David Livingstone

“If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.” – David LivingstoneDavid Livingstone is best known for his accomplishments as an explorer as he was the first man to map Africa and the first European to discover many areas of the continent. What is less known of Livingstone is the immense suffering he endured in order to reach Africa with the gospel of Christ.

Livingstone was born on the 19 March 1813, 8 miles south of Glasgow, one of seven chidren. As a young child he worked tirelessly on the cotton mills from 6am to 8pm and then studied hard at the night school he attended as did many children of that time.

He developed into a unique combination of missionary, doctor, explorer, scientist and anti-slavery activist. He spent 30 years in Africa, exploring almost a third of the continent, from the Cape to near the Equator, and from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. He was brought to Ongar in the year of 1838 after applying to London Missionary Society for service in China, this was the next step for Livingstone after gaining enough knowledge on medicine and theology. His move to Ongar was to gain training along with other young men and was transferred to Ongar by the Minister of the Congregational Church, Rev. Richard Cecil. In 1840 he decided he wanted to become a missionary and was ordained.

Initially Livingstone tried to go to China as a missionary, but when the Opium War in China closed the doors, he went to South Africa. He joined the missionary Robert Moffat and married his daughter. Livingstone pushed two hundred miles north of Moffat’s assigned station and founded another mission station, Mabosta. Livingstone continued on the mission field and advanced fourteen hundred miles into the interior in spite of the hardships. His purpose was to open the door of Africa to the Gospel.

His  life in Africa was one of constant peril and suffering, yet his perseverance, determination and faith pushed him onward. He was attacked and maimed by a lion (losing the use of one of his arms), his home was destroyed during the Boer War, his body was often racked by fever and dysentery(which left other missionaries incapacitated), and his wife died on the field.

Livingston and the Lion

One morning in May, 1873, a faithful native found Livingstone by his bed, kneeling and dead. He died during prayer.  The natives buried his heart in Africa as he had requested, but his body was returned to England and buried in Westminster Abbey. Many felt no single African explorer had done so much for African geography as Livingstone during his thirty years’ work. His travels covered one-third of the continent, from the Cape to near the Equator, and from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

Livingstone was no hurried traveler; he did his journeying leisurely, carefully observing and recording with the eye of a trained scientific observer. His example and his death acted like an inspiration, filling Africa with an army of explorers and missionaries, and raising in Europe so powerful a feeling against the slave trade that through him slavery may be considered as having received its final death blow.