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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)--You may find this hard to believe, but within present-day Baptist circles I still hear the question, "Who was Lottie Moon and why do we give money in her name?"
For those of us who grew up in a Baptist church and experienced the special focus on international missions each December, Lottie Moon is a well-loved friend. We know her story of sacrifice and commitment to share Christ with the Chinese people at a time when single women were not readily accepted in the world of career missions.
We know her as a champion for missions giving and missionary sending, regardless of how tough things were at home economically and within Baptist life. We recognize her important role in the formation of Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) in 1888 after her inspiring letters were read within the women's circles of Baptist churches. She challenged the women to stir up the missionary spirit and embrace the Great Commission.
How could a woman of such small stature, reportedly 4 feet 3 inches tall, make such a remarkable impact on the world for Christ?
First, she experienced the changing power of faith in Christ. She accepted Christ at age 18 while in college and began to earnestly seek His direction for her life.
Second, she prepared herself for whatever God might lead her to do. She was reportedly one of the first women in the South to receive a master's degree, excelling in numerous languages. She worked as a teacher and an administrator honing the skills she would one day use to open doors in China.
Third, she understood the meaning of sacrifice. Born into a wealthy family in Virginia, Lottie lost her father at the age of 12. Most of the family's wealth was gone following the Civil War. She saw God's strength at work in her mother and sisters as they endured the hardships of war while helping nurse wounded soldiers, including her brother, back to health.
When God called her to missions, Lottie was prepared to go.
The Foreign (now International) Mission Board appointed her in 1873 to Tengchow where her sister Edmonia already was serving. She became a teacher of girls in various schools, fought against the culture of binding their feet, defended those being persecuted for their faith and risked her own health during a famine that took the lives of many Chinese. The famine eventually took her life as well.
She died on board a ship bound for home on Christmas Eve 1912 in Kobe, Japan. She served 39 years sharing the story of God's greatest gift of love, His Son, Jesus. Countless women, girls and yes, even men who were not supposed to be listening, came to faith through the life of this one woman.
As we enter this season of prayer and giving on behalf of international missions, let's remember the other "Lottie Moons" serving around the world today. They, too, experience hardship, risk and persecution, but like Lottie, they are committed to following God's call. We serve with them when we pray, give and go so all the world may know our Savior, Jesus.
Wanda S. Lee is executive director-treasurer of national Woman's Missionary Union. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the Gospel overseas. This year's offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.