A LEGACY FOR LOTTIE: Destin woman has raised thousands of dollars portraying Chinese missionary

Pam Griffin
Connie Perkins of First Baptist Church of Destin portrays Lottie Moon at the church during December.

“Is not the festive season, when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?" — Lottie Moon, Tungchow, China, Sept. 15, 1887

A missionary, who lived, worked and experienced the hardships of the late 19th century in China, comes to life in Destin every December at First Baptist Church.

Each Christmas season finds Connie Perkins of the church assuming the role of “Lottie Moon” to raise funds in support of international missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

“Dressing in period attire and assuming the persona of historic characters has been a hallmark of Connie, a brassy and sassy lady who loves improvisation,” P.E. McIntosh of First Baptist told the Log.

Since 1888, Lottie Moon, the “patron saint” of Southern Baptist Missions, and the Christmas Offering that bears her name, has raised a total of $1.5 billion for missions and finances, half the entire Southern Baptist mission’s budget ever year.

“As the result of Connie’s personal and passionate annual effort, First Baptist Church Destin has contributed $30,738 to the Christmas offering prompted by her Sunday skits during the Christmas season,” McIntosh said.

How Lottie was born

Perkins told The Log her portrayals of people began in the fourth grade.

“We were assigned to write a paper on a person we admired,” she said. “We were to stand up in class and read the paper. Well, my paper was on Clara Barton, and I decided it would be too boring to just read the paper; so I dressed up like a nurse and presented my paper in first person as Clara Barton.”

Perkins continued to use this same presentation technique with other “papers” she was assigned. In high school, she “became” an Amish woman and in college, a chicken farmer.

“I always aced the assignments, although all the other students and teacher laughed through the entire farmer presentation,” she said. “I was at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Mo., so I borrowed a chicken from a local farmer and had it on a leash as I explained the different types of breeding chickens. I was a social worker major so don't even ask why I had to take an ‘Ag’ class.”

Perkins’ became “Lottie Moon” when her daughter was 8 years old and studied Moon as part of the Baptist Girls in Action mission emphasis at their church.

“I was doing the children's sermons for the church at that time, and the Baptist Church always has a mission emphasis during the month of December,” Perkins said. “I decided that year to re-enact the personification of Lottie Moon for the children and congregation on the first Sunday of December… That was 25 years ago and I have been ‘Lottie Moon’ at every church we've been a member of since that time.”

Being Lottie

Born of privilege, Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon, wrote numerous letters home, urging Southern Baptists to greater missions involvement and support. One of those letters was responsible for the Southern Baptists' first Christmas offering for international missions — enough to send three new missionaries to China.

Perkins uses this part of Moon’s life to ask members of the church to participate in the Lottie Moon Missionary Post Office.

“They are asked to bring their Christmas cards, birthday cards, letters of encouragement, and thank you cards that they would normally put in the mail, to the Lottie Moon Missionary Post Office Box,” Perkins said. “They can then give the money they would have spent on postage to the Lottie Moon Missionary Fund instead.”

The post office will be open Dec. 2-30. Members of the Faith Keepers Class will assist with sorting and delivering for the local congregation.

“We do, however, make sure any mail to our homebound members or those in the hospital during December receive their mail,” Perkins said. “’Lottie’ herself tries to make those deliveries and they are special times.”

Those who do not participate in the Missionary Post Office are asked to give as they feel led.

“Sometimes Lottie has asked the children to bring in their loose change every week, and we put it in a Lottie Moon large tea cup since she served in China,” Perkins said. “The final Sunday the children are so proud to bring their offering and present it as part of the ‘adult’ offering.”

Perkins said she sometimes bakes a tea cookie from Moon’s original recipe and gives one to each member on the first Sunday in December to remember those who do not have food every day.

“Lottie also asks for the baggie to be returned with an offering for the missionary fund,” Perkins said. “Lottie always emphasizes that not everyone can go overseas as a missionary, but it is our responsibility to support those who do.”

A Christmas reminder

Perkins, who moved to Destin in 2001 from Kansas City, Mo., after her husband participated in the Destin Fishing Rodeo, says the community can always be reminded, especially at this time of year, to select a missionary project of their own.

“Harvest House always needs food and clothing,” she said. “Hosanna House needs paper products, meat, and gift cards to Dollar General, Target, and Walmart. Support our first responders with a ‘missionary basket’ of Christmas goodies. The main thing is to think of others this Christmas season, and God will know you care about those in His Kingdom.”

This is a special year for Lottie Moon, as Christmas Eve 2012 marks 100 years since her death from malnutrition on board ship in Kobe Harbor, Japan, on her way home at the age of 72.

“Our theme this year is ‘Be His Heart, Be His Hands, Be His Voice’ as we reach out to touch every life for Jesus Christ,” Perkins said. “Lottie's goal remains alive as we celebrate her unconditional love for those who have yet to hear the ‘Name Above All Names.’ ”