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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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

We’re only a few weeks away from the July 11th release in America and Britain of my forthcoming biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist. Here are a dozen good reasons (stated concisely) for people to read the book.

1. Livingstone was one of the most consequential individuals of the nineteenth century. He explored vast regions of south-central and south-eastern Africa never before visited by a white man. His pioneering endeavors opened the door for Christianity and legitimate commerce to be brought to that portion of the continent, and led to the Portuguese and Arab slave trades being abolished in it. He provided Western nations with a thoroughly revised and expanded understanding of southern Africa, its people groups, geography, natural resources and much more.

2. Livingstone was one of the most prominent and influential missionaries in the history of the Christian Church. He is likely the most eminent missionary ever to serve in Africa, and is probably to be numbered in the top five of outstanding missionaries to serve anywhere in the world. In reading his life story, it is not hard to perceive why Livingstone came to have such eminence and influence among the countless thousands of faithful, capable Christians who have served as missionaries. Of course, Livingstone never sought or imagined that he would become such a distinguished missionary. He simply went about his duty in diligent, determined fashion, and God granted him exceptional prominence and influence.

3. Christian Focus Publications, the publisher of this biography, describes it as “the most comprehensive and accurate ever written about Livingstone.”   Readers can be confident that this volume will provide them with an extremely thorough and reliable account of Livingstone’s life and ministry. Thorough documentation is provided in the book’s many citations and footnotes, which point readers to the substantiating sources for what is being presented. Such accuracy is vital because a number of Livingstone biographies, even some well-known ones, contain not a few inaccuracies and misrepresentations of him and his history.

4. This book seeks to portray Livingstone as accurately as possible. He possessed many remarkable, God-given strengths. But like virtually all individuals who possess exceptional strengths, Livingstone also had some corresponding weaknesses. This work certainly points out his positive strengths and accomplishments, but also deals honestly with his weaknesses and shortcomings.

5. As sometimes happens with eminent individuals, Livingstone has come in for not a little unjust and inaccurate criticism. He is criticized for neglecting his family and for associating with slave traders (though he always opposed their nefarious practices). He is accused of promoting British Colonialism, of being a poor leader, and of having other faults and failures. This book carefully examines and endeavors to accurately respond to all such charges, resulting in a clearer understanding and greater appreciation of Livingstone being gained.

6. Livingstone’s personal example and perspectives are instructive with regard to making marked personal sacrifices and enduring even extreme hardships in order to faithfully serve Christ and to fulfill one’s rightful duty to God and fellow human beings. Livingstone endured much adversity and made many sacrifices throughout his career. He did so with unwavering trust in God (see the next paragraph), unflinching determination, courage, grit and ingenuity. He repeatedly stated that Christians ought not to think or speak of such matters as actual sacrifices, especially in light of the far greater sacrifices Christ made for those He came to serve and save.

7. Livingstone maintained unshakable trust in God’s guidance, providence and protection. His journals contain many Scripture citations and personal perspectives highlighting those themes. There were numerous occasions when he stated his confidence that God would allow even deeply disappointing and concerning circumstances that he was experiencing “to turn out right in the end.” Contemplating Livingstone’s habitual, Bible-based trust can strengthen our own faith and assurance in these same ways.

8. Livingstone’s private devotional perspectives and statements of personal consecration, both of which are scattered throughout the narrative of his life, are inspiring and beneficial. To cite but one of many such examples from his personal journal: “I will place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of Christ. If anything will advance the interests of that kingdom, it shall be given away or kept only in reference to whether giving or keeping will most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time and eternity … I will try and remember always to approach God in secret with as much reverence in speech, posture and behavior as in public. Help me Thou who knowest my frame and pitiest as a Father his children.”

9. Livingstone’s missionary perspectives are also profitable and worthy of serious consideration. He thought that all Christians, out of love and gratitude to Christ for having redeemed them, should devote themselves to taking that same message of salvation to those who need to hear it. Livingstone was thoroughly committed “to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known” rather than merely “building on another man’s foundation” (Romans 15:20). He had strong convictions that missionary societies should devote their limited resources to reaching unreached people groups rather than carrying out ministry in areas where the Gospel was well-known and Christian work was well-established. He had unbounded, steadfast confidence that God’s Kingdom work was inexorably advancing and would ultimately triumph throughout the world, though he might not live to see that come about in his own lifetime.

10. Livingstone’s life story, especially his decades of service in Africa, are filled with adventure! He took many extensive journeys that were filled with interesting experiences and significant discoveries. He was famously attacked and injured by a lion. Besides lions, he had dangerous encounters with rhinos, hippos, African buffalo, crocodiles, snakes, army ants and swarming bees. While most tribes were civil towards him, several times he was threatened and even attacked by suspicious, opposing tribesmen. He and his men occasionally interfered with the slave trade and were able to free slaves. On a number of occasions he had to navigate difficult and hazardous rivers or traverse treacherous terrain. Such adventures occur regularly enough throughout the book to keep the narrative interesting.

11. A fellow Christian laborer invested six and a half years of his available writing time (parttime, on the side of other fulltime ministry responsibilities) in researching and composing this extensive biography. Christian Focus Publications has made a significant commitment in publishing an attractive hardbound edition of this substantial volume at considerable cost. It is our shared hope and prayer that many will perceive the benefits that can be gained through this book and decide to read it.

12. Ultimately this work can and should be read to the glory of God. It is a substantial record of how God graciously draws people to saving faith in Jesus Christ, then gives them the desire and determination to serve their Savior with their lives. It is also a testimony of how God uniquely equips His people with the gifts and perspectives they need to faithfully, fruitfully serve Him. It shows how God works in and through His imperfect human instruments to carry out the ministries He intends and enables them to fulfill. This is seen in Livingstone’s ministry and experienced in our own lives as well. To God be all the glory!      

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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

The title of my forthcoming biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist (to be published this July) indicates the three primary focuses of Livingstone’s storied career. In this Perspective, I’d like to highlight the first two of those primary emphases in his ministry.

Livingstone’s thirty-two-year career as a missionary and explorer in Africa was reflective of a unique personal “wiring” that God had given him and a special set of purposes the Lord had for him to fulfill. Perhaps Livingstone’s example will encourage us to reflect on the unique wiring God has given us and the special purposes He would have us fulfill in serving Him.

Livingstone initially went to Africa in 1841 as a missionary with the London Missionary Society (LMS). At that time the LMS mission station of Kuruman, located about 500 miles north of Port Elizabeth on the coast, was the northernmost station of any missionary society in southern Africa. Livingstone arrived in Africa with the desire and determination to carry the Gospel of salvation further inland and to establish a new mission station there.

David Livingstone preaching to Africans

During the next eight years, he conducted several missionary journeys hundreds of miles to the north and northeast of Kuruman and planted a succession of three new mission stations 220-300 miles north of it. He had the mindset of the Apostle Paul not to build on another man’s foundation but to take the Gospel where it had not been previously heard (Romans 15:20). He once stated that he was willing to go wherever the Lord would lead, provided it was forward.

From Livingstone’s earliest months in Africa, it was also clear that he had a natural affinity for travel and exploration, not as ends in themselves, but ultimately as means for taking God’s Word to previously unreached areas. While venturing for the first time from the coast to Kuruman (by ox-drawn wagon at a top speed of just two miles per hour), Livingstone wrote enthusiastically of the enjoyment and freedom of that mode of travel. By contrast, most such travelers complained much of the many discomforts and inconveniences as well as of periodic dangers. During that same initial trek to Kuruman, Livingstone was already writing of his desire to take the Gospel to people at a large lake (later identified as Ngami) which was reported to be several hundred miles beyond Kuruman and which had never before been reached by Europeans.

David Livingstone meets Chief Shinte

Throughout his entire career in Africa, Livingstone repeatedly endured extreme difficulties, deprivations, and dangers in prosecuting his numerous journeys. Yet he was able to maintain a remarkably positive outlook on his many travels, and even derive a good degree of enjoyment from them, despite the fact they often proved to be so extremely trying.

Victoria Falls, Discovered by David Livingstone

After his first eight years in Africa, Livingstone began a series of exploratory journeys that led not only to his discovering Lake Ngami but also to his learning about and eventually visiting a number of sizable tribes that populated a large region containing many substantial rivers, far north of the Kalahari Desert and Ngami. Always before that, Europeans thought that vast inland region was nothing more than an enormous unpopulated desert, like the Sahara Desert in northern Africa.

Over the course of seven years (1849-1856), Livingstone explored and was the first European to discover Lake Ngami and the northern reaches of the Zambesi River, including his most outstanding geographical discovery ever, the mighty Victoria Falls on the Zambesi. In addition, during the last two and a half of those years, he became the first European ever to carry out a transcontinental journey across Africa.

While such exploration and geographical discovery were very appealing to Livingstone, they were never his chief objectives. Rather, he was always motivated primarily by his desire to help bring the message of Christianity to formerly unreached people groups. One of his most oft-quoted statements was: “The end of the geographical feat is but the beginning of the missionary enterprise.”  

David Livingstone and Africans attacked by a hippopotamus

Livingstone’s discoveries provided Britain and other Western nations with a largely revamped understanding of the interior of southcentral Africa, including its: peoples and their customs; geography and geology; animal and plant life; climate and natural resources. His extraordinary accomplishments and discoveries brought him widespread acclaim throughout Britain and high honors from officials in the British Government and Britain’s Royal Geographical Society.

During the second half of his career, Livingstone served in the employ of the British Government (as Commander of the Zambesi Expedition, 1857-1864) and of the Royal Geographical Society (exploring the watersheds of southcentral Africa, 1865-1873). In those capacities, Livingstone continued to make many significant geographical discoveries and to add much more to Britain’s and the world’s understanding of various aspects of southcentral and southeastern Africa as already mentioned.

Some criticized Livingstone with forsaking his original call to missionary service. But even while serving with the British Government and the Royal Geographical Society, he always viewed himself first and foremost as a Christian missionary. Thus while planning to head up the Zambesi Expedition, Livingstone declared: “I don’t mean to be a whit less a missionary than heretofore.” And when about to set out on his final explorations of the watersheds of southcentral Africa he wrote: “I mean to make this a Christian expedition, telling a little about Christ wherever we go. His love in coming down to save men will be our theme.”

Throughout the latter half of his career Livingstone continued to have as his chief motivation the opening of southern Africa to Christianity. Helping bring Christianity to Africa was one of the primary objectives which was repeatedly and publicly stated of the Zambesi Expedition and of Livingstone’s role in leading it. He believed he was pioneering the way into that portion of the continent, and other Christians would follow behind, spreading the spiritual light of God’s Word throughout that desperately benighted region of the world. During his lifetime he heartily supported the initial attempts that were made by others along that line in the inland areas where he served.

With the bright eye of strong, unwavering faith Livingstone clearly foresaw and foretold the much fuller Christian endeavors and harvest that would take place in the years after his death. His writings are replete with statements that, though he might not live to see it, “the good time is coming” when God’s spiritual kingdom would be established and triumph throughout Africa and the world. His positive predictions were fulfilled (1) with the introduction of Christianity throughout the regions where he had served in the decades immediately following his death and (2) in the continued phenomenal growth of Christianity throughout all southern Africa to this day.

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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

This coming Monday – May 1, 2023 – marks the 150th anniversary of the death of David Livingstone, the eminent missionary-explorer of southern Africa and truly one of the most consequential individuals who lived in the nineteenth century (1800s). When Livingstone died on May 1, 1873, at a small, isolated village south of Lake Bangweulu in the country today named Zambia, he considered his work as a missionary, explorer and slavery abolitionist as being unfinished and not having fulfilled its intended objectives. But within a few short years of his death and owing to the unparalleled exertions and sacrifices of his life, his noble aims of preparing the way for Christianity and commerce to be established in southern Africa as well as for slavery to be abolished there were brought about by others who followed his pioneering lead and vision.

David Livingstone, near death, carried by Africans assistants

In the providence of God, the comprehensive biography I have had the privilege of writing about this towering historic figure – David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist – is set to be published just two months after the sesquicentennial of his death. July 11, 2023 has been designated as the book’s official release date. I cannot take any credit for the fortuitous timing, as it took me years longer than I ever imagined it would to research and write this volume. But I think it tremendous and significant that in God’s perfect timing the publication of this substantial Livingstone biography coincides with the sesquicentennial of the completion of his extraordinary life and ministry.

It seems tricky to share commendations of one’s own work, because doing so can easily appear to be self-serving, even when that is not intended. But at the same time, the commendations of others are important to lend credibility to one’s work, to verify that others (not just the writer) see marked value in the book. So in that spirit and for that purpose, thanks for permitting me to share some of the positive perspectives that others have written about the forthcoming biography.

David Livingstone found dead kneeling at his temporary bedside in Ilala, modern Zambia

Here’s how the publisher, Christian Focus Publications, is describing the volume at its website:

“David Livingstone was one of the most consequential individuals who lived in the nineteenth century. An unpretentious Scottish missionary doctor, explorer and abolitionist, he opened the door for Christianity in southern Africa. Vance Christie’s biography is the most comprehensive and accurate ever written about Livingstone.”

“During his lifetime he was a hero in Britain and beyond, and gained a degree of respect, trust, appreciation and even affection with many African people. He was a man who overcame many deprivations and discouragements, and displayed the utmost measure of courage, self-control, faith, wisdom and ingenuity. Christie takes a balanced look at Livingstone’s amazing achievements, but also at his very real flaws. This gripping in-depth biography is a must-read insight into a fascinating man.”

I am deeply grateful that several noteworthy individuals have kindly provided endorsements to be included in the book. None of them receive any remuneration for doing so, except the sincere gratitude of the author and publisher, as well as the appreciation of those who consider their perspectives in deciding whether or not to read the book.

Leeta Christie at David Livingstone monument, Glasgow, Scotland

Vance Christie’s careful chronicle gives readers a three-dimensional David Livingstone: pioneering missionary, dedicated opponent of slavery, ceaseless explorer of an Africa unknown to Europeans, a person of unusually forceful character though far from flawless. By setting Livingstone in the context of his times and through exhaustive, scrupulous reliance on well–attested primary sources, Christie brings “the Doctor” to life as a historical figure, but also as a worthy example for our times as well.

Mark A. Noll, Author of ‘America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911’

I thank God for this fresh biography of David Livingstone, the pioneering missionary explorer of central Africa. He died in 1873 and his heart was buried in Zambia. On the centenary of his death, Zambians held commemorative events in several stadia in honour of this man. Also, the only town in Zambia that remains with a foreign name after its political independence from Great Britain is Livingstone. If you want to understand why a people who were once steeped in spiritual darkness should honour a Christian missionary in this way, read this definitive biography!

Conrad Mbewe, Pastor, Kabwata Baptist Church, Kabwata, Zambia; Founding Chancellor, African Christian University, Lusaka, Zambia

David Livingstone was truly one of the towering figures of his time. And though the times have changed, his name lives on. That makes him a fitting subject for a biography of this magnitude—one that recounts his story and considers his impact on his nation, on this world, and on the history of Christian missions.

Tim Challies, Blogger at www.challies.com

This is a fine Christian biography of a flawed, world-famous, philanthropic evangelist, explorer and physician. Comprehensive and judicious, intended for edification, it is now the best place to start for people looking for a detailed description of this titan’s life and work interpreted in relation to the history of the modern British Empire and Western colonialism.

Douglas A. Sweeney, Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama

Vance Christie takes us into the fascinating life and world of David Livingstone in this comprehensive new biography, utilizing Livingstone and his colleagues’ missionary letters and reports. While sympathetic to Livingstone, Christie provides us with an honest portrayal of the renowned missionary–explorer of southern Africa, and through Livingstone, gives a window into 19th century African history, colonialism, and wider missionary endeavor. Readers will grieve brokenness and sin, while simultaneously marveling at the gracious work of our Lord in advancing his gospel and kingdom through weak means. Highly recommended.

William VanDoodewaard, Professor of Church History, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Greenville, South Carolina

Numerous biographies (and at least one ‘meta’-biography!) have been written about David Livingstone. Vance Christie now offers a substantial retelling of the life of the famous Scottish missionary which is both detailed and readable. Providing extensive citations from primary sources (both Livingstone’s published works and his correspondence) and drawing on the work of previous biographers, Christie presents the life of a remarkable man in a fresh and engaging way and deals with available evidence carefully and honestly. For all the faults of Livingstone and those around him, the story speaks of a man who sought to serve God faithfully and the impact that his life had on Africa.

Alistair Wilson, Lecturer in Mission and New Testament, Edinburgh Theological Seminary, Scotland

Here’s the 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

While visiting Scotland in 2019 my wife Leeta and I were treated to a half-day “wee ecclesiastical tour” of several noteworthy sites in the eastern Scottish Highlands area by William and Carine Mackenzie of Christian Focus Publications. One of our first stops that day was at an unpretentious monument overlooking the Moray Firth in the village of Balintore.

John Ross monument at Balintore, Scotland

The monument memorializes John Ross, a once-prominent, now little-known Scottish Presbyterian missionary. The monument reads: “John Ross (1842-1914). A native of this place, minister, missionary in China and Korea, and the first to translate the New Testament into Korean.” (Ross actually died in 1915.)

During our visit to Scotland I was told that a biography on Ross was then being written, and I have looked forward to its publication ever since, desiring to learn more about Ross’s life and ministry. Late last year Christian Focus published that biography, the first-ever extensive work on Ross. Written by a contemporary minister-missionary, John Stuart Ross, who happens to share the same first and last names as the individual about whom he has written, the book is entitled The Power and the Glory, John Ross and the Evangelisation of Manchuria and Korea.

Ross served as a missionary with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. His missionary career spanned the better part of four decades, from 1872 to 1910, and was characterized by diligent service, not a little sacrifice and a number of significant accomplishments.

John Ross

Shortly after arriving in China, Ross and his newlywed wife Mary Ann Stewart settled in the port city of Newchwang in Manchuria, to help establish a beachhead for missionary enterprise in that northeast region of China. Only five days after their first wedding anniversary, Mary Ann died unexpectedly of an unspecified chest ailment, leaving Ross a grieving widower with the care of their son Drummond, who had been born just a few weeks earlier.

Eight years later, while on furlough in Scotland, Ross married Isabella Macfadyen. They served together in Mukden, the capital city of Manchuria, 120 miles from Newchwang, for nearly thirty years. Of the eight children born to them, four died in infancy.

Ross actively discipled and recruited Chinese converts to help carry out and advance evangelistic and teaching ministries in Manchuria and northern Korea. Such training and utilizing of native Christians to advance Christ’s Kingdom work became one of the hallmarks of Ross’s ministry career. His philosophy of ministry was a key factor in the indigenous churches in Manchuria and northern Korea becoming largely self-directing and self-supporting.

Ross carried out a few itinerations to spread the Gospel and build up new Christians in Korea. He formed a team of Korean believers to assist him in translating the New Testament gospels and epistles into the common Korean dialect. This led to the publication of the first-ever complete Korean New Testament in 1887. Through the powerful work of God’s Spirit, thousands of Koreans came to saving faith in Christ Jesus and numerous Christian congregations were formed.

In addition to his extensive Bible translation endeavors, Ross was a prolific writer of other works throughout his career. His published volumes included language primers on Mandarin Chinese and Korean, as well as books about Chinese and Korean history and religion. He also penned many articles and scholarly papers.

Ross and his fellow missionaries helped guide and care for the Manchurian Christians and churches throughout the tumultuous decade of 1894-1905. Those years saw the region ravaged by two wars involving foreign occupations by Japan and Russia, as well as China’s anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion. In those conflicts countless thousands of Chinese, including numerous indigenous Christians, were attacked, had their property destroyed or were killed. The missionaries, to the full extent of their abilities, provided spiritual and medical care, along with food, clothing and lodging for local residents trying to rebuild their lives and for a flood of refugees. Through those horrific trials the Church in Manchuria was both purified and strengthened. It grew to have 20,000 or more official followers of Jesus Christ.

During the closing several years of his missionary career, Ross primarily devoted himself to establishing a theological college in Mukden, to offer advanced training and education for Chinese Christian leaders, evangelists and Bible women. He served as the theological college’s first and primary full-time instructor.

One interesting feature of this biography is that only about half of it is about John Ross himself. That is because relatively little detail was preserved by Ross or his contemporaries concerning his boyhood, college and seminary years, family, specific ministry events, final decline and death. The author, John Stuart Ross, has done exhaustive research and presents all there is to know from available resource material about his biographical subject. The other half of John Stuart Ross’s extensive volume presents a wealth of information that fills out the historical, cultural, ecclesiastical and political backdrop of John Ross’s life and ministry. The book also introduces the reader to a number of the significant individuals from Scotland, China, Korea and elsewhere whose ministries intersected with Ross’s.

In recommending this overall-fine volume, I do feel compelled to mention one aspect of it which from my perspective is most unfortunate. Chapters 19-20 of the book present a prevailing negative portrayal and analysis of Jonathan Goforth and his role in the revival that took place in Manchuria in 1908. (John Ross was on furlough in Scotland at that time). Because of Goforth’s appreciation for some of Charles Finney’s teachings on revival and some emphases of the Higher Life Movement, he is misrepresented in this book as being suspect, misled and unbiblical in some of his revival perspectives (especially his marked emphasis on the need for repentance as an essential part of revival) as well as in certain other aspects of his theology.

John Ross’s History of Corea

But when one reads the biography Goforth of China and Goforth’s accounts of various God-wrought revivals he had the privilege of playing a part in (“By My Spirit” and When the Spirit’s Fire Swept Korea), the serious accusations leveled against him in the John Ross biography are simply not borne out. Rather than automatically accepting the negative characterizations of Goforth found in the Ross biography, Goforth deserves to be evaluated on the basis of his own beliefs and practices as revealed in the books on his life and ministry just mentioned. The latter provide a balanced, positive perspective on Goforth that has been generally affirmed by evangelical Christians from his day to our own.

Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie

Frances Ridley Havergal

We live in a day when more and more people seem increasingly skeptical toward the Christian faith. The positive personal example of Frances Havergal, an eminent nineteenth century English hymnwriter, has a lot to teach us about bearing an effective witness to such skeptics.

Frances Havergal (1836-1879) was a best-selling author of devotional literature, poetry and hymns. She was also a skilled musician who was often asked to sing solos and take a lead in choral ministries. She participated in and promoted a wide range of other ministries including children’s Sunday school and Bible clubs, women’s prayer and ministry groups, meeting the material needs of the underprivileged, community evangelistic meetings, and missionary endeavors.

Frances was an ardent personal evangelist. She actively sought to use her varied ministry opportunities, both public and private, to point people to Christ Jesus.

In April 1872 Frances visited her sister and brother-in-law, Ellen and Giles Shaw, at their country home of Winterdyne near Bewdley, England. One Sunday Frances was unwell so did not attend church with them. When the Shaws returned home from church that day, Giles was surprised to find her at the piano and exclaimed, “Why, Frances, I thought you were upstairs!”

“Yes,” she replied, “but I had my Prayer-Book, and in the psalms for today I read, ‘Tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is King’,” (citing Psalm 96:10). She continued on to explain: “I thought, what a splendid first line! And then words and music came rushing in to me.” Motioning to a sheet of newly-composed lyrics, along with a complete set of melody and harmony lines, she concluded, “There it’s all written out.”

Winterdyne House near Bewdley, England

That song was subsequently published with the title of “Tell It Out!”  Frances often used it to bear witness to others of her Savior and King, Jesus Christ, and to encourage her fellow Christians to do the same.

On one such occasion at a social gathering she visited with a young man who was a strong opponent of religion and denounced it as “all humbug and mere profession.” Rather than being put off by him, Frances later said, “I had no end of fun with him, and got on thoroughly goods terms.”

Then she was asked to sing for the gathered guests. She afterward reported of her musical witness and its effect on the young skeptic:

Frances Ridley Havergal

“I prayed the whole time I was singing and felt God very near and helping me. After a Handel song or two which greatly delighted him, I sang ‘Tell It Out!’ I felt the glorious truth that He is King, and couldn’t help breaking off in the very middle and saying so, right out! Then I sang, ‘Whom having not seen, ye love,’ and felt as if I could sing out all the love of my heart in it.”

“Well, this young infidel, who had seemed extremely surprised and subdued by ‘Tell It Out!’, completely broke down, and went away to hide his tears in a bay window. And afterwards we sat down together, and he let me ‘tell it out’ as I pleased, and it was not hard to speak of Him of whom I had sung. He seemed altogether struck and subdued, and listened like a child. He said, ‘Well there is faith then. You have it anyway—I saw it when you sang. And I could not stand it, and that’s the fact!’ He was anxious for me to come again.”

May our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for Him similarly be so strong that they will shine through us to others, leading us to readily testify about Him to them. Such a compelling, winsome witness will be used of the Lord to soften even some skeptical hearts and to draw unbelievers to Himself.

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This Perspective is based on information gathered from Janet Grierson’s substantive biography Frances Ridley Havergal, Worcestershire Hymnwriter (The Havergal Society, 1979). Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie