If you have ever been involved with Southern Baptists, I am sure you know about Lottie Moon. She was a missionary to China in the late eighteen hundreds. Southern Baptists have the largest foreign mission effort of any group in the world. They raise almost all that money each year at Christmas time. It is called the Lottie Moon offering in honor of Miss Moon.
She was one of the last of the great Southern ladies. She was so fluent in Latin and Greek that she was offered a full Professorships at Harvard to teach Greek. That was a great honor and opportunity for a woman in those days as it would be today. She was also courted by some spectacular gentlemen wanting to marry her. However, she turned it all down to go to China as a single lady missionary to join her sister who had recently gone there. She sailed from San Francisco on September 1, 1873.
She wound up in Shandong Province in the town of Penglai , just up the coast from the larger prefecture city of Yantai . Life was not easy in China in those days, especially in that cold sea-coast area. She was under five feet tall. Now days, most foreign missionaries get to return home every five years, but not in those days. She stayed for so very many years. However, she was forced to leave for Japan for a short time during the Boxer Rebellion in China , but returned to Shandong Province . She also returned home to bring her sister back just before Christmas in 1876. She did not have enough money to go back to China , but the Baptist churches in the area of her home got the money together for her to sail again for China on November 8,1877.
Two biographies have been written about her. If you want to be inspired concerning real service to God, I would encourage you to read one of them. The last is called The New Lottie Moon Story. For most all those years there she ran a girl’s boarding school headquartered in her residence with some classes meeting in the church she attended in Penglai. But she regularly took trips into the interior teaching the Gospel. Travel was really tough over the unimproved roads there. Most of the time she used a Shentze. It was a basket enclosed by curtains and hung on poles between two donkeys. To say the least, it was not a comfortable way to travel. At other times she would travel in a chair suspended from poles carried my men called bearers and hired at very little cost.
She would stop at homes to teach the Gospel, mostly to groups of women. Life in the homes in the cold, wet countryside of Shandong Province revolved around the kang. It was a clay covered tunnel about three feet off the dirt floors. It varied from a few feet to five or more feet wide. It was hollow and heated usually from an opening to the outside by burning sticks and brush and sometimes coal. In a large room it would run down the center of the room. In a small room, it may take up the whole room. In her writings, Miss Moon described how she would teach the bible while sitting on the kang to keep warm. I have stayed in those farmhouses in Shandong Province on January days. We would eat off a low table with all sitting on the kang. Also, as honored guest on those occasions, I would get to sleep on the kang at night. It is the primary source for heat in those country homes, as it has been for thousands of years.
In her girl’s schools, Miss Moon taught the girls strict manners just like in the old South in the US . As part of their lessons, the girls were taught to memorize and recite whole sections of the bible. She wrote that some girls could recite the whole New Testament book of Mark and of Mathew.
Penglai went by the name of Tengchow in those days, but it was a rather formal and dreary place. However, it was under consular authority and safe for foreigners.
Penglai was also a coastal city, like Yantai and for many generations was a naval headquarters. It has a large old harbor that is dug out and still has the huge gates that could be closed to protect the old Chinese wooden ships after they had entered the harbor.
Just before the year 1885, Miss Moon began to hear about an area 120 miles inland called P’ingtu. Although it was an agricultural area, it had a walled city by the same name. No explanation has ever been found why, but the people in that whole area most all felt that there must be a real god and they were hungry and even anxious to know about Him. There were different vegetarian sects there which were anxiously open to knowing the Gospel. They were all seeking the real god that they just knew must exist but did not know how to find Him.
Miss Moon went there to visit for a month and eventually moved there. Previously, she had never been more than 50 miles inland. Living inland as a foreigner she had no official protection. The US Consul in Tengchow really frowned on any foreign women going inland. She was the only foreigner there, but she could not resist the hunger of the people there to know about the real God. She first made friends with the people individually in their homes, and then began to spread the Gospel to that whole area.
Her letters back to Virginia were distributed to Baptist churches all across the Southern States. Such results of the Gospel being planted there in that foreign land were thrilling to the Christian people of the deep south.
Eventually, young college age girls would go and stay with Miss Moon during summers. She was such an inspiration to them. One of my favorite stories about Miss Moon happened on one of those summer evenings. It was her custom to read the bible and explain the scriptures to the young ladies and have prayer before bedtime. On this particular evening as Miss Moon was reading from the bible, the girls stopped her. They asked: “Miss Moon, what translation of the bible are you reading from? We have never heard it expressed in those particular words.” Miss Moon looked up a little confused, and then showed the girls that, as was her custom, she was reading directly from the Greek texts and translating to the girls straight from the Greek.
She stayed in that area of Shandong Province for the rest of here life, becoming a big influence on the people there. Finally in 1912, being quite ill, she got passage on a ship back to the US . However, she died aboard ship shortly after leaving on December 12.
Her letters back to the US were such an inspiration to the churches that she was a major influence for Foreign Missions to the whole Southern Baptist Denomination. Under her name they raise most all their budget for foreign missions every year…..a big influence on the whole world.