The State Council of the People’s Republic of China has added the church where legendary Southern Baptist missionary Lottie Moon was a member during much of her time in the country to a list of major historical and cultural sites protected at the national level.
Wulin Shenghui Church of Penglai in Shandong province, a European-style church house built in 1872 by Southern Baptist missionaries, is one of the earliest Protestant buildings in China.
It was closed to most foreigners for more than a generation until 1987, when a group of leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention auxiliary Woman’s Missionary Union became the first Westerners in decades to enter villages where Moon lived and worked that were long closed to outsiders.
Inside the structure they found a monument erected by Chinese Christians in 1915 in honor of Moon miraculously preserved with only the word “American” defaced during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution launched by Communist leader Mao Zedong.
Every year since tourists and Christians from around the world have made special trips to Penglai to learn more about the 39-year missions work in China by the namesake for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions work by the Southern Baptist Convention.
The church was reopened in 1988, according to an article translated from China Christian Daily. A 2001 expansion increased seating capacity to 1,400, and membership has grown to more than 4,000.
Catherine Allen, who as associate executive director led the WMU delegation that found the church in 1987, said she is “very happy indeed that this site of sacred interest to many lands has some protection,” and “happier still that good crowds still go there to worship.”
Born Charlotte Digges Moon in 1840 in Virginia, Lottie Moon was appointed a missionary to what was then Tengchow, China, in 1873. She taught in a girls’ school and made trips into China’s interior to share the gospel not only with women and girls but also defying established policies by preaching to and teaching men.
She died aboard a ship in a Japanese harbor on Christmas Eve in 1912, establishing her legend as a martyr who amid plague, famine, revolution and war sacrificed and literally worked herself to death. The Woman’s Missionary Union renamed its annual mission offering, first collected in 1888 at Moon’s request, in tribute to her memory.
Last year Southern Baptists gave more than $157 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which over the years has raised a total of $1.5 billion for missions.