Dr. Livingstone, I Presume

Even though he didn’t remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his days.   1 Kings 15:14        


David Livingstone is hailed as one of the greatest Christian missionaries of all time.  That’s odd in a way, because he only had one convert in his entire career.  

He wasn’t a great preacher and the London Missionary Society would have rejected him, but the director gave him a second chance to pass the course. In addition to this, he was a lousy leader and was incapable of organizing large-scale projects.  


Livingstone lacked the gifts you would desire in a missionary, but you simply could not get this man to quit. While trying to set up a mission, he was mauled by a lion and almost killed. After that, his arm was partially disabled and caused constant pain. Then his wife died of malaria. Livingstone himself often had his food and medical supplies stolen. His suffered from pneumonia, cholera and tropical ulcers. He became half blind. 

But he wouldn’t quit. “I am prepared to go anywhere,” he said, “provided it is forward.”  


No one back home quite knew how to deal with him. A missionary society wrote him and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you.” Livingstone wrote back, “If you have men who will come only 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.”  

Livingstone disappeared into the interior of Africa and explored areas that no white man had ever explored. He once lost contact with the outside world for six years. Those on the home front urged he be cautious. “If we wait till we run no risk, the gospel will never be introduced into the interior,” he wrote back.  

Livingstone was not only a missionary but a doctor – so he could care for the sick. When 19th century Britain was still looking for “lesser races” to rule, he changed the national mindset to see them as equals. His letters and books stirred support for the abolition of slavery.  


When this undaunted missionary died, the British demanded his remains. His body now lies in Westminster Abbey.  

But not his heart. The natives cut out his heart and buried it where he died. “You can have his body,” they said, “but his heart belongs in Africa.”  

Livingstone wrote in his dairy, “God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart.”  


Don’t worry about the gifts you lack. Just keep going in any direction . . . as long as it is forward. 

(text copyright 2012 by Marty Kaarre)