I grew up hearing about the “Lottie Moon” Christmas offering at my church every year. I never knew who she was or what she did until I read my children a series of books – Christian Heroes Then and Now.


It was then that I learned that Lottie Moon was born Charlotte Moon – in 1840 on a plantation in Virginia. She grew up in a Christian home but rejected Christianity because of all the dissention she saw. The adults around her bickered over denominational differences. Because of what she saw and heard, she didn’t want anything to do with religion and instead focused on her studies.


When she went away to school, she was finally able to skip church and poked fun at her friends who practiced their Christian faith. She decided to attend a revival meeting one evening in order to gain more ammunition for her teasing.


She listened to the message hoping to use her logic to tear it apart. Instead, it all made sense to her. At home she couldn’t stop thinking about all that she had heard. She kept going to the meetings and decided with her mind and heart to follow Jesus.


This decision transformed her life. She became a teacher. She nursed wounded soldiers through the civil war. Her family never recovered from the financial losses the South experienced. She had always dreamed of becoming a missionary – but this wasn’t possible for her as a single woman. Only married women had an opportunity to go overseas with their husbands.


After the war, things began to change. Women had more opportunities. Lottie was helping to open a school for girls in Georgia when she got a letter from her younger sister. She had been able to appeal to the mission board to send her to China with the invitation of another couple.


She inspired Lottie to seek an opportunity as well. She knew the work she was doing at the girls’ school was flourishing, but she couldn’t get China out of her head and heart. Finally, she boarded a ship and joined her sister. However, her sister was struggling with the mental and emotional strains of living in a foreign place.


They worked with a team that was understaffed and answered many requests from small villages to come and talk about the “heavenly” book. Lottie worked tirelessly – teaching about Jesus, answering questions, learning the language, caring for the poor, etc. She saw many of her coworkers die of diseases or return to the states under the intense pressures.


Eventually, her sister had a mental breakdown and was forced to return home to rest and recover. Lottie brought her back to Virginia and spoke at many women’s groups about the needs in China. She lobbied with the foreign mission board to understand the financial and emotional pressures – the need for missionaries to take sabbaticals and feel supported by the churches at home.

She returned to China to continue the work. She originally had struggled to adjust to the Chinese people who asked personal questions and wanted to touch her western clothing and white skin. With her gentle Southern upbringing – she had to put herself in their shoes and build bridges.


At first, Lottie had not wanted to dress in Chinese style but eventually she realized their clothing suited the cold and hot seasons better and provided padding for donkey and chair rides through rough terrain. She even began to arrange her hair in a way that helped her blend in.


Lottie continually wrote about the incredible breakthroughs as the gospel found fertile ground – especially in the villages. But these new Christians faced intense persecution and beatings from family who were enraged that they no longer wanted to worship their ancestors. The Boxer Rebellion in China forced Lottie and many missionaries to flee to nearby Japan until things became more stable in China.


Famine and disease hit China hard when Lottie was in her 60s. She never turned any hungry people away and often gave her own food to others who were starving. Finally, her fellow missionaries noticed her emaciated state and health decline and mandated her to return home. She slipped into eternity on the boat ride home and churches all over the US gathered in groups to celebrate her life.


The Southern Baptist churches decided to name their annual Christmas offering after Lottie Moon to support missions across the globe.


Lottie faced many difficulties – deaths of family members from war and disease, persecution from people in China who hated foreigners, and the fight for unity among followers of Jesus. Yet she basked in God’s goodness and provision and spent her life telling others about Him.


I can’t help but think that Lottie Moon lived the words of the apostle Paul in Acts 20:24: “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”