Bisque doll

Limited edition Lottie Moon doll on display at CSBC

It all started with a Facebook Messenger note from Pastor Tito Villegas’ former college professor.

He found a rare Lottie Moon doll among his father’s belongings and wanted to know if Villegas would like to have it – since Villegas was a strong supporter of Southern Baptist missions.

Villegas said yes. Now he uses the doll to help others develop their own zeal for Southern Baptist missions by displaying it at the Southern California Baptist Convention offices in Fresno, where CSBC staff hope it will spark conversations about missions and ministries.

“I am very fortunate to be able to share this doll with the convention,” said Villegas, pastor of RISE Church in Fresno“and to be able to use it in the future as an educational piece when we talk about Lottie Moon and the [Lottie Moon Christmas] Offer. I’m honored that the convention displays it like this.

Villegas’ call to ministry led him to an intensive bachelor’s program at Fresno Pacific University in 2012-13. There he met Quentin Kinnison, professor at the School of Humanities, Religious and Social Sciences. Kinnison followed Villegas after graduation, including Villegas’ journey as a Southern Baptist church planter beginning in 2017.

Kinnison’s father is a retired Southern Baptist pastor and has used the Lottie Moon doll over the years as a teaching aid. While browsing through her father’s belongings, Kinnison came across the doll, made with a biscuit face, real hair and authentic Chinese clothing to reflect Moon’s missionary background. Namesake of Lottie Moon’s Christmas Offering for the International Missions of the Southern Baptist Convention, Moon served as a Southern Baptist missionary in China from 1873 to 1912.

Limited collection

The doll was part of a limited collection of 1,000 similar dolls, according to an information sheet that came with the figure.

A man and his wife bought 50 of them, most giving away or selling over the years. There were about 20 left when a flood in 1994 submerged them in a storage room on the ground floor. Still, “true to the spirit of Miss Lottie”, the dolls floated safely in their blue boxes, according to the fact sheet. They were cleaned up and one ended up in the possession of Kinnison’s father.

When Villegas received this doll in late July, he wondered how it could most effectively be used to advance the Great Commission.

His friendship with CSBC CEO Pete Ramirez helped answer the question.

Honor Lottie

Ramirez is a member of RISE and Villegas’ wife, Deanna, works in Ramirez’s office. It therefore seemed natural to lend the doll to the CSBC to display in the general manager’s office. Several people have already asked questions about this during their visit.

“Tito received it and felt it should be on display here in our offices, not on a shelf in his home or office where it couldn’t be seen,” Ramirez said.

“The letter that sits next to the doll in a frame tells a beautiful story of the doll’s survival,” he noted.

“Lottie Moon cared about people and missions were her heart,” he added. “Honoring her in any way seems like the right thing to do. The family who made, purchased and cared for these dolls for years deserves credit for their preservation and upkeep.

Promoting Southern Baptist Missions

Every fall, Villegas invites a International Mission Council missionary to preach at RISE and promote Southern Baptist missions. Perhaps in the future, these missionary promotion Sundays will include a cookie doll.

“I really believe in what we’re doing as a convention,” Villegas said. “I believe in what we do at IMB and NAMB (North American Missionary Council). I just hope it inspires people, if they’re called by God, to be missionaries.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by David Roach and originally published by the Southern California Baptist Convention.