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  1813 A.D.:  A Living Stone Is Born In Scotland!



Dr. David Livingston, an explorations legend among Europeans


1 Peter 2:4-6  "As you come to him, the living Stone - rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him - you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For in scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame." 

  End Quote 

  "It is my desire to show my attachment to the cause of Him Who died for me by devoting my life to His service."  David Livingstone

Robert Moffat, a tested and persevering servant of God, a Congregationalist missionary, was temporarily returned to England, back on furlough for a while from dark mysterious Africa.  He was giving a presentation, a speech, about the part of that vast continent's southern portion where his mission was located.  He hoped for support, he was sharing information, and he knew the need in his strange and dangerous region of Africa for more workers.  The harvest was vast, but the workers were few.  And surely the Holy Spirit must have been with him that night, knowing all of these same things.

  In the audience was a Scotsman - an ambitious young Scotsman with a keen mind, but he was a poor young man financially.  His will was strong, his ways sometimes hard to get along with, though there were those who took to him along with those who did not.  His father was a lay missionary and salesman who passed out religious tracts where ever he went to sell his wares. 

  The young man had worked at a cotton mill.  He had managed to study Latin from primers propped up on the machines he worked on.  He had worked ambitiously to better himself, and was now studying to be a doctor.  But his heart yearned inside of him to serve God, and so he had recently made the decision that being a missionary of one sort or another would be his life's work.  But he was not sure where.  He was not sure what.  He sat there in the audience, his heart was maybe like a box of dry tinder, aching to find his particular niche for the Lord. 

  As he sat, Robert Moffat was relating what it was like in Africa where his mission was located, and then, somewhere in his speech he said:

  'There is a vast plain to the north where I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been.' 

  (I've run across a couple of slight variations to this sentence Moffat Spoke)

  And that was that.  Sometimes words are only a clambor, just a noise, chat, idle gossip, a mundane expenditure of breath.  But sometimes words are like flaming arrows shot into a dry parched heart; like a match thrown into a chest full of kindling, aching to be ignited into something larger and more important than the ordinary, aching to live with meaning!  Sometimes they fire the imagination to the point that the fire lasts a lifetime.      

  At the end of the speech the young man was up front to meet Mr. Moffat, and somewhere in the conversation the young man asked him. "Do you think I might do for Africa?"  


As you've probably guessed, the young man was David Livingston.  Though no one in the room knew it at that moment except the Holy Spirit, there was, indeed, a very great deal that he would 'do for Africa', and just as much that Africa would do for him. 

  In December of 1840 the London Missionary Society assigned David Livingston to work at Robert Moffats church in Kuruman, which is today found within the borders of South Africa.  He arrived there in 1841, and was reportedly a little disappointed to find that Dr. Moffats work - 20 years worth of work - had resulted in less that 4 dozen African people that took communion, and less than 350 in total that ususally attended church.  He had expected to encounter more new African Christians.

  Another missionary named Edwards that worked there felt that a key improvement would be to train up local African people to lead the missions, rather than Europeans leading.  Livingston thought the solution sounded workable, and in 1844 he threw in with Edwards to start another mission to the north at a location called Mabotswa among the Kgatla tribe.  It was to be focused on developing church leaders from the local tribes people.

  Livingston was attacked by a lion there, and would probably have been killed if not for another man doing all he could to get the lion off of Livingston.  Both were mauled badly before the affair was over, and though both recovered, for the rest of his life Livingston suffered badly from an arm that barely worked due to the bite the lion delivered to his shoulder. 

****Just for a little flavor, concerning those Kgatla tribes where Livingston went north to teach of Jesus, one source I read described their social life to be roughly as follows: The women work the land, pick and gather the wild edible plants, take care of the home, do the cooking, repair the houses, etc.  The boys take the herds out in the mornings to graze, and bring them back at night.  The men essentially have no regular work, tending to lounge around or work sporadically on projects of interest. **** 

  In 1843 Robert Moffat returned to Africa and his African mission after several years spent in England.  And he brought his family.  By 1844 Livingstone had married the daughter of Robert Moffat, the man that had first won him to teach of Jesus in Africa.  Her name was Mary, and the Moffat's were also Scot by heredity.  Mary Livingstone had been raised in Africa since she was 4 years old, and Livingstone could hardly have found a better suited woman for a man who was determined to be a missionary in Africa.  She could do the things a women of her day was expected to do, she knew the trials and dangers specific to Africa and wasn't afraid of them; she was a woman who could do her work and raise her family while living a life of strange and difficult adventure among strangers, in sometimes hostile environments.  She kept their children as safe as children could be kept in such a place, and made her husbands life bearable all the while. Though his calling was destined to make her life a hard one, Livingstone loved her greatly.

  A falling out with his fellow missionary Edwards led Livingstone to leave Edwards mission and move to another tribe located at a place called Chonuane - a tribe called the Kwena - and while with this tribe he began working more independently.  And here an important milestone was reached...while working with this tribe Livingstone eventually convinced a man with a number of wives to accept Christianity.  The man sent all but one of his wives away, and accepted Jesus as his Lord.  But then later he took back the number 2 wife.  This man turned out to be the one and only convert to Christianity that Livingstone is known to have made throughout his entire life, according to one source I read.  Other sources suggested that there were more. 

  Isn't that interesting....the man who paved the way where the European maps showed only blank spaces, the one who mapped the trails, met the tribes, and made friendships that would later be very important throughout all of South Africa.... was never the less not gifted - so it seems - at personally leading people to accept Jesus.  Missions need all sorts of people to be successful, and that's fine; the Lord equips His church with many different people that have many different strengths. 

  When the Kwena were forced by drought to move to a new location, a place called Kolobeng, Livingstone moved with them, so there they lived for a while.  Mary formed and taught at a school for young children, and David worked on learning the Setswana language, spoken or at least understood by many tribes in South Africa.  It would serve him well, and he became fluent in it.  He also taught the Gospel.  It must have been a happy time for them, working together.  Their marriage wouldn't hold that many of such times.  

  By 1849 the Livingstone family had become 5; two sons and a daughter had been born. In Kuruman, the Moffats wished that their daughter was in a safer and more settled place with their grand children, and they hoped it might be with them at their better well settled mission.  And Livingston was growing to feel that the very same thing would be better for his family and for his work.  So, that year David Livingstone sent his wife and children to live with her parents, and from there they would eventually go to England to live as he continued his soon to be famous life as a missionary in the much unexplored regions of Africa. 

  At Kolobeng Livingstone was becoming frustrated with the slow progress that he was making.  He personally felt that few of those people, those African tribesmen that he taught about Jesus, seemed to be of a personality type that would allow them to be successful at leading a church.  He was having difficulties finding his replacement within the tribe! 

  He was thinking bold thoughts about what could be done that would be more productive.  He was considering that maybe he should travel into the interior, and work to open up travel and commerce there.  He was becoming a hater of slavery, a feeling that would only grow in strength throughout his life.  And he had become aware of a theory espoused by some which held that by increasing trade throughout the interior of Africa and by spreading Christianity in these places as well, the economic factors that made slavery so profitable would wither away even as the moral infra-structure for seeing slavery as an outrage would begin to widely pervade these same African cultures.  And slavery would die off.

  By 1852 the severity of the drought in Kolobeng caused Livingston to close his mission.  Free to pursue some ideas that he had been nurturing, Livingstone traveled in the regions to the north, exploring, mapping, studying and recording African flora and fauna, and meeting the peoples as he was able.  He seems to have been the first to find the waterfalls called 'the smoke that thunders' by local peoples, and he named them Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria, the reigning Queen of England who was at about the end of the first 1/3 of her long 64 year reign.  She would be queen during the greatest years of African exploration and colonization.  Livingston was extremely impressed by the sight of these falls his writings relate. 

  From 1854 to 1856 restless David Livingstone did a somewhat astonishing thing....he travelled from west to east all of the way across Africa, from Luanda on the western and Atlantic Ocean shore to Qualimane on the eastern and Indian Ocean shore.  At that latitude on the coast of Africa he is thought to have been among the first to ever accomplish it.  Others had tried, men from other European nations, but it was rough hard country for Europeans.  If the powerful tribes in that region didn't get you, the diseases normally did. The bodies of the natives were accusomed from birth to the parasites, viruses, bacterias, etc.  They could bear up under them better.  But for Europeans, who's bodies were dealing with a multitude of new invaders all at once, the toll on their bodies could be extreme...often deadly. 

  But Livingston was a man who trusted in God, and he had learned much about living off of the land, and getting along with its people.  Perhaps it was his greatest strength.  So, instead of the tribes catching sight of a giant retinue of potentially threatening Europeans carrying many supplies, weapons, and coming with a multitude of men (essentiall like an army of invaders) they instead saw Livingston coming with only a few portars and only some guns for personal protection and hunting.  Better yet, when he met them, they saw at once that he had bothered to learn something of the languages used in their area of Africa, and he knew the customs, knew some of what was considered good manners and what was thought offensive.  He had the knack of making pretty good friends in some instances of the same chiefs that slaughtered other expeditions or at least treated them as hostile enemies. 

  When Livingstone met a chief and accepted his hospitality, he would speak of Jesus, but not to the point that he would not stop when people proved unwilling to hear more.  This shows less persistence on his part that was shown by certain missionaries that preached as Jesus commanded them to and would not be stopped.  But...maybe it was better in some ways as well.  That will be the Lord's to judge.  What ever the case, Livingstone's way allowed him to travel with much less resistance.

  His trans-continental exploration landed him near the mouth of the Zambezi River on Africa's east coast, and that had consequences as things would turn out.  Livingstone had mentally come to embrace the ideas of the Christianity, Commerce, Civilization crowd, which allowed that trade could be a way, as mentioned, to Christianization and Civilization.  And that this would produce a people that would have little taste for would produce African tribes less willing to prey upon other African tribes in order to sell them at a profit to slavers.  In Africa, commerce with the tribes hinged on reaching them.  That meant trade routes, and wherever possible, a great river was an ideal trade route.  The Zambezi is such a river. 

  The Zambezi is one of Africa's largest and longest rivers.  It's length is given as 1,599 miles, equivalent to half the distance across the United States.  It is the largest of the African rivers that empties into the Indian Ocean, and it drains an area of Africa that exceeds 500,000 sq. miles.  That means that as a trade route, it could theoretically offer you access to over 500,000 sq. miles worth of African marketplace, African tribes, and African humanity with their African souls.  That's an area the size of Germany, France, and Italy combined.  Livingstone couldn't have known that, exactly, but he already knew it was a big big river.  He had seen Victoria Falls, which is on it. (It would turn out to have some other pretty estimable falls as well...the Ngonye and the well as some rapids...the Cabora Bassa rapids .... that would limit its use for trade, but at this time that was another thing that Livingstone did not know.)


     After a time, Livingstone returned to England and wrote a book about his African experiences, spoke of the evils of the slave trade, talked of the economic opportunities that the continent afforded, and of course spent precious time with his wife and family.  (By his life's end his greatest regret would be the small amount of time that he spent with his family.) 

The London Missionary Society - though they thought highly of Livingstone - came to insist that when he went back, he must devote more time to missionary work and less to exploring.  Livingstone had come to think that he was far more suited for the exploring than the missionary work.  The Africans, in general, seemed slow to show interest in becoming Christians, while there was a great vast continent ripe for the exploring.  So, if he could not acheive success on the one front, he would push forward on the other.  He transferred his affiliation, with regret it is said, from the London Missionary Society to the Royal Geographical Society.  They were interested in funding an expedition to explore the Zambezi River all along it's length to see if it could become this great Christian trade route that Livingstone envisioned.  Livingstone had talked much about the evils of slave trade while in England, and it had become a topic of great discussion within that nation.

  Livingstone's name had become very celebrated in England.  His personal fame was at its greatest heigth to date.  But, up to that point his life had been a steady succession of great acheivements, alternating with great failures.  He had risen from great poverty to become a Doctor, and he had dedicated his life to God's work.  But he had gone to Africa and been permanently injured by a lion and had converted only one man to Christianity.  He had helped found a new mission, but had fallen out with his cofounder and had needed to strike out on his own.  He had married an excellent woman and had children, but had later felt he needed to send them away for their own good.  He had founded his own mission, but was forced by drought's affect on the tribe to close that same mission.  He had explored, and found great things...he had crossed the continent.  But it had only opened his eyes up to the evils of the slave trade.  Going back to London, he was celebrated as a great explorer and missionary.  But his exploring had cost his relationship with the London Missionary Society.

  But there was more of the same to come.  He was next funded and commissioned as 'Her Majesty's Consul for East Africa'.  He would lead an expedition to explore the Zambesi River for Jesus and the Crown.  And this expedition would be a large one, with experts from various scientific fields accompanying him, as well as the normal porters, etc.  It was a complex undertaking.  

  After arriving in Africa and setting out, the trouble quickly started.  Though he had accomplished much as an African explorer he had done it with a small contigent of companions.  This was more like being the General of an army!  And it soon became the opinion of many, and then most, and then... towards the end...nearly all, that David Livingston was an emotionally mercurial, even unstable, leader.  The medical doctor that was along ended up voicing the opinion that David Livingston was a mad man!  And other criticisms leveled against him included that he was incapable of enduring criticism.  And that he was poor at dealing with people.  And that he made decisions that made no sense.  And that he was moody.  He sometimes apparently went into rages. 

  To make a long story short, David Livingston was not, at that point in his life, at least, capable of leading a large African expedition into unknown lands in a way that pleased the members of the expedition!  And it was probably no where near to being all his fault.  An expedition like that would have had a lot of first timers...a lot of arm chair adventurers, a lot of whiners most likely.  But, Africa was a player as well, with it's malaria and sleeping sickness, and dysentary, and flying, buzzing biting bugs, hot difficult conditions, challenging geography, dangerous animals, threatening tribesmen, and more. 

  And it was a 6 year expedition before it was all said and done, though most had long since abandoned the effort in dispair and disappointment long before the 6 year point.  Lewis and Clark's expedition from the state of Missouri in the USA to the west coast of the North American continent (in Oregon) took only 4 years there and back, and they lost only one man.  This expedition of Livingstone's had its share of deaths, and that can be sobering to the beginner.  And most disappointing, it was found that the Zambezi river held the previously unknown Cabora Bossa rapids to contend with, far too close to the ocean to allow the Zambezi to be a particularly useful river for navigation and trade into the deep interior of Africa as had been originally hoped.

  One thing about human nature that is a constant is that when people quit a great undertaking and slink home, they usually have a long healthy list of reasons for quitting that do not paint them as the party at fault.  When these experts and other expedition members abandoned the expedition and went back home to England, many of them blackened the name of David Livingston quite damagingly.  Who can say how many of their criticisms were right on target, and which were spoken out of resentment and a desire to save face.  But...there were a whole lot of people that said Livingstone was not the man to lead a large expedition.

  Livingstone himself pressed on with the remaining men, and discovered a great deal of new country, catalogued many plants and animals, and produced maps for later use.  Much of this was more valuable than gold in the hands of future missionaries and explorers.  And once back home, it fired the imagination of the people of that day to hear of and see so many exotic things from Africa.    

  An anecdote worth mentioning is that on a certain lake heavily navigated by slave traders, Livingstone reports with sadness that the paddle-wheel that powered their boat was rendered almost useless by the sheer number of bodies - dead slaves - floating in the water. ..they had to stop frequently to disentangle the poor dead souls from the paddle wheel.  That is a testament in itself to the ugliness of slavery.  How many dead must there have been?

  It is an ugly thing for men to mistreat each other.  All men are brothers in Christ.  All men were made and are made anew each generation in the image of God.  In the Old Testament after Noah's family was saved men were told to go far away from each other and form colonies, in order to repopulate the post-flood Earth.  The 70 nations formed in that way, and then branched out in their own right.  God decided it was necessary.  Maybe because a united populace will always draw a 'Nimrod' type character, who wishes to lead for his own glory and to fulfill his own God opposing plans.  That is probably one of the reasons God made it difficult for men to fully unite, except through Christ His Son, Who stands ready to exercise the good will of the Father over all men who were created, in justice and in righteousness.  But though we have spread far apart, we come from Noah and his wife, and before their day all men have Adam and Eve in common.  We truly are all cousins, however many times removed.     

  In the end, Livingstone and his last loyal followers were called back to England by the Royal Geographical Society, who after 6 long years thought the expedition expensive and somewhat of a waste.  And for Livingstone, there had been an especiallly hard personal blow to deal with.  His well loved wife had travelled to join him in Africa on the expedition, and had died of malaria.  He had lost his Mary...who had given him 6 children in all.

  Livingstone was viewed as somewhat of a failure when he first returned to England after the Zambezi expedition, and his reputation as an explorer was for a time reduced in the eyes of the people of today's United Kingdom.  Yet, in terms of geography and botany and zoology, in terms of information about the peoples of Africa, there grew to be an understanding that much of value had resulted from the Zambezi expedition, but that realization spread slowly at first.


  To the Europeans explorers of the day there was probably no more alluring question and no greater prize to be seized upon in Africa than finding the source of the Nile.  Several explorers believed they had 'sort of located' the source.  Some thought it was Lake Victoria.  Others thought it was Lake Albert.  But the problem with finding the source of the Nile was several fold.  For one thing, if you traced the Nile to a lake, you had to ask yourself if there was a 'main' river which fed the lake.  If so, then it would be that river that would be the source, and not the lake.  Another problem is that rivers could run through some very swampy country once they came near a lake, and they could twist and turn many times before entering a lake, so unless you actually navigated the stream until it entered the lake there would be a chance that the river you were tracing merely passed by the lake.  Add to this the torturous conditions that could attend an African swamp, the discouragement and sickness that could plague your party of fellow explorers and yourself, and what resulted was that some explorers just made a reasonable seeming guess.  They all probably hated to go home with nothing to show after so much work, suffering, and struggle, and so.....they sometimes made claims that were in reality based in assumption. 

  Sometimes if the river that was being explored approached a great swampy mess of a giant lake, they would just decide that rather than torture themselves for weeks, they would just assume that that particular lake must be the source of the Nile.  But once they returned to England or whichever country they came from, they would be queried very closely by the gentlemen of their day - and by other eminent explorers jealous to claim the same prize - about the big question:  are you absolutely certain?  Did you actually and literally follow the Nile with your eyes to the very spot?  And in truth, none had.

  Livingstone could not help but be attracted by such an exciting quest, and so in early 1866 he departed again to Africa, this time to Zanzibar, to try to be the man who actually located the source of the Nile!  Zanzibar is an island off of the coast of Tanzania on the east coast of Africa.  It is a little farther north than the tip of Madagascar, and it was a good place to gather the troops and strike out for the actual coast of Africa. 

  This time he took people familiar with the equatorial climes to accompany him.  He had 12 Sepoys (a name given to privates in the army in India), some Comoros Islanders, and two trusted and loyal servants, Chuma and Susi, from the Zambezi expedition.  That should have surrounded him with men who could withstand the rigors or a difficult African expedition, but as they makes plans, and God laughs.

  Livingstone began his Nile expedition at the mouth of the Ruvuma River, as he believed that the source of the Nile was further south than where earlier claimants had placed it.  It was tough going apparently, for the expediton began to go horribly.  His expeditionary partners began to leave him, and to steal things from the expedition as they left.  Some of them even reported that Livingstone had died when they arrived back at civilization.  His medicines were stolen, and that was a hard blow because Livingstone himself suffered from sickness frequently.  When it got to the point that nearly the whole party had left him, he became so sick that he had to rely on slave traders that he ran into, an occupation that he thoroughly detested, to get him to some village or another where he could recuperate.  Ironic.....humbling. 

  God has not always worried so much about the dignity and comfort of those who have served Him and still do.  He knows their future before it occurs.  And the difficulties we endure may become our crow in heaven, if we acheive salvation.  After all, Jesus himself became so famous for His healings that He often had to stay outdoors at nights, and sleep in deserted places with his Apostles to avoid the mobbing crowds.  That is the mighty Lord Himself, and we know the indignities He suffered for us at His death.

  Well....David Livingstone's life was full of hardships, failures, and indignities.  On the 'Discovering the Source of the Nile' expedition there came a point as he stayed with one tribe that he had to live and eat in a roped off area, in European fashion, I suppose, as tribesmen watched him as you might an animal in a zoo.  He was their entertainment....the funny looking pale skinned fellow with the odd clothing and eating utensils.  In return for their enjoyment of the unusual spectacle, they gave Livingstone the food he needed to recuperate and live.  That's quite a thing when you think about it.  But, he lived through that rainy season, and pushed on exploring for the source of the Nile, and telling African people about Jesus where ever he went, as his health and strength allowed.  He often kept a journal. 

  Towards the end of Livingstone's life, he was a figure shrouded in mystery.  In truth, he kept moving, deserted by all but his closest servants, looking for the source of the Nile and encountering new peoples.  He was sick, very close to death, many times.  He dispatched more than 40 letters in six years, but only one of them ever found its way to civilization.  He soldiered on, lost to the world. 

  Meanwhile, in America and the British Islands and elsewhere in Europe and the Commonwealth his star had again risen.  He was again thought of as a romantic and almost legendary figure, an explorer of great renoun lost in the darkness of savage Africa.  Some said he was dead, but occasionally news or rumors emerged sugggesting he was still alive.  The mystery of it all captivated the minds of people when the subject was brought up.  In the United States, a Welsh immigrant named Henry Stanley was tapped by his employer, the newspaper named the New York Herald, to form an expeditionary party and seek out Livingston. 

 They happen to have picked about as tough, hard and resilient of a man as the Earth produces.  He was an overseas reporter who had traveled broadly, and been imprisoned in the Middle East; a veteran of the American Civil War that had fought on both the Confederate and the Northern side, finally deserting from the Union Navy; a man who believed in Christ but who was as stern and hard as Livingstone was adaptive and embracing of the African cultures. 

  For instance, Henry Stanley would be the last European living on a later Congo expedition that he led.  In fact, sickness and death ravaged several expeditions that he led, but he always survived.  His porters hardly dared to desert....and it wasn't just whippings that they feared.  One of the other famous African explorers - Richard Burton, an amazingly intelligent, exceptionally tough, and stubborn human being, supposedly made the claim that Stanley 'shot natives like they were monkeys', though that's not a substantiated fact to my knowledge.  But to make a long story short, Stanley was the man that a famous US newspaper sent into Africa to answer the question that so many around the world wanted to know:  Did Livingstone survive still?  It would make a tremendous news story if he was found!  And Stanley, whatever his faults and merits (and his faults appear to have been pretty dark and violent) was a good bet to succeed in his purpose..

  Stanley embarked into the interior of Africa with over 200 porters - a huge expedition in comparison to most.  He had been given a very generous budget ....essentially a blank check.  'Just find Livingston' his employers told him.

  And after difficulties that would be turned into a book in their own right once he returned, Henry Stanley found him.  He came upon Livingston on the shores of Lake Tanganyika near the town of Ujiji (a center of slave trade), and on that Oct 27, 1871 (though this greeting is contested) voiced the famous words:  "Dr. Livingstone I presume?"  And according to the unsubstantiated claim, a beleagured Livngstone (who had just arrived at Ujiji the day before) answered "Yes, and I am very thankful that I am here to greet you."  I assume that hints that Livingstone was somewhat surprised that he was even still alive. 

  Henry Stanley had done it, and he brought with him for Livingstone's use not only a great amount of much needed medecines and supplies, such as Quinine for the treatment of malaria, but also warm cheer and encouragement for a man who had been barely hanging on, nearly alone, in the middle of a continent known at that time to be especially hard - even brutal - on Europeans.  Stanley had even brought letters from Livingstones children.  Livingstone couldn't have been happier. 

  For a while the two explorers exciting teamed up and explored Lake Tanganyika, but eventually Stanley took his leave to return with the story, which was received with keen interest in many parts of the world. 

  What did Stanley say of Livingstone?  These were recorded to be his words, according to one source I read: 

   "For four months I lived with him in the same house, or in the same boat, or in the same tent, and I never found a fault in him.  His gentleness never foresakes him.  No harassing anxieties, distractions of mind, long separation from home and kindred, can make him complain.  He thinks all will come out right at last; he has such faith in the goodness of Providence."   

   And again, Livingstone fired the imagination of the public, though he was not there to benefit from it.  Christians around the world were awakened to the possibilities for spreading the gospel in the unknown parts of Africa, and were shown that a man of European descent might successfully survive there - though the difficulties could be punishingly severe.


  Livingstone's end:

   Livingstone continued his explorations, though he was an increasingly ill man.  His body had been racked by disease and hardship in one of the world's toughest proving grounds for decades, and a man can only take so much.  On May 1, 1873 (some say May 4th) Livingstone was staying in the village of a great chief while suffering from a bout of dysentary and malaria, when he died whild kneeling in prayer at his bedside. 

  His two loyal servants, Susi and Chuma - men who had endured about as much as Livingstone had - took most of his body and preserved it for transport.  At first the old chief Chitambo from a village on Lake Bangweulu, who had hosted Livingston at the end, wanted to keep his body, but finally he merely removed Livingstone's heart, which he felt belonged to Africa, and he buried it under a tree.  Livingston had become something of a valued celebrity among many of the tribes that he visited.  One of his legacies is that he did not act like an imperial bwana invading the land, but was interested in the peoples he met, and eager to share Christ with them. It was apparently understood by many of the tribes who came to know him that he had a heart for the people of Africa.  They, like people everywhere, could recognize the real thing when they beheld it. 

  And then those two men, Livingstone's servants and loyal to the end, did something truly remarkable in the eyes of the world.  They traveled with that body - that semi-preserved corpse - for more than 1,000 miles so that it could be taken to the British Isles aboard a ship.  It took a long time to travel so far, and his body was positively identified mainly by the old wounds on his shoulder from when the lion had mauled him so badly and nearly ruined his arm.

  Livingstone was buried with honor in Westminster Abbey.  Some of his journals had come back from Africa with his body, and in them the people of Britain and the world saw the thoughts of a man of many trials and sorrows who had a genuine desire to shine the light of Christ in a needy place.  In the court of public opinion he had had his ups and downs, many of them....but in the end he was judged a national treasure.

  Though he was celebrated as an explorer, one of his voiced sentiments was that if by relating the evils he had seen concerning the slave trade he was to thereby have a hand in ending it, that would be a far greater thing than any geographical discovery he might make.  Though he had, in his helplessness, several times accepted the aid of slave traders to return to a place where his health could recuperate, he did never the less truly hate slavery.

  And, it is not hard to argue that even more than he hated slavery, David Livingstone loved Jesus. 

  Did Livingstone - all told - help or hurt Africa?  Reports from his travels were part of the reason European nations came to see commercial value in Africa, and went on to colonize much of it from behind the barrel of a gun.  And the missionaries that brought Jesus' gospel to the ears of South African tribes peoples brought it to an Africa that had learned the hard way about contact with Europeans; it was a double edged sword.  But, whatever else can be said this one thing can be said also:  Another double edged sword - the word of God - was brought with those same Europeans.  Jesus was becoming known to peoples that He and His Father had created and made plans for at the dawn of creation.  And that matters.  It matters completely.     

  The things Livingstone wrote about slavery, while not the only factor, were one of the greatest determinates in marshalling the will of the English speaking world against the African slave trade at Ujiji, near Zanzibar.  So firmly did the people of England grow to detest it that about 50 years after Livingstones death the Zanzibar slave market was closed under threat of a British maritime blockade, and a Christian church was later built on the site.  Livingstone had called the African slave trade a 'large open sore', and his work had a definate hand in effectively ending it, albeit years after his death.  He planted seeds that sprouted with a vengeance much later. 

  Perhaps a fitting last thought is to say that Livingstone dedicated himself to bringing knowledge of Christ to the Earth.  The Earth is about 26,000 miles in circumference.  The famed Lewis and Clark discovery expedition was around 5,000 miles.  In his 30 years of missionary work, one of the sources that I read had measured the distance of David Livingstone's travels at about 29,000 miles, in a day before the automobile.  He travelled in small vulnerable groups for a good portion of that, in a very dangerous land.  God was certainly with him, not to protect him from hardships, but to get him through them.  God and Jesus were ever faithful for their fully commited servant, as they still are today.

  God bless David Livingston, God bless all who give and have given up their lives to be missionaries for Jesus, God bless Scotland, and God bless Africa!        


©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website