David Livingstone I Presume

David Livingstone was born as the second son to Niel and Agnes Livingstone at Blantyre, Scotland, on March 19, 1813, into a devout Congregational family whose spiritual convictions caused them to maintain “family worship morning and evening, regular attendance at church and strict observance of the Sabbath”.

David worked in a cotton mill at age 10 and studied at night. He had a determined nature which stood him in good stead. Books greatly influenced him. Dick’s ‘Philosophy of the Future State’ led him to confess Christ and the examples of Henry Martyn, first modern missionary to Moslems and Charles Gutslaff, medical missionary to China, fixed his life purpose.

As a young medical student his first desire was to serve His Lord in China.  But the infamous “Opium War” had closed the door to that land, and Livingstone turned his eyes to the fever-ridden jungles and arid sun-burned deserts of Africa. This course was influenced by Robert Moffat, pioneer Missionary to Africa.

Livingstone farewelled his father at age 27 and never saw him again.

Livingstone’s venture into Africa is an epic story of human endurance … the attack by the lion (“which shook me as a terrier would shake a rat!”); the tortuous crossing of the Kalahari Desert; the trek across Africa and discovery of “the smoke that thunders!” (Victoria Falls); the clash with Portuguese slave traders; the incredible saga of the Ma Robert, a paddle-steamer that had engines “not even fit to grind coffee in!”

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On arrival in Cape Town, Livingstone was offended by the European attitude toward the natives. He showed compassion and gave medical care and was convinced that treating them nobly would be much more effective than the abusive attitude taken by others.

In 1844 David married Moffat’s eldest daughter, Mary, and they enjoyed a happy marriage which produced six children. However their dedication to the lost meant that the couple sacrificially spent long periods apart.

Livingstone’s heart for the lost caused him to feel indignant that good men were sitting back at home splitting hairs about theology while the interior of Africa had not been penetrated. His letters home raised the appeal, “Who will penetrate the heart of Africa?”

Eventually he saw that he had to do it on his own. He took his family to Cape Town and tearfully shipped them back to England. Then he ventured north, finding opposition from the Dutch Boers who destroyed his dwelling and his goods. The depravity of the natives, with polygamy, incest and cannibalism was matched by the murderous brutality of the slave trade. These horrors shook Livingstone as much as the fevers and physical deprivations.

After 16 years in Africa Livingstone made his first visit back to England, arriving December 9, 1856. He received a gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society among many other honours. He was a hero, as one who had come back from the dead. However the London Missionary Society felt that his explorations were not true Missionary endeavour and so he withdrew from their membership and returned to Africa engaged with the Royal Geographical Society and as the Queen’s consul.

March 10, 1858, Dr and Mrs Livingstone sailed from England with their son Oswell. At Cape Town Mrs Livingstone became so ill that she had to remain behind and did not rejoin her husband for several years. The list of Livingstone’s discoveries is significant. He found sites for mission bases, preached, healed the sick and exposed the horrors of the slave trade.

When Mary died in 1862 the fearless Livingstone said, “For the first time in my life I want to die“. Then, after a final visit to England, Livingstone set off again, not to explore but to preach. In the heart of Africa this man of God “preached to thousands and tens of thousands of natives”.

In 1871 his health failed. “Feet sore from ulcers; teeth falling out through sickness; weary of body and sick of heart, he lay in his hut for eighty days, longing for home, now far beyond his reach. His sole comfort and help was his Bible, which he read through four times during this period, and upon the flyleaf of which he wrote these significant words: ‘No letters for three years. I have a sore longing to finish and go home, if God wills.’ Supplies and letters had been sent, but were intercepted by the Portuguese. The Royal Geographical Society had sent out a search, but found him not.

After Livingstone virtually disappeared in central Africa Henry Morton Stanley of the New York Herald set off in search for the missing missionary. That hard-bitten reporter testified after living with Livingstone: “For four months and four days I lived with Livingstone in the same house, or in the same boat, or in the same tent, and I never found a fault in him … Each day’s life with him added to my admiration for him.  His gentleness never forsakes him; his hopefulness never forsakes him” (How I Found Livingstone, by H.M. Stanley).

Livingstone refused to return with Stanley, choosing to keep pressing forward. And so he died in Africa – on his knees beside his bed – at the furthest point of all his exploratory journeys, on 1 May, 1873.

A blog post about Henry Morton Stanley and his discovery of Dr Livingstone can be found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/stanley-finds-livingstone

A blog post about Robert Moffat, who preceded and outlived Livingstone can be found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/robert-moffat-opens-africa

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Robert Moffat Opens Up African Missions

Robert Moffat was born in East Lothian, Scotland, to staunch Calvinistic parents on December 21, 1795. His mother read missionary stories to her children when they were young and that made an indelible impression on young Robert.

With few academic possibilities and living near a shipping port Robert went to sea as a lad and endured many hair-raising dangers. His parents were relieved when he gave up sailing for studies. But at 14 he was apprenticed to a gardener. A few years later, under a different gardener, he attended Wesleyan Methodist meetings in Cheshire and found himself under conviction of sin.

“One evening,” he later wrote, “while poring over the Epistle to the Romans … I saw what God had done for the sinner and what was required of the sinner to obtain the divine favour and the assurance of eternal life” (R. Moffat, by E.J. Smith, page 21).

Then on a journey to a nearby village he saw notice of a returned missionary speaking locally. This brought back memories of his mother’s stories and he resolutely decided to become a missionary.

However his academic limitations were a problem for selection to missionary work. In 1815 he was ‘reluctantly’ accepted by the newly founded London Missionary Society.

On 18 October, 1817, at the age of 21, he sailed on the “Alacrity” for Cape Town, South Africa … leaving his fiancée, Mary Smith, behind. He had met her about six years earlier. In 1813 this 18 year-old Scottish lad had been employed as a gardener in Manchester, England. And his employer had a daughter. Robert already had felt the call to Africa as a missionary, but Mary’s parents refused to give their consent when he proposed marriage.

Robert’s first achievement in South Africa was to learn Dutch, so he could preach to the Boors. He then took an arduous journey to the mission station at Afrikaner’s camp. There he was quickly put in charge, and under his preaching the chief, Afrikaner, and his brothers were converted and took up some of the mission work.

Robert then took Afrikaner to Cape Town to meet the English authorities. It was now two years since arriving in Africa and to his delight this young pioneer missionary received letters “bearing the joyful tidings that he might expect to welcome Mary later in the year”.

Complications arose, however, in the form of a deputation from the London Missionary Society. It was requested that he accompany these gentlemen inland, which meant he would not be in Cape Town when his Mary arrived. It was a conflict of duty … or love.

But with the L.M.S. deputation he set off (duty won!), only to find that a tribal war had broken out and it was necessary for them to turn back. Thus when Mary Smith arrived, in December, 1819, Robert Moffat was there to meet her, and they were married a few days later. He wrote a letter home that confessed “her arrival was to me nothing less than life from the dead.” Together they laboured for Christ for 50 years. One of the daughters, also named Mary, married David Livingstone.

For the first ten years of their labours, establishing a new mission base among the Bechuana, they had no spiritual fruit. But when one person began enquiring about the Lord, Mary asked friends back home to send over a Communion service, which they did. By the time it arrived, three years later, there were 120 people ready to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with the Moffats.

Robert Moffat translated the whole Bible into the Bechuana tongue, a task that took him thirty years. When it was completed he fell to his knees and thanked God for the strength to see it though, among his many other endeavours.

Moffat also evangelised the Hottentots, ruled over by Africaner, a feared warrior chief. Africaner eventually became a “zealous witness for Christ” (Vision and Valour, by T.J. Bach, page 55).

It was during the first furlough in England that a young medical student heard Robert Moffat say, “I have seen in the morning sun the smoke of 1000 villages where no missionary has ever been.” The young medical student caught the vision and ventured forth to become one of Africa’s greatest missionaries. He was David Livingstone – who later married Robert Moffat’s daughter, Mary, in 1844!

In his half century in Africa the former gardener carried many burdens: Unbearable heat, privations, arduous physical labour of all kinds as he single-handedly built mission stations from the dust, facing death at the point of a spear, burying several of his children (child and adult) including his first child – Mary, identifying the remains of his son-in-law – David Livingstone, and losing his wife in his latter years.

England gave this man great honour. He was an inspiration and a pioneer of exceptional acclaim. By the twenty-first century South Africa, with all its troubles, is a remarkably Christianised nation, thanks to the foundations laid by men who gave their all for Africa.

It was at the age of 88, at the home of another daughter in Kent, England, that this pioneer missionary went to be with his Lord. It was 9 August, 1883.

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Dan Crawford Envisions Modern Missions in Africa

Dan Crawford was born in Greenock, near Glasgow, Scotland on December 7, 1870.

His father died from tuberculosis when Dan was but four years old … but he grew up in his home town to be ‘a guid laddie’, eventually working as a bookkeeper. He too contracted tuberculosis, soon after starting his trade, being given only a year to live. But he recovered and maintained good health, even in Africa.

Sundays found him regularly at the United Free Church teaching Sunday-School. A fellow teacher, John Storer, would often speak of the joys of salvation to him. But of this Dan Crawford knew nothing. His was a mere head knowledge of the eternal truths.

Nevertheless, his friend’s testimony seemed to stir within him a sense of conviction.

On Sunday 15 May, 1887, with John Storer, Dan Crawford attended an old-fashioned gospel meeting. The meeting closed and still Dan Crawford had not responded. But John Storer brought the issue to a head by “drawing a thick line with a carpenter’s pencil” on the floor. “Dan,” he said, “you’ll not step over that line until you have trusted Christ. Will you trust Him now?” (Twelve Mighty Missionaries, by E. Enock, page 82).

Dan signified his commitment to Christ by stepping across the line.

He never looked back. Baptised on 15 September, 1887, he fellowshipped with the Brethren Assembly, fell in love with Grace Tilsley, and felt the call to missionary service. He was not disobedient to the Heavenly Vision, initially planning to go to China.

Soon after his conversion, however, Crawford heard returned African missionary F. S. Arnot tell of the challenge to reach the African tribes which Livingstone had dreamed of reaching, beyond the Lualaba River. Young Crawford responded to the “call” to Africa, joined Arnot’s party and sailed for Angola on 23 March 1889. He eventually arrived at Bunkeya, the capital of the kingdom of Garenganze (now Katanga), ruled by the despotic Msidi, in November 1890.

His arrival occurred at the time of the Belgian expansion of the Congo Free State. Brethren missionaries steered well clear of politics. The assassination of Msidi in 1891 led to disintegration of his empire, which played into the hands of the new colonial masters.

For his part Crawford was highly individual and opinionated. He was difficult to work with as testified by how quickly people gave up working with him through the years. One opinion which he changed was that missionaries should remain single. He once remarked that “a missionary married is a missionary marred”.

Many in those days referred to Africa as the “white man’s grave”. Scores of pioneer missionaries succumbed to disease or death within months of their arrival. But Dan Crawford’s health even prospered in these harsh conditions.

He ventured out on his own in 1893, creating a new mission station near Lake Mweru. His base attracted many natives who were displaced by the various tribal struggles. He also travelled extensively, taking the gospel on his exploratory travels.

Seeing better wisdom than his anti-marriage stance, he wrote to Miss Tilsley, telling of his love for her. Before long she was en route to Africa … and they married on 14 September, 1898.

Crawford proved himself to be a gifted linguist, mastering the local African languages, teaching himself both Greek and Hebrew and translating the Scriptures into the Luba dialect, which translation he used in his village “Bible schools”. His converts were encouraged to participate in preaching, teaching and church administration.

Not only did he achieve remarkable results among those with whom he worked for 22 years in the Congo, but he wrote Thinking Back (1912), a book that caused a stir by challenging some contemporary missionary methods, as did his later book Back to the Long Grass. He considered himself to be of no fixed nationality, but a brother to all men. “I am de-nationalized – a brother to all men; Arab, African, Mongol, Aryan, Jew; seeing in the Incarnation a link that binds us up with all men”. He identified with the Africans, which was contrary to the European thinking of his day.

On the night of 29 May, 1926, he accidentally knocked the back of his hand on a rough wooden shelf. Being sleepy, he failed to apply iodine – and later treatment proved useless. As a result of that simple accident blood poisoning set in and he died on 3 June, 1926, at the age of 55 years.

Again … “he stepped over the line”, into the very presence of his Lord.

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

The Jungle Doctor Inspires the World to Missions

The Jungle Doctor, Paul Hamilton Hume White, was converted to Christ on December 3, 1926.

Paul Hamilton Hume White was born in New South Wales, Australia, in 1910. Hamilton Hume was an Australian explorer from the early 1800’s. Paul’s father had served in the Boer War and it seems that the dad’s stories of life in Africa inspired a life-long fascination for Africa in his son, even though the father passed away with meningitis when Paul was only 5.

When Paul White was sixteen he saw a newspaper headline – “Irish Evangelist calls Bishop a Polecat!” It was a story concerning William P. Nicholson who had visited a pipe-smoking Anglican clergyman and had been asked by a reporter what he thought about such a nauseous habit. Nicholson had replied in his usual blunt manner! But that headline led Paul White to go and hear the unique Irishman.

50 years later Dr White recalled, “He finished up by talking about the cross and Jesus’ love. He made it clear that there were two things I could do – either go God’s way or turn my back on Him.” Thus it was, “the great transaction” took place as this teenager surrendered to Christ.

White studied medicine at Sydney University, in preparation for a life of missionary service in Africa. In 1938, under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society, White took his wife, Mary, and their young son, David, to the bush plains of Tanganyika in East Africa (now known as Tanzania), where he providing medicine in a primitive colonial hospital.

Paul’s dispenser, Dan Mboga, helped him to understand, and communicate with the people he was there to help, and also how to share God’s love with them in a way that made sense. Dan used animal stories to explain truth to the natives. This example led to the story-telling, animal anecdotes which White became famous for.

Paul and Mary were forced to return home in 1941, due to Mary’s severe health issues. Shortly after arriving back in Sydney White was able to start weekly Jungle Doctor radio broadcasts which soon spread across Australia and were used overseas. These weekly broadcasts lasted for 36 years, and were used in America, Philippines, South America and elsewhere.

Then, while working as a part-time doctor and promoter of missionary work, White wrote an autobiography about his African experiences, Alias Jungle Doctor, which was published in 1941.

With the popularity of his first book, a young Australian artist, Graham Wade, was commissioned by the Church Missionary Society to turn several chapters into cartoons, starting with Jungle Doctor meets a Lion. At the same time White began writing a series of fables, geared toward younger readers. Then Paul moved to fictional novels, based around an African mission hospital. The books were popular internationally, including Germany, Britain the USA and many third-world countries.

In 1971 White created Paul White Productions and engaged Wade to create comic books from the Jungle Doctor fables. By 1977 White had created 42 Jungle Doctor books which had sold about three million copies – and his autobiography, Alias Jungle Doctor, later hit the Christian bookshops. Jungle Doctor books have been translated into 107 languages.

Paul had the pleasure over the years of meeting people who said they were moved to go overseas as missionaries because of his books.

Mary died after a long illness, in 1970, after which Paul married Ruth.

Marcus Loane, former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, is well within the mark when he writes: “Paul White’s influence as a soul-winner, creative genius and inspiring leader made him one of the most outstanding Christians in 20th century Australia.”

The “Jungle Doctor” heard the Saviour’s “Well Done!” in 1992. His wife, Ruth, continued to direct Paul White Productions following Paul’s passing.

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Mary Slessor takes Christ up the Calabar River

Mary Slessor was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on December 2, 1848. Her father was a drunkard, but her mother was a godly woman. From the age of 11 she worked twelve hours a day, six days a week in factories.

Known as ‘Carrots’ because of her red hair, young Mary came to know the Saviour when an old widow ‘gathered children around her fire, and used that fire as her text.’ “If ye dinna repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, your soul will burn in the lowin’, bleezing’ fire forever and ever,” she said.

Mary Slessor in later life would say that it was fear that drove her to the Saviour, but once inside the Kingdom, she became a messenger of love and mercy.

In 1874 the news of David Livingstone’s death sent a wave of missionary enthusiasm through England. Mary offered herself to the Foreign Mission Board of the United Presbyterian Church. Two years later, at the age of 28, she sailed for Africa, arriving at Duke Town in September 1876.

Africa was the Dark Continent and the region she went to, on the Calabar River in what is now Nigeria, was then the slave coast of Africa and known as the White Man’s Grave. Tropical diseases, cannibals, tribal fighting, wild animals, witch doctors and swarming insects were among the hazards new to the confident young woman from Aberdeen.

To a place where life was cheap, murder and revenge was common and morality was absent, Mary Slessor threw in her lot at the small mission station. But her heart burned to go where what man (or woman) and the gospel had not gone. This may be due to the example of Livingstone, whose life clearly impacted her sense of call to Africa.

After a short furlough Mary, having learned the local languages, was allowed to go alone to a new mission outpost, Old Town. From her mud hut, with the assistance of a Christian chief, King Eyo Honesty the Sixth, Mary worked tirelessly with the natives.

Still she yearned to go further into the interior, but was warned repeatedly that she would be killed. Her determination won out and King Eyo offered his grand canoe to take her up river in June 1888 to reach the remote Okoyong tribe. These godless natives cared only for weapons to give them power, chains to hold their slaves and alcohol. They knew of these things from the white traders and soldiers who had made occasional forays into the region.

The first village she came to she was given permission by the chief to live among them, due to the reputation which had preceded her. Here, however, she found wickedness beyond her expectations, where daily bloodshed was to be expected. She personally intervened in the regular battles of vengeance and drunken rage, by standing between the warring parties. She would take the two groups into the shade so they could explain their grievances, while she knitted. After hours of talking the fight would be abandoned.

She even resorted to sending official looking notices with symbols painted on them and official wax seals, to keep the waring sides busy deciphering until she could get there to intervene. She ultimately quietened their drinking and fighting by introducing them to the rewards of enterprise, showing how their palm oil and yams could be traded downstream for things they had never had.

After four hundred years of white involvement in Africa Mary Slessor did what no soldier or diplomat had achieved. The love of Christ changed the hearts and the lifestyles of these natives.

But Mary was not satisfied. She pressed on yet further upstream to reach the Ayo cannibal tribe, where she worked until her death. When she was too frail to walk she was supplied a cart by friends back home. And so she laboured until her death in January 1915 at the age of 66.

For nearly 40 years she had laboured tirelessly for the souls of the Dark Continent. Her legacy can still be seen today in the ongoing vibrancy of the Nigerian church, which shines bright in the continent where many of the Lord’s servants gave their lives.

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com