CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (BP)--She is a petite spitfire with a heart for missions. She teaches Sunday School at Hardware Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., where she encourages members to support missionaries who tell people about Jesus in other countries.
Those who know the life story of Lottie Moon may think this is a description of her from a bygone era, but it also describes Frances Blair.
For years, the 80-year-old Blair has been working to keep Moon's legacy alive in the white wood-paneled church where Moon taught Sunday School before her legendary missionary work in China.
Blair and Moon are kindred spirits of sorts. Moon died on her way home from China in 1912 -- 17 years before Blair was born -- yet Blair talks about Moon as if she were a close friend.
"Somebody told me the other day, 'You talk about her like you knew her personally.' And I said, 'No, but it just touched my heart, the things that I have read about this lady and the sacrifice she made for her God '"
"Come into God's house!" said Blair, as she proudly opened the doors of Hardware Baptist.
The history of the 207-year-old church is evidenced in its slave balcony and spittoons from the days when slaves came to church with their masters and country church services were thought to be too long to go without chewing tobacco. A cabinet in the church foyer displays Lottie Moon memorabilia, including yellowed photographs.
Despite their upbringings in church, both Moon and Blair were indifferent to God until they reached adulthood. Moon rebelled against Christianity until she was in college. In December 1858, she dedicated her life to Christ. Blair was baptized at age 9 after a fire and brimstone message, but it wasn't until she heard the truth presented to her in an unlikely place -- a barstool in a tavern -- that Jesus became more than just a name. After that she began to take an active role in the church.
Blair has been the cornerstone of the missions program at Hardware Baptist and served as its WMU (Woman's Missionary Union) director for several years. But there's been no WMU program at Hardware since Blair stepped down. Most of Hardware's 25-30 members are elderly. About 14 attend services regularly.
Still, Blair has kept the work of their famous congregant at the forefront and championed giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, in keeping with the mentoring Blair received from women in the church to be an advocate for missions.
Blair worries that busyness and distractions have caused some people to neglect nurturing the next generation to have a love for missions like Lottie Moon did.
"Jesus said go to all the world -- all the world -- not just here or next door but to the whole world," Blair said.
Caroline Anderson is a writer for the International Mission Board. For more information about the missions offering named for Lottie Moon, visit imb.org/offering.
Copyright (c) 2009 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net