David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, Scotland in 1813.
He was born into a home where his father used to put him on his knees and read to him stories of great missionary exploits, particularly that of Karl Gützlaff, the Dutch missionary who doubled up as a medical missionary too.
Young David used to look into his father’s eyes and say, “You know, daddy, one day I’ll be a man like that. I want to be a missionary. I want to be a doctor. I want to serve God.”
David Livingstone got to his knees one day and said this prayer, “Lord, Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties, but the ties that bind me to your service and to your heart,” and the words of God came to him “Lo, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”
He packed his bags and went off to Africa.
And when he took one glimpse of Africa from a distance, he penned in his journal these words: “The haunting specter of the smoke of a thousand villages in the morning sun has burned within my heart.”
He married a woman of the famous Moffat Family – Mary was her name. Her father was a great missionary. They went to Africa. But David Livingstone’s life was that of an explorer and he would move from place to place and his only goal was Jesus in the hearts and lives of men and women – thousands of them.
Finally his wife and his young family couldn’t keep up with him anymore. Some of his children were dying out of sickness and disease so he said to his wife, “Mary, why don’t you them home, and I will see you shortly and spend some time with you. It’s too dangerous for us to go on.”
So he sent his dear wife Mary back home and letters would take months to exchange, but some of the fondest letters of love and romance were sent between David and Mary and you know when he saw her the next time? Not five weeks. Not five months. Five years.
Five years later when he set eyes upon his wife, she could not recognize him because at one stage in his jungle travels going to preach he walked into a branch of a tree that had completely blinded him in one eye and marred the other. His face had been burned under the African sun to a crisp of leather and his skin, which had not been pigmented for it, had been roasted to the point that his body could not take it any longer. His face marred and scarred and his eye blinded and at one time he had been attacked by a lion that had torn one of his shoulders apart. He miraculously escaped.
Now she saw her husband hobbling in with a marred face and a disfigured physical countenance. Hours before he arrived, they had buried his father. David wept because he had longed to tell his dad firsthand of the stories his father had only told him thirdhand.
Biographical sketches tell us that when David Livingstone walked into any university in the British Isles, students and faculty would rise to a standing ovation because they knew they were standing in the presence of a giant of a man.
Finally he went back to his wife one day and he said, “Mary, the haunting specter of the smoke of a thousand villages in the morning sun is still burning within my heart. We need to go back.” She decided that he should go – she had to be with the children. She said, “When they are all old enough I will join you again, David.”
And he set off on his lonely journey to preach to the African people who was so much within his heart.
Finally after a long time, Mary joined him and the day she set foot on African soil, she contracted a disease they had so dreaded she would contract. The very day she set foot on Africa, she got that disease and a few days later, he was burying her.
Lowered into the soil of the African earth there, an eyewitness said David Livingstone knelt beside the grave, weeping his heart out, and they overheard him praying, “My Jesus, my king, my life, my all, I again consecrate my life to thee. I shall place no value on anything I possess or in anything I may do except in relation to thy kingdom and to thy service.”
Through it all came the words of God to my heart, he said, “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
He picked up his belongings and walked back to his hometown village of Ujiji. When he arrived and went into his little home there, he found that someone had played a cruel joke on him and had stolen his medication that he so needed because his body was racked with pain, untold pain. He walked in constant agony. And they said in one of the very few points in his life, he prayed for himself, he got on his knees and said, “God, you promised you would always be with me! I need that medication if I am to continue preaching the gospel!”
As he prayed, he heard steps, and as the story goes, he saw a pair of feet planted in front of him and his countenance lifted for the first time in a long while – he was looking into the face of a white man who didn’t live in Africa.
He said, “Who are you, sir?” And the man replied, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” (Those famous words) He said, “Yes, sir.”
“Mr. Livingstone, I’m a press reporter, I’ve been consigned to do a story on your life. I want you to know two things about me.
Number one, I’m the biggest swaggering atheist on the face of the earth. Please don’t try to convert me. Number two, somebody sent some medication for you.”
David said, “Give me the medication please.”
So Mr. Henry M. Stanley started to travel with David Livingstone. Four months later, the biggest swaggering atheist on the face of the earth knelt down on African soil and gave his life to Jesus Christ.
One of the best biographies you’ll ever read on David Livingstone – two volumes entitled “Livingstone of Africa” by Henry M. Stanley. Stanley said, “The power of that Christ life was awesome and I had to buckle in. I could not hold out any longer.”
Finally his body began to shrivel with high temperatures and pain (they used to carry him around from village to village on a stretcher). One day, preaching from a stretcher, literally trembling, he finally looked at two of his national brothers and said, “Please take me back home. I am very very ill. I’m very tired, I need some sleep.”
They brought him back to his home and were about to spill him on to the bed when he said, “No, please help me on to my knees.”
Livingstone buckled down to his knees by the side of his bed and clasped his hands and started to pray. His prayers were so profound, his sanctuary was so unique that his African brothers felt it was blasphemy to stay in his single union/communion with God and they stepped out of his little room.
Then somebody came running and said, “I need to see Mr. Livingstone for a moment.” They said, “Sshh! Quiet, please. He’s praying.” Five minutes went by, they looked in. He was still on his knees. Several minutes went back, they looked in. He was still on his knees. After a protracted period of time went by, they looked in. He was still on his knees.
One of them felt that the man was too tired to continue to pray. He needed to get some sleep. He walked over to him and one of them shook him by the shoulders and inquired, “ Wana ? Wana ?”
Livingstone fell over. He was dead.
He died exactly the way he had lived – in the presence of his Lord.
He didn’t run from His voice. He didn’t wave a lamp that had no light in it. He didn’t sell a soul for some earthly pleasure. But the haunting spectre of the smoke of a thousand villages had burned itself within his heart so that he could say, “My Jesus, my king, my life, my all, I again consecrate my self to thee.”
This is told by Dr Ravi Zacharias , each time I read this it brings tears to my eyes, there’s more work to, there are more souls to win, there are more lands to conquer, and today it is given to us to go…
Yield to the saviour today and hear the cry of souls languishing in sins yearning for a saviour that they are clueless about.
They await thee.