The 2023 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® received a big boost Nov. 1 toward meeting a hefty goal of $200 million for international missions. Paul Chitwood, IMB president, received a check for $4.84 million from the Joy Ledbetter Trust. It was the second largest individual gift in the history of the International Mission Board.
“Joy Ledbetter was a generous woman. She was one of those church members who reached out to see what was needed for her church to meet their Lottie Moon goal,” Chitwood said. “And then she would give the needed amount.
“She’s certainly given us a boost, along with a few others, in meeting our 2023 goal of $200 million.”
Ledbetter devoted her life to supporting missionaries and their work. She educated generations of children and adults at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, Arkansas, about the importance of actively sharing Christ in their community, as well as around the world. She was an advocate of supporting missionaries who could be the arms of the church in sharing the gospel.
Upon Ledbetter’s death in 2010, she left instructions for land that had been in her family for 100 years to be sold as a way to continue supporting missions. The Southern Baptist Foundation managed the sale of the 2,100-acres. The land was auctioned off in plots and the sales profits divided between the IMB and North American Mission Board.
Ledbetter and husband Joseph, also deceased, spent time working side-by-side with missionaries in Asia and Africa. This connection spurred them to believe even more in the Lottie Moon offering for international missions. They knew every penny given went straight to the mission field to support and allow missionaries to share the love of Jesus.
The $200 million goal for this year’s offering is the largest one ever. At the IMB’s annual LMCO kickoff event, Chitwood said Southern Baptists exceeded last year’s goal of $190 million with $196.1 million. Because of big and small churches working together to generously give last year, missionaries and their local partners shared the gospel with 728,589 people.
“Tell your churches that heaven increased this year with 178,177 new believers who will spend eternity with Jesus. You had a gospel presence in 122 countries last year,” he said, directing comments toward generous Southern Baptists.
While this is good news, there is still a world in need of the transforming power of the gospel. Chitwood emphasized there are more people dying today who are spiritually lost than the day before. Though an ambitious goal, Chitwood said he believes that faithful givers will reach the $200 million goal that will support the advance of the gospel to the nations. Reaching the goal will make greater missions endeavors possible, especially increasing the total number of missionaries who serve among the lost.
To help churches and individuals promote the Lottie Moon offering, IMB has provided free, downloadable resources. New this year is a personalized giving page for your church that includes the church offering goal and options for members to give.
Chitwood said he hopes the generosity of people like Joy Ledbetter will encourage others to consider how we work together through big and small financial gifts to impact the nations for Jesus Christ.