For the Love of China


Posted by Jennifer Tufts

After college, I spent a year teaching English in Asia. An Asia with a Starbucks on most corners, heated floors in high-rise apartment buildings, grocery stores with an “American” shelf filled with cans of corn, boxes of pasta noodles, and tubs of ketchup, Pantene and peanut butter. This modern Asia is financially stable – a global competitor for education, innovation and commerce. Here, almost everyone under the age of 30 speaks conversational English, loves pop music and celebrates the foreigner. Hundreds of miles of wires connect this Asia to the entire world.

Lottie Moon – one of the first single women appointed by the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (FMB) to an international missionary post  – spent her life in a completely different Asia. An unstable China at war with neighbors was unable to care for the needs of its vast population. Thousands of people lived (and died) in poor, rural areas, far from hospitals, education and financial resources. An accomplished linguist, teacher and administrator by 32, Moon left the affluent American south where she had been raised and moved in among the poor and isolated of Shandong Province. Here, Moon adopted the local dialects, wore traditional clothes, and lived in a modest mud house while relentlessly pursuing opportunities to make disciples and bless her neighbors. She would spend the next 39 years (1873 – 1912) firmly planted in eastern and central China, battling war, famine, poverty, and outbreaks of cholera and plague. A prolific writer, she corresponded tirelessly with Southern Baptist leaders describing the realities of missionary life and begging for support – by providing furlough and funds to send more missionaries who could disciple the next generation in China.

On December 24, 1912 Moon, 72 died on her way to the United States for emergency medical treatment. That Christmas, the FMB launched a fundraising campaign that would make Moon’s long-suffering requests for expanded funding a reality. The offering, which funded three new missionaries to China that first year was named after Moon in 1918. Now, the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering funds half of the International Mission Board’s (IMB) efforts around the globe. More than $1.5 billion has been raised this last century, and more than 3,000 missionaries have given their lives to east Asia and beyond. Moon influenced the unique funding structure of the IMB through her urgent letters, and her life among the people established a new normal for international missionaries. She lived a wildly mundane life, illustrated beautifully in the letter below that she wrote to her younger sister Edmonia just a few years before she died:

July 9, 1906

My dear Eddie,

To my great joy, the rainy season has come at last, after long delay. The only unpleasant thing to me about the Shantung climate is its excessive dryness. When, therefore, the longed for rainy season delays, I become very uncomfortable by day & restless at night. If a South wind blows, it is especially trying. When the rains come, presto! I am all right. By day I am comfortable & at night I sleep delightfully. But until the rains come, I sometimes have to wrap a wet towel around my neck or give my head a thorough washing in cold water in order to sleep. I am now sitting on the veranda & the rain is coming down continuously. My dog is curled up at the end of the porch fast asleep. Ugh! Drip, drip, drip. I have had to move over near the dog. She raises her head inquiringly, but drops asleep again. A lazy doggie! I offered her a biscuit this morning from the window and she said, ‘Throw it down,’ but I declined. Then slowly and lazily she arose and took it from my hand. I suppose if I were clad in fur as the dog is, I too would hate to move. As it is, before the rain came, I found locomotion a burden. The place I liked best was a big arm-chair, at the North window in my bedroom. There with my feet propped in another chair, I read to my heart’s content. I have had very few callers within the last week. Two men came at different times to arrange about women coming from the country. From the west country, three or four want to come for baptism. They are not women that I have taught, but I cheerfully open my place to receive them. From the east country, some women & girls are to come to stay about two weeks. I believe the women intend to ask baptism.

Today, just as I finished examining my classes, I observed signs of rain & before I reached home, it was coming down. I did not put up my umbrella until I saw several others up. There is some superstition about putting up an umbrella when the rain first begins to fall. So rather than to outrage public feeling, I came on in my sedan chair some distance without raising my umbrella. The rain is now falling steadily & I feel happy.

Two of my schools will close this week. One in the country closed for wheat harvest & was to open again this week, so I suppose it will go on all summer. The city schools have teachers trained in mission schools & they follow Western methods. The country school has an old-fashioned Chinese teacher. The only modern things in his school are Christianity & geography. You will say that the former is not modern & I admit your criticism. However, it is modern in Ma Shia, the village where I have the school.

L. Moon

You can honor Moon’s legacy and help support disciple making happening all over the globe with a financial gift to the IMB. Click here to give online, learn more about Moon’s life in the US and China, and to read more of her letters.

One thought on “For the Love of China

  1. Thanks for the review and I LOVED reading the letter. I appreciate hearing her share with her sister about the simplicity of her life at the time: trying to stay cool, taking care of her dog, welcoming visitors and so on.

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