Monday, March 31, 2014


In the 1860's David Livingstone returned to Great Britain on his first vacation after 16 years of traveling in the interior of darkest Africa. Livingstone was asked to speak at the University of Glasgow, but perhaps he would have declined if he knew what was in store for him. It was the custom of undergraduates those days to heckle the speakers who came, and they were well prepared for this preacher. They had peashooters and trumpets and rattles and noisemakers of every description. David Livingstone walked out on to the platform. Here stood the man who had walked 11,000 miles all over Africa. His left arm hung limply at his side having been almost ripped from his body by a huge lion. His face was dark and leathery brown from 16 years in the African sun. His face was furrowed with deep lines from African fever that racked his emaciated body. Savages, as well as Turks who hunted Africans to sell as slaves had attacked him. Livingstone was half-deaf from rheumatic fever and half blind from a branch that had slapped him in the eyes in the jungle. The students stared and they knew that here was a man that was literally being burned out for God. Not a rattle moved, not a foot shuffled and a hush crept over the vast auditorium as they listened in total silence as David Livingstone told about his journeys and the tremendous needs of this vast African population. "Shall I tell you," he said "what sustained me in the midst of all those toils, hardships, and incredible loneliness? It was a promise. The promise of the Lord that "I am with you always even to the end of the world." It was this promise that Christ would be with me personally right next to me every hour of each day that gave me the courage to continue day after day," Livingstone said
For David Livingstone Jesus Christ was with him, and Livingstone lived as if Jesus Christ was right next to him each moment. In Livingstone's diary we find his tremendous prayer, "Lord send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me; sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart." And Jesus said "David, I am with you always". Livingstone's wife Mary finally came to meet him in Africa, and for months she sailed on the ocean and then she cruised up the steamy mosquito swarming rivers. Soon after she greeted her husband she contracted African fever. Night after night, day after day David sat up with her and wiped her fevered brow. And slowly she worsened and finally took her last breath. Mary was dead. David Livingstone buried her under a huge tree and then he fell on that mound of dirt and wept. The Lord reminded Livingstone of his prayer. Sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart. His body was broken, his loved ones were gone, and he seemed alone and discouraged. He was overcome. How did he deal with sorrow and grief? This is what he wrote in his diary. "My Jesus, my King, my Life, my all. I again consecrate my life to you. I shall place no value on anything I possess, on anything I may do except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ." When he arrived back home he found that natives had stolen his food and worst of all they had stolen his medicine chest with the quinine and other medicines to alleviate the pain of those terrible African fevers. For Livingstone the loss of these essential things was a death sentence and he cried out to God. "Oh, God you promised to be with me." Then he heard the sound and he looked up from his prayer. For five years he had not seen the face of a white man, and now, in the midst of the interior of Africa he looked up and he saw a white face walking toward him. Behind this white man was a whole caravan and above them flying in the wind the American flag. It was Henry Stanley who uttered those unforgettable words, "Dr. Livingstone I presume". For four months Stanley lived in the same hut with Livingstone. He nursed Livingstone back to health. Stanley had been an atheist but after those four months living with Livingstone Stanley became a Christian. Livingstone refused to return to civilization with Stanley. Instead Livingstone plunged deeper into Africa. For Livingstone the end was approaching. His diary said, "Lord help me to finish thy work this year to thine honor." And so he did. He came to a place where his strength was completely spent; his feet were lacerated and ulcerated with boils. He had nothing to eat but hard maize (dried corn) for months. Gradually all his teeth became loosened and fell out. He was deserted by everyone with the exception of three of his followers who tried to carry his very sick body back to England. Livingstone could not walk, he couldn't stand, and he couldn't go another step. His response was simple: Livingstone commanded his friends to put him on a stretcher and carry him onward. "I will not swerve one hairs breadth while I still have life." Deeper and deeper he plunged into Africa on a stretcher. Propped up, he proclaimed the riches of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all with whom he came into contact. And then there came a day when Livingstone couldn't even be moved. It was pouring rain. A small temporary hut was quickly made. Livingstone was lying on his cot in the middle of the night when the servant boy who lay across the doorway to keep out wild beasts heard Livingstone stir. The servant boy got up and saw Livingstone agonizingly roll out of his cot and on to his knees and with his hands folded in prayer. After a while the boy went back to sleep but in the morning when he looked on Livingstone he saw him still in prayer. Several people came asking for Livingstone but the boy told them that Livingstone was still in prayer not to disturb him. Finally the boy became concerned and said to Livingstone softly "Sir", no answer. "Sir" still silence. He crept closer to him and touched his cold cheek. Livingstone died on his knees in prayer.
David Livingstone died in a village in Zambia, on 1 May 1873 from malaria and internal bleeding caused by dysentery. Britain wanted the body to give it a proper ceremony, but the tribe would not give his body to them. Finally they relented, but cut the heart out and put a note on the body that said, "You can have his body, but his heart belongs in Africa! Livingstone's heart was buried under a Mvula tree near the spot where he died, now the site of the Livingstone Memorial. His body together with his journal was carried over a thousand miles by his loyal attends and was returned to Britain for burial. After lying in repose his remains were interred at Westminster Abbey Livingstone had lived his life in the presence of Christ and he left this life in the presence of Christ. Jesus said, "I am with you always" and He had kept His promise.
Livingstone's life consisted of 39 years, traveling 29,000 miles across Africa bringing light to darkness. Two million Africans were brought to the Gospel and the light he brought continues to shine to this day. For every mile Livingstone walked or was carried, he was strengthened by Jesus' promise: "I am with you always".

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