Lottie Moon

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The life of Lottie Moon:
Her journey ends
Read more of her story: Part 1: From Southern roots | Part 2: The offering begins | <<Back to bio
By John Allen Moore

Lottie Moon lost one administrative friend in June 1893 when Henry Allen Tupper resigned as Foreign Mission Board corresponding secretary at age 65 after 21 exhausting years. But Robert J. Willingham, who also would become a supporter of Lottie, succeeded him. A few months later Lottie said goodbye to her sister, Eddie, and before the end of the year was back in Tengchow-really "at home."

Eight Southern Baptist missionary men and women now made up the north China mission. Lottie could have claimed the pleasant, growing work around Pingtu-people there adored her-but she left it to younger missionaries, visiting there less and less often. She went instead to Tengchow where she visited regularly in many homes and toured among a hundred or so villages with a day's reach of the city. She made fewer long evangelistic tours.

Though she suffered chronic throat and other health problems, Lottie spent long periods nursing seriously ill members of her mission and some among the Presbyterians. Realizing the need to care for herself, she took daily cold baths and usually a shampoo (she thought "a very hot head at night meant loss of sleep"). She ate a tomato a day and took a quarter-hour nap after lunch. She made July vacation time in Tengchow, catching up on reading and writing, attending to local school and church duties, but avoiding extensive travel.

Visitors from villages stayed with her for days or weeks at a time, some indigent guests semipermanently. She never turned away a beggar from her door without giving aid. She bore all these expenses personally.

During the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), a shell demolished a wall at Little Crossroads (as her compound was called); and other sections were damaged. Missionaries fled on a U.S. warship, but Lottie, then on her way back from Pingtu, did not try to join them. Hartwell soon returned, and peopled flocked to hear him preach. His missionary daughter, Anna, left Canton to join the Tengchow mission and aided country work, relieving strain on Lottie's throat. Lottie's goal: visit 200 villages each quarter.

"I fear you work yourself too hard," Corresponding Secretary R.J. Willingham wrote her. But at the same time, in response to her continuing appeals for recruits, he told her new missionaries could not be appointed, due to the board's indebtedness. The news was disheartening, but the forming of a new church in Pingtu city delighted her. "I have never found mission work more enjoyable," she wrote. And later: "To go out daily among a kindly people, amid enchanting views of nature, everywhere one turns catching lovely glimpses of sea or distant hills or quiet valleys, all that to me is most delightful. I constantly thank God that He has given me work that I love so much."

In 1898 she began a day school for boys and girls together, an innovation for Chinese. Teaching mainly involved extensive memorization and, as was the practice, she employed a Chinese teacher to lead memory drills; Lottie gave the examinations every Monday. She visited villages Tuesday through Saturday. Sundays were busiest. Up at 6:15, she helped at the morning church service, hosted the English-speaking community for a service at Little Crossroads followed by dinner for the group and taught an afternoon Sunday School class. Later, she led a special class at her place for boys and girls. After reading and some writing, including her diary, she retired at 10 p.m.

Disease, exhaustion and despair at the lack of recruits felled Hartwell, his daughter and other missionaries for long periods. More often than not, Lottie was the nurse, especially for women and children. In all this she kept herself disciplined, writing a friend: "When I think myself threatened with nervous prostration, I quit work at once and take perfect rest. Not all people have the resolution to do this, and of course, not all are so situated that they can do it. I argue thus: I refuse to go any longer. I rest. I get well in a month or so and then take up my work."

Willingham greatly admired Miss Moon, almost as much has had Tupper. "I wonder," Willingham wrote, "if you know how much the brethren of the Board think of you and your work." At the same time he announced that new missionaries were coming-at last. In mid-1899 the J.W. Lowes settled in Pingtu. Also, after years of Lottie's pleading, a single woman, Mattie Dutton, arrived early in 1900. Lottie welcomed her to Little Crossroads, helped acquaint her with language and customs and later took her on country tours to train her.

Boxers, as those in the violent and anarchistic uprising were called, opposed foreigners and any modernization. They became most violent in 1900. Roving bandits murdered every foreigner they could-especially missionaries. Thousands of Chinese Christians died during this time.

Among Baptists of north China, those in Pingtu suffered most. Warned against going there, Lottie-disguised-risked her life to reach the city. She slicked back her hair and donned a Chinese man's long robe and the red-buttoned cap designating officials. Engaging a sedan chair she sat, arms folded, at the front opening and looked condescendingly from side to side in royal fashion.

Thirteen Pingtu Baptists had been imprisoned and tortured. Lottie offered encouragement to them and other believers, enhancing her unique place in their hearts. But realizing the best hope for the believers was to cut all ties with foreigners, she returned to Tengchow in the same way she had come.

The U.S. consul ordered all foreigners to leave the province. Lottie and other missionaries boarded a Chinese gunboat, whose captain, a gracious Christian, opposed the uprising. A U.S. ship took the Americans to Chefoo, and later they reached Shanghai. Expecting a long conflict, Lottie and Mattie Dutton sailed to Japan.

Welcomed by Southern Baptist missionaries in Fukuoka, the two rented a Japanese house. Lottie stayed nine months, teaching English in a commercial school with her Bible as textbook. She also taught private students; three of these young men became Christians. Upon return to Tengchow in April 1901, she resumed her schoolwork and city and country visiting. Work flourished in north China. Chinese Christians of Pingtu province, entitled to large indemnity payments for the Boxers' atrocities, refused all except that paid by persons clearly guilty. This non-vengeful spirit won many friends for Baptists.

Jessie Pettigrew, first trained nurse the Foreign Mission Board appointed, had grown up in Virginia as an admirer of Lottie Moon. When she and another single woman arrived early in 1902, Lottie, as usual, helped them adjust.

The board had adopted a policy-one Lottie suggested-of providing each missionary a furlough after 10 years on the field. As her furlough neared, Lottie was tempted, as usual, to delay it, but factors-among them Eddie's worsening health-drew her home. Eddie had sold the Scottsville house and wandered from one boarding house to another in North Carolina and Florida seeking a healthful climate. She made occasional small loans to the Foreign Mission Board and bought a $3,000 annuity from the board, guaranteeing her a return of $150 a year for life, payments to go to Lottie should she survive Eddie.

Lottie made her furlough home at Crewe, Va., where a nephew cared for her brother Isaac and his wife. Eddie joined them. Lottie-now heavier, slightly grayed and missing some teeth-dressed in black and traveled to visit various relatives, churches and women's missionary societies. Women everywhere heard her respectfully.

Relatives tried to persuade her, after 30 years in China, to retire. "Oh, don't say that you don't want me to return," Lottie pleaded. "Nothing could make me stay. China is my joy and my delight. It is my home now." At age 63 she sailed from San Francisco, Feb. 27, 1904, sharing an economy cabin with two strangers. Back at Little Crossroads, she happily donned her modest Chinese robes and 67-cent, cardboard-soled fabric shoes to resume work.

The board began a policy-one Lottie supported-that missionaries must study the language two years before undertaking major mission responsibilities. Among new recruits were the Jesse C. Owenses, W.C. Newtons, Ella Jeters and Ida Taylor. Former members of the mission who had defected to T.P. Crawford's Gospel Mission, returned to the Southern Baptist fold on the recommendation of Mrs. Crawford after her husband's death.

Progress continued. The board's first hospital on any field opened in Hwanghsien, conducted by Dr. T.W. Ayers. A theological school and a girls' training school were begun in Tengchow. China was making progress also. With abolishment of the classical examinations, formerly offered in Tengchow, the city declined, and the theological and training schools were moved to more-prosperous Hwanghsien. Chinese Christians took the lead in combating the practice of binding girls' feet, organizing the Heavenly Foot Society. Parents of most girls in Baptist schools allowed daughters to unbind their feet; some schools no longer accepted girls with bound feet.

Even as a veteran, Lottie at times still used a teacher to drill her in niceties of the spoken language and to help in writing materials. She paid her teacher and all her servants-from personal funds. She continued her school for girls and boys; grown men now clamored for admission. She organized other schools to help meet the new, widespread desire for education, still using the Christian catechism and Bible stories as basic texts, plus courses in arithmetic, geography and classical Chinese literature.

Rigors of frontier life and work continued to thin the ranks. At Little Crossroads Lottie nursed Mattie Dutton, who had a nervous breakdown, but the younger woman never again was able to resume mission work.

Despite her age and circumstances, Lottie remained in fairly good health. Her schools were growing, and she put even more of her own funds into them. She kept up local church work, the English-language service, two Sunday School classes in different parts of the city, and her visiting in Tengchow and the villages. Her guestrooms at Little Crossroads were in constant use with sometimes as many as 15 Chinese guests (at Lottie's expense).

With other missionaries transferred to more fruitful fields, she was now alone in Tengchow except for Ida Taylor, who later contracted three types of smallpox simultaneously, and was never able to return to work, though Lottie cared for her. New recruits arrived for inland stations; two more hospitals were opened in north China.

While two single women recruits studied Chinese life with Lottie, they noticed during devotions that her Scripture reading did not correspond with their Bibles. One asked what Lottie was reading from. "Oh, the Greek," she replied, continuing her translation. She translated with the same facility from Greek to Chinese.

Willingham became the first Foreign Mission Board official to tour the Orient, visiting north China in October 1907. Shantung Baptist Association was to meet in Tengchow, but an outbreak of meningitis in the schools forced transfer to Hwanghsien. Later the Tengchow area suffered a siege of bubonic plague.

New missionaries included Dr. and Ms. James Gaston-he opened the third hospital, at Laichowfu-and Wayne Adams, a tall, young bachelor. They all had been influenced to come to China by Lottie Moon and her story. Adams, an admirer, for a year took his meals with her (paying his part), often followed by discussions of Chinese life, language, theology, literature or current events. He regarded this as a liberal education. When Floy White arrived to marry Adams, Lottie oriented her also.

On Jan 11, 1909, Adams found Miss Moon nervous, her eyes cloudy. Years later he learned that a letter had just brought tragic news: Sister Eddie, living in a tiny cottage in Starke, Fla., finally had given up in her search for health and holiness. She lay on her bed, pulled the covers over her, put a gun to her head and took her life. Long in a disturbed emotional state, Eddie Moon in a sense had continued to live in China through Lottie. Eddie wrote cheerful letters to her older sister, who faithfully replied. The two sisters loved each other more than anyone else. But Lottie bore her grief alone; she did not tell her associates, but went on with her hard, dawn-to-dusk schedule.

In the fall of 1911 women from three women's missionary societies met in Lottie's living room and organized the Woman's Missionary Union of North China. They elected Lottie president.

One new missionary Lottie helped adjust was Jane Lide, another who had been reared on stories about Lottie. The veteran taught her how best to visit in the city and in villages. Jane was a good student. As the two walked one day beside the Tengchow city wall, a mounted Chinese soldier galloped toward them on the path. Jane prepared to step aside onto the narrow, slippery ledge between the path and a partially filled moat. Lottie stopped her. "Don't worry, Jane," she said. "I'll teach him some manners."

Lottie stood fast, tightening her hold on her umbrella. As man and mount bore down upon the two, threatening to knock them into the moat, Lottie suddenly opened her umbrella. The horse shied, throwing the rider into the moat. The two women walked on, while the angry but chastened soldier picked himself up out of the water.

China's revolution broke out late in 1911. Fighting was intense around Baptist mission stations in north China. The U.S. consul asked missionaries in Hwanghsien to move to a safer port city, and they agreed-all but Lottie. When she learned Chinese hospital personnel had been left alone in Hwanghsien, she made her way safely through warring troops and took charge at the hospital, encouraging the terrified nurses and other personnel by her courage.

They resumed work caring for the ill and wounded. When Dr. Ayers and other male missionaries risked their lives to return, they were amazed to find Lottie directing the hospital efficiently, as she had done for 10 days.

With the hospital in rightful hands, Lottie packed to return home, but the men warned that heavy fighting made this impossible. When she insisted, they sent word to the opposing generals that Miss Moon would be passing through at a set hour. A young missionary escorted her, and as they made their way through the battle lines, firing stopped on both sides.

Revolutionary forces won early in 1912. Under the lead of Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shih-kai, a personal friend of Lottie and other missionaries, a republic was established with a Christian calendar and a declaration of religious liberty. Lottie was delighted, but other developments saddened her. These were destined to break her spirit.

Famine, no stranger to China, broke out in unusual severity. Churches around Pingtu were multiplying under vigorous evangelism by Lottie's beloved pastor Li. But Lottie wept to think of people in the area living-if they did live-on ground leaves, roots and sweet potato vines.

Plague also ravaged the land. Lottie and other missionaries gave all they could to relief agencies, and they continued to help all who came to her door. The Foreign Mission Board's debt was a crushing concern. With church members in America not trained in systematic giving, the board had proceeded on faith to expand its work in many lands; there were now 273 missionaries.

Willingham wrote Lottie in August 1911: "It is difficult to know how to plan. Our indebtedness has been so great it will take over $600,000 to carry out the work which we had already planned for and meet the debt. Last year our receipts were only $500,000. We are trying to be very careful." A week later he wrote, "We are in an embarrassing position on account of our debt. We do not know what to do." Lottie made rather large gifts to the board (the income from Eddie's annuity for certain periods) to help relieve the pressures. In midsummer 1912 he was still mission secretary, always pleading with the board for new missionaries.

When the Gastons visited her at summer's end, all seemed in order. But in Lottie's heart the burdens were piling up. The immediate need: the suffering around her. Her compound was no longer an informal training school for Chinese women but a hostel for the ill and indigent.

She buried herself in China's misfortunes, trying to help and no longer taking care of her needs. Her small cash reserves were gone. She gave and gave, not counting the cost to herself. She almost stopped eating. If others could not have food, neither would she. Her strength failed.

Alarmed, young colleagues sent for medical help. Missionary nurse Jessie Pettigrew came from Hwanghsien, discovered and treated a large carbuncle at the base of Lottie's ear and took her home with her. Lottie dozed by day, tore her hair and refused to eat. Missionary doctors tried to help. Dr. Gaston, early in December, gave his diagnosis: She was starving herself to death.

The doctors decided her only hope for survival was a voyage to America. As Dr. Hearn packed her in pillows for the long day's shentze ride to the coast, she sat up.

"Just lay down, dear Miss Moon," he implored.

The old, precise, literary Lottie Moon erupted. "I will not lay down, sir," she corrected. "I will lie down."

Cynthia Miller, missionary nurse, went with Lottie, whose slight, self-starved body was said to weigh only about 50 pounds. Miller arranged to sleep in Lottie's ship cabin to care for her. Hearn brought aboard a supply of Lottie's favorite grape juice and other food. He doubted she would survive the trip, but felt it her only hope. Lottie dozed most of the time or was otherwise unconscious.

After a few days she roused, took some juice and spoke weakly but rationally about spiritual things. She whispered the words of the song with her companion, "Jesus Loves Me," and asked the nurse to pray for her. Next morning Lottie no longer spoke, but pointed upward when her nurse neared, indicating the source of her life.

The ship docked in Kobe, Japan, one of Lottie's favorite places, to take on coal. On Christmas Eve 1912 she opened her eyes, smiled and looked around. With her last remaining strength, she raised her fists together-the fond Chinese greeting. She must have been greeting her Lord, for in that moment her spirit went out to meet Him.

Her remains were cremated, by Japanese law. Nurse Miller delivered the urn of ashes to a board representative. Her life was never the same for having been with Lottie Moon. The same can be said of thousands of others-in American and in China.

The Christmas offering, launched at her suggestion, was named for her in 1918.

Read more of her story: Part 1: From Southern roots | Part 2: The offering begins | <<Back to bio


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This page was last updated 11/24/03