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As FMB ministry expanded into South America and Japan, missionary societies gained momentum. In 1888 the Woman’s Missionary Union formed and instituted a Christmas offering for missions.

1880s Overview

The early 1880s saw the expansion of Foreign Mission Board work into Mexico and Brazil. Then in 1889, almost 30 years after missionary couple John and Sarah Rohrer were lost at sea on their way to begin work in Japan, more missionaries were finally appointed to Japan.

The women’s missionary movement that began in the 1870s continued gaining force in the 1880s. As women’s missionary societies flourished, fears mounted that women wanted to form their own mission program to compete with the Southern Baptist Convention. The women assured the Convention that their intention was only to raise funds, not administer them, and to pray and advocate for missionaries, not send them out. In 1888 the Woman’s Missionary Union officially formed as an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention.

That same year, WMU leader Annie Armstrong instituted a Christmas offering for foreign missions, which missionary Lottie Moon had proposed in a letter the year before. Armstrong penned one thousand letters and sent out 30,000 offering envelopes to promote that first Christmas offering. Today, almost 60 percent of the mission board’s income is from this annual offering, which is now called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions®.

IMB Milestones

Significant Ministry Events

First Bible Translation Printed

The first Bible translated by a Southern Baptist missionary was printed in commemoration of the death of its translator, Matthew Yates. He translated the majority of the New Testament into the Shanghai dialect of Chinese.

Matthew T. Yates

Woman’s Missionary Union Formed

The Woman’s Missionary Union (an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention) was organized in Richmond. The organization became an essential force for missions education, support and prayer among Southern Baptists.


First Christmas Offering Collected

Annie Armstrong and the Woman’s Missionary Union solicited funds for the first Christmas offering for foreign missions. The offering, initially collected to send missionaries to join Lottie Moon in China, became an annual event and the Foreign Mission Board’s primary source of funding.

Winter Scene 1880s


Lottie's Lasting Influence

Lottie Moon's eloquent pleas in her letters compelled Southern Baptists to strengthen their support of missions.


Missions in Context

Major World Events

Discovery of Tuberculosis Germ Announced 

When Dr. Robert Koch discovered the tuberculosis germ, the disease, also known as consumption or the white plague, was responsible for the death of one person out of seven in the United States and Europe. Even though TB is curable and preventable, in 2018, 1.5 million people died from the disease globally. Eight countries accounted for two-thirds of the world’s new TB cases: India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.   


Berlin Conference Regulated Colonization and Trade in Africa 

A gathering in Berlin, also known as the Congo Conference, was led by Otto von Bismarck, who was by this time Germany’s first chancellor. The goal of the meeting, called by Portugal, was to regulate trade and colonization of Africa by European imperial powers. By the early 1900s, almost 90 percent of Africa was under formal European control.

1884 - Berlin Conference (Wikimedia commons)

Coca-Cola Invented 

Dr. John Stith Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia, developed the famous Coca-Cola drink, now sold in every country in the world except Cuba and North Korea.

Coca-Cola Ad

Slavery Abolished in Brazil 

In 1888, after hundreds of years of indigenous and imported slave labor, Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, abolished the practice of slavery. Brazil was the last nation in the Western world to do so. The Foreign Mission Board started work in Brazil in 1880.

1888 - Abolition of slavery in Brazil #1 (Wikimedia commons)

Missionary Profiles

Honoring Faithful Service

C.W. Pruitt

What circumstances would cause an average missionary to pack up and leave the mission field — war, political unrest, illness, death of a child? C.W. Pruitt experienced all of these in his 50+ years in China but stayed despite it all.

Cicero Washington Pruitt

John Westrup

Uniquely gifted to serve in Mexico, John was ready for a long and fruitful life. Tragedy, however, would change everything, except for God’s plans.

John Westrup

Lottie Moon

From skeptic of Christianity to fearless missionary, Lottie Moon is remembered for more than the name of an offering.

Lottie Moon

Robert and Lula Bryan

“Bob!” Lula almost screamed as she pointed to his feet. He looked. He saw that he had landed within two inches of his youngest baby’s head.


William and Anne Bagby

William lay unconscious after a rock struck him in the head. A few minutes later, he stood up and continued to preach.

William and Anne Bagby

God at Work

Stories From The Field

Padres Oppose Baptist Work in Brazil

We are now in the midst of a revival … that grows brighter every day. … A priest has asked prayer for himself; his son and two daughters are attendants at worship. One of the daughters told her father she was seeking the true religion, the new birth, and when she found it she would follow it at any cost or sacrifice. …



Chinese Baptist

A missionary's desire to take an army of Chinese believers to heaven was answered in an unlikely way — in South America.


Wide Door Opened in Mexico

Mr. Bustamante, who is reported to be a millionaire, has received me with open arms. For years he has circulated the Bible and tracts, and every Sunday morning calls the children together, and has the scriptures read to them by the school teacher. He called the people together last night, and I preached to at least two hundred anxious listeners. …


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