I can’t recall the first time that I heard the name Lottie Moon, or the first time that I realized how it impacted me and my family. Instead, it seems that as a missionary kid (MK) I was programmed with the knowledge of who Lottie Moon was, how the offering came to be and how important the offering is to the work of International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries.
In the most cliché way possible, I am a Lottie success story. I was born on the international mission field, in the middle of a sprawling but crowded African city.
That was only made possible because Lottie Moon paid for my parents and my family to live in Kenya. It is Lottie Moon that paid for the malaria medication when I was sick and the X-rays when I hurt my wrist. It is Lottie Moon that made it possible for me to go to a school where [more than] 40 nations were represented. It is Lottie Moon that then paid for my books in college when my scholarships and grants didn’t cover that exorbitant fee.
It was Lottie Moon that gave me the ability to say that I had pet a rhino and a cheetah, ridden a camel, watched a zebra give birth and kept hedgehogs as pets.
Jessie Yates, seen here in Kenya, believes her life is a Lottie Moon success story. Her upbringing as a missionary kid in Nairobi has spurred a love for missions.
It is Lottie Moon that gave me an extended family within my mission; a family that is so widespread now that on my birthday I receive well-wishes and birthday blessings for a global day, starting in the morning in Australia and ending at night in Hawaii. It is Lottie Moon that made it imperative that if a boy ever wants to marry me he has to ask not only my father but my Luo uncle and his brothers first.
It is Lottie Moon that blessed me with a family – by blood and by faith – so strong in the Spirit that I have no doubt what Jesus and Paul intended when they called for the Body of Christ to be one. I am a Lottie success story.
But none of that comes close to comparing with the real Lottie Moon story. Because there is nothing else that I have experienced in this world that is similar to the feeling you get when a woman’s face completely changes and the invisible weight is lifted off of her shoulders when she accepts Christ.
There is nothing like holding an orphaned toddler, who until recently tested as HIV positive but is now healthy because of proper nutrition, medication and the undying love of his new family.
There is nothing like giving a New Testament to an illiterate elderly woman whose children have all died from AIDS and watching as her granddaughter – one of many that she is raising in her old age – opens the silken pages to read John 3:16 to her family. There is nothing like watching the tears of pain change to tears of joy because a young high school girl believes whole-heartedly that your prayer for her just reached the ears of God.
There’s nothing like sitting under the shade of a Baobab and listening to a trifecta of local languages praising God for the new church plant.
There’s nothing like sharing a warm Coca-Cola with a young man and realizing he was discipled by a missionary who you fondly remember as a grandfather figure … or holding the hand of a child suffering from malaria, ringworm and malnutrition as he falls asleep in your lap because he’s finally comfortable and feels safe.
There is nothing like watching a group of 14-year-old Muslim girls ask your best friend to pray for their examinations. And there is nothing like seeing a young girl run around the church like she owns it and realize that she was born in the midst of a bloody and violent post-election period.
Because all of that, just in case you were wondering, all those people, they are Lottie Moon. Their hope, their tears, their laughter – all of it is the real Lottie success story.
So I challenge you, if you give to Lottie Moon or, if you have no idea what Lottie Moon is and instead individually-sponsor missions, remember this: God does not deal in numbers and statistics. He deals with people. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering isn’t about money. It is about people.
It is not about the missionary that you remember speaking at your church when you were little, it is about the work that they did and their dedication to the Great Commission.
That’s my challenge to you. Realize that you are touching and impacting the lives of real people, real women, men and children who deserve every opportunity to experience hope.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jessie Yates, an MK from Kenya, is a high school teacher in the Piedmont area.)