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Lottie Moon gave her life to answer question, ‘How many can I reach?’comment (0)

November 29, 2012

Lottie Moon gave her life to answer question, ‘How many can I reach?’

She died on board a ship 100 years ago Christmas Eve — sick, exhausted, brokenhearted over leaving her beloved Chinese friends in their time of suffering.

It was a bittersweet end to a long and fruitful life. 

But it wasn’t the end of Lottie Moon’s story. What is it about this woman that has inspired so many Southern Baptists, for so many years, to give their own lives and treasure to God’s mission?

Born into privilege on a pre-Civil War plantation in Virginia, rambunctious young Lottie received the best education money could buy. But the difference between the fine words she heard from adults and the realities of life troubled her.

A young, unbelieving Lottie told classmates her middle initial, D., stood for “Devil.” She pulled pranks, missed chapel and scoffed at religion. She was a brilliant scholar, however, and became one of the most educated women of her era. But knowledge alone couldn’t satisfy her soul. She began a search for truth.

Lottie’s spiritual struggle came to a dramatic climax one night, sealing her commitment to serve God and others. She witnessed the ravages of Civil War, which destroyed the old society she had known. Matured by the experience, but just as independent as ever, she boldly joined her sister to become one of the first single female missionaries to China.

Little did she know what lay ahead.

Lottie arrived in North China in 1873 just as the last imperial dynasty was beginning to crumble. She struggled to learn the ways of Chinese culture as her sister suffered mental and emotional breakdowns. Despite bitter opposition from many Chinese — and the bunker mentality of other missionaries — Lottie was determined to take the message of God’s love to the vast countryside. She went to the villages, often on her own.

“Here I am working alone in a city of many thousand inhabitants,” she wrote in one of her many letters home. “It is grievous to think of these human souls going down to death without even one opportunity of hearing the name of Jesus. How many can I reach? The needs of these people press upon my soul, and I cannot be silent.” 

She experienced isolation and loneliness. She had a chance to marry and return home. Her response: “God had first claim on my life, and since the two conflicted, there could (be) no question about the result.” She persisted through war and famine, because the Chinese needed to know her Lord.

Disease, turmoil and lack of co-workers threatened to undo Lottie’s work. But she gave her life completely to God, helping lay the foundation of what would become the modern Chinese church, one of the fastest-growing Christian movements in the world.

She once wrote home, “A young man should ask himself not if it is his duty to go to the lost but if he may dare stay at home.”

Lottie Moon died at 72 — ill and in declining health after she had made sacrifices for decades for her beloved Chinese.

Who can relate to her today? Many Americans, particularly young people, have all the material things they want — but it’s not enough. In an aimless era, they crave direction and purpose for their lives. The more challenging the cause, the better. Her life speaks powerfully to a generation desperate for meaning and heroic role models.

Thousands have followed Lottie’s example during the century since her death — going just as boldly, obediently, sacrificially.

But not without Southern Baptists’ gifts to support them. Giving has its own call to obedience and sacrifice.

Lottie said it best 100 years ago: “How many there are … who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God.”

She followed to the end — and changed history. A new generation will change it again, if you make it possible for them to go.

Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at imb.org/lmcovideo.


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