Guest editorial: Lottie Moon — From scoffer and skeptic to scholar and saint

Kids with Lottie Moon cutout

Guest editorial: Lottie Moon — From scoffer and skeptic to scholar and saint

By Rosalie Hunt
Retired missionary and member of TAB board of directors

A barking dog is an important character in the conversion story of Lottie Moon, the namesake of our annual Christmas offering to support international missions.

A student at Albemarle Female Institute in Virginia, Lottie Moon was known on campus both for her brilliant mind and her skepticism of the value of religion.

Raised in a wealthy Southern home, indulged and petted, the tiny quicksilver child very early grew tired of hearing family and relatives acrimoniously arguing about religious doctrine. Moon determined she didn’t need God; she was fine like she was.

As a girl, Moon read the biography of missionary Ann Judson. The religious aspect of the story did not capture her attention — it was the amazing adventures, the courage and bravery.

Finest education

Moon’s education was the finest to be had for women prior to the Civil War, and other than deportment, she excelled in every subject, especially foreign languages and writing.

One professor, in awe of her towering intellect, declared: “She writes the best English I have ever been privileged to read.”

Barely as tall as the average 10-year-old, her brilliance and skepticism were evident to all.

Next to campus, the eminent  John A. Broadus was leading special meetings, and Moon’s fellow classmates were flocking to hear him, both in the evening services and each morning.

In relating the account of her conversion, Moon confessed, “I went to the service that night to scoff, but I went back to my room to pray. I was prevented from sleeping by a barking dog,” she admitted, “and I ended up praying all night and giving my heart to Christ.”

According to one of her closest friends, Julia Toy (who later became the chief architect of Mississippi Woman’s Missionary Union) there was great excitement among Moon’s friends when she was discovered in earnest conversation with Broadus.

In a short time and to the amazement of the entire student body, Moon calmly and firmly announced her determination to consecrate her life to Christ.

The changes in her behavior and focus were both immediate and permanent.

Moon’s story and her 39 years of service and sacrifice in China continue to inspire. In 1918, just six years after her death, the single largest missions offering in the world was named in her honor.

Moon’s beloved church family in Tengzhou (now called PengLai) left a monument that sums up the deep love the people of China had for their Tyan Shu Ke (Heavenly Book Visitor): “The Tengzhou Church remembers forever.”


Of all the challenges that confronted Lottie Moon, none was quite as daunting as the specter of loneliness.

“Sometimes I am so lonely. I pray that no missionary will ever be as lonely as I have been. Yet,” she wrote, “every moment of loneliness is more than worth it when someone like young Miss Wang comes up right after her baptism and whispers in my ear, ‘Oh Miss Moon, how can I ever thank you aright for having come to bring me the wonderful news of salvation?’”

When Moon died on Christmas Eve 1912, in North China there were 16 thriving churches, 56 schools with thousands of students, 42 Chinese evangelists and thousands of believers.

And there was Li Shou Ting, whose elderly uncle first heard the gospel from Moon in the interior village of Shaling.

Moon gave the man a Bible, but he could not read. He took it to his nephew, Li Shou Ting, a bright young Confucian scholar. Li asked Miss Moon to teach him, and that young scholar became the greatest evangelist China has ever known, baptizing over 10,000 believers.

Tiny in stature, yet mighty in spirit, courage, bravery and commitment, Lottie Moon remains to Baptists a symbol of service and sacrifice.

Each year in December, this remarkable woman and her loving legacy inspire us anew to also give, pray and go.

Read more about this year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions below.