KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – If you’re heading to Mount Harmony Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., you don’t need to stop at a fancy coffee shop on your way to church. Multi-flavored coffees and lattes will be ready for you when you arrive, served by smiling baristas. Donations at the coffee counter raise money for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, but also raise awareness about the offering’s namesake.
“I didn’t just want it to be a table with people coming up to give money and get a latte,” says Emily Sheddan, who started “Lattes for Lottie” in her church in 2017. “It was on my heart to get them involved and really know who Lottie was.”
Sheddan, the daughter of IMB missionaries, grew up in Southeast Asia and remembers learning about Lottie Moon. As an adult, she noticed that many people in local churches didn’t know about the feisty missionary. Those who did not participate in missions education programs, like Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors, may never have learned about Lottie.
“It wasn’t just a name of an offering, but was indeed a sweet soul who went forth,” Sheddan says. “I feel like it has to be pushed out there that she’s an actual person in history that we speak of, not just the name of the Christmas mission offering.”
Each year, Sheddan refines the process and introduces new ways to teach church members about Lottie Moon and about current missions efforts. In past years she has distributed quizzes about Lottie’s life and used displays that taught more about the missionary to China. This month, she is displaying an IMB map that features unreached people groups. Each time someone buys a latte, Sheddan adds a “Send and Go” pin to an unreached area of the world.
As for the lattes, Sheddan prepares batches in crockpots and offers flavored syrups, espresso and whipped cream at the counter. Church members stop by before Sunday School or before the worship service and add their donations to a collection box. Sheddan enlists youth from the church to don the barista aprons, and together they serve up the hot treats. The team even adds the special touch of shaking the beverages in mason jars before serving, to add the frothy effect common in coffee shop lattes.
Elijah Morton, 15, is taking his place as a volunteer barista for a third straight year. “My friends and I enjoy it and we always make it a blast,” Morton says, “whether we are making coffee, having competitions of who can make the best whipped cream swirl, or just chatting while we have downtime.”
Morton credits Lattes for Lottie for helping grow his own understanding of missions. “It has helped me understand why we do this, why we need to reach other states, countries, nations. It’s all for the glory of God and I realize that now, by seeing people with loving hearts give to see more people get to know the Lord,” he says.
This year Sheddan hopes that latte donations will raise $800 toward their church’s LMCO goal. With her own missions experience and with her parents still serving on the field, she has personal connections and the knowledge of how those contributions make a difference in the lives of missionaries. This month, she is sharing her love of missions through a latte for Lottie, with or without a whipped cream swirl on top.
Read more about the missionary Lottie Moon and learn more about giving to the offering named in her honor.
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.