When Lottie evaluated her ministry in China, she felt that the first 18 years of the work were just sowing with very little reaping. From 1873-1890, she labored to learn the language, the customs, and the best ways to do evangelism. And it was only after 2 decades that she began to see much fruit. Part of this was the way Lottie conceived of conversion. She was not looking for numbers but transformed lives. But also, it was the providence of God. Sometimes in God’s perfect timing, the fruit takes much longer to form than we would want. Yet, this should not have been a surprise to Lottie, for 18 years was the same amount of time it took for her own conversion.
As the years turned into decades, the focus of her ministry changed. In 1873, Lottie began as a school teacher to young girls, but after ten years, she requested a permanent change to a ministry comprised of personal evangelism. She wrote to her supervisor, “Under no circumstances do I wish to continue in school work, but I long to go and talk to the thousands of women around me” (387). This adamant statement was not a disgruntled complaint, but a heart that had traded in her intellectual pursuits for more personal ministry. She continues, “If I am to devote myself to evangelistic work in the city and country I must be free from the school” (387). This change would prepare the way for her most fruitful years of ministry, still eight years away.
It is worth noting the conditions that she endured in China. Her reports describe “long days of teaching, traveling, enduring poor weather and verbal abuse, uncomfortable accommodation, and nauseating food” all of which “had no romantic appeal for her.” Remember, Lottie was a Southern Belle who used to skip church to eat heavy meals.
Like Jesus, she would often go days without personal times of quiet and solitude. While she experienced a kind of loneliness in China, there were other times she could not be left alone. When she would travel into the countryside, the Chinese women and children would badger her with questions, fondle her clothing, and interrogate her manners. They had a childlike inquisitiveness that never failed to verbalize what they were thinking, and there would be times when she would nearly crack under the pressure of constant scrutiny.
For 30 years, this was the majority of her work. Going house-to-house, village-to-village, introducing women and children to the gospel. There were times when she would “preach” to mixed audiences (men and women), because she feared for their souls. She did not want to miss the opportunity to tell the good news, but her standard ministry target was the women and children.
Missions Fund Raiser
Teaching and personal evangelism did not exhaust her duties, because she also served as a valuable reporter from China back to the United States. A compelling writer, she held regular correspondence with the Foreign Mission Board back in Virginia, and her stories were widely circulated among the women’s missionary societies that were springing up in the late 1800’s.
This written correspondence is perhaps what has left the greatest legacy among Southern Baptists. And among all her letters, her plea for funds during the Christmas season in 1887 is the one that has had the longest lasting effect. Writing to Southern Baptist women, she says,
How many there are among our women, alas! Alas! Who imagine that because ‘Jesus Paid It All” they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should following the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God, and so aid in bringing the answer to the petition our Lord taught his disciples: ‘Thy kingdom come”’ (383).
She would later say,
Should we not press it home upon our consciences,’ she asked, ‘that the sole object of our conversion was not the salvation of our own souls, but that we might become co-workers with our Lord and Master in the conversion of the world? (383)
Lottie Moon’s Enduring Legacy
Such was the boldness of Lottie Moon. She picked up her cross and daily followed Jesus Christ, and she was glad to call others to do the same. Indeed, she did so because of her love for her Savior and for the people of China. Her joy was increased as she saw the Chinese come to faith, and she called others to increase their joy as well.
This is the reason why today Southern Baptists take up a missions offering in her name. The goal is not to guilt people into giving, but out of the overflow of the heart, men and women might give funds so that more people might hear the gospel and the chorus of praise around the world might increase.
For a view on gospel-motivated giving, see my Gospel-Motivated Generosity is a Mark of True Obedience.
Check back tomorrow to consider a number of lessons from Lottie Moon’s life.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss