Lottie Moon (A Biographical Sketch): From Pingtu to Eternity

Now undistracted by love interests and partially influenced by the Crawford doctrines, Lottie entered into a season of impatience.[1] She was increasingly familiar with the culture and frustrated at the progression of her work with the girls’ school. She began to feel pigeonholed into teaching seemingly ignorant children because of her gender.[2] Compounding the sense of missionary claustrophobia was the fact that T. P. Crawford was now trying to exert more and more control over the women at the mission. These issues converged on Miss Moon in such a way as to force her to a decision. She either would return to America or she would press inland to a more fruitful field. She chose for the gospel sake to press in land.[3]

In the fall of 1885, while Crawford was back in America to spread his wildly controversial views and opinions, Lottie set off for the interior. Without Crawford around to stop her and the unenthusiastic approval of her peers, she marched four days inland to Pingtu[4] Catherine Allen notes, “She was thought in her own times to be the first woman of any mission to establish an inland mission station by herself.”[5]

During this time, Moon’s identity was shifting. At times she would identify herself with the people of the interior as “we natives.”[6] She now lived a more itinerate and individualistic lifestyle, renting rooms in Pingtu and maintaining her residence in Tengchow.[7] When absent from the interior she would lament that her heart was in Pingtu.[8]

In the year 1887 she began to contemplate a furlough back to the United States.[9] Her plans were postponed however when three men from a village about ten miles outside of Pingtu knocked on her door searching out the “new doctrine” that Lottie was teaching.[10] Her normal practice was to teach only women and children, yet without any men to send, Lottie filled the role.[11]

This event was cataclysmic for Lottie. She delayed her furlough. She began making more urgent appeals to the Mission Board to send men to the mission field. While she was already active in encouraging women to form around the cause of missions and made appeals for special offerings, it was following this event that she suggested that Southern Baptist women set aside  a  week of prayer and offering for missions.[12] She wrote, “I wonder how many of us really believe that it is more blessed to give than receive.”[13] This first mission emphasis of its kind for Southern Baptists tied together an appeal for prayer, money, and missionaries.[14]

By October of 1889 a church had been established in the village outside of Pingtu and an ordained Baptist missionary baptized the first eleven members.[15] Twenty years later the church’s Chinese pastor, Li Shou Ting had baptized more than a thousand converts.[16] However the years in between and since were full of persecution and famine. [17]

The former mission sight was languishing in disarray as Crawford began rebuffing the mission board for not agreeing with his views. The FMB was in debt. Yet a great many more missionaries were needed for the work that Lottie Moon had started. She diligently wrote articles encouraging the SBC to send thirty more missionaries to North China.[18] It was harvest time in Northern China and SBC needed to send workers.

Even before this time Lottie had been diligent to keep up communication with the home front and had developed a large support network of women. Her articles were published in various publications and journals and fame of her work spread among the women of the SBC.

At the same time the women of the SBC were beginning to organize around the cause of missions. Though she would return to the United States a few times during her career, it was her writing more than her presence that helped fuel a movement that would lead to the organization of the Women’s Missionary Union and the creation of the Christmas time offering that bears her name.[19]

The last years of Lottie’s life were given in service to China. Near the end of her days in North China she would face war, famine, and persecution, yet she held strong. In 1912 a now elderly seventy-two-year-old Miss Moon was stricken with a mentally debilitating illness. An infection had set in at the base of her skull. For weeks she had been giving her food away to others in the midst of famine. She was becoming severely malnourished and was obsessed with the thought that fellow missionaries and her Chinese friends were starving. [20]

In a valiant attempt to restore her to health the missionaries on the field agreed to send Lottie back to America.  However, on December 24, 1912, Lottie Moon passed into eternity. News of Lottie Moon’s death spread rapidly among the now organized WMU and a call to honor Lottie through sacrificial giving was set in place.  Just six years after her death Annie Armstrong the former secretary of the WMU proposed that the annual Christmas Offering be named after Lottie Moon.[21]

[1] Allen, The Legacy of Lottie Moon, 149.

[2] Hyatt, 104.

[3] Ibid., 105-106.

[4] Allen, The Legacy of Lottie Moon, 149.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Hyatt, 110.

[7] Allen, The Legacy of Lottie Moon, 149.

[8] Hyatt, 110.

[9] Hefley, James C., and Marti. By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1996), 62.

[10] Hyatt, 111.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Hefley, 62.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Bobby Sorrill. “The History of the Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions” Baptist

History and Heritage 15, No. 4 (Oct. 1980): 29.

[15] Lawrence, 161.

[16] Tucker, 237.

[17] Miller, 37.

[18] Hyatt, 112-113.

[19] Tucker, 237-238.

[20] Allen, The Legacy of Lottie Moon, 151.

[21] Allen. The Legacy of Lottie Moon, 151.

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