale house Publishers, 2003).
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: http://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/25.htm.