Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

September 03, 2019  •  1 Comment

 Henry Morton Stanley was dispatched by the New York Herald newspaper in 1869 to find the lost missionary, Dr. David Livingstone. Livingstone had been missing for six years in the jungles of Africa. And, on the 10th of November 1871, Stanley succeeded in finding him on the banks of Lake Tanganyika. The words of this first meeting, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" by Stanley, and the reply by Livingstone, "Yes", and then "I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you", may have been a fabrication by the newspaper.  However, the words are synonymous when speaking of the ill-fated missionary. 

 David Livingstone was born in Scotland on March 19, 1813, the second of seven children born to Neil Livingstone, a Sunday School teacher who passed out Christian tracts as he sold tea door to door. Neil was immersed in reading books on theology, travel and missionary efforts. This all rubbed off onto young David, who became an avid reader. David also became interested in the sciences and the discovery of animal and plant specimens embedded in limestone in a nearby quarry. His father feared that his love of science would steer him from his theological beliefs and the Bible. But, the deep interest in nature drove David to investigate the relationship between religion and science.

 With a desire to go to China to become a medical missionary, David acquired the skills needed, learning Greek, Latin and Hebrew. He applied to the join the London Missionary Society and was accepted for missionary training. In September of 1839, the First Opium War, or Anglo-Chinese War, broke out in China, and David's intentions were sidelined. While continuing his medical studies in London, he met African missionary, Robert Moffat, in 1840. Moffat was on leave from Kuruman, a missionary outpost in South Africa. David was excited to hear of Moffat's vision to expand the missionary work northward. Livingstone was deeply influenced by Moffat's judgement that he was the right person to go to the vast plains to the north of Bechuanaland, (now the Republic of Botswana), where he had glimpsed "the smoke of a thousand villages, where no missionary had ever been".

  David would visit the area of Mabotsa of Botswana, a place where villagers were terrorized by lions attacking the livestock day and night. He believed that if he were to kill one of the marauding lions, the others would be warned to leave the livestock alone. Livingstone then leads the villagers on a lion hunt, and, seeing a large lion, he fires, just injuring the beast. While David is re-loading, the lion attacks, biting him in the shoulder and seriously breaking and wounding his left arm, which remained a source of much suffering the rest of his life.

 Livingstone would go on to travel and explore the secrets of Africa, discovering the waterfall with "the smoke of a thousand villages", which he named Victoria Falls, after Queen Victoria. He would marry in 1845 the daughter of missionary Robert Moffat, who would follow him to Africa, endure very poor health and die of malaria on April 27, 1862.

 David, himself, would succumb to malaria and internal bleeding from dysentery in 1873. He was found kneeling by his bedside. His attendants, Chuma and Susi, removed his heart and buried it under a nearby baobab tree, saying, his heart belonged to Africa. His body was carried for 63 days by Chuma and Susi to the coastal town of Bagamoyo, and, then taken by ship to London to be buried at Westminster Abbey.

 Although being known as "Africa's Greatest Missionary", Livingstone is recorded to have only converted one African, a chief of the Kwena tribe named Sechele, who remained faithful to the Christian faith. Sechele led missionaries to the surrounding tribes and nearly converted all of his own Kwena tribe. In one estimation it is said that Sechele "did more to propagate Christianity in 19th-century southern Africa than virtually any single European missionary".

 
 

 

 


Comments

Michelle Scoggins(non-registered)
How amazing that one man's ability to convert another man to Christianity would eventually convert so many others. This is a very inspiring though. If we can just touch one person's heart, just think how many our original action will affect!
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