Newsletter November, 2004



November, 2004

David Livingstone (2)

Besides the language and cultural barriers and the suffering from lack of food and water, Livingstone also encountered many life-threatening dangers. There were three major dangers when he preached to the natives by lakes: tsetse fly, mosquito with contagious diseases, and swamps. When animals are bitten by Tsetse flies, they go to sleep and never wake up again. Mosquitoes with contagious diseases may spread malaria and fever. Once stuck in swamps, men and animals rarely come out alive. Various diseases threatened the health of Livingstone and his companions. Thirty of his companions died of smallpox. Once Livingstone was bitten by leeches in the river and he never fully recovered. His wife, Mary, died of a contagious disease in Africa in 1862. In her letter to Livingstone, she wrote, "We can offer our lives to Africa even though we have little money. This is the freedom no money could buy. Do not grieve because you haven't given me a well settled home. Wherever you are is my home." Thank God for giving Africa such a holy couple. Many ferocious beasts roam around in Africa. Black rhinos may attack men from bushes without warning. One night, a rhino attacked a native. Livingstone rushed out to save him, but was stopped by the chief who didn't want him to be hurt. However, he replied, "I am a Christian and a physician. I must go to him." Lions frequently attacked men and livestock among Bakwena tribesmen in Kuruman. The tribesmen were frightened. It was rumored that lions came because they believed in a foreign religion. Therefore, when lions came again, Livingstone and Mobawe, the first converted native teacher, rushed out with guns. Livingstone fired two shots at the lion, but it sprang toward him and caught him by the left shoulder. Mobawe shot at the lion and missed. Yet, the lion turned toward Mobawe to attack him. Fortunately, the first two bullets took effect and killed the lion. The lion left eleven tooth marks as permanent scars, produced a stiff arm and much suffering for the rest of Livingstone's life. Ever since then, whenever Livingstone talked about how Jesus was nailed to the cross for the sin of men, the natives would naturally looked up at his left chest as they could see such sacrificial love in Livingstone himself.

Livingstone's love was truly in his action. The Apostle John wrote, "in this we see what love is, because he gave his life for us; and it is right for us to give our lives for the brothers" (1 John 3:16). "My little children, do not let our love be in word and in tongue, but let it be in act and in good faith" (1 John 3:18). Livingstone's love did not stop at religious or ethical theories but was manifested in helping the natives in their daily lives. He cured their diseases, trained them to sow, and taught them to build houses. Without true love, these tasks would have been too burdensome to carry out. He also loved them expecting no reward. Jesus said to the master of the house, "When you give a feast, do not send for your friends and your brothers and your family or your neighbors who have wealth, for they may give a feast for you, and so you will get a reward. But when you give a feast, send for the poor and the blind and the broken: And you will have a blessing, because they will not be able to give you any payment, and you will get your reward when the upright come back from the dead" (Luke 14:12-14). Livingstone truly loved because he helped the tribesmen for no reward but for Christ's sake. Livingstone's love did not boast and had no pride. Jesus said, "When then you give money to the poor, do not make a noise about it, as the false-hearted men do in the Synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have glory from men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you give money, let not your left hand see what your right hand does: So that your giving may be in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward" (Matthew 6:2-4). At one time, Livingstone seemed to have disappeared to the outside world once he had entered the area of Luoma River. Many believed that he was killed as the natives said. However, Livingstone went on with searching for the origin of slave trade path to save the slaves. 
The greatest danger came from the battles among different tribes. Boer, the slave trading tribe, offered a reward to kill him. He came across many flying spears from forests, bushes, and water. Sometimes, he had to aim at his enemies with his gun to show them how easy it was for him to kill them. Then, he would point the gun to the sky and proclaimed, "I fear God." He never used a single bullet on the native Africans. No other explorer has ever faced so much danger. However, God's hand always protected him.

In addition to outside dangers and difficulties, Livingstone also had to overcome his own weaknesses to totally trust in the Lord in preaching the gospel. He was good at walking but bad at preaching. He only spoke out of necessity. His worst grade in missionary training was for preaching. Once he was sharing in a church. Soon after he started, he said to the congregation, "Friends, I have forgotten what I have prepared." Then, he rushed out of the church and disappeared in the darkness. However, he believed that the power of God's words would help him overcome all difficulties and hardships. He loved the verses from Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Once when Livingstone preached and prayed before Boatnalama tribesmen, they laughed at him because they couldn't see God whom he was praying to. After the prayer, he went on leading them in singing hymns. They shed tears as the Lord touched their hearts with the hymns. Bushman was a tribe that knew no tears. They shed no tears even when Livingstone operated on them. However, when Livingstone told them the Bible story, they all rushed out to cry. He wondered what he had done wrong and worried that no one would come again. To his surprise, more people came the next night and cried more. African natives are still asking for Livingstone-type of preaching that reveals true spiritual life. Livingstone's favorite verse from the Bible was that this gospel is the power of God. The first converted chief asked Livingstone why his forefathers had never heard of the love of God and of Jesus the Savior and passed away into deep darkness. There are about two hundred million Christians on the land that Livingstone traveled.

Dear brothers and sisters, we often excuse ourselves by saying that we are not gifted. We often believe that we can do little because we don't have much gift. However, God values our heart toward him more than our ability. What truly matters is whether we are willing to offer ourselves to God. May the seed sowed in our hearts gives fruits thirty, sixty, or a hundred times as much to please Him. Livingstone always remembered the teachings from Thomas of his Sunday school, "We should rely on our Lord in everything we do in order to walk with Him. Thus, the faith may grow in us steadfastly. We should do more than we say." Livingstone truly walked with and worked with the Lord. He offered his whole life to the Lord and trusted Him fully.

When he set out to find Makololos in 1851, Mary brought the children with him. His children asked him whether they could come back alive. In his answer, he told them that he didn't know what would happen on this adventure, but that the Lord Jesus would surely be with them and bless them till the day they could see Him. That year, he and his companions had to travel through a thick papyrus field with sight blocking tall grass in central Africa. The field was so large that it took them more than three days to get out. Furthermore, their guide was missing. However, in front of them appeared a rhino that led them out of the field. God used a rhino to guide them out of the danger! Livingstone said, "I have made all the explorations to serve my duty. The invisible hand of the Lord has always led me." He considered Christians as the most optimistic people in the world because of God's presence. "Troubles are round us on every side, but we are not shut in; things are hard for us, but we see a way out of them; We are cruelly attacked, but not without hope; we are made low, but we are not without help; In our bodies there is ever the mark of the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be seen in our bodies" (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

Livingstone truly glorified the name of the Lord with his life. As he held fast to the Lord in times of difficulties, the Lord enabled him to walk a path impassable and to accomplish missions impossible. To glorify the name of the Lord is the duty of every Christian. Our future is our own Dark Continent full of unknown difficulties. How much we can do for the Lord depends on our willingness to offer ourselves to the Lord. May we never fall short of the glory of God, for we may even see our Lord during the journey. Will we say, "Lord, you have come far too soon as I am not ready yet and I am not clothed with linen, clean and bright?" Or will we say, "Thank you, Lord, for helping me to lead a live with faith, hope, and love. I have trusted in you, hoped for the heavenly kingdom, and loved brothers in your sacrificial love?" Jesus said, "Yes, I am coming soon." May we all be ready to say, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." May the grace of the Lord be with us always. Amen.

Livingstone was a good physician. Why did he choose to offer himself and his family to Africa instead of living a wealthy and easy life? We have met some workers of the Lord like him. Their wisdom is incomparable in the world. They could have used their wisdom to make a lot of money, but they used their wisdom to serve the Lord. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding" (Psalm 111:10). They treasure the Lamb on the cross above all treasures of the world. Like the apostles, they don't want to be in debt to the Lord by keeping the gospel to themselves. Our Lord said, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15). May we follow His words. This is the hope, which He gave us, even eternal life.

Abraham and Maggie