by Keith Harper, editor
If they had a Pope, Southern Baptists would surely insist that he beatify Charlotte Digges Moon.
Mercer University Press, 6316 Peake Road, Macon, GA 31210, 2002, 456 pages, $55.00.
— Reviewed by Justice C. Anderson, professor of missions, Emeritus, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Tex.
If they had a Pope, Southern Baptists would surely insist that he beatify Charlotte Digges Moon. Although they all consider themselves “saints,” Lottie, as they affectionately call her, would be their “Patron Saint.” Her lifestyle and thirty-nine years of sacrificial service in China have been the long-time inspiration behind their outstanding foreign missions enterprise. Their annual missions offering, named after her, has raised more than two billion dollars for world missions. Without doubt, she merits a special place in the history of Christian missions.
In Send the Light, editor Keith Harper has compiled a selection of Moon’s letters, photos, articles for mission magazines and entries from her personal journal “which shed light on the costs she and other turn-of-the-century missionaries paid in their service to God and humanity” (p. xi). This book is not a biography, but an attempt to present Moon in her own words with little editorial meddling.
Chapters 1 and 3 are correspondence Moon had with executive secretaries of the Baptist Foreign Mission Board: Drs. H. A. Tupper (1873-1893) and R. J. Willingham (1893-1912). Chapter 2 is a collection of articles written by Moon for the Foreign Mission Journal of Southern Baptists. Chapter 4 limits itself to letters to family and friends. An Epilogue documents the last months of Moon’s life as reflected in the correspondence between the board and her caretakers. Physically spent, and on her way home, Moon died in the port of Kobe, Japan, in the presence of her faithful nurse.
The three hundred pieces of this collection chronicle the making of a cross-cultural missionary. They reveal the pilgrimage of a bright young lass, idealistic in her missionary vocation, and condescending in her attitude toward a radically different culture, gradually passing through her missionary rites of passage. “Taken together these letters and articles chart the spiritual odyssey of a well-bred Virginia woman who spent most of her life becoming a missionary” (p. xvii).
She explored a wide spectrum of missionary methods, experienced painful conflicts and issues, tolerated rapid mood swings from pity to empathy and survived administrative paradigm shifts as she grew from a naive novice to a seasoned missionary. In this process, she never overcame “her amazement, even frustration, that Southern Baptists in America never really grasped the enormity of China’s needs” (p. xiii).
The modern missiologist finds in these documents missiology “from below;” missiology “on the road,” not “in the balcony.” They have multiple messages and insights for missions-minded laypeople, cross-cultural missionaries, and especially for missions administrators. It is worth a thoughtful read.
Check these titles:
Allen, Catherine B. 1980. The New Lottie Moon Story. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press.
Eitel, Keith. 2000. Paradigm Wars: The Southern Baptist International Mission Board Faces the Third Millennium. Oxford: Regnum Books International.
Copyright © 2003 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.