(12th December 1840 – 24th December 1912)
During the American Civil War, Lottie helped her mother maintain the family estate while her sister Orianna served as a doctor in the Confederate Army. Lottie also worked as a tutor for a family in Georgia – an engagement which led her into a lifetime teaching career.
o Teaching Career
In 1866, Lottie taught in the female academy which was run by the First Baptist church of Danville, Kentucky. Four years later, she moved to Cartersville, Georgia where she set up Cartersville Female High School with a friend, Anna Safford. But within a year, when her mother fell seriously ill, Lottie returned home to Virginia to care for her.
The remaining days with her mother were well-spent – talking about the things of God. These meaningful conversations had a deep impact on Lottie – she desired to use her life to promote the Gospel. Thus motivated, she used her teacher’s income to support two missionaries. At the same time, she was inquiring into mission work in China. However, for a time, Lottie seemed content to continue her teaching career at home. Those who knew her encouraged her to serve at home rather than waste her life in the foreign mission field.
o Call to China
God’s call to Lottie to serve in China came indirectly through her sister Edmonia who had accepted a call to North China as a missionary in 1872. “It took the strong pleading of her sister who had previously sailed to China and the prayers of the Chinese missionaries to dislodge her from her successful field of labours. Yet through it all, it was the Lord who was calling, and Lottie as a genuine disciple, simply followed His command” (Lottie Moon: A Brief Biography by David Schrock).
Around this time, she heard a sermon by Rev Headden, a Baptist pastor calling for missionaries to foreign lands. “When he was done, Lottie slipped out of her front-row pew and hurried home. She did not eat lunch or dinner that day and instead spent the time praying about her future. When she finally emerged from her room, Lottie was sure of one thing: God had called her to be a missionary in China” (Lottie Moon: Giving her all for China by Janet and Geoff Benge).
By this time, the Southern Baptist Convention had relaxed its policy against sending single women into the mission field. In July 1873, Lottie was appointed missionary to China – one of the first single women to be sent by the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board.
o Ministry in China (1873 – 1912)
When she first arrived in China, Lottie joined her sister Edmonia at the North China Mission Station in the treaty port of Tengchow, Shandong. Initially, she had many struggles, one of which was her prejudice against the Chinese people. Having been raised in a wealthy home, she felt superior to them.
• School for Chinese girls
One of Lottie’s ministries in China was to start a school for Chinese girls. A friend asked for the reason, adding that girls “don’t need to be educated to get married and have children”. But Lottie saw the need. She explained: “Education will help the girls. At the moment, everything is decided for them. They can’t even choose not to have their feet bound, but if they are educated, they may let their own daughters run and skip with unbound feet. Girls who are educated will educate their daughters and things will change” (www.Christianity.com). By the end of the first year, Lottie’s school had thirteen students. Because no one would pay for their girls’ education, Lottie bore all the expenses herself.
• Edmonia’s departure
Within a few years of her arrival in China, Lottie was left to labour alone. Edmonia, her sister and co-labourer, had to return home due to ill-health. Though Edmonia continued to support her sister in China by writing regularly, Lottie missed her sister deeply. Her subsequent letters reflected her lonely struggles in the ministry. Sadly, Edmonia’s condition worsened to the point where she took her own life in January 1909.
(… to be continued)