FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–As Southern Baptists find themselves in the midst of what is often termed the “Lottie Moon season” — the period around Christmas in which the denomination receives its annual offering for international missions — I can’t help but think about my wife, Jan, a career Southern Baptist missionary who’s celebrating her first Christmas in heaven this year.
This time a year ago, Jan was making what would be the final entry in her journal that had intricately chronicled her three-year “adventure” (as we called it) with melanoma cancer. In her journal, which she posted online for thousands of supporters and prayer warriors to read, Jan had regularly and transparently poured out her heart about what transpired in her cancer battle. She sought prayers for whatever specific needs were at the forefront — for her treatment, for her doctors, for the emotional needs of our five children who would be left motherless with her passing.
But in this last journal entry, as the clock ticked away for Jan on earth, what do you think was the first thing she wrote about? What do you think was foremost on her mind?
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, of course.
Jan wrote, “Our 5,000-plus missionaries depend on these funds each year for their salary, housing, vehicles, evangelistic projects, and medical needs (like us!!!) We are seeing amazing growth among people groups that were unreached in years past.”
She continued to beseech, “Just a few dollars can go a long way in providing basic support and resources for those who serve in difficult places.”
Within six weeks of this entry, Jan received her “promotion” into the presence of the Lord she served.
For the past 20 years, Jan and I have been blessed to be International Mission Board missionaries to the Philippines. In the prime of her life and ministry there, with five dependent children, Jan was diagnosed with melanoma in March 2004. A month later I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Both cancers had less than 30-percent survival rates. Some people asked whether we resented the fact that our cancers possibly could have stemmed from serving overseas because of environmental concerns there.
Speaking at her memorial service in February, I posed the question, “What do you think Jan would have said to God, if 21 years ago, God would have told Jan, ‘I want you to sign on to be my missionary to the Philippines. It will be hot and sweaty. You will have to move your family and belongings more than 15 times. You will experience malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, and amoebic dysentery. Then you will suffer for three years with terminal cancer.” What do you think Jan would have said?
“I know exactly what Jan would have said: ‘Lord, sign me up.’ Jan would have none of us think that somehow she was deprived of anything here on earth. Indeed, Jan experienced a joy that few people ever find. Now she has eternity to enjoy the rewards of her faith and service.”
By the way, “Lord, sign me up” continues to represent our family’s motto, even in Jan’s absence. With my cancer in remission, I hope to return, along with our two youngest children, to the Philippines early next year to continue the work that, by God’s grace, Jan and I began. Serving Jesus cross-culturally constitutes a joy that not even cancer can take away.
During this Lottie Moon season, I pray that Southern Baptists will take up the gauntlet that Jan left behind and, through their offerings, continue the support for missions that Jan so urgently sought. May “Lord, sign me up” be the attitude of every Southern Baptist in terms of praying, going, and giving in whatever way the Lord leads.
Mark Moses, a career International Mission Board missionary to the Philippines, is the author of “An Uncommon Faith: The story of missionary Jan Moses and her journey with cancer.” Available from Hannibal Books at www.hannibalbooks.com.