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(12th December 1840 – 24th December 1912)

o Ministry in China (1873 – 1912)

• Broken relationship

In 1877, when Lottie returned with her sister to the States, she rekindled a relationship with Crawford Howell Toy, her former English teacher from the Albermarle Female Institute. A mission-minded young man and a brilliant linguist, Toy proposed that they marry and work as missionaries in Japan. However, when he was in Germany for doctoral studies, he was deeply influenced by modernist views – one of which was the Darwinian theory of evolution.


“Under the influence of his teachers in Germany, Toy had developed a system of thought that denied the historicity of Genesis 1-11 and other portion of Scriptures that related to science, history or geography. In this way, Toy denied Scripture’s full inspiration and with it, he denied its truthfulness and ability to speak about matters of life”.

Because of his divergent views, Toy “became a controversial figure among Southern Baptists in the late 19th century” ( Though aware of his erroneous views, Lottie remained hopeful that she could still marry Toy. Finally, in 1881, after much study, she found his views unbiblical and ended their relationship.

“He later became a professor at Harvard University, while she, in her own words, was left to ‘plod along in the same old way’. Years later, when reflecting on the broken relationship, she said, ‘God had first claim on my life, and since the two conflicted, there could be no question about the result’” (

“For her, this decision to abandon the love of her life set a course for Lottie to abandon herself to the bride of Christ in China. This is how disciples are made. What we affirm on paper means nothing until we are put into the trials of life – personal allegiance are often some of the most difficult trials”.

• Outreach to women

After some time, Lottie became frustrated with merely “teaching a school of forty unstudious children”. Viewing herself “as part of an oppressed class – single women missionaries”, she wrote to her supervisor about her desire to minister to the Chinese women: “Under no circumstances do I wish to continue in school work, but I long to go and talk to the thousands of women around me”. This meant leaving her teaching job and devoting herself solely to evangelistic work among the women.

“Lottie waged a slow but relentless campaign to give women missionaries the freedom to minister and have an equal voice in mission proceedings. A prolific writer, she corresponded frequently with H. A. Tupper, head of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, informing him of the realities of mission work and the desperate need for more workers – both women and men” (

Embarking on what she called “country work”, Lottie moved into the interior to evangelise women. She travelled thousands of miles to reach out to women in their homes and on the streets with the Gospel.

But life in the interior was hard, especially for one who had lived an easy life back home. Amongst other things, Lottie had to endure loneliness, fatigue, diseases, verbal abuse, long hours of travelling and teaching, the constant scrutiny of the curious villagers, filthy inns and repulsive food.

Despite the hardships of life in the interior, Lottie found strength in the Lord’s presence with her. In a letter to the Secretary of the Mission Board, she wrote: “As you wend your way from village to village, you feel it is no idle fancy that the Master walks beside you and you hear his voice saying gently, ‘Lo! I am with you always even unto the end’” (

In another letter home, she shared her daily experiences – “speaking in the open air in a foreign tongue from six to eleven times a day, the fatigue of travelling, the discomfort of sleeping on brick beds in rooms with dirt floors and soot walls blackened by the smoke of generations. And she suggested that anyone who thought the day of missionary hardships was over should come out and try it” (
(… to be concluded)

- Pastor