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SBC Life Articles

Lottie’s Urgency


"How many million more souls are to pass into eternity without having heard the name of Jesus?"

That question, ubiquitous in the letters of Lottie Moon, seared her heart as she planted her life in China a century ago. As a young Southern Baptist missionary, it compelled her to flee the safety of the Baptist missionary compound in order to live among those "heathen" to whom she felt called. In middle age, it gave her the strength to place her four-foot-three-inch body in the path of an anti-Christian mob intent on harming believers and saying, "You will have to kill me first." As an older woman, it compelled her to give away her food so others might live and have one more opportunity to find Jesus.

How many souls? What did she think? One million? Five million? Fifty million?

One hundred years later, we have an answer: 1.7 billion people — indeed, more people than populated the earth when Lottie lived — have never heard the gospel, according to missions researchers.

During the past five generations, Southern Baptists have been motivated by Lottie Moon to plant their lives in missions by going or supporting others who are carrying the gospel light into the darkness. Today, we support what seems a respectable 5,000 missionaries on the field. Today, our goal for the annual missions offering named for Lottie Moon is a substantial $125 million.

What would Lottie think? Would she be impressed that 16 million Southern Baptists were supporting nearly 5,000 missionaries? Would she think $125 million was a worthy goal? Or would she, citing the 1.7 billion who live precariously in The Last Frontier, challenge us once again: "How many million more souls are to pass into eternity without having heard the name of Jesus?"

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  • SBC Staff