Lottie Moon was a brave young woman who left home in 1873 to go share the Gospel with the people of China. But the need was so great and her resources so small, she knew she’d never get the job done alone. She began writing letters to every Baptist agency and church she could think of, begging them to raise support for more missionaries to share the Gospel.
At first there was little response. The resources just weren’t available, she was told. It was the late 1800’s after all. The American Civil War had just ended and most of her support came from the South which had been so recently devastated by the conflict. The money just wasn’t there.
Never one to give up and tired of fighting the men who led the missions agencies, Lottie turned her attention to the women of the churches, asking them to pray and do what they could to raise the funds. “Could they find a way to send at least one more missionary by next year?” she challenged.
The Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) responded to the challenge, raising just over $3000 by the end of 1888 – enough to send not just one, but three missionaries to join her in China. Lottie was encouraged! But she also was not done! She picked up her pen again to issue a further set of challenges. “Why not make every Christmas season a time for sacrificial giving for the cause of the Christ? Why not pray and take an offering every year for the spread of Christ’s Gospel to the whole world?”
That was 1889. And yet, Lottie’s story does not end there. She continued her missionary service for another 24 years, until 1912. War was raging in China by then, and with it came the usual hardship of disease, destruction, and famine. Lottie wrote home, urgently begging churches to send more help. People were starving in the streets all around her.
The response came….but it was too little and the need was so great. During the fall and winter of that year, the other missionaries began to notice that “Miss Lottie’s” health was failing. She seemed to be growing thinner and weaker every day. When her health finally broke, they found out why: Lottie had been giving what little money and food she had to feed the starving people around her. She literally had been starving herself to death to minister to them.
When it became clear that she was too weak to keep going, her missionary friends found a nurse for her and made hasty arrangements to send her back to the United States by boat where it was hoped she would recover. But in God’s providence, it was not to be. On Christmas Eve, 1912 Lottie, who’d slipped into a coma, awoke on board a ship anchored in Kobe Harbor, Japan. She began to whisper the words to the song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong!” And with those words on her lips, she passed out of this life into eternity with Jesus.
Six years later, in 1918, the Christmas Offering she’d inspired was re-named in her honor: The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Since that time, Southern Baptists have understood that Christmas and Missions go hand in hand. Lottie’s offering has come to symbolizes that conviction, providing support for over 5000 full and part time missionaries all over the world.
So what do Christmas and missions have to do with one another? In a word, Everything! If you think about it, the Story of Christmas is itself a missionary story. Long before Lottie went to China, another was sent from heaven to give His life so that we might be saved. His name was Jesus!
It is that Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – that drove Lottie. It is that same Spirit that drives us to go, to give and to pray that His Name might be known to all nations! This year’s Rockport Christmas Missions Offering can be designated for The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (for the IMB), HeartCry Missionary Society, or Psalm 67 Missions Network. Will you prayerfully consider how you and your family might give generously this year that those who’ve never heard may hear and know Christ as Savior and Lord?
Praying to see His Name declared to all nations!