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THE MISSION OF DAVID LIVINGSTONE


The modern missionary movement really got started about 150 years ago with people who were concerned about the continent of Africa. There was a Scottish preacher by the name of Robert Moffatt who was serving in South Africa. He returned to Scotland to try to enlist more missionaries. On a cold, rainy night, he went into a little church in Scotland. To his dismay, the only people in the service that night were women. Back in those days, women didn't go alone to the mission field. He started to cancel his message, because there were no prospective missionaries there, but instead he preached to them about the need for the Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers. He made this statement, "Every morning when I get up and look at the horizon, I see the smoke from a thousand villages where the name of Christ has never been heard."


Robert Moffatt didn't know there was a teenager in that service. He was hidden up in the organ loft where his job was to pump the bellows for the pipe organ. This teenage boy, standing up in the organ chamber, heard every word he said, and he was haunted by that phrase, "The smoke from a thousand villages where the name of Christ has never been heard." So this young man decided he would become a missionary. His name, by the way, was David Livingstone.


He became a medical doctor and went to Africa. He was not content to stay in South Africa, where there were few native Africans; instead he explored the inner continent. He was a great missionary and a great explorer. He was the first white man to traverse the continent of Africa from east to west. He discovered Victoria Falls. He traveled over 29,000 miles and mapped one million square miles of previously uncharted territory.


When David Livingstone first began his ministry there, some of the native tribes opposed him. One particular warlike tribe said they were going to kill him and everyone in his party. One afternoon as they were setting up camp, word was out that these warriors had been tracking him all day, and they were outside the camp and they were going to attack and kill everyone when it got dark. I have the words David Livingstone wrote in his journal that night on January 14, 1856.


"It is evening. I feel much turmoil and fear in the prospect of having all of my plans knocked on the head by savages who are just now outside the camp." Those who studied his handwriting said you could even see the fear in the way he wrote the letters. He wrote, "But Jesus said, 'All power is given unto me in heaven and earth, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the ends of the earth.'" Livingstone wrote, "This is the word of a gentleman of most strict and sacred honor, so that's the end of my fear. I feel quiet and calm now." Even his letters are straight now.


They didn't attack that night. Later the tribe was brought to faith in Christ. A couple of years later, David Livingstone asked the chief of the tribe, "Do you remember the night you were tracking my party?"


"Yes."


"We had heard rumors you were going to attack us."


The chief said, "That's right, we were ready to attack the camp that night and kill you and everyone else."


David Livingstone asked, "Why didn't you attack?"


The chief said, "When we got close to the camp, we looked and saw 47 warriors surrounding your camp with swords in their hands."


David Livingstone was baffled. They didn't have any guards, any warriors.


Later when he was on furlough in Scotland, he shared this story at a church that was supporting him. A man came up to him afterwards with his prayer journal. He said, "Look, I wrote it down, January 14, 1856, was that the night?" David Livingstone said, "Yes." The man said, "That night a group of men came to pray for you. We prayed for your protection. I wrote it down. There were 47 men praying that night for you."


David Livingstone got so immersed into the Dark Continent most people thought he was dead because they had not heard from him for years. The New York Times hired Henry Stanley, an explorer, to search out Africa and find him. Finally Henry Stanley ventured in on this one camp, and there was the only white man for miles and miles around. In that classic statement, he walked up to David Livingstone and said, "Mr. Livingstone, I presume?"


Henry Stanley was a journalist, not a Christian, but he developed a friendship with Livingstone and was led to Christ. I love what Stanley said about Livingstone. "He converted me to Christ, and he wasn't even trying to do so." What a mark of a Christian man.


Stanley tried to get Livingstone to return back to civilization to receive medical treatment, but he refused. He wrote, "I am a missionary, heart and soul. God had only one son, and he was a missionary and a physician. A poor, poor imitation of him I am, or wish to be. In this service I hope to live; in it I wish to die."


Some of you, have been to London, England and perhaps have toured Westminster Cathedral. There in the floor David Livingstone, this great missionary explorer, is buried. What few people know is that that's just his body. His heart is not buried there, because not long after Stanley left, when Livingstone was 60 years old, the people in his camp heard a noise in his tent and went in at 3 a.m. There was Livingstone on his knees in prayer, dead. According to his wishes and his written instructions, his heart was removed from his body, and his heart was buried in Africa. Because, he said, "My heart has always been here, and this is where I want my heart to stay." They shipped his body back, and it is buried in Westminster Cathedral, but his heart will always be buried in Africa.


(From a sermon by Bob Joyce, Putting Your Heart Where Your Money Is, 8/4/2011)

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