Newsletter October, 2004



October, 2004

David Livingstone

By 1841, Africa was still called the Dark Continent because central Africa was an unidentified blank space on the world map. Although ancient Egyptians, Mediterranean adventurers, Portuguese navy, and British explorers all tried to uncover the mystery of that unknown place, none succeeded in their pursuit because of geographical dangers and difficulties. It was Livingstone who filled in this blank for the first time with his gospel journeys. He was a Christian physician, a forerunner for Christ in the heart of Africa. He preached the gospel with his life such that today there are about two hundred million Christians where he traveled and preached. Born in Scotland, 1813, Livingstone died in Africa, 1873. He is known as the Father of Africa. There are more than thirty African cities named after him. Africans love him and call him the friend of Africans. Some tribes in East Africa still sing the song about him: "Which tribe was he from? He was from the tribe of love. He is our friend."

Livingston was taught by his father to revere God since his youth. At middle school, he once wrote, "My life's sole purpose is to save souls. I'll try my best to have myself prepared." At college, he studied medicine and joined the London Missionary Society. In 1840, Livingstone heard a speech about anti-slave-trade on the street. The speaker was Mr. Robert Moffatt who ministered in South Africa for twenty years and later became Livingstone's father-in-law. Mr. Moffatt said, "I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been." The picture fired his soul with a passion which only death could quench. He would go to Africa! He said, "I hope that my life can manifest the grace of God's glory by all means." Thus, by faith Livingstone searched out the thousand villages where no missionary had ever been like the fathers of faith. "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:8-10). All these people were still living by faith when they died. "They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16). Faith enables us to see heavenly miracles. By faith Israelites went through the Red Sea as if it had been dry land. By faith the walls of Jericho came down, after they had been circled for seven days. By faith, Livingstone traveled twenty-nine thousand miles in Africa, shedding God's light on the Dark Continent. We are also aliens on earth because our eternal home is in heaven. What lies ahead of us is unknown, so we must learn to walk into the unknown by faith. Hopefully, like Livingstone, we'll learn to trust in the Lord and to follow the guidance from God's invisible hand. We may come across many difficulties, but our Lord Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29).

Preaching the gospel to the thousand villages in the Dark Continent was crammed with difficulties and hardships. First of all, Livingstone must learn the local's language. It was so difficult that Livingstone found his learning as slow as ox-wagons. However, under God's blessings, he learned to communicate with many tribes. Besides, cultural differences also hinder the effectiveness of his preaching. Bakwena tribesmen found it difficult to understand terms that Livingstone used to preach the gospel. For example, they could not understand "the light of God drives out the darkness of men". Thank God for shedding light on Livingstone's heart so that he could explain it this way: "The light of God drives out the darkness of men just as whips drive rhinos out of bushes." From then on, many prayed like this, "May the light of God drives out the rhinos in my heart." Praise God for hearing such prayers from the heart. Livingstone also taught them that Satan could not accuse those whom God had forgiven. Yet, they couldn't understand what accusation or forgiveness meant. With the help of the tribesmen, they learned to pray like this, "Dear Lord, please forgive us as your forgiveness is like the strong winds by the river side that blows away the curses against us so we can no longer hear them." When Livingstone told them that the precious blood of Jesus would purify their hearts as white as snow, they didn't know what snow was. As he learned that the purest white in the natives' eyes was the shiny skin of buffalos out of the water under the morning sun, he taught them to pray like this, "May the precious blood of Jesus wash our hearts to be as white as the skin of buffalos out of the water under the morning sun." In fact, our earthly language can hardly express the praises indebted to the Almighty Lord. The words we can think of only prove our clumsiness. However, despite the clumsiness, prayers in spirit and truth are pleasing to our Lord. With God's blessing, Livingstone overcame the language and cultural barriers in his way of preaching the good news.

However, Livingstone suffered a lot from food and water shortages on his journeys. In a letter to his sister, he said that the rhino meat he cooked the day before was as hard as stone so that he had to cook it again with corns that day. However, by the time the corns were well cooked, the rhino meat was still inedible. He would continue cooking for one more day in the hope that it became less hard to bite. On his African journeys, he often lacked food such that he had to eat bats, leaves for elephants, fruits of birds, grass roots for buffalos. Despite the stink, corn seeds soaked in rain for long were often his favorite food. African land was often like burnt beans under the sun. Shortage of water often drove people to sleep. But once they went to sleep like this, they seldom woke up again. Livingstone had to drink water filled with insects, dirt, rhino's urine, and buffalos' wastes. Because he was so thirsty that even such water tasted sweet. By God's grace he survived with such dirty water.

Hardship is another testing stone. The key for us to walk with the Lord lies in our ability to hold on to our faith and trust in the Lord in face of difficulties and hardships. Livingstone believed in the guidance from the Almighty hand of the Lord on his gospel journeys such that his vision of the heavenly city provided him oasis in the desert and satisfied his thirst. The book of Mark speaks of the Lord's parable of the sower. A man went out to sow seed. Some fell on the stony ground with little earth, and it came up straight away, because the earth was not deep. When the sun was high, it was burned; and because it had no root, it became dry and dead. The seed is the word. The seed sown on rocky places is like people who hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. We are to arm ourselves with the determination of perserverance in hardships by trusting in the Lord always. As the hymn goes, thank God for not answering our prayers at times. God may allow us to face hardships so that we may learn to trust Him with patience, hope, and a peaceful mind. Then He will grant us a surprising peace, for His will and His way are higher than ours. The Lord said, "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27).{To be continued}

                                                                                                                                           Abraham and Maggie