Lottie Moon, The Missionary
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Charlotte Digges "Lottie" Moon (December 12, 1840 – December 24, 1912) was a Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board who spent nearly forty years (1873–1912) living and working in China. As a teacher and evangelist she laid a foundation for traditionally solid support for missions among Baptists in America.
Moon was born to affluent parents who were staunch Baptists, Anna Maria Barclay and Edward Harris Moon. She grew up (to her full height of 4 feet 3 inches (1.30 m), according to one account) on the family’s ancestral 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) slave-labor tobacco plantation called Viewmont, in Albemarle County, Virginia. Lottie was fourth in a family of five girls and two boys. Lottie was only thirteen when her father died in a riverboat accident.
The Moon family valued education, and at age fourteen Lottie went to school at the Baptist-affiliated Virginia Female Seminary (high school, later Hollins Institute) and Albemarle Female Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1861 Moon received one of the first Master of Arts degrees awarded to a woman by a southern institution. She spoke numerous languages: Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish. She was also fluent in reading Hebrew. Later, she would become expert at Chinese.
A spirited and outspoken girl, Lottie was indifferent to her Christian upbringing until her early teens (1853). She underwent a spiritual awakening at the age of 18, after a series of revival meetings on the college campus. Leading the revival service wherein Moon experienced this awakening was John Broadus, one of the founders of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
There were very few opportunities for educated females in the mid-19th century, though her older sister Orianna became a physician and served as a Confederate Army doctor during the American Civil War. Lottie helped her mother maintain the family estate during the war, and afterward settled into a teaching career. She taught at female academies, first in Danville, Kentucky, then in Cartersville, Georgia, where she and her friend, Anna Safford, opened Cartersville Female High School in 1871. There she joined the First Baptist Church and ministered to the impoverished families of Bartow County, Georgia.
To the family’s surprise, Lottie’s younger sister Edmonia accepted a call to go to North China as a missionary in 1872. By this time the Southern Baptist Convention had relaxed its policy against sending single women into the mission field, and Lottie herself soon felt called to follow her sister to China. On July 7, 1873, the Foreign Mission Board officially appointed Lottie as a missionary to China. She was 33 years old.
Lottie joined her sister Edmonia at the North China Mission Station in the treaty port of Dengzhou, and began her ministry by teaching in a boys school. (Edmonia had to return home a short time later for health reasons.) While accompanying some of the seasoned missionary wives on “country visits” to outlying villages, Lottie discovered her passion: direct evangelism. Most mission work at that time was done by married men, but the wives of China missionaries Tarleton Perry Crawford and Landrum Holmes had discovered an important reality: Only women could reach Chinese women. Lottie soon became frustrated, convinced that her talent was being wasted and could be better put to use in evangelism and church planting. She had come to China to "go out among the millions" as an evangelist, only to find herself relegated to teaching a school of forty "unstudious" children. She felt chained down, and came to view herself as part of an oppressed class – single women missionaries.
Raised in a family “of culture and means,” Lottie at first thought of the Chinese as an inferior people, and insisted on wearing American clothes to maintain a degree of distance from the “heathen” people. But gradually she came to realize that the more she shed her westernized trappings and identified with the Chinese people, the more their simple curiosity about foreigners (and sometimes rejection) turned into genuine interest in the Gospel. She began wearing Chinese clothes, adopted Chinese customs, learned to be sensitive to Chinese culture, and came to respect and admire Chinese culture and learning. In turn she gained love and respect from many Chinese people.
n 1885, at the age of 45, Moon gave up teaching and moved into the interior to evangelize full-time in the areas of P’ingtu and Hwangshien. Her converts numbered in the hundreds. Continuing a prolific writing campaign, Moon’s letters and articles poignantly described the life of a missionary and pleaded the "desperate need" for more missionaries, which the poorly funded board could not provide. She encouraged Southern Baptist women to organize mission societies in the local churches to help support additional missionary candidates, and to consider coming themselves. Many of her letters appeared as articles in denominational publications. Then, in 1887, Moon wrote to the Foreign Mission Journal and proposed that the week before Christmas be established as a time of giving to foreign missions. Catching her vision, Southern Baptist women organized local Women’s Missionary Societies and even Sunbeam Bands for children to promote missions and collect funds to support missions. The Woman’s Missionary Union, an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, was also established. The first "Christmas offering for missions" in 1888 collected over ,315, enough to send three new missionaries to China.
In 1892, Moon took a much needed furlough in the US, and did so again in 1902. She was very concerned that her fellow missionaries were burning out from lack of rest and renewal and going to early graves. The mindset back home was "go to the mission field, die on the mission field." Many never expected to see their friends and families again. Moon argued that regular furloughs every ten years would extend the lives and effectiveness of seasoned missionaries.
Throughout her missionary career, Moon faced plague, famine, revolution, and war. The First Sino-Japanese War (1894), the Boxer Rebellion (1900) and the Chinese Nationalist uprising (which overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911) all profoundly affected mission work. Famine and disease took their toll, as well. When Moon returned from her second furlough in 1904, she was deeply struck by the suffering of the people who were literally starving to death all around her. She pleaded for more money and more resources, but the mission board was heavily in debt and could send nothing. Mission salaries were voluntarily cut. Unknown to her fellow missionaries, Moon shared her personal finances and food with anyone in need around her, severely affecting both her physical and mental health. In 1912, she only weighed 50 pounds. Alarmed, fellow missionaries arranged for her to be sent back home to the United States with a missionary companion. However, Moon died on route, at the age of 72, on December 24, 1912, in the harbor of Kobe, Japan Her body was cremated and the remains returned to her family in Crewe, Virginia, for burial.
Several have suggested that Moon had a romantic relationship with Crawford Howell Toy, a former teacher who became a controversial figure among Southern Baptists in the late 19th century. Moon first met Toy at the Albemarle Female Institute, founded by Southern Seminary founder John Broadus. Lottie was a capable student in languages, becoming one of the first women in the south to earn a master’s degree in the field. Lottie—who previously learned Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish—would learn Hebrew and English grammar under Toy’s tutelage. Toy wrote of Moon, "She writes the best English I have ever been privileged to read." While it is rumored that Toy proposed to Moon before the Civil War, there is no concrete evidence of such an event. Instead, Toy became a staunch supporter of the Confederacy while Moon aided her mother on their Virginia estate.
Following his tenure at Albemarle, Toy was a professor of Old Testament studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Toy, however, was dismissed from Southern in 1879 following a series of controversial lectures and publications concerning his doctrine of Scripture, notably influenced by the European higher critics of his milieu. In Moon’s 1881 correspondence with FMB secretary H. A. Tupper, she expressed her plans for a spring wedding with Toy, who was now teaching Old Testament and religion at Harvard University. Toy and Moon’s relationship was broken before their marriage plans were realized—citing religious reasons for calling off the wedding. Toy’s controversial new beliefs regarding the Bible and Moon’s commitment to remain in China doing mission work for Southern Baptists seem to be these reasons. While Moon went on to become the "patron saint" of Southern Baptist Missions, Toy ultimately broke his affiliation with Southern Baptists and became a Unitarian.