Monday, December 7, 2015

So, Who Is This Lottie Moon, and Why Do We Owe Her Money?

It is probably one of the more amusing questions I ever received as a pastor. I was leading a church plant that was reaching primarily unchurched people. You know, folks with no church background. And, in the part of the country I was in, especially no Southern Baptist church background. So, when we began to talk about the Lottie Moon Offering, it was not a surprise that few had ever heard of her. One day one of our newer members approached me and pulled me to the side. If someone were observing us, they might have concluded that we were conspiring to pull a really good Christmas prank.  "Pastor," he said as he looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was around, "Who is this Lottie Moon and why do we owe her money?"

For once I was speechless. It had never occurred to me that Lottie Moon was not known to everybody who loved Jesus. (Obviously, my upbringing in a Southern Baptist church was shining through.) I managed to crack a sly smile and then told him about Lottie.  I told him that she was born Charlotte Digges Moon on Dec. 12, 1840, in Albemarle County, Va. That she rebelled against Christianity until she was in college. But, then, in December 1858, she dedicated her life to Christ and was baptized at First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Va. I told him how Lottie attended Albemarle Female Institute, which was the female counterpart to the University of Virginia. And, how, in 1861, she was one of the first women in the South to receive a master's degree. I shared how she stayed close to home during the Civil War but eventually taught school in Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia.

He seemed interested, but didn't understand why I was telling him about this Civil War era woman from the south. And, he really couldn't figure out how we could owe her money!

"Hold on," I said, "I'm getting to that." And, so, I told him how Edmonia Moon, Lottie's sister, was appointed a missionary to Tengchow, China, in 1872. The following year, Lottie was appointed and joined her sister there. That was a moment that would come to forever change the way Southern Baptists viewed missions, mission work and missions support.

I told him how Lottie served 39 years as a missionary, mostly in China's Shantung province. She taught in a girls' school and often made trips into China's interior to share the good news with women and girls. I shared how Lottie frequently sent letters back home detailing Chinese culture, missionary life and the physical and spiritual needs of the Chinese people. And, how she challenged Southern Baptists to go to China or give so that others could go. And, it worked. By 1888, Southern Baptist women had organized and helped collect $3,315 to send workers needed in China.

I shared with him how Lottie did not quit in the face of adversity.Though the people she was trying to reach often feared and rejected her, she refused to leave. In fact, the aroma of fresh-baked cookies drew people to her house. I shared with him how she adopted traditional Chinese dress, and she learned China's language and customs. I told him how Lottie didn't just serve the people of China; she identified with them. Many eventually accepted her. And some accepted her Savior.

I told him how this young southern girl from Virginia died aboard a ship in the Japanese harbor of Kobe on Dec. 24, 1912. She was 72 years old.

Six years later, in 1918, the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) named the annual Christmas offering for international missions after the woman who had urged them to start it.

"And, that, my friend, is why we collect money every year at Christmas time for international missions," I said with a smile. "And why it is called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering."

"I get it," he said. "We don't owe her money, we owe her a debt of gratitude for helping us raise our eyes to the nations and keeping the cause of missions in front of us."

And, that is exactly right. Lottie Moon followed the example of her dear Lord and Savior. She went to live among a people, to incarnate the gospel before them, as hundreds and thousands of others have done since then. We take an offering in her name to honor her legacy and to continue the work of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth.

So, this year, when you see that Lottie Moon Christmas Offering envelope, do not discard it so quickly. Instead, write a check and help support the thousands of Southern Baptist missionaries around the world.

BTW - At Raleigh Road Baptist Church, you will receive an LMCO envelope in your regular packet of offering envelopes. We will be receiving the LMCO until the end of December. 

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