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LETTER FROM CHINA, Lottie Moon: ‘Opportunities’ for mission work ‘boundless’

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each day during Baptist Press’ coverage of the Beijing Olympics, we are publishing a letter from a Southern Baptist missionary who served in China during the years before the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. Some of the letters reveal these missionaries’ great love for the people of China; others provide glimpses into what life was like for an American living abroad in the 19th century. We hope the collection helps Southern Baptists capture the passion of these great souls and understand the sacrifices they made so the good news of God’s love could be taken to what was, for them, the ends of the earth. The letter below was written by the venerable missionary Charlotte “Lottie” Moon, who served in China from 1873 to 1912.

SHANGHAI, China–As I have before stated, the opportunities for woman’s work are simply boundless. I may speak more particularly of the Pingtu region because I know it better than any other.

It would be easy, in Pingtu city alone, to locate 10 women, were so many there ready for work. We should have two in the west suburb, where I live, and where the people are very friendly; these could take as their field the west and southwest suburbs with the numerous villages west of the city. The large south suburb presents another good opening, with villages outside stretching miles away to the south. The large eastern suburb has hardly been touched for woman’s work since our beloved missionary, Mrs. Pruitt, was called up higher. Here, two women could find a grand field, with villages in boundless profusion. In the north suburb, which is small, two more women could find attractive work, including villages to the north. Two other women might settle in the city proper, or outside, if they preferred, and hold themselves ready for weeks or months in the more distant villages. This village work, however, is as hard and so trying, that it should be divided, and not put exclusively upon any.

Ten women, devoting themselves wisely to purely evangelistic work, would leaven that whole region with Christian teaching. Then, the regions beyond! As I have seen multitudes of women coming up to the city, walking 20 or 30 weary miles to worship their false gods, how I longed for time and strength to take the Gospel to them in their homes!

As I think of cities without one missionary, how I long to see Pingtu supplied with workers and to be set free to push on to some new field, where doubtless the Lord has a people waiting to be taught! I have strong hopes that in our day we may see a large ingathering of souls if only we had the workers.

What say our people? What will Southern Baptists do for Shantung? We are asking for 30 new workers, a very moderate request indeed, considering the destitution and the wide open doors. Shall not there be self-denial and plainer living, if necessary, that means may be forthcoming to send out more workers?

Baptist missionaries in Shantung have worked and are working under enormous disadvantages. While other missionaries are constantly reinforced and press on to open new stations, we have never yet had on the field at one time more than a sufficient force to man properly one single station. Yet we are trying to hold Tungchow, Whonghien and Pingtu city. The Presbyterians have eight missionaries in Tungchow alone, not to speak of Chefoo, Weihien, and Chenanfu, all of which have a full complement of workers. The English Baptists have about 20 missionaries at Chingchowfu, besides several at Chenanfu. They are planning to open a new station this fall.

People talk about the want of success in China missions. Speaking for Shantung, I may say that we have not been provided with the conditions indispensable to success. Put half a dozen persons down with orders to move millions of tons; we see the physical impossibility. Set as many people to work in a province of 30 million inhabitants, and the prospects of success are not more hopeful. Is it not time for a radical change? Should we not have a force in some measure commensurate with the work to be done?

A word as to the kind of workers needed. They should be men and women of absolute self-consecration, ready to come down and live among the natives, to wear the Chinese dress and live in Chinese houses, to put up cheerfully with all sorts of hardships and inconveniences, rejoicing to follow in the footsteps of Him who, “though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be made rich.”

We do not ask people to come out to live in costly foreign houses, with comforts and luxuries around them, and a pleasant foreign community, in which they may live entirely apart from the natives, barely touching the heathen world with the tips of their fingers; but we ask them to come prepared to cast in their lot with the natives, making themselves part and parcel of the native society around them.

Shall those sent out to fight the Lord’s battles shrink back from physical hardships, as they would not do in their country’s cause? Has not the time come for a more ardent spirit of self-denial on the part of those sent out to do the work, and for increased self-denial on the part of those who may not come, that the Lord’s work may not be hindered for lack of means to carry it on?


June 22, 1888

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  • Lottie Moon