Charlotte Diggs "Lottie" Moon
December 12, 1840 - December 24, 1912

Lottie Moon Lottie Moon became Southern Baptists' most famous missionary. She grew up in a devout Virginia home, but she scoffed at religion until her conversion at age sixteen. At a time when most girls received little or no schooling, the Moon sisters attended the best schools available. Both parents insisted that their daughters have every educational opportunity available to their sons.

Lottie proved to be a brilliant student, especially adept at languages. Barely over four feet tall, she remained sensitive about her size all her life. She refused to be photographed standing and, in fact, tried to avoid all photographs.

Lottie twice considered marriage, in 1861 and again in 1877. Both engagements were to the same man, Crawford H. Toy, who had been appointed a missionary to Japan in 1860 but did not sail, possibly for lack of funds. Both times Lottie broke off the engagement. Toy's doctrinal views may have influenced her decision the second time. Toy finally married at age fifty-six, but Lottie never married.

After the Civil War she became a teacher in Kentucky and later in Georgia. One Sunday in February 1873, her pastor had preached a fervent sermon on the need for more foreign missionaries. He used this verse for his sermon:

    The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
    Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth labourers into his harvest
    (Matthew 9:37-38)
Lottie went forward and said, "I have long known that God wanted me in China." She was appointed on July 7, 1873 and sailed to China on September 1 of that same year. From the first Lottie displayed the gifts of an effective missionary.

Lottie first served in Tengchow (now called Penglai), where among other duties, she kept a school for girls. At first, residents of the area distrusted her, calling her names such as "devil woman". Lottie responded by baking teacake cookies. The smell of the cookies began attracting many children. Soon her concern for them and their families earned her the name of "the cookie lady". Later she also found that wearing local clothing went far toward gaining acceptance among the Chinese.

Later she transferred to the remote city of Pingtu, where for years she was the only missionary. She later wrote the board, "I hope no missionary will ever be as lonely as I have been." In Pingtu and surrounding villages, Lottie distributed Christian tracts and told the story of God's love in Christ. As curious crowds gathered, she would sometimes stand in her rickshaw and raise her voice to be heard. Some of the men claimed she was "preaching", a charge that infuriated Lottie. She retorted that if they did not like what she was doing, let them send men to do it better.

Though overdue a furlough, Lottie refused to leave the Pingtu work unless a replacement could fill in, but lack of funds made that impossible. In 1877 she suggested to the Baptist women of Virginia the idea of a special Christmas offering. It's original purpose was to provide help for Lottie so she could take her furlough, and apparently it was not intended to continue as an annual event. Learning that Methodist women planned to observe a week of prayer before Christmas, with a missionary offering, she suggested a similar plan to the Baptist women. She wrote:

Need it be said why the week before Christmas is chosen? Is it not the festive season, when families exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth.
The Women's Missionary Union, formed in 1888, took up the challenge and proclaimed a week of prayer and a special Christmas offering for 1888. It adopted a goal of $2,000 and requested a grant of $100 from the FMB for postage and publicity, of which only $72.82 was spent. Actual receipts amounted to $3,315.26. The week of prayer and Christmas offering became an annual emphasis among the Baptist women.

She served fourteen years before receiving a regular furlough. However, during her infrequent trips back to the States, her appearances in Chinese dress, her dramatic speeches, and her display of interesting Chinese articles kindled great missionary interest among Southern Baptists.

She fought many battles on behalf of the Chinese. She was a leader in the effort to ban foot-binding of young girls, and she broke down barriers against their education. She was also a leader among missionaries and she was among the first to suggest the idea of a furlough. Her influence inspired the formation of the Women's Missionary Union, and ultimately it led to that organization's establishment of the offering that bears her name.

In her advancing age, broken in health and under the hardships of the Boxer Rebellion, Lottie Moon fell victim to the depression that seemed to run in her family. She thought the Chinese girls in her school would starve, so in her greatest act of empathy, she refused to eat so they could have food. Though times were hard, actual starvation was probably not imminent. However, if the crisis loomed larger in Lottie's mind than in reality, that takes nothing from her heroism and courage.

She worried about Chinese people and wanted so much to help them, but worry and lack of food soon left her too weak to keep working. The other missionaries decided that she must return to the United States for a rest. The board sent Cynthia Miller, a missionary nurse, to escort Lottie and care for her. Lottie hated to leave these people in this time of great need, but her health was so bad, there was no other choice.

Lottie was so weak, she slept for several days on the ship. They made it as far as Kobe, Japan, where on Christmas Eve 1912, Lottie fell into a coma and died. In her last moments, she clasped her hands in traditional Chinese greetings, calling the names of dear Chinese friends who had been dead for years, and met her Savior whom she had served so faithfully.

Her body was cremated, as required by law, and the ashes delivered to the Foreign Mission Board in a small brown package. After a brief memorial service in Richmond, Lottie Moon was buried at her home church near Crewe, Virginia. Her simple monument includes the words, "faithful unto death".

Miss Moon's death, and stories of her starvation, captured the imagination of Southern Baptists. As a memorial to "Lottie's first Christmas in heaven", the 1913 offering was larger than ever. In 1918, at the suggestion of Annie Armstrong, the annual offering was named the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions. At first largely limited to the WMU, it has since become a churchwide project. In the first ninety-five years since she suggested it, more than a half-billion dollars has come to the FMB through the Lottie Moon offering, not a bad return on that one hundred dollars appropriated for promotion back in 1888.

Back to Missions Page