Lottie Moon, who’s full name was Charlotte Digges Moon, was born on December 12, 1840. Her family was influential in her local church, where she went when she was young. But Lottie wanted nothing to do with religion or God as she saw the doctrinal differences between groups of Christians. None of it made sense to her and she stayed as far away from religion as she could.
When she was thirteen, her father died unexpectedly in an accident. After his death Lottie began to attend Virginia Freeman Seminary, which many found surprising. After all, Lottie was a southern belle; there was no need for her to go to school. But in his will, Lottie’s father made arrangements for his daughters to have as much schooling as they wanted and Lottie took advantage of it. Around this time the women’s rights movement was warming up and Lottie was all for it. She graduated in 1856 and enrolled in another school, Albemarle Female Institute, the next year.
At Albemarle she was known for making fun of Christianity and read Shakespeare while the other girls were at church. One night she decided to attend an evangelical meeting the church was holding. She intended to ridicule the sermon but instead she found it made sense. She became a Christian, was baptized soon afterwards, and started to run Bible studies and prayer meetings. She graduated in 1861 with a master of arts, the same year the Civil War began. She went to the hospital to help and ended up doing administrative work, which was fine with her. Eventually she moved to Danville, Kentucky and took a position at a girl’s academy.
In June 1870, Lottie’s mother passed away. After she died Lottie and her friend, Anna Safford moved to Cartersville, Georgia to teach in a new school for girls. The women also felt the call to go to China as missionaries, though they didn’t go together. On October 7, 1873 Lottie stepped onto Chinese soil. She was overwhelmed by the new culture, including the practice of foot binding and the fact she was a “foreign devil”. But she was eager to get to work. With her sister Edmonia and a missionary couple, Martha and Tarleton Crawford, she worked in Tengchow by visiting the Chinese women and sharing the gospel with them. Another missionary, Sallie Holmes, went with her. Lottie also set out on learning several dialects of Mandarin.
In time Edmonia, or Eddie, and Lottie decided to move out of the Crawford’s home into a house of their own. Eddie was suffering health wise. She contracted typhoid pneumonia and though she recovered, she battled influenza or asthma constantly. The other missionaries encouraged her to take a trip to Japan for the winter, thinking it would help. But while she was there her traveling companion, Eliza Yates, wrote to Lottie, asking her to take Eddie home to Virginia. Eddie’s health was simply too poor for her to continue working on the mission field. The sisters arrived home in late 1876 and found another sister, Mollie, had died six weeks before. Despite this, the Moon family spent Christmas together and Lottie returned to China almost a year later.
When she came back to Tengchow she found there was a famine. The Christians in the area were doing all they could to help the poor and hungry. Meanwhile Lottie began to implement her dream of starting a school for girls. This proved difficult, since many families didn’t see the point of girls getting an education. They were married at a young age and the wealthier ones stayed in their compounds all day. But Lottie persisted and soon her school had thirteen pupils. She also traveled around the countryside with Sallie sharing the gospel.
In 1885 Lottie set up a mission station in P’ingtu, a town far away from Tengchow. She made many friends there and people flocked to hear how their sins could be taken away. But not everyone was thrilled about the “Jesus way” as they called it and persecution sprung up. Once things had settled down and more missionaries came, Lottie went to America on furlough after thirteen years of work. When she came back to China the Boxer Rebellion exploded and many Christians were murdered. The American consul ordered the missionaries to leave and Lottie fled to Chefoo, then later to Fukuoka, Japan. By the time the Boxer Rebellion was crushed, over 32,000 Christians and 230 missionary men, women, and children had been killed.
In the last years of Lottie’s life she continued to set up schools for boys and girls, welcome new missionaries, and spread the gospel. In 1911 a revolution started and Lottie was in the war zone, helping Chinese Christians working at a hospital. The revolution ended in May, 1912, with the rebels winning. Famine and drought ravaged the country though and Lottie gave her food to hungry children without eating any herself. Nobody noticed that she was starving herself until she weighed fifty pounds. They packed her off to America but on the way there she died on Christmas Eve, 1912. In tribute to her, an annual collection was started in 1918 called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions. All the money collected is used to send missionaries into the field, a fitting tribute to the women who gave all for missions.