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LETTER FROM CHINA, ‘Now is the time of opportunity’ missionary Lottie Moon said

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 article below is the last one written by the venerable missionary Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Moon before her death on Dec. 24, 1912, in the harbor of Kobe, Japan.

TENGCHOW, China–The attitude of the Chinese toward foreigners in 1873 was that of utter hatred and contempt. It was nothing uncommon for soldiers to cry out “Kill!” It was currently reported every year as the eighth moon approached, that the foreigners were all to be killed.

Their usual term for them was “foreign devils.” If one were approaching a village, the boys would rush in advance to announce that the foreign devil was coming. Once a pleasant-looking girl said to the writer, “You are a foreign devil, aren’t you?” She had no idea of giving offense. She simply had never heard any other term applied to foreigners. On another occasion, a nice-looking man said, “Can your devil ladyship cure diseases?” He was wanting help for some ailment and thought he was making the inquiry in the most polite manner.

Tales were broadcast as to the purpose that had brought the hated foreigner to China. It was asserted that we were here to pluck out the eyes and hearts of the people in order to make medicine. The falsehood was long in dying. Less than 10 years ago the charge was brought against a missionary who was giving shelter to a poor woman that she had plucked out her heart and eyes. The woman was sick and had not appeared in her usual haunts, and it was confidently asserted that she had been killed for the sake of her eyes and heart.

To pass along the street and know that even the little children hated you was indeed trying. Sometimes in a village the women and girls would gather around the missionary’s sedan chair and all at once shrink away and go to their homes. Some men of influence had appeared and ordered them away. Missionary work in Tengchow was like knocking your head against a stone wall. The wall was not affected in the slightest degree, but woe to your head!

The Chinese would gladly have repeated everywhere the Tientsin Massacre. Finally, the pent-up hatred burst forth in the Boxer outbreak, the purpose of which was to kill every foreigner in China. By that time, however, some Chinese were growing more enlightened. Yuan Shi Kai, as governor of Shantung, protected foreigners during the Boxer times. On the other hand, the man who preceded him as governor, having been transferred to another province, relentlessly murdered all missionaries within his reach. In one day 30 Protestants, including children, and 20 Catholic priests, perished at the hand of this inhuman monster. Yet, from a Chinese standpoint, he was regarded as a highly cultured man.

It is a relief to turn from the contemplation of those awful scenes to the present. The men who brought about the revolution are Christians. One was president for a while and the other is still vice president. Many officials in various parts of China are earnest Christians. Religious freedom is now granted to all. A missionary is tutor of Yuan’s sons and nephews. Young Men’s Christian Associations are wielding a powerful influence in Shanghai and Tientsin. Young men coming from the remote interior belonging to non-Christian families, promptly join these associations as associate members for the sake of the social and educational advantages. Chinese young men studying in Japan are most accessible to the missionary, and not a few have been converted. When they return to their homes, we may hope that their influence may be on the side of Christianity.

Many Chinese now in high positions were educated abroad. They speak and write English well, and those who are not Christians are still friendly to the West. Especially do the Chinese, in general, look to the United States for help and guidance. Foreigners have been invited to occupy the important positions of government. A Frenchman is to be the counselor in naval matters for three years. The well-known Peking correspondent of the London Times is to be the political adviser of the government. An American was invited to be financial adviser, but declined.

At the outbreak of the revolution the leaders promptly ordered the protection of foreigners of all nations, and also that churches should be protected. The Imperialists followed suit. As a consequence, no foreign life has been lost except at the hands of lawless bands of robbers. For this, neither Revolutionist nor Imperialist could be held to account, as neither could control such men. As far as possible, such have been put down, though they still flourish in some parts of China.

It is often said that now is the time of opportunity. Some time ago, Mr. Turner was out selling copies of the Gospel in the villages west of Tengchow. A man came to buy, saying he must have a book, as all were going to follow the West in that respect. In a town where I have worked many years, I was told that all had abandoned idolatry except 10 families. It was not said that they had accepted Christianity. Here lies the danger. They throw off the old restraints and superstitions and do not always accept anything better. In the largest town in our country, a sect has sprung up who call themselves “The No God Sect.” They are atheist.

L. Moon

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  • Lottie Moon