When I was in the seventh or eighth grade I asked for a German Shepherd puppy for Christmas. I think I desired that gift more than any other I ever requested as a boy.

Dad and Mom told me that I could have a dog if I earned enough “puppy points.” Points could be gained by keeping my room clean, helping with other household chores, doing well in school, wearing a tie to church (which my friends and I disliked doing at that age), and generally being an all-around well-behaved kid.

During the few months leading up to that Christmas I was transformed into a model child. My room was always clean. I had never been so eager to help with chores around the house. I worked hard in school. I not only wore a tie to church myself, but convinced my friends to do the same, hoping that through their goodness I might gain additional puppy points. If ever a gift was to be earned through one’s own efforts, I was determined to succeed through mine on that occasion.

I kept asking my parents exactly how many points I needed to accumulate. They good-naturedly gave me indefinite responses like: “Oh, we can’t tell you that. You just keep working at it, and we’ll let you know come Christmas if you earned enough.” 

On Christmas Eve that year my folks presented me with the cutest, cuddliest little German Shepherd puppy I had ever seen. I was overjoyed and greatly relieved to have earned it.

Not until years later did it dawn on me that I had not actually earned that gift. My parents intended to grant my request all along. The puppy points game was just a ruse to keep me from knowing ahead of time what their true intention was.

The Bible teaches that God has the infinitely more important gifts of eternal life and salvation from sin which He desires people to have. Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 2:8-9 explains: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

These Scriptures make it clear that salvation and eternal life truly are God’s gifts given by His grace (favor that we don’t deserve). Many people fail to understand that and, like me with my puppy points, try to earn their salvation and their way to Heaven by their own good works.

Rather, to receive God’s gifts, we need to sincerely trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, as our only means of gaining them. When Jesus died on the cross, He received the judgment that our sins deserve, so that those who believe in Him as their Savior may instead have their sins forgiven and gain spiritual and eternal life.

Speaking of Himself and why He would be raised up on the cross, Jesus explained in John 3:14-16: “ … so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

The Gospel Coalition 2023 Book Awards have been announced, and David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist has received TGC’s Award of Distinction in the category of Missions and the Global Church. Here’s the TGC award citation:

Vance Christie, David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist (Christian Focus)

One of the most famous figures in Christian missions history is David Livingstone. This Scottish physician and missionary pioneer took the gospel into the heart of the African interior in the 19th century, documenting its cultural features and discovering natural wonders along the way. His amazing feats made him a hero in Victorian Britain, both in the church and broader society. But in more recent years, his legacy has been questioned and his work criticized.

In this detailed biography, Vance Christie gives a balanced account of Livingstone’s life. Using comprehensive research from numerous original sources, Christie provides a transparent telling of the man and his mission. Readers will no doubt see Livingstone’s flaws, but they also come away with an appreciation of his passion, convictions, accomplishments, and even humor. This in-depth biography is likely to become the standard work on Livingstone for generations to come.

Judges: Elliot Clark, Jenny Manley, Conrad Mbewe, J. D. Payne

The complete list of The Gospel Coalition 2023 Book Awards may be reviewed at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/tgc-book-awards-2023/

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

Christmas gift books

Here in the United States, where Christmas is commercialized to the nth degree, Black Friday shopping has been a major Christmas season marketing feature for years. Starting in the early morning hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day (always the fourth Thursday in November in the USA) stores offer incredible doorbuster deals on select items to lure customers to begin their holiday shopping at those retail establishments.

This year many American retailers rolled out their Black Friday advertising and deals at the beginning of November. Some Christian retailers have joined in the early Black Friday marketing push. I cannot fault them for desiring to catch and direct people’s attention to their products, which they consider to be of real spiritual value for their potential patrons. After all, if those Christian retailers start their Christmas promoting too late, the hard reality is that not a few of their could-have-been customers will have already decided to spend their available gift-buying funds on other items.

I am an author of historical Christian biographies. I am not a retailer who makes my living by selling my books. While I definitely believe my books fill a vital niche in the Christian market, the fact is they are not best-sellers or big money-makers. But honestly, I wish my published works were best-sellers, not for the financial gain that would bring to me, but for the tremendous spiritual benefits such reading would bring to many Christians. Among the numerous benefits to be gained by reading the life stories of outstanding men and women of the Christian faith are encouragement, inspiration and instruction to strengthen and vitalize our own spiritual lives and service.

Out of that motivation, I’d like to draw your attention to the biographies I’ve had the privilege of writing, and to invite you to consider them as potential worthwhile gifts for one or more of the people on your Christmas gift-giving list this year. And perhaps you’ll want to include a couple of these books on your own Christmas gift-wish list.

David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist – This is my most recent biography, published in July of this year! It provides a comprehensive account of the Scottish missionary doctor who became one of the most prominent and honored people to live in the 1800s. He pioneered vast regions of southcentral and southeastern Africa, rewrote the Western world’s understanding of that portion of the African continent, opened the door for Christianity and legitimate commerce to be brought into those regions, and played a primary role in the slave trade being ended there. The book is available in a beautiful hardback edition and in an unabridged audiobook edition (with Audible.com). This volume will appeal to those who love substantive biography and history reading, and to those who are up to taking a first crack at such substantial reading (or listening).   

Women of Faith and Courage by Vance Christie

Women of Faith and Courage – Women and older girls (and even some men) will appreciate this collection of abbreviated biographies on five prominent Christian ladies: Susanna Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Catherine Booth, Mary Slessor and Corrie ten Boom. Both in their own homes and in the public sphere these women served the Lord, their families and others with tremendous faithfulness and fruitfulness. Women’s reading groups would find this to be a profitable book to read and discuss together.

Timeless Stories by Vance Christie

Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians – This book features engaging true stories grouped into eight chapters on key themes of the Christian life: Family, Service, Prayer, Faith, Witness, Forgiveness, Stewardship and Adversity. The stories are drawn from actual incidents in the lives of ten eminent Christians, including Corrie ten Boom, Amy Carmichael, Billy Graham, Dwight Moody, George Muller, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, George Whitefield and others. Many people enjoy picking up this book and reading a few or several beneficial stories at a time, rather than following a lengthy, sustained narrative of one person’s life. This book is also a treasure trove of illustrations for pastors and Christian teachers, as it includes a total of some 200 anecdotes on the key Christian-living themes already mentioned.

Hudson Taylor by Vance Christie

Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China – Taylor’s missionary career was one big adventure from start to finish, and is fascinating to both younger and older readers. His undying concern for those who needed to hear of the Savior and his remarkable faith in God motivated and enabled him to establish the China Inland Mission, through which tens of thousands of Chinese came to faith in Christ. His example quickens our own Christian compassion and faith.

John and Betty Stam by Vance Christie

John and Betty Stam, Missionary Martyrs – The Stams were a young American couple who served the Lord with single-minded consecration and warmth of personal devotion. They ultimately laid down their very lives in doing so when they were martyred by Communist rebels in China. For them honoring Christ by life or by death (Philippians 1:20) was not a mere slogan, but a reality by which they lived and died. Beginning in their own day and continuing to the present time nearly ninety years after their deaths, their examples have inspired untold thousands to serve Jesus with greater commitment. Older teens and young adults processing such issues as marriage and God’s call to vocational ministry will find this biography especially helpful.

David Brainerd by Vance Christie

David Brainerd: A Flame for God – Brainerd was a pioneer missionary to Colonial American Indians. He persevered through marked difficulties and discouragements in his ministry, which was crowned with a remarkable bona fide revival among the Indians to whom he ministered. This book is full of citations from Brainerd’s private spiritual diaries, which reveal the passionate devotional spirit with which he served the Lord.    

Andrew Murray by Vance Christie

Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa – Murray was South Africa’s premier preacher, devotional writer and church leader in the latter 1800s and early 1900s. While being a man of seemingly constant action and accomplishment, Murray was also a contemplative individual whose preaching and writing were deeply devotional. Through his prolific writing endeavors, he had a worldwide ministry to hundreds of thousands of Christians in his own day, and his books continue to minister to thousands today. Pastors and laymen alike will be inspired by his example of active, progressive service flowing from his intense personal fellowship with the Lord.

Adoniram Judson by Vance Christie

Adoniram Judson: Devoted for Life – Judson was America’s very first foreign missionary and a pioneer missionary to Burma. He and his three successive wives endured staggering hardships in bringing the Gospel to Burma. Judson established healthy Christian congregations there and translated the entire Bible into the Burmese language. He and his wives’ sacrifices and accomplishments continue to bear spiritual fruit in that difficult country to this day.

You can find much more information about these biographies under the “Books” tab at my writing website www.vancechristie.com. Just type the title of any of my books plus my name (e.g., ‘david livingstone vance christie’) into your internet search engine to bring up numerous retailers who sell the work, oftentimes at a nice discount off the retail price.

Of course, quality biographies have been written about hundreds of other outstanding Christians of the past and can be readily located on the internet. Here’s a link to a list of top-tier biographies I recommend: “Some Highly Recommended Historical Christian Biographies.”

Lots of worthwhile Christian biographies have also been published for younger children and older youth. See, for instance, Christian Focus Publication’s Trailblazer series (under its CF4Kids imprint) and YWAM’s Christian Heroes Then & Now series.

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

This is the second of two articles in which I’m chronicling the high level of support and sacrifice which Mary Livingstone gave in aiding her husband David, the renowned nineteenth-century missionary doctor, explorer and slavery abolitionist in southern Africa. Mary’s unflagging support was an essential component in her husband’s outstanding accomplishments and success.

Ultimately, Mary’s support of and sacrifices for her husband were given as service to the Lord Jesus Christ. To follow is a summary of the remainder of her selfless, sacrificial service, not only as the wife of David Livingstone, but also as a faithful servant of her Savior.

In 1851 David and Mary, again accompanied by their young children, succeeded in reaching the powerful Makololo tribe, located some 200 miles north of Lake Ngami and 800 miles from their mission station at Kolobeng. Livingstone related an extremely trying circumstance they faced, and Mary’s response to it, while passing through an extensive arid region along the way:

“The supply of water in the wagons had been wasted by one of our servants, and by the afternoon only a small portion remained for the children. This was a bitterly anxious night. And next morning the less there was of water, the more thirsty the little rogues became. The idea of their perishing before our eyes was terrible. It would almost have been a relief to me to have been reproached with being the entire cause of the catastrophe. But not one syllable of upbraiding was uttered by their mother, though the tearful eye told the agony within.”

The Livingstones had hoped to stay with the Makololo for at least a year and to establish a mission work among them. But they were unable to determine a healthy location where they could do so, as virulent fever existed throughout the region.

As the Livingstones returned toward Kolobeng, Mary gave birth to their fifth child, a son whom they named William Oswell, on September 15. Thankfully, Mary’s delivery was “quick and safe,” and she experienced better health at that time than during any of her earlier confinements.

David Livingstone Family
David Livingstone Family

Livingstone determined to devote two years to living among the Makololo, to identify a salubrious location where a mission station could be established, and to determine if a river route could be found from either the west or east coast of Africa. It was hoped that by such a water route missionaries and supplies could be brought to the interior of the continent with the expenditure of far less time, money and effort than was required in using the existing overland route from the southern coast.

In the meanwhile, Mary would return to Britain with the children, where they could be educated and avoid the dangerous fevers of inland Africa. Owing to a variety of unforeseen circumstances beyond Livingstone’s control, it was actually four and a half years before he was able to fulfill his undertakings in behalf of the Makololo and to return to his wife and children in Britain. Those were extremely difficult years for Mary.

She experienced the heartache and loneliness of being separated from her husband whom she loved devotedly. She was prone to anxiety and apprehension. Though Livingstone wrote her and the children regularly, it took many months for his letters to make their way from the interior of Africa to Britain, if they ever were successfully delivered. When Mary didn’t hear from him for long stretches at a time, she experienced deep anxiety that sorely tested her faith. Sometimes Livingstone’s letters brought deeply concerning news, as when he wrote to inform her that Boers (Dutchmen who had emigrated from Cape Colony and opposed his ministry to African tribes beyond the Colony’s northern border) had ransacked their home at Kolobeng and destroyed their possessions valued at nearly 300 pounds.

The London Missionary Society, with which the Livingstones served, supported Mary and the children at a seemingly adequate rate of thirty pounds per quarter. But expenses for travel to Scotland and England, modest lodgings and furnishings, clothes, food and other necessities soon left her financially straitened.

Livingstone’s parents were willing to have Mary’s two older sons live with them in Scotland and to provide for their education there. But Livingstone had made it clear that he desired his children to live and be educated in England, where he thought the climate would be less severe and healthier for them.

Perhaps also out of her own desire to keep her young family from being separated, Mary chose to settle with all her children in England. Happily, a series of friends of her parents helped watch out for her and the children. They were especially cared for by the Braithwaites, a Quaker family at Kendal in the scenic Lake District of northwest England. The Braithwaites opened their own home to Mary and her children. They provided them with food, clothing and medical care, also enrolled the children in the local Quaker school.

Livingstone was reunited with his wife and children in Britain from December 1856 to March 1858. Due to the exceptional missionary exertions and remarkable geographical explorations and discoveries that the Doctor had carried out in his opening sixteen years of service in Africa, he was welcomed back to Britain as a national hero by Christians and secularists alike. He was lauded not only by common people, but also by Government officials, members of the nobility, high-ranking churchmen, and prominent people in various fields of scientific endeavor. A number of public receptions were held in his honor.

At some of those gatherings Mary was also highly praised for her active support of her husband and her selfless enduring of difficult trials in order to help advance civilization and the interests of Christianity in Africa. The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) held a farewell banquet in Livingstone’s honor shortly before he returned to Africa as the newly appointed head of the Zambesi Expedition. The hall was crowded with dignitaries representing a broad spectrum of vocations. When RGS President Sir Roderick Murchison spoke in praise of Mary, a gentleman in the audience called for three hearty cheers for Mrs. Livingstone. The whole assembly stood to salute her with sustained cheering and waving of handkerchiefs.

The Zambesi Expedition had as its stated objectives to explore the Zambesi River and its tributaries with the intention of introducing Christianity, commerce and civilization into that region of Africa for its spiritual and economic benefit. As Livingstone and Mary prepared to return to Africa, they decided to leave their three oldest children (then ages twelve, ten and nearly nine) in Britain to continue their education there. Oswell, their youngest child at seven years of age, would accompany them back to Africa. While the couple’s decision to leave their older children in Britain was quite common practice for missionaries in that day, the final parting with Robert, Agnes and Thomas was excruciating.

Mary Livingstone with son William Oswell
Mary Livingstone with son William Oswell

While en route back to Africa the Livingstones discovered that Mary was pregnant. Rather than accompanying Livingstone to the Zambesi’s fever-ridden delta region at the coast of the Indian Ocean, it was decided that Mary would instead proceed to her parents’ mission station at Kuruman, to deliver her new baby there. Of their unanticipated and undesired separation from each other at the Cape, Livingstone recorded: “It was a bitter parting with my wife, like tearing the heart out of one.”

Mary gave birth to their sixth child and third daughter, naming her Anna Mary, in November 1858. Credible reports had been received that the Boers were planning an attack on Kuruman, and it was uncertain when and where Mary would be able to rejoin Livingstone. So she decided instead to return to Britain with her youngest son and infant daughter, for their protection. This she did in the opening months of 1859.

Upon reaching Britain, Mary settled with her children in Glasgow. Because of Livingstone’s increased income as a Government consul, her pecuniary circumstances were more comfortable than they had been during her previous stay in Britain. Besides caring for her toddler daughter, she had concerns about the health and education of her other children. Robert, then fifteen years of age, was especially worrisome to her, as he was struggling in school and beginning to be adversely affected through his poor choice of friends.

In July 1861 Mary made the heart-wrenching decision to leave her children in Britain and to rejoin her husband in Africa. During the voyage she wrote: “I must not complain. I am as comfortable as I can be … but I long to hear of my darling children. It is with the utmost difficulty that I keep up heart. … My dear baby, how my heart yearns for her. I miss her much.”

Livingstone and Mary were reunited on February 1, 1862, at one of the mouths of the Zambesi on the coast. The Zambesi Expedition made its way upriver to the scenic settlement of Shupanga, arriving there on February 26. The Livingstones set up a tent as their temporary residence under the mango trees on the bank of the river. Work was carried out nearby, assembling the sections of a new iron steamship that had recently arrived from Britain and was to be used in the ongoing expedition.

The Doctor and Mary were delighted to be back together again and greatly enjoyed each other’s company. Livingstone related: “In our interaction in private there was more than would be thought by some a decorous amount of merriment and play. I said to her …, ‘We old bodies ought now to be more sober and not play so much.’ ‘O no,’ she said, ‘you must just be as playful as you have always been. I would not like you to be so grave as some folks I have seen.’ … She was always young and playful.”

But not a few concerns troubled Mary’s mind at that time as well. She was concerned and even despondent over their son Robert in his unsettled state back in Britain. In addition, as Livingstone later revealed: “She had a strong presentiment of death being near. She said that she would never have a house in this country. Taking it be despondency alone I only joked, and now my heart smites me that I did not talk seriously on that and many other things besides.”

Malicious and totally unfounded rumors about Mary had begun in Britain and at the Cape, then followed her to the Zambesi: that Livingstone stayed away from her for such long periods because she was unpleasant to live with; that she had developed a serious drinking problem; that her interaction with James Stewart (a Scottish Free Church missionary ten years her junior, who had acted as her escort throughout the voyage to Africa) had been imprudent and too familiar according to the conservative standards of the era. Livingstone, to whatever degree he was aware of such cruel slander, put no stock in any of it, and always maintained a positive, harmonious relationship with his wife.

Mary also started experiencing intermittent fever not long after her arrival at the Zambesi. At first her recurring fevers raised little concern, as many individuals in the Zambesi expedition experienced them, and usually they could be treated simply enough with medicine. But on April 26 she spiked a fever that was accompanied by “obstinate vomiting,” which prevented treatment using oral medications.

Mary Livingstone's Grave Shupanga
Mary Livingstone’s Grave Shupanga

Despite the diligent treatments of Livingstone and another skilled medical doctor on the expedition, Mary’s condition steadily declined. She died at sunset the following day, a Sunday. Her forty-first birthday had occurred just fifteen days earlier. Sadly, she had only been reunited with her husband for not quite three months.

In the months that followed Livingstone often wrote in his journal and in more than a score of his letters to family and friends of Mary’s passing. He recorded many words of praise for Mary’s selfless love and support of him and their children, as well as for her service of the African people.

To site but one example, in the book that Livingstone later wrote about the Zambesi Expedition, he paid tribute to Mary by stating of her: “Those who are not aware how this brave, good English wife made a delightful home at Kolobeng, a thousand miles inland from the Cape, and as a Christian lady exercised most beneficial influence over the rude tribes of the interior, may wonder that she should have braved the dangers and toils of this downtrodden land. She knew them all and, in the disinterested and dutiful attempt to renew her labors, was called to her [heavenly] rest instead.”

#          #          #

An account of Mary’s girlhood and early years of missionary service with David Livingstone is recorded in my October 3, 2023, Perspective on “Mary Livingstone, Praiseworthy Missionary Wife and Mother.” A much-fuller record of Mary Livingstone’s steadfast service of Christ Jesus, her unfailing support of her husband’s remarkable ministries, and the significant sacrifices she made as a result is included in my comprehensive new biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist.

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

David and Mary Livingstone with their young children
David and Mary Livingstone with their young children

Many men who have great accomplishments in life are able to do so in part due to the strong support of their wives. Often such support involves wives making marked personal sacrifices in order for their husbands to achieve what they do.

Mary Livingstone (wife of the renowned missionary doctor, explorer and slavery abolitionist in Africa, David Livingstone) is an outstanding example of such unflinching support and sacrifice in behalf of her husband. As such she is worthy of high praise and not a small degree of compassionate empathy.

To follow is the first of two articles I intend to write to highlight the vital role that Mary played in Livingstone’s outstanding accomplishments and successes. Taking the time to ponder what it would have been like for Mary to give this deep level of support and sacrifice certainly increases our admiration and appreciation for her.

Mary was born on April 12, 1821, while her parents Robert and Mary Moffat, missionaries serving with the London Missionary Society (LMS), were temporarily stationed in Griqua Town, north of the Cape Colony border in southern Africa. When Mary was three years old her parents established the LMS’s northernmost mission station at Kuruman, 120 miles north of Griqua Town and 500 miles north of Africa’s southern coast.

Kuruman Mission Station
Kuruman Mission Station

Mary was the responsible firstborn of the ten children eventually born to her parents. Mary and her sister Ann, at the ages of nine and seven, were placed in a Wesleyan boarding school in Grahamstown, eastern Cape Colony. The sisters were there for five years, receiving a traditional education. Early in 1836 they were sent to Cape Town for further education. Mary received informal teacher training in hopes that she would eventually become an infant (early elementary) school teacher in Kuruman.

She accompanied her parents and siblings when the Moffat family returned to England in 1839. There Robert saw his Sechuana translation of the New Testament and Psalms through the press and was the featured speaker at numerous missionary meetings throughout Britain.

When the Moffats, including Mary (then age twenty-two), were returning to Kuruman late in 1843, David Livingstone traveled more than 150 miles on horseback to meet along the way, and to offer them whatever assistance he could in completing their journey. (Kuruman had been Livingstone’s home base throughout his first two years of missionary service and journeys in Africa.) During the remainder of the trip back to Kuruman, David and Mary would have had the opportunity to observe and interact with each other.

Early the following year Livingstone settled at Mabotsa, 220 miles north of Kuruman, to establish a new mission station there. On February 7 he was attacked and seriously injured by a lion, the bite of which splintered his left humerus just below the shoulder socket. That July Livingstone visited Kuruman for three weeks. During the course of the visit, as he himself put it, he screwed up his courage and proposed marriage to Mary under one of the Kuruman almond trees. She promptly accepted his proposal.

Mary possessed many positive characteristics that had attracted Livingstone and led him to conclude she would be an excellent partner with whom to share life and ministry. She had become the teacher of Kuruman’s elementary school. She spoke the Sechuana language “like a native,” and the African children were fond of her. She was familiar with and willing to bear the demands and sacrifices of missionary life. As a competent, conscientious homemaker, she cooked, cleaned, sewed clothes, and made soap and candles.

Mary was characterized by solid common sense and was a practical, matter-of-fact individual rather than a romantic. She was good-tempered and amiable. Her appearance and dress were neat and well-kept though not striking or ornate. Though not generally considered a beauty by others, Mary’s welcoming smile and warm disposition were always very pleasant and appealing to Livingstone.

Livingstone returned to Mabotsa to continue establishing the new mission work there. He also built what was considered a sizable house to which to bring his bride after their marriage. Of that dwelling he wrote Mary in charming fashion: “If you wonder why I have built such a large house for only two people, you must be content with the explanation that it is necessary on account of greater heat [than at Kuruman]. And that we have nothing to put into it is no matter, for I shall think it furnished when you are here.”

David and Mary were wed in the church at Kuruman on January 2, 1845. He was thirty-one years old and she was twenty-three. As a wedding gift Mary presented him with a polyglot Bible containing the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. She inscribed the gift, “To David Livingstone from his affectionate Mary.”

The newlywed couple returned to Mabotsa that March, and Mary started teaching the elementary school there. Unfortunately, they were immediately blindsided by a completely-unforeseen conflict that Livingstone found himself embroiled in, involving an older missionary colleague who envied and resented Livingstone and who wished to superintend the Mabotsa mission station on his own. As a result, the Livingstones soon decided to start a new mission work among a different tribe, the Bakwains, at Chonuane, forty miles north of Mabotsa.

While Livingstone built a home and started a school at Chonuane, Mary continued to reside and teach the children’s school at Mabotsa. Livingstone returned intermittently to minister in Mabotsa as well. Despite the unanticipated upheaval the newlyweds were experiencing in their lives, Livingstone revealed of their interpersonal relationship, “We are happy and contented in each other.”

Mary gave birth to their first child, a son whom they named Robert, in January of the following year, 1846. Two months later the young missionary family moved together to Chonuane.

Fifteen months after that (June 1847) Mary bore their first daughter, named Agnes. The following month the Livingstones and the Bakwains to whom they had been ministering at Chonuane were forced to begin relocating again, due to prolonged drought and the town’s water supply drying up. The tribe and their faithful missionaries established a new settlement forty miles further north at Kolobeng.

Mary remained in Chonuane for a time while her husband built a temporary hut for them at Kolobeng. During their separation Livingstone reported in his understated fashion: “Mary feels her situation among the ruins [at Chonuane] a little dreary, and no wonder, for she writes me yesterday that the lions are resuming possession and walk round our house at night.”

Mary and the children joined Livingstone at Kolobeng the end of September. Two or three months later she started teaching both an elementary school and a sewing school. In July of the next year, 1848, the Livingstones were able to move into a larger permanent home which the Doctor had constructed for them.

Of their new home and old hut he stated: “What a mercy to be in one [a house] again. A year in a little hut through which the wind blew our candles into glorious icicles by night, and in which crowds of flies continually settled on the eyes of our poor little brats by day, makes us value our present castle.”

Livingstone and Mary’s third child, a son named Thomas, was born at Kolobeng in March of the following year, 1849. Just five or six weeks later Mary and the children set out by ox-drawn wagon for Kuruman, 300 miles to the south. The purpose of their visit was to rest and gain an improvement in their diet, as vegetables had become completely lacking at Kolobeng in the drought which had continued unabated throughout that region.

In addition, for several months some Boers (Dutch farmers who years earlier emigrated north of Cape Colony to get out from under British rule there) had become increasingly threatening toward Livingstone and the African tribes to which he was seeking to minister. The Boers desired to subjugate the tribes in that region and did not want missionaries spreading their influence there.

Livingstone was then making plans to visit tribes several hundred miles north of Kuruman—at Lake Ngami and beyond—so would be away from Kolobeng for a period of time. He thought it appropriate to send his wife and children to Kuruman so they would be out of harm’s way should a conflict with the Boers take place at Kolobeng during his absence. He accompanied his family toward Kuruman for four days before returning to Kolobeng. Mary and the children were escorted the remainder of the way by an African family from Kuruman.

After visiting at Kuruman that May through July, Mary and her children returned to Kolobeng to welcome Livingstone back home at the anticipated time of his arrival. But his 1,200-mile roundtrip to Lake Ngami took considerably longer than expected. As his return delayed, Mary and all the children fell ill. Word of this was sent to the Doctor who was then en route back home. By the time he hastened the remaining distance back to Kolobeng, arriving on October 10, he was relieved to find all his family members recovered from their sickness. His wife and children, after leaving Kuruman at the beginning of August, had been waiting nearly two months in Kolobeng by the time he was finally able to return.

In April of the following year, 1850, Livingstone again journeyed to Lake Ngami, this time taking his family with him. A few days before reaching Ngami, the Livingstones received news that a group of Englishmen who had come to the lake in search of ivory were all laid low by fever. Hurrying on to the lake, the Livingstones were grieved to learn as they neared their destination that an enterprising young artist had died of fever before their arrival. The Doctor afterward related concerning the results of his own and Mary’s ministries in this situation: “But by the aid of medicines and such comforts as could be made by the only English lady who ever visited the lake, the others happily recovered.”

David Livingstone with his family at Lake Ngami
David Livingstone with his family at Lake Ngami

When Livingstone took his family to see the broad south side of Lake Ngami, the children played gleefully in the water. The following day, however, their daughter Agnes, son Thomas and several of the Africans who were accompanying them on the journey came down with fever. Besides remittent fever, other symptoms produced in various individuals by the marsh fever included vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle pain and rapid decline of strength. “God was gracious to us and spared us all,” Livingstone afterward reported of his own party.

During the opening week of August, just seven days after the Livingstones arrived back at Kolobeng, Mary gave birth to their fourth child and second daughter, named Elizabeth. Two weeks after the delivery Mary developed a noticeable paralysis on the right side of her face. She could not wink her right eye or smile with that side of her lips. Though the paralysis eventually cleared up, it did so only gradually and with occasional relapses.

A deadly epidemic which caused inflammation of the lungs was then prevailing at Kolobeng. Sadly, one of the many to die from the sickness was the Livingstones’ infant daughter.

Livingstone described his and Mary’s thoughts in witnessing Baby Elizabeth’s death and burial: “Have just returned from burying our youngest child. Never conceived before how fast a little stranger can twine round the affections. She was just six weeks old when called away to the King in His beauty. She is home now, yet it was like tearing out one’s bowels to see her in the embrace of the King of Terrors. … Yesterday evening her beautifully formed countenance began to set in death. The pulse at the wrist vanished several times, then returned quite strong. Then at one o’clock she opened her beautiful eyes and screamed with a great effort to make her lungs work, and instantly expired. That scream went to our hearts, and will probably not be forgotten in Eternity. Wish we were all as safe as she is now.”

To be continued …

#          #          #

A much-fuller record of Mary Livingstone’s steadfast service of Christ Jesus, her unfailing support of her husband’s remarkable ministries, and the significant sacrifices she made as a result is included in my comprehensive new biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist.

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

David Livingstone is best known as a renowned nineteenth century missionary and explorer in Africa. Another vital aspect of his ministry career was the crucial role he played in exposing and helping bring about the abolition of the slave trade in southcentral and southeastern Africa in the latter half of the 1800s. To follow is a summation of his important part in that epic accomplishment.

Throughout his first eleven years of missionary service in Africa (1841-1852) Livingstone heard of and witnessed instances of Boers oppressing and even enslaving Africans beyond the borders of Cape Colony in southern Africa. The Boers were Dutch farm families who had emigrated by the thousands in the 1830s and 1840s, resettling north of Cape Colony in order to avoid being under British rule there. Eventually a Boer militia attacked a group of tribes to whom Livingstone had been ministering and ransacked his residence at Kolobeng, destroying his personal property valued at more than 300 British pounds (then equaling over 1,500 American dollars, likely worth at least thirty or forty times that amount today).

In 1851 Livingstone came in contact with and began ministering to the Makololo, a powerful marauding tribe that had settled in the area between the Chobe River and the upper reaches of the Zambesi River. The Makololo had subjected a number of other tribes living in that same region, which was several hundred miles further north than Livingstone had previously ministered. Those tribal groups, including the Makololo, had a long history of attacking neighboring tribes and carrying off livestock and people as slaves. In addition, Portuguese traders from Angola to the west, assisted by African Mambari tribesmen, entered that region and carried away scores or hundreds of slaves each year.

Livingstone spent two and a half years seeking to determine if a river transportation route could be established from either the west or east coast of Africa, to effectively and affordably transport missionaries and supplies to the inner area of the continent. In doing so he became the first European ever to make a transcontinental journey across Africa. As he approached and stayed for a time at both coasts, Portuguese officials were uniformly supportive of and helpful to him. But he noted that a number of those officials were themselves involved in slave trading to help supplement their income.

While back in Britain during 1857-1858, Livingstone wrote his first book, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. In it he exposed and condemned the different types of slavery he had seen practiced by the Boers, various tribes and the Portugues. In his many well-attended speeches given throughout Britain he put forth a plan to bring Christianity and legitimate commerce to inner Africa, which would in time destroy the slave trade there. He accepted the British Government’s invitation to head the Zambesi Expedition in exploring the Zambesi and its tributaries. The expedition’s further objectives, which were clearly and repeatedly stated in official documents, correspondence and public speeches, were to promote commerce and Christianity to the tribes of that region, with the intention that doing so would help Africans in various ways—economically, spiritually and by putting a stop to the slave trade.

The Zambesi Expedition explored: the lower portion of the Zambesi; the Shire River region and Lake Nyassa (modern Lake Malawi) north and northeast of that part of the Zambesi; the Rovuma River east of Lake Nyassa. Portuguese slave traders, operating with the knowledge and approval of their regional Governors, were found to be active in the Zambesi and Shire regions while Arab slavers prosecuted their trade at Nyassa. Not a few tribes in those areas eagerly participated in the slave trade, selling into slavery people they had captured from other villages or sometimes even the undesirables of their own clans.

Arab slave traders with their African captives

Aggressive Portuguese slave trading turned the once well-populated and agriculturally-prosperous Shireland into a wasteland of largely-deserted villages, filled with skeletons and left with only a few starving, dispirited residents. An estimated 19,000 slaves per year were being taken by Arab traders from the Nyassa region and sold in the slave market at Zanzibar. Many more people than that died each year from killing and famine associated with the slave trade. On a few occasions the Zambesi Expedition interfered with the Portuguese slave trade by freeing captured slaves. But it was forced to stop doing so after the premiere Governor of Mozambique instructed slave parties to use lethal force in withstanding such interference.

Livingstone sent a steady stream of letters and official dispatches to acquaintances and Government officials in Britain, detailing the slave trading circumstances they were encountering. In addition to providing the macro view of the situation, he also described tragic individual occasions they had witnessed of: individual slaves who were brutally killed when they no longer had the strength to continue carrying a burden; groups of slaves, still bound together, left behind to die when their strength similarly failed them; numerous skeletons scattered along the roads or in deserted village huts; corpses which had been cast into the Shire being devoured by crocodiles.

Portuguese slave traders with their African captives
Portuguese slave traders with their African captives

After returning to Britain in 1864 following the completion of the Zambesi Expedition, Livingstone delivered a major speech to 2,500 delegates at the annual meeting of the British Association (an eminent scientific organization) on the theme of the Portuguese connections with the African slave trade. He also wrote his second book, Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries. In it he not only chronicled the Zambesi Expediton’s discoveries and experiences (including those related to the slave trade), but also spoke out forcefully against Portugal’s guilt and even Britain’s complicity in allowing the slave trade to continue in southcentral and southeastern Africa.

Livingstone spent the final seven years of his life (1866-1873) in Africa, under the employ of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society, attempting to determine if a massive watershed in the southcentral portion of the continent provided the headwaters of the Nile River or the Congo River. Gradually most of his carriers proved unreliable and had to be sent back to the southeast coast, or deserted him out of fear of being killed or taken as slaves themselves. Livingstone repeatedly requested new supplies and carriers from the British Consul at Zanzibar. More than once those were sent out, but failed to reach him owing to dishonest carriers pilfering and consuming virtually all his goods rather than delivering them to him.

As Livingstone progressed further west, seeking to circumnavigate the watershed, his band of carriers was reduced to less than ten. The only way they could safely advance or retreat was in company with Arab trading parties who were traveling in the regions around Lake Tanganyika, Lake Moero and Lake Bangweolo. A few Arab leaders protected and provided for Livingstone while they traded with the Africans for ivory. But many Arab slavers attacked and enslaved the Africans, often murdering in order to take slaves rather than trading for them.

Slaves abandoned to die
Slaves abandoned to die

Eventually Livingstone left the company of the Arab trading parties, after watching in horror and disbelief as a group of Arabs massacred 300-400 Africans, mainly women and children, at a market town. As had been anticipated, he and his few men were repeatedly attacked by area tribesmen as they made their way back to Ujiji on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

Throughout the closing years of his life Livingstone continued sending letters and dispatches to friends and officials in Britain, relating the enormities of the Arab slave trade he heard of and witnessed. As a result, Britain’s conscience and determination to put a stop to the deadly, immoral trade was stirred. Sir Bartle Frere was sent out by the British Government to negotiate an end to the East Africa slave trade with the Sultan of Zanzibar.

The president of the Royal Geographical Society wrote Livingstone: “For this great end, if it be achieved, we shall be mainly indebted to your recent letters, which have had a powerful effect on the public mind in England, and have thus stimulated the action of the Government.” Livingstone, however, died before this heartening intelligence could reach him.  

Livingstone died without any awareness that the bloody trade he had steadfastly opposed for so many years was about to be brought to a swift end. Beginning on the very day of his death, the British naval patrol was instructed to prevent the export of slaves from the eastern coastal ports. (The British Navy had already been preventing that from Africa’s western ports for years.) Just five weeks after his death the great slave market at Zanzibar was permanently closed. Less than two years later “all conveyance of slaves by land under any conditions” was also outlawed, dealing a final death blow to the East Africa slave trade.

#          #          #

If you missed it, you might also appreciate my May 10, 2023, Perspective on “David Livingstone, Missionary and Explorer.” Much more about all aspects of Livingstone’s highly-significant life can be found in my comprehensive new biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist.

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

Friends in the greater Aurora, Nebraska area:

I’m writing to invite you to join me for a book launch celebration of my recently published biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist on Thursday, August 17, 7:00 p.m. at the Senior Center in Aurora (1205 11th Street).

At this event I’ll make a summary presentation about Livingstone, the eminent nineteenth century missionary doctor and explorer to Africa (best known by “Dr. Livingstone, I presume”). The presentation is geared for adults and older youth.

The book will be available to purchase at a 25% discount off retail price, but no book purchase is necessary to attend. Refreshments will be served.

For more info on the event: email vance@vancechristie.com or phone/text 402-604-0986. Much more information on this new book can be found at my writing website www.vancechristie.com and at the publisher’s website www.christianfocus.com.

Hoping many of you will be able to join us for this special occasion!

You can download a printable flyer for the book launch here: Book Launch Flyer PDF.

My recently published biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist is now available in audiobook format as well. It can be ordered at Audible.com.

If you’re interested, here’s the brief backstory to the production of this audiobook, including my part in the process:

In addition to producing a handsome hardbound edition and a handy e-book edition of this comprehensive new Livingstone biography, the book’s publisher Christian Focus Publications desired to make the volume available in an audio format as well. Increasing numbers of people listen to books while simultaneously carrying out other activities rather than taking the time to sit down and actually read them. Especially given the considerable length of this Livingstone biography, some people will happily listen to such a long work who otherwise might not tackle the reading of it.

The Livingstone audiobook is complete and unabridged, including the volume’s introduction, chapters, epilogue and appendix in their entirety. As with other audiobooks, of course, this one does not include some of the helpful features found in the paper and e-book editions of the work—the table of contents with easily accessible dates included, extensive footnotes and bibliography sources to provide substantiation for what is presented, and a helpful index for locating key people and places in the tome.

Audible.com indicates the Livingstone audiobook is 56 hours long. One of my daughters, who usually listens to audiobooks at a slightly accelerated speed, informs me the work runs 50 hours at that increased pace. Either way, the audio version will provide listeners with the complete Livingstone narrative. Whether people are listening to or actually reading the book, I predict they’ll become engaged by and propelled through it by the many interesting, significant and beneficial aspects of Livingstone’s life and service.

Early this year Christian Focus (CFP) contacted me about possibly narrating the Livingstone audiobook. I was interested in doing so and submitted a sample reading to CFP. The publisher arranged for me to receive three initial training sessions from David Shepherd, a professional book narrator who lives in England. (Much more about David’s skilled narrating and other helpful advisory services can be found by searching online for “David Shepherd Audiobook Services”.)

David very patiently and positively coached me through the basics of using Audacity technology to record the book, plus provided me with tips about what recording equipment to purchase and how to soundproof my office for use as a temporary recording studio. Throughout the entire recording and editing process in the months that followed, David kindly continued to provide me with further guidance, primarily concerning various Audacity technology issues that kept cropping up every now and again.

David also did the final editing of my recorded files after I finished my editing of them. He had the advanced equipment and know-how to further improve what I was able to produce. But unfortunately there was only so much he could do toward improving the files I had produced. Any remaining flaws are the result of my work not his.

David’s willingness to do the final editing of these audio files not only improved the quality of them, but also sped up the editing process and allowed it to be completed around the same time the print and e-book editions of the book were released. No doubt David would have had the final edits completed much sooner, but he could only progress at the rate I was able to get my edited files to him. Still, happily the audiobook edition has become available just a few short weeks after the print and e-book versions.

I went into this project thinking it might take me around 75 hours to complete the initial recording of the book then about that same amount of time to edit the recorded chapters. I had no way of knowing that I would actually spend over 730 hours through an 18-week period recording the volume and completing my part of the editing process.

One of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of recording the book for me was researching how to pronounce the more than 700 words and phrases that I wasn’t familiar with. The vast majority of those were proper names of people and places in Africa, Britain and elsewhere. Often I would spend several minutes or longer trying to determine the “correct” pronunciation of a particular word or phrase. That process was complicated by differing ways of pronouncing the same word in American, British or South African English. Sometimes I found no help at all in how to pronounce certain names so had to take my best educated guess. Doubtless I made some pronunciation mistakes along the way. But I think most of my pronunciations are acceptable, especially given the differences in pronunciation already mentioned.

This was my first attempt at narrating an audiobook. It was a massive and rather complex project to have as one’s first narration endeavor. And we were working with some definite time constraints in terms of when the edited recording needed to be completed. Consequently, the final product does have a few periodic features I’m not entirely satisfied with. But I think (and am told by others) that the quality of the recording is good overall.

I am grateful to God that through this audiobook many more people will become familiar with David Livingstone’s highly-significant life and ministry, and will benefit from his outstanding example and perspectives. May God greatly use the book in its print and audio formats to bring glory to Himself and much profit to countless people.

#          #          #

Here’s a link to the information the publisher has posted online about the Livingstone biography: https://www.christianfocus.com/products/3110/david-livingstone

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

Popular Christian blogger, author and speaker Tim Challies has written an insightful book review of my new David Livingstone biography. If you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to read Tim’s review here: https://www.challies.com/book-reviews/missionary-explorer-abolitionist.

Tim maintains a prodigious, worthwhile and influential daily blog at challies.com. His own blogs and those of other individuals which he posts provide interesting and beneficial Christian perspectives on a wide array of important topics relating to spiritual thought and living. 

#          #          #

Here’s a link to the information the publisher has posted online about the Livingstone biography: https://www.christianfocus.com/products/3110/david-livingstone

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

My new biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist is now available to order in America, Britain and other countries! Last week a longtime friend of mine posted on Facebook a picture of himself holding a copy of the book, which he had just received as a birthday gift, so I know it’s available.

For you non-techies (like me) just search online for “david livingstone vance christie” and you’ll soon spot various suppliers where the book can be ordered. Some of those include the book’s publisher Christian Focus Publications, various other Christian book suppliers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Christian Focus is currently offering the book at a generous 30% discount off retail price!

The book is available in paper and electronic formats. It should soon be available as an audiobook as well. I’ll plan to share more about that latter option in a future blog.

The biography I’ve written on Livingstone is a lengthy comprehensive account of his significant, fascinating life and ministry. At the same time, if I may say so myself, I believe the book is very readable and engaging.

I fully realize that people generally-speaking are not reading as many books or as lengthy of books as used to be the case. So in this Perspective I’d like to share a few thoughts about why I’ve written such a long biography on Livingstone, as well as a couple suggestions on how people can successfully accomplish the reading of the book in order to gain its intended profit and pleasure. Hopefully this will provide people with the encouragement they need to go ahead and tackle the reading of the biography for their own enjoyment and benefit.

 I did not set out to write such a lengthy work on Livingstone. I’ve had the privilege of writing several other books in the field of historical Christian biography, including three that related quite comprehensively the life and ministries of David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson and Andrew Murray. Initially I thought the Livingstone book would end up being around the same length as those three earlier biographies. Instead it ended up being well over three times longer than the longest works I had previously written.

That was primarily the case because of how incredibly expansive Livingstone’s life truly was, in terms of its many notable aspects, endeavors, events and accomplishments. Even with my biography’s considerable length, it certainly does not include every incident and feature of Livingstone’s life. But I have sought to include every occurrence and facet of his life that is significant and important. I also included Livingstone’s numerous noteworthy perspectives on a variety of important topics, as well as other people’s insightful perspectives on him.

The other main reason this biography turned out to be so long is because it provides a necessary corrective to not a few inaccurate depictions and unfair criticisms of Livingstone that have been propagated through biographies and other books about him. Livingstone was certainly not a perfect individual, and his actual shortcomings are addressed in the work I’ve written. But a number of false or unjust statements about him needed correcting. Sometimes I’ve done that directly by explicitly pointing out various inaccuracies or falsehoods about him. But more often I’ve simply provided a thorough, accurate account of the various events and controversies of his life, along with corroborating historical documentation in the book’s footnotes, which provides readers with a reliable and verifiable record of Livingstone’s character and history. To set the record straight in the ways just mentioned increased the book’s length, but it was necessary to do so in a volume that seeks to present a comprehensive, fair and truthful account of Livingstone.

With regard to individuals carrying out the actual reading of this book, there’s more than one way to go about it. If a person were to read one chapter a day and five chapters a week, he or she would march right through the entire book in just three months’ time. Or if that schedule is a bit too aggressive, an individual could simply read a few or several pages per day for a longer period of months and would eventually accomplish the same objective.

As people progress in reading Livingstone’s life story, I predict they will find themselves being drawn in by the fascinating events, numerous adventures, tremendous exertions and sacrifices, remarkable accomplishments, worthwhile perspectives, commendable character traits, and complex controversies which are part of a reliable chronicle of Livingstone and his life. All that helps propel a person along through the reading of the book.

If you’re able to actually read the Livingstone biography, I think you’ll gain the greatest understanding and profit from it, including having the extensive record of verifying resource documentation that is not included in the forthcoming audiobook version. But I hear enough about people’s book-reading and book-listening habits to know that some are simply not going to commit to reading such a long volume. For those individuals there is the attractive and still-beneficial option of listening to the audiobook.

Happy and blessed reading to you! May God be glorified.

#          #          #

If you missed it, you might also appreciate my June 8, 2023, Perspective on “Why Read This David Livingstone Biography?” It provides a dozen good reasons (stated concisely) for doing so.

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie