This Day in Missions History: Lottie Moon is Commissioned

On July 7, 1873, the Foreign Mission Board appointed Charlotte Digges Moon—better known as Lottie—as a missionary to China. Moon, who was reportedly one of the first women in the South to receive a master’s degree, would go on to serve faithfully until she died on Christmas Eve in 1912. Though Lottie stood only about 4’3″ tall, she was a spiritual giant whose life left ripple effects past her lifetime.*

Her service for the Kingdom was not an easy one, as she faithfully preached the gospel to those who had never heard of Jesus, helped with relief efforts during famines, and even started a girls’ boarding school. Danny Akin describes her solitary efforts in 10 Who Changed the World, “Lottie’s life was often a life of extended loneliness. Many times she would be the only Southern Baptist missionary in northern China. Her lone companion was her Lord.” Not only did her ministry affect those in China; she also played an important role in mobilizing others.

Moon was zealous to call Baptists to support the cause of missions. She wrote, “How many there are among our women, alas, who imagine that because ‘Jesus paid it all,’ they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ!” She yearned to see men and women financially supporting those laboring on the mission field, and she called her brothers and sisters to that task through her letters. After her death, the Southern Baptist Convention would eventually name their international missions Christmas offering in her memory.

But Lottie did not just call people to give their money. She called them to give everything. In Matthew 9:37–38, Jesus says to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Lottie felt the weight of this passage. She experienced it as she walked among the masses of China. This is what she wrote to the head of the mission board in 1878:

How inadequate our force! Here is a province of thirty million souls & Southern Baptists can only send one man & three women to tell them the story of redeeming love…We are now, a very, very few feeble workers, scattering the grain broadcast according as time and strength permit. God will give his harvest; doubt it not. But the laborers are so few. Where we have four, we should have not less than one hundred.

At the age of seventy-two, Lottie breathed her last breath as she lay on a ship in a Japanese harbor. Her shriveled body—weighing only about fifty pounds at the time of her death—was a testimony to the cost of her unceasing work on the mission field. She entered into her heavenly reward, but her memory has swept through the years, spurring new generations of Christians to answer the call to the nations.

Would you take a few minutes to praise the Lord for his work through Lottie Moon, as well as the thousands upon thousands of faithful men and women who have labored in obscurity?

Would you spend some time today praying for the Lord to raise up more laborers to take the gospel to the nations?

Would you pray for the Church to be marked by sacrificial generosity to support the task of missions?

If you have 24 minutes to spare, here’s David Platt giving a talk on Lottie Moon. You can check out the full transcript here.

*Most of the biographical material in this article comes from Danny Akin’s 10 Who Changed the World. It’s a great little resource if you’re looking for some summer reading.