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FIRST-PERSON: Season of self-denial

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–A letter from Lottie Moon, missionary to China, was published in the Foreign Mission Journal in 1887 urging Southern Baptist women to take seriously their role in reaching the world for Christ. In today’s busy church life, we sometimes forget her call to prayer, sacrificial giving and self-denial. As we begin our celebration of Christmas, let’s remember the words of Lottie herself:

“In a former letter I called attention to the work of Southern Methodist women, endeavoring to use it as an incentive to stir up the women of our Southern Baptist churches to a greater zeal in the cause of missions. I have lately been reading the minutes of the ninth annual meeting of the Woman’s Board of Missions, M.E., South and find that in the year ending in June they raised over sixty-six thousand dollars.

“I am convinced that one of the chief reasons our Southern Baptist women do so little is the lack of organization. Why should we not learn from these noble Methodist women, and instead of the paltry offerings we make, do something that will prove that we are really earnest in claiming to be followers of him who, “though he was rich, for our sake became poor?” How do these Methodist women raise so much money? By prayer and self-denial. Note the resolution “unanimously approved” by the meeting above:

“‘Resolved, That this Board recommend to the Woman’s Missionary Society to observe the week preceding Christmas as a week of prayer and self-denial.’

Need it be said, why the week before Christmas is chosen? Is not ‘the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?’

I wonder how many of us really believe that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ A woman who accepts that statement of our Lord Jesus Christ as a fact, and not as ‘impractical idealism,’ will make giving a principle of her life.”

To live the call means we must seek God’s direction in all aspects of our lives, including stewardship. If we are serious about the mandate to “Go into all the world,” the giving of our resources will match the biblical teaching of our Lord.

The admonition from Lottie Moon to organize the women and rally their missionary spirits is just as critical today as it was in 1887. WMU did organize the following year, and Lottie’s prodding was the impetus for Southern Baptist women to establish the Week of Prayer and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

May the needs of the world and our love for our Savior this Christmas call forth a new generation of women committed once again to prayer, sacrificial giving and self-denial so all the world may know Him.
Wanda S. Lee is executive director-treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union in Birmingham, Ala.

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  • Wanda S. Lee