We often referred to her affectionately as “Aunt Lottie.” None of us had ever met her, but we were indebted to her just the same.
“We” consisted of all the Southern Baptist Ecuador missionaries assembled together in Salinas, on the coast of Ecuador, for our annual meeting. We were there thanks to the offering named for Lottie Moon which is received in thousands of Southern Baptist churches every year during the Christmas season. We who were on the field even gave to the offering ourselves. One way was during a Lottie Moon auction made possible by a visiting volunteer team. Not only did this team provide Vacation Bible School classes and activities for missionary children while we had our meetings. They also brought in coveted items that were relatively inexpensive in the States but either exorbitantly-priced or unavailable in Ecuador. For our fundraiser, these items were auctioned off to the hungry/greedy missionaries. I remember a jar of peanut butter going for $25 and a gallon-size jar of dill pickles bringing in $100, for example.
We were some of the very blessed ones among missionaries. We didn’t have to spend 70% of our time raising and keeping support from individual churches. No, we could concentrate 100% on the task at hand while our basic needs were provided through this offering — housing, a vehicle, insurance, gas, language classes, telephone, doctors and pharmacy, supplies for ministry and a small stipend for groceries and clothes.
But, why, you may be wondering, is the offering named the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and why is it taken at Christmastime?
Charlotte Diggs Moon (nicknamed Lottie) was a tiny woman from Virginia — 4 feet, 3 inches tall. She lived in relative luxury during her early years and was one of the first women in the South to earn a master’s degree. Her uncle once owned Monticello, after Thomas Jefferson, of course. She didn’t become a dedicated follower of Christ until she was in college. Her sister Edmonia was one of the first two single female missionaries appointed by the Baptist missionary board in 1872. Lottie followed her to China a year later. Edmonia stayed sick a lot and returned to the States for good in 1876, but Lottie worked among the Chinese people for 39 years, concentrating her efforts on education for the girls and sharing the gospel with the women and girls in the Shantung province. During those years, she endured wars, famines and plagues. She had to close her school twice for Bubonic plague outbreaks, then opened it again when the disease was contained.
In her early years, she built relationships by baking cookies to give to the children. The children would eat the cookies and then take Lottie to meet their mothers. That gave Lottie a chance to share the gospel. She became known as “The Cookie Lady.” Here is one of the recipes thought to have been used by Lottie Moon.
Plain Tea Cake
(As made by Lottie Moon)
3 teacups of sugar
1 teacup of butter
1 teacup of sour milk
4 pints of flour
3 eggs, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon of soda
Flavor to taste. Roll thin.
Bake in a quick oven.
In the end, it was a famine that forced her to leave. She had starved over a period of time because she kept giving her food to the Chinese people. Some friends saw how bad her health was and put her on a ship headed to Japan and then to the States. She died in the Japanese harbor of Kobe on Christmas Eve in 1912 at the age of 72. The ship’s captain feared that if her body was embalmed it wouldn’t be allowed into the States, so she was cremated.
Lottie was my missionary heroine then, and she continues to be. Compared to her, my time on the field was much easier. The war in Iraq escalated in the first year we were there, but I didn’t starve, and there were certainly no famines or plagues in Ecuador while I was there. She wrote letters that took months to arrive and even more time lapsed before an answer came. I was able to use my computer to keep up with loved ones quickly. Somewhat similarly to Lottie, I worked primarily with women and children, but I certainly wouldn’t have been punished for speaking to men. And, most of all, I was not alone. Steve and I worked not only alongside each other but with a team of other dedicated missionaries.
I remain grateful for the example she set and will continue to support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering every December.
Matthew 28:19-20 “ Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”