Evangelistic Explorer: David Livingstone
- Monday, May 02, 2005
Rarely does one find an explorer who had the character and virtue that Dr. David Livingstone possessed. Many explorers achieved worthy accomplishments in their work, but sadly many of them did not have heroic character in their daily lives. Livingstone, however, in addition to his great accomplishments, was also a Christian and lived it out in his every activity. He viewed his main purpose in life to be that of an evangelist and shared the gospel wherever he went.
Born on March 19, 1813, in Blantyre, Scotland, David Livingstone was raised in a Godly home. His relaxed childhood was shortened when at the tender age of ten he went to work at a factory. Long days he slaved at work from six in the morning till eight at night. Many times he would bring a book and catch a few sentences when time allowed. At the age of nineteen, he enrolled at the Glasgow University with the intent of becoming a doctor, while inwardly he felt God calling him to do missionary work. He applied to the London Missionary Society for support. After graduating in 1840, he made preparations to go to China, but the Opium War prevented him. God opened up a door to Africa and David willingly went.
Dr. Livingstone's first years in Africa were very informative. He made his home among the natives, and learned much about how they lived. He also found the diverse land in southern Africa very fascinating. Also interested in the African animals, he once had a terrifying encounter with a ferocious lion. The lion had been causing disturbances among the tribes, so Livingstone joined a group of men to search for the animal. While they were hunting, the lion appeared. David shot both barrels of his gun but the animal still attacked him. The mauling seriously injured David's left shoulder and arm. He was taken to the home of Robert Moffat, where he was nursed back to health by Dr. Moffat's daughter, Mary. A relationship grew between David and Mary, and they were married in 1844. His first years in Africa were enlightening, but he had not yet begun his most memorable work.
Why did Dr. Livingstone become an explorer? He wanted to share the Good News with people who had never heard it. His first taste of exploring came when he journeyed north from his missionary station at Kuruman and through the Kalahari Desert with its trackless plains and prairie grass. This trip was made again in 1849. In August of that year Livingstone reached Lake Ngami, becoming the first recorded white man to see it. Finding Lake Ngami was an important discovery. As the expedition continued, Livingstone came down with malaria. Throughout his life he suffered severely from various kinds of diseases but he never let them stop him. He kept pressing on with the bold perseverance of a true Christian and a determined explorer.
He did so many noteworthy things as an explorer that it is easy to forget that he was also an evangelist. Unlike other whites he lived among the natives, thus sharing in their lives in a very special way. Certainly his most important mission was to spread the gospel. He lived what he preached.
He also showed his genuine concern for the Africans by openly opposing slavery. Even during the mid 1800's the barbaric practice of slavery was still a driving force in Africa. Dr. Livingstone hated slavery! On at least one occasion he drove away some slave catchers and set free those who were in chains. Sadly many of the trails he opened up were used by slave catchers. Nothing grieved Dr. Livingstone more than having his explorations used to exploit the natives.
During the years of 1852-1853, Dr. Livingstone led another expedition. After traveling through the Kalahari Desert, he reached the Chobe River whose banks were surrounded by a dense forest. Paddling down the river in canoes he and his men encountered numerous kinds of water snakes. Eventually they reached Linyanti, a town of the Makolol tribe. Livingstone hoped to find a suitable location for a missionary station, but when he became ill with malaria the spot was considered unhealthy and they continued their trip. In his own words he explained what he intended to do next: "I shall open up a path to the interior or perish, I never have had the shadow of a shade of doubt as to the propriety of my course." Departing from Linyanti on November 11, 1853, they followed a northwesterly route. They arrived at the coastal city of Luanda on May 3, 1854. In only six and a half months the exploration crew had traveled 1,400 miles.
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