NEW ORLEANS (BP) – This month, members of Lakeshore Church may wake up to find a shadowy figure in their front yard. There won’t be cause for alarm, though. In fact, their response can go toward providing Good News around the world – a whole lot of it, in fact.
This is the second year the church has raised money for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering with “Lottie on the Lawn,” in which a life-sized cardboard cutout of the 4’3” Moon is placed on the lawn of an unsuspecting church member under cover of darkness. Upon the cutout’s discovery the next day, the member must donate to Southern Baptists’ annual offering for international missions and choose Lottie’s next destination. The church’s goal for the 2020 offering is $5,000, matching the amount raised last year.
The event’s value has stretched beyond raising money for missions, said Milly Holder, who leads the church’s greeting team and coordinates missionary care.
“This has given us opportunities to educate our people [about Lottie] and Southern Baptist missions,” she said. “Even people who may have been familiar with her name didn’t know a lot about her story.”
Holder and Katy Beith, Lakeshore’s children’s director, coordinate Lottie on the Lawn. They also have a first-hand knowledge on the offering’s impact.
In her role at Lakeshore, Holder helps maintain a connection between the church and three families it has sent out as missionaries – one through the International Mission Board and two through the North American Mission Board. The connection comes through a monthly Zoom call, weekly texts and emails, and care packages. The church’s missions outreach also includes a residency program for would-be ministers and two church plants since its 2017 launch.
Holder and Beith also have a personal understanding of life on the mission field. Each served two years as an International Mission Board Journeyman – Holder in Central Asia and Beith in the African country of Lesotho.
Like Moon, Beith was a schoolteacher before entering the mission field. The path to missions began in earnest on Oct. 7, 2013, when three of her students died in a tragic car wreck. “It rocked me,” she said. “It made me realize that eternity starts now. Don’t put things off. Ever since I’d been a little girl, I felt like I was to do something, and the time had come.”
She finished the school year and signed up to go as an IMB missionary in the spring of 2014. In looking through the possible assignments, a teaching position in Lesotho seized her attention. More importantly, it was the date the assignment had been written: Oct. 7, 2013.
“I felt God calling me to that position,” she recalled. “It was a remote location – four hours from the nearest grocery store, for instance. That isolation can wear on missionaries, and it was always a lift to receive something from home or know others were praying for you.
“When you’re away on missions, it’s almost like your relationship with people back home is paused. When others stay in touch with you, it helps to keep doing what you’re there for.”
Holder agreed. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering helped pay for many aspects of their ministry, she said. Rock climbing, for instance, was a popular activity where she served. Those funds helped build a rock climbing gym and café at the place where their church met in the predominately Muslim country. Those attractions served as locations for Gospel conversations and evangelistic opportunities.
“When people give, it reminds you you’re not alone,” she said.
Last year “Lottie” made her way to as many as 15 lawns. There was also a Lottie’s Lit Nite Out where parents could donate to the offering in exchange for childcare and a date night. This year, Lottie’s Lit Nite will be replaced Dec. 12 by an event designed to care for church planters. “It will be kind of like a Christmas party,” Beith said. “Milly, myself and others will help watch their kids as well as some more from the neighborhood.”
In case you’re wondering, no, Lottie has not been harmed or accidently defaced by a nervous gunowner or pet allowed out of the house for “business.” However, one woman called Beith about her dog barking at “a scary nun lady” on her front porch and a group of Auburn fans weren’t thrilled when Lottie appeared in their yard wearing a Crimson Tide shirt. The lawn arrangers were Bama fans who had her previously.
George Ross, Lakeshore’s lead teaching pastor, also serves as the New Orleans Send missionary and Send Relief Ministry Center director with the North American Mission Board.
“Lottie on the Lawn has been great for promotion, education, and raising funds for international missions,” he said. “Our people love it. It’s quickly become something everyone has latched onto and love participating in.”
Five years ago, Pontchartrain Baptist Church became Lakeshore Church as a replant effort and has around 90-100 attending on Sunday mornings now. Beith said the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is a good reminder that size bears little relativity to impact.
“It’s encouraging for me to know that even if a church isn’t big, if they’re passionate about missions, they can give,” she said. “It’s another reason I love Lakeshore so much. We believe people need to hear the Gospel to be saved.
“Lottie did something counter-cultural. The Gospel calls us to do things that aren’t expected and go against the flow.”