Each year at Christmas, Southern Baptists turn their attention to the nations and raise funds for the missionaries sent out by the International Mission Board. The giving campaign is named after Lottie Moon, an inspirational missionary to China in the nineteenth century. Many know the story of Lottie Moon, but many do not. So for the next few days, I am going to recount a number of the key turning points in her exemplary life. A life worth consideration and imitation (Hebrews 13:7).
Lottie Moon was born on December 12, 1840 to Edward Harris and Anna Maria Barclay. Raised in a large, wealthy family, Lottie Moon grew up as a child of the old South. Her uncle had purchased the estate of Thomas Jefferson, and she grew up in a home built by a friend of George Washington. As one biographer reports, “The Moons had money, children (11 born, 7 survived to adulthood), servants (52 in all), and kept a tutor in the home for languages and classical literature” (Tom Nettles, The Baptists, 2:363).
But there is one significant difference: Lottie Moon was not the least bit interested in religion as a child. Despite all her earthly advantages, including a religious father, she was a devilish little girl. And when I say little… she only grew to be 4’ 3”.
To give you a sense of the Christianity she rejected: Her father was originally a Presbyterian, but he became a Baptist when he studied the Scriptures to fight the growing Campbellite movement—this is the religious movement that resulted in the Christian Church, as we know it today. In other words, to resist the teaching of baptismal regeneration, he searched the Scriptures in order to retain his views on infant baptism, and the result was a conversion to the Baptist faith. Sounds a lot like Adoniram Judson.
With his change of theology on baptism, Edward Moon became a founding member of the Scottsville Baptist Church. He was a faithful member and a lifelong deacon. This would be the church where Lottie Moon would grow up.
Further aversion to her parent’s Christianity can be seen in Lottie’s Sunday habits. In the Moon household, in order to preserve the Sabbath, the Moon’s would prepare all their meals on Saturday. However, this never suited Lottie. Instead of attending church, she would sneak off, return to their large home and prepare a meal for herself before the family returned. She was by her own admission a ‘naughty’ girl. And as she aged this did not change. It only worsened.
So for the first 18 years of Lottie’s life, she was an object of wrath and one who violently opposed the faith of her father.
In 1853, at the age of 13, her father died on a business trip. But instead of jarring her into faith, she kept aloof. One year later, at age 14, Lottie was enrolled in the Virginia Female Institute (Albemarle, VA). She proved to be a good student, especially in literature and foreign languages. But she skipped chapel 26 times in the last two quarters. While Lottie possessed a love for learning, she despised all sorts of religious instruction.
In an essay written on Grecian Literature, she wrote, “man’s intellectual powers have ever been the theme and study of the wise” (Nettles 364). For the unconverted Lottie, wisdom was not found in Christ but in literature and classical studies. Tom Nettles writes about her,
For Lottie, “Sunday, unlike home, was not for sitting in a church pew hearing a sermon but for lying in a haystack reading Shakespeare. Her friends, not unprovoked by Lottie’s attitudes, considered her a skeptic. She even insisted that the ‘D’ in her name stood for ‘devil’ instead the family name ‘Digges’ (365).
In fact, Lottie would even sign off on her poetry with the pseudonym, “Deville.” A play on words for the word ‘devil.’ All in all, no one would have suspected that Lottie Moon would be missionary hero that she is today.
Lottie’s life reinforces the truths outlined in the story of the Rich Young Ruler (Matt 19).
- Discipleship is not based on what we bring to Christ, it is what he gives to us.
- Discipleship is not based on our intellect or understanding. It is based on our faith in Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6), and without a daily life of faith it is impossible to be the disciple that God calls us to be.
- In truth, God is not looking for attractive people. He is looking for people who are simply Faithful, Available, and Teachable. God gladly uses anyone who is sold out for him.
In the case of Lottie Moon, it would take a miracle of God to change her heart of stone, into a heart of flesh, and thankfully that is exactly what happened at the end of 1858.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss