While in China with Chinese Intelligence I wanted to visit and see the area where Lottie Moon had ministered. So, they agreed to take me there. At that time there were no flights to Yantai, the main prefecture city. There were no fast trains, either. We had to take a really slow “local” that made many stops and took two nights.
That coastal area of China is famous for its seafood, and I can attest that it is really great. But we were there in January and it was really cold. What tourists come there, come in the summer. We had to wear really warm clothing, for the hotels and restaurants are just not prepared for hosting people in the cold winters there.
The Chinese authorities that I met there had never heard of Miss Moon. Neither had the Intelligence people. I tried to tell them how famous she was and what an influence she had been there. I pitched it that if we found the church where she had worshiped, it would make that whole area a better tourist attraction. As a result, after I had left, the Chinese authorities did research and found that it was all true. They even discovered that The Baptists had established a Christian Seminary in the area.
Baker James Cauthen started the Seminary there. In 1939, Dr. Cauthen and his wife, Eloise, went to China as missionaries before the country fell to Japanese invaders.
Later he was executive secretary and then executive director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Foreign Mission Board from 1954 until he retired at the end of 1979. The number of Southern Baptist missionaries increased from 908 to nearly 3,000 under his leadership. The number of countries where they served grew from 32 to 95. The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s main Baptist body, with more than 15 million members.
The evangelist Billy Graham called Dr. Cauthen ”one of the greatest missionary statesmen in all American church life.” The last time I heard him speak was at a colloquium in Williamsburg Virginia in 1976. (A convention is a gathering together if churches; a colloquium is a gathering together of universities.) As Chairman of the Board of Dallas Baptist University I went to the Colloquium of Baptist universities that was held there to commemorate the Bi-Centennial. It was dangerous to go to hear Dr. Cauthen speak. When he finished, you were ready to pack your bags and just leave for the foreign mission field.
Anyway, that night in Yantai the Chinese said we were to leave early the next morning for Penglai and visit Lottie Moon’s church.
Late that night I got a telephone call. Like who do I know in Yantai? It was Eloise Cauthen, Dr, Cauthen’s widow. She had come back to Shandong Province to “teach English” where she had been as a missionary way before WWII and where she had been reared, since her father had been a missionary there too. She had heard somehow that we were going to Penglai the next morning and she wanted to go too. She said that she had been able to go there and had driven by the church but was never given permission to go inside its gate and wall.
Certainly, I was happy to welcome her, and she was there bright and early the next morning. She had a helper that had been sent with her to Yantai by the Foreign Mission Board to take care of her as they were to “teach English” there. However, in my opinion, Mrs. Cauthen was in better shape than the helper. She looked great, all dressed in a fur coat and beautiful fur hat.
We boarded a little bus that the Chinese had provided. On the drive it was so interesting to visit with Mrs. Cauthen and hear her recollections of that area where she had been reared, and where she had returned with her husband in 1939. She said that she had visited the Baptist seminary buildings which were now a Chinese school. She said that she had even found her old piano which was still in use in the school.
We arrived in Penglai and as we went over the bridge spanning the river there, they pointed out the back of one of the church buildings that backed-up to the river. We turned left and went down a long lane of really old Chinese houses all jammed together with no spaces between and with their old-style tile roofs. We then turned left again into an open area in front of the main church sanctuary.
Of course, I wanted to be sure this was the real, authentic place.
In one of Miss Moon’s biography’s there was a picture of a large commemorative arch over the old road to the church. It was a famous icon, for that area: The commemoration of a famous Chinese General from generations past, named Ji Qi Guang. Sure enough, just beyond the open space, over the old road was the big Arch. I knew we were for sure there, in front of Lottie Moon’s church’s sanctuary with its steeple and cross on top of that.
Mrs. Cauthen and I walked up to the gate. There was a small arch over the gate with a Christian cross built into the keystone of the arch. The hollow space of the cross was completely filled with stones that had been put there by the Cultural Revolution young people.
You have probably read about it.
When Chairman Mao was afraid that he was going to be deposed, he started it. It was one of the most gruesome times in modern human history. These passionate teenagers took over the country to “cleanse it” as they called it. They all carried one of Chairman Mao’s little red books. Or, to give its full title, “Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong”. It contains 267 aphorisms from the Communist Chinese leader, covering subjects such as class struggle, “correcting mistaken ideas” and the “mass line”, a key tenet of Mao Zedong Thought.
It is dated May 1964. It is estimated that between 800 and 900 million copies were printed world-wide by 1967.
Hitler and Stalin were branded as mass murderers. What they did was nothing compared to Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Articles in History Today say that over 45 million people died under Mao. Many were starved to death, many were murdered, and many committed suicide. People had their jobs, homes, land, belongings and livelihoods taken from them. In collective canteens, food, distributed by the spoonful according to merit, became a weapon used to force people to follow the party’s every dictate.
It is not merely the extent of the catastrophe, but also the manner in which many people died: between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed, often for the slightest infraction.
One article in History Today describes how when a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later. The case of Wang Ziyou was reported to the central leadership: One of his ears was chopped off, his legs were tied with iron wire, a ten kilogram stone was dropped on his back and then he was branded with a sizzling iron tool – punishment for digging up one potato.
Anyone who was a teacher or any kind of professional or even known to be educated was sent to the countryside to do menial labor on farms. So very many died there from starvation and abuse. All schools were closed for several of those years. When it finally ended, students who were now past college age did not know whether to go back to school or skip going back.
When you ask a Chinese who lived through that period, they will say, “I don’t know for sure what kind of government that I want, I just know that I never want anything like that again,” as I mentioned earlier. Another thing that it did that I also mentioned briefly earlier is that by wiping out all religion for that whole period, it created a spiritual vacuum that is now being filled by Christianity in many cases.
Anyway, back to Penglai and Miss Moon’s church. Like I said, the Cultural Revolution people had filled the Christian cross on the arch over the church’s gate with pebbles, but it was still quite visible.
We went through the gate and before we reached the door to the church, there just on our left was a fairly large obelisk type monument. It had inscriptions on all sides. Even though they were not in Simplified Mandarin, Mrs. Cauthen could read them. This was a stone monument commemorating Lottie Moon and her Girl’s School. Mrs. Cauthen and I just stood there in amazed silence, thinking the same thing. The Cultural Revolution kids destroyed everything like this, for sure. We both acknowledged out loud that only God Himself had preserved this monument to Lottie Moon because of all her dedicated, Godly work and all that she and her memory stood for.
The inside of the church was all wood and very clean. It had been meticulously cleaned in anticipation of our arrival. The lectern was still there on the raised dais like ready for a sermon. The chairs for the choir were all in place. The pews were there, but they had all been moved back, for the local Chinese had been using the building to store sacks of cement. That was because it had the best roof in town that did not leak. We could still smell the cement which must have been moved out the afternoon before.
After looking around, Mrs. Cauthen went back outside. However, I went upstairs and looked through the class rooms there. I am sure these were used by Miss Moon so many years before. Many still had their little small sized chairs.
I went back outside and through the gate, and there was Mrs. Cauthen surrounded by a group of really old men who lived in those old row buildings. I took a picture of her in her fur hat conversing with them. She told me that they had related to her how her father, Wiley B Glass, had baptized them, many years before.
The Mayor of Penglai had us to lunch with other dignitaries of the town. They patiently listened as I encouraged them to preserve the church and to become acquainted with who Lottie Moon had been. I assured them that many Baptists from the US would want to visit, for I knew how important tourism would be to that poor area.
We went back to Yantai and took a train on to Jinan , the capital of Shandon Province, and then on to Shanghai from where we could catch a plane to the south part of China to Guilin where we could finally warm-up.
I do think that my exhortations to the Authorities in Penglai and also Chinese Intelligence there had an effect. For, that church in Penglai now has a fine young pastor and is thriving. It is totally filled on Sundays and other days. In the church office they have two book cases filled with mementos of Lottie Moon and several pictures of her from those days. They dug them up from somewhere.
But what is really amazing to me is that every August they now hold a big celebration service in her honor. I think the tradition started in 2012 to honor what they called “the 100th anniversary celebration of Lottie Moon’s “heavenly journey”. Different choirs come in from churches in all the surrounding communities, each dressed in their own distinctive robes. Women even act out scenes from her life as they sing and ask God to mold their lives as “Mu La Di” (the name they use for Lottie Moon) would want them to be. All through this service and the singing and the sermon that follows you hear the words “mu la di xiong di jie mei”, which translates “Miss Moon, my older sister”.
Bruce Moon is a fine Christian fellow who has taken many summer mission trips to China to teach English in their universities. His wife does amateur genealogical research and found that he was actually distantly related to Miss Moon as her fourth cousin “twice removed.” In 2015 while he was teaching in Beijing he got a three day weekend. He wondered if anyone in Shandon Province remembered Lottie Moon. He was able to book a fairly fast train straight to Yanti and a bus on to Penglai where he had reserved a room. On Saturday morning he asked the people in the hotel if they knew about this church. He had a picture of it on his cell phone. By now Bruce’s Chinese was fairly good. When he asked at the front desk about a “jiao hui” (church teaching meeting) or “jiao tang” (church teaching building) he got no response. Then when he showed them the picture they and the taxi driver there all said “Ji Qi Gong” the name of the famous General for which the arch had been built there over the road at the site of the church.
Bruce was able walk the few blocks straight there. He found the General’s arch and he found the church. Since it was a Saturday morning he figured no one would be there, but he heard singing from the sanctuary. He figured it must be a children’s choir practicing.
The gate was locked from the inside, but there were two men just inside that opened it for him. He saw the monument to Miss Moon that he had already heard about, then went on inside. Much to his amazement there were over 400 people there. Through amazing co-incidence (or as he later figured “God’s timing”) he had arrived on the one day of the year they were commemorating the memory of Lottie Moon. All the different choir’s were there in their different colored robes and the resident choir up front with their white robes. He said they had a large screen-projection up high in front honoring Miss Moon.
After all the performances the pastor of the church delivered a sermon where they said “Mu La Di” many times. Then he and the congregation sang “Jesus Loves” me, and a woman’s group sang two more songs. The finale was Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” sung by the massed choirs.
On his way out, Bruce showed the pastor his passport with the name of Moon on it and explained that he was actually related to her. The pastor took him up to the church office and showed him all the old pictures of Miss Moon and her girls. There was even an old picture of the Moon home back in Virginia from the early 1800’s. Bruce had no idea how they got that.
So, because of Miss Moon’s remaining influence, her old church (Wulin Shenghui Church of Penglai) has recently been designated as a Nationally Protected Historical and Cultural Site by The State Council of the People’s Republic of China. In 2001, a new hall was built covering an area of 4,089 square meters (1 acres) with a capacity of more than 1,400 people at one time. The membership has now grown to more than 4,000.
So, Miss Lottie Moon’s tradition and influence lives on there on the coast in Shandong Province in China.
Just as an example, here is a recent picture of 176 new Christians being baptized at one service of that church. In China they do not baptize laying down, but kneel beneath the water as Jesus did in the Jordan River.