Portrait of David Livingstone

David Livingstone was born the son of deeply religious but humble parents, who lived near Glasgow, Scotland. He studied medicine and theology at the University of Glasgow. Livingstone tried to go to China as a missionary in 1838, but when the Opium War in China closed the doors, he went to South Africa. He had been challenged by Robert Moffat, a missionary to that country, who said, "On a clear morning the smoke of a thousand villages could be seen where the name of Christ had never been heard." He joined Moffat and married his daughter.

Livingstone pushed two hundred miles north of Moffat's assigned station and founded another mission station, Mabosta. Livingstone continued on the mission field and advanced fourteen hundred miles into the interior in spite of the hardships. His purpose was to open the door of Africa to the Gospel. He was attacked and maimed by a lion, his home was destroyed during the Boer War, his body was often racked by fever and dysentery, and his wife died on the field. One morning in May, 1873, a faithful native found Livingstone by his bed, kneeling and dead. The natives buried his heart in Africa as he had requested, but his body was returned to England and buried in Westminster Abbey.

Many felt no single African explorer had done so much for African geography as Livingstone during his thirty years' work. His travels covered one-third of the continent, from the Cape to near the Equator, and from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Livingstone was no hurried traveler; he did his journeying leisurely, carefully observing and recording with the eye of a trained scientific observer. His example and his death acted like an inspiration, filling Africa with an army of explorers and missionaries, and raising in Europe so powerful a feeling against the slave trade that through him slavery may be considered as having received its death blow.

It's hard to imagine Africa once being called the "dark continent." Yet this is exactly what it was to the outside world less than 150 years ago. However, thanks to the relentless efforts and commitment of David Livingstone, Africa became a land open not only to civilization but to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mrs. J.H. Worchester writes in her book, David Livingstone: First To Cross Africa With The Gospel, that "as a missionary explorer, [Livingstone] stood alone, traveling 29,000 miles in Africa, adding to the known portion of the globe about a million square miles, discovering lakes N'gami, Shirwa, Nyassa, Morero and Bangweolo, the upper Zambesi and many other rivers, and the wonderful Victoria Falls. He was also the first European to traverse the entire length of Lake Tanganyika, and to travel over the vast watershed near Lake Bangweolo, and through no fault of his own, he only just missed the information that would have set at rest his conjectures as to the Nile's sources."

After hearing of his death, Florence Nightingale said: "God has taken away the greatest man of his generation . . ."

Livingstone was born on March 13, 1813, in Blantyre, Scotland, where he spent the first twenty-three years of his life. His parents, devout Christians, played an important role in his life by introducing him to the subject of missions.

As a young man, he worked in a local mill, but refused any thought of this becoming his destiny. By the time he turned twenty-one, Livingstone had accepted Christ and made up his mind to become a medical missionary.

He heard of Robert Moffat, a missionary to South Africa, tell of the work going on in Kuruman. Within eighteen months, he saved enough money to continue his education. After completing medical school, he accepted a position with the London Missionary Society in South Africa. And on December 8, 1840, he set sail for Kuruman.

A Coast-To-Coast Venture

However, upon his arrival he was disappointed by the small population of Africans living in the region. He was determined to reach a larger population. A year later, he was granted permission to move 700 miles into the African interior to establish another missionary station. Livingstone wasted no time setting things up at Mabotsa.

In 1845, he returned to Kuruman where he met and married Robert Moffat's daughter, Mary. Their marriage lasted eighteen years and witnessed the birth of four children.

Livingstone often took his family with him while crossing the African wilderness. Still, there were many times when they could not be together. The longest period of separation was for three years between November of 1853 and May 1856. Livingstone completed one of the most amazing journeys ever undertaken