You may have heard of two Armstrongs: the one known for cycling across France, the other for making Christ known across North America. I’ll let you guess which Armstrong interests me most. (No offense to Lance!)
Every Easter the North American Mission Board facilitates The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, a collection of donations which provide support to Southern Baptist missionaries. This offering is named in honor of a woman who worked tirelessly to support missions around the world; we’re going to talk a little bit about her today.
Contemporaries described Annie as a “tall, stately, out-spoken, strong-willed leader” and called her efforts “indefatigable”. Throughout the course of her 88 years, Annie raised thousands upon thousands of dollars in the name of missions. She inaugurated the equally popular Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, led the Women’s Missionary Union among other organizations, and remained an active member of her local church.
Annie Armstrong was born smack in the middle of the 19th century, into the melee of the Civil War. She grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and professed Christ at the age of 19. At the local church level, Annie taught Primary Sunday School, children 12 and under, for a solid 50 years. It is said that Annie was inspired to missions by her pastor Richard Fuller and his passionate, but intelligent, preaching.
In her adult life, Annie began to amass great amounts of support for domestic and foreign missions by the letters she would write. Sources quote that in 1893 alone, she wrote almost 18,000 letters! In 1888 Annie became corresponding secretary – equivalent to an executive officer of today – of the Women’s Missionary Union. For 18 years she held this position and worked, with no pay, to raise prayer and support for missions. To strengthen the WMU, Annie fostered relationships with prominent leaders of Southern Baptists, including those at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Throughout life Annie was burdened for minorities, including Native Americans and blacks who were suffering the aftermath of slavery and war.
Biographers often use terms such as “tireless” and “self-starter” to describe this impressive woman’s pioneering spirit and bedrock faith. In just this light research I’ve done to learn about the name behind the offering, I have been impressed at the amount of concentrated effort Annie Armstrong poured into her missions work. Particularly, I thought of the impressive amount of social networking and constant communication that was executed well before the advent of Facebook. It seems to me that Annie Armstrong was a woman who invited the Holy Spirit to use her in mighty capacities. I suppose my closing thoughts would be a charge to all believers: when your eyes are fixed upon Jesus and hands are clutching the Gospel, our whole bodies will be mobilized to “Go and Tell”.