SBC Life Articles

Lottie Moon: 100 Years Later




One hundred years after her death, the sacrifice of early missionary Lottie Moon still inspires Southern Baptists to give millions to the international missions offering named in her honor.

Lottie Moon was a four-foot, three-inch spiritual giant who pushed the absolute limits of service in China.

In October 1873, at age thirty-three, she arrived in China as a career missionary. With the exception of occasional visits home to America, she remained in China for the rest of her life, serving until she had given her all—spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Almost forty years later, having nothing left to give, she died en route to the United States.


Moon’s life of sacrifice for the sake of God’s Kingdom and the salvation of the Chinese people speaks loudly to Chinese Christians today.

A reenactment of her life during a mission convention at Grace Baptist Church, Taiwan’s largest Baptist church, earlier this year, moved those on stage and in the congregation deeply.

Stephen Lee, senior pastor, and a graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, learned about Lottie Moon during his years in the United States.

“Since then, as I have traveled to remote areas in China, I have become even more aware of the price that she paid,” he said. “I am also aware that there are many others whose names we will never know who have given their all so that Chinese people can know Christ.”


On Moon’s initial journey to China, one of the vessels carrying her narrowly escaped shipwreck. Life didn’t become easier as she settled into Penglai (then known as Tengchow) in Shandong province and began to learn the challenging Chinese language.

Traveling from village to village as an evangelist to Chinese women, Moon told stories about Jesus and taught songs about His love to crowds of curious onlookers that inevitably gathered.

These trips into villages were more grueling and exhausting than a twenty-first century Christian might imagine. But gradually this highly educated woman, born into a wealthy family, became accustomed to a life of hardship.


In 1885, twelve years after arriving in China, Moon made her first exploratory trip to Pingdu, Shandong province. Never had a Southern Baptist missionary woman opened a new mission outpost.

She boarded a shentze—a basket mounted on poles and suspended between mules—for a journey of 120 miles that lasted four long days and three miserable nights. She was totally cut off from foreign comforts, contacts, influence, and consular protection.

Within months, she had made 122 visits to thirty-three different villages!

Throughout her career, Moon refused to give in to exhaustion and the need for comfort. Passionate about sharing Jesus with the lost, Lottie Moon had a part in starting numerous churches and schools, training and sending out dozens of Chinese evangelists, and seeing hundreds of Chinese accept Jesus Christ.

Yet in the midst of an incredible ministry, she struggled greatly with a personal challenge common to many missionaries, one day writing, “I pray that no missionary will ever be as lonely as I have been.”


Relentless in writing letters to Southern Baptists in the US detailing Chinese culture, missionary life, and the great physical and spiritual needs of the Chinese people, Moon also challenged them to serve as missionaries or give so that others could serve.

Largely in response to her letters, Southern Baptist women organized in 1888 to collect $3,315—enough to fund three new female workers for China. That offering was the forerunner of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, so named in 1918, that now provides more than half the support for almost 4,900 Southern Baptist missionaries worldwide.


Many other early missionaries shared with Moon in the growth of the church in China. Partners Across the Pacific by Winston Crawley listed almost three hundred Southern Baptist missionaries who served at least fifteen years in China between 1845 and 1951.

At the time of the Communist takeover of China in 1949, there were about one million Christians in the nation. More than 10 percent of the believers (123,000) were members of 392 Baptist churches. As missionaries were expelled, many of the 220 Southern Baptist missionaries in China moved to other fields, beginning new work in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and other locations.


When doors to China began to reopen in 1980, there were approximately six million believers, a six-fold increase from 1949. Without buildings, without adequate numbers of Bibles, without missionaries, and even without pastors, the church in China not only survived, but by God’s grace, flourished.

Since then, the church in China has grown to as many as 100 million Christians. Many Chinese Christians are committed to evangelize their own cities and take the Gospel to other cities, unreached people groups, and even to other closed countries.


Hundreds of evangelical churches in other parts of Asia were started by Chinese Christians and missionaries forced out of China more than sixty years ago. Now their members head back to train believers and join in evangelizing those who still don’t know the Savior’s love.

They carry on work begun by evangelists from among their own people, such as Pastor Li Show-ting of Pingdu. In the early 1900s, he was baptizing 250 new believers every year into the seven churches he pastored.


In the fall of 1911, a meeting in Moon’s northern China home to organize the Woman’s Missionary Union of North China was overshadowed by tragic news that Christians were suffering famine and starvation.

Moon did all that she could to alleviate their suffering. Her missionary colleagues discovered she had stopped eating, partly out of concern for her beloved Chinese. But in her later years, with waning physical stamina and mental energy, she also faced overwhelming fears that the mission board she loved and served was going broke and that the God she loved and served had forsaken her.

In an attempt to save her life, she was ushered to a US-bound ship. The ship was leaving the harbor of Kobe, Japan, on Christmas Eve 1912 when the captain received word of Moon’s death. From an earthly perspective, his entry in the ship’s log captured the moment: “Tuesday, December 24, 1912, Harbor of Kobe, Japan. Miss Lottie Moon, age 72, died of melancholia and senility.” But, from an eternal perspective, Moon—journeying from the land that had claimed her heart to the land of her birth—arrived instead at her eternal home.


    About the Author

  • Wendy Lee