Vance Christie with David Livingstone Trailblazer

Last week brought a special blessing when I received several complimentary copies of my forthcoming youth biography, David Livingstone: Africa’s Greatest Explorer, from the publisher. I’ve always found it a thrill and delight, as well as an occasion for much gratitude, to hold in my hands for the first time the fruit of my writing labor on a particular project in printed book form.

I’m grateful to God and Christian Focus Publications (CFP) for the tremendous opportunity I’ve had to write and have published this little work on one of the most prominent missionaries in the history of the Christian Church. I’m thrilled to think of many, many young readers (1) enjoying learning about Livingstone’s remarkable, eventful life and (2) being encouraged and strengthened in their own spiritual life and service for the Lord by considering Livingstone’s commendable example.

CFP has once again done an outstanding job in the production of this volume. The cover is colorful and appealing. The text is well edited and attractively printed. A map of Livingstone’s travels, a timeline of his life, and Thinking Further topics for each chapter add much to the benefit and helpfulness of the book.

This work joins scores of others that have previously been published in CFP’s popular Trailblazers series of Christian biographies for youth. These biographies are written for readers around 9-14 years of age. But I’m confident older teens and adults will also enjoy reading David Livingstone: Africa’s Greatest Explorer.

September 10 is the official launch date for the book. But people can pre-order copies from Christian Focus Publications or Amazon. CFP offers nice discounts if ten or more copies are purchased.

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For a comprehensive, adult-level biography of Livingstone, I happen to know of one I can recommend 😊: David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist (Christian Focus Publications, 2023).

Copyright 2024 by Vance E. Christie

I’m delighted to share that I’ve written a youth biography on David Livingstone which is tentatively scheduled to be published late this coming summer (perhaps August or September). The book is entitled David Livingstone: Africa’s Greatest Explorer. It is being published by CF4K (Christian Focus for Kids), the children’s books publishing arm of Christian Focus Publications (CFP).

This book will be joining scores of others that have previously been published in CF4K’s popular Trailblazers series of Christian biographies for youth. The primary target audience for these biographies is older elementary and middle school students.

I have written and CFP has published a lengthy, comprehensive adult biography on Livingstone because we consider his life and ministry worthy of such thorough treatment. But now we’re pleased to produce and present a short (around 150 pages), youth-level biography to acquaint younger readers with this eminent nineteenth century missionary and explorer in Africa.

In this briefer account of Livingstone, I’ve included many of the positive and important highlights of his life and ministry. Since this work is only one-tenth the length of the comprehensive adult biography, I obviously couldn’t begin to incorporate everything of significance. But I have endeavored to share plenty of representative events that reveal the primary activities, priorities, circumstances and accomplishments of his remarkable life story.

Bearing in mind that I was writing for a younger audience, I’ve included many instances of action and adventure that actually took place throughout Livingstone’s decades of colorful service in Africa. Even here I had to do some picking and choosing, because Livingstone’s storyline is so full of adventures that not all of them could be incorporated.

Statue of David Livingstone Being Attached By a Lion
Statue of David Livingstone Being Attached By a Lion

But beyond action and adventure, I’ve sought to portray numerous other significant and beneficial aspects of Livingstone’s life as well, especially those that would be worthwhile for young people to consider. To name but a few, those include: the challenging circumstances of his boyhood; his Christian conversion and call to be a missionary; God’s protection of and provisions for him through many difficult and dangerous situations; his chief priority throughout his career of helping bring Christianity and the Gospel of salvation to people groups which had never before heard of them; his determination to expose and help bring an end to the destructive slave trade throughout southern Africa; his resolutely enduring all variety of hardships and sacrifices in order to carry out the ministries and service he believed God would have him to undertake.

It’s my definite desire and prayer that through the publication of David Livingstone: Africa’s Greatest Explorer, countless young people will (1) become acquainted with one of the outstanding heroes of Christ’s Church and (2) be encouraged and strengthened in their own Christian faith and service.

In the coming months I’ll share more specifics about the book’s anticipated release as that information becomes available.

Copyright 2024 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.”

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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 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

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

Hundreds of consecrated Christian missionaries went out from Scotland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of them faithfully, capably served Christ Jesus in relative obscurity. Some of them gained a degree of eminence for their sacrificial, fruitful service.

Scotland’s preeminent missionary was David Livingstone (1813-1873). In addition to his consecrated missionary service, he explored a vast region of southcentral Africa which had been previously unknown to Europeans. He opened the way for Christianity (of first importance) and commerce (of secondary importance) to be introduced throughout that immense area. He also played a primary role in exposing the evils of and helping bring an end to the slave trade in that part of Africa.

I’m currently writing a comprehensive biography of Livingstone’s life and ministry. So when my wife Leeta and I recently visited Scotland, one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting was the David Livingstone Centre and Birthplace Museum in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire (a fourteen-mile drive from Glasgow). The museum has extensive displays and items relating to Livingstone’s upbringing and career. But unfortunately I had somehow overlooked the fact that the museum is currently closed for major renovations.

David Livingstone Centre & Museum in Blantyre, Scotland

We ended up investing the day which we had intended to spend at that museum, instead, in seeing some of the sights in Glasgow. While doing so we unexpectedly came across two significant indications of the high esteem in which Livingstone came to be held in Scotland. The first instance of this was at Glasgow’s Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. There the one modest display we found concerning “Missions and Missionaries” prominently featured David Livingstone.

“Missions and Missionaries” display in St. Mungo Museum

Though I’m not at all a proponent of religious relics, it was a treat for me to see a copy of the Bible Livingstone used during his first decade of service in Africa, as well as the trademark consular cap with gold band which he characteristically wore throughout his exploring years.

David Livingstone’s Bible from early years of service in Africa.
David Livingstone’s Trademark Consular Cap

Looking out a second- or third-story window of Saint Mungo Museum, we took pictures of the nearby Glasgow Cathedral, which is also called the High Kirk of Glasgow.

Glasgow Cathedral

On the paved plaza leading to the front of the cathedral stands a magnificent monument with an impressive statue of David Livingstone atop it.

David Livingstone monument near Glasgow Cathedral

Three sides of the monument bear large metalwork plates depicting (1) Livingstone teaching the Africans, (2) Livingstone taking astrological observations to use in determining latitude and longitude, and (3) an Arab slave trader attacking an African mother and her child with a whip. [pixs of metalwork plates on DL monument]

Slave Trader Attacking African Mother
David Livingstone Taking Astronomical Measurements
David Livingstone teaching Africans

I was delighted but not surprised to discover these two outstanding tributes to Scotland’s premier missionary in Glasgow. Livingstone grew up near Glasgow then received his initial theological and medical training in that city. He later qualified as a medical doctor, receiving the license of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow. He went on to gain tremendous acclaim in all of Britain, from Christians and non-Christians alike, for his career of missionary service, his wide-ranging explorations and geographical discoveries throughout southcentral Africa, and his steadfast determination to help end the African slave trade. All that was carried out with marked self-sacrifice, perseverance, courage and humility. He was not only admired but also lionized. Little wonder then that all of Scotland came to proudly esteem him as one of its most-honored sons.

Livingstone would have considered such honoring and lionizing of himself by others as tosh (to use a good British term). Livingstone’s goal in life was not self-promotion but faithful, humble service of his Savior Jesus, by helping to advance Christ’s spiritual kingdom and by bringing God’s love and blessings to others.  

Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie

David Livingstone as a younger adult.

David Livingstone as a younger adult.

David Livingstone’s storied thirty-three-year career as a missionary, explorer and slave trade opponent in the southern half of the African continent led to his becoming a missionary legend and a British national hero. He was honored with a burial in Westminster Abbey.

But initially his qualifications for missionary service were seriously questioned, and he was nearly not approved to serve with the missionary society under whose auspices he first went to Africa. His early history as a would-be missionary suggests important lessons about persevering through discouragements in preparing for and pursuing the ministries we sense God is calling us to undertake.

Livingstone was raised in a pious but poor family in Blantyre, Scotland. From the time he was ten years old he worked long, taxing hours in a cotton mill while pursuing his education on the side. He came to saving faith in Christ Jesus at age nineteen. Two years later he sensed God’s leading to prepare to become a medical missionary.

Thoroughly independent, at first he planned to work his way through medical school then pay his own way in going to the foreign field. But during his second year of medical training, friends encouraged him to apply for service under the London Missionary Society (LMS).

The LMS Directors provisionally accepted Livingstone as a possible missionary candidate and, in the fall of 1838, sent him for a period of probationary training under Rev. Richard Cecil at Chipping Ongar, not quite thirty miles northeast of London. Livingstone and six other probationers studied theology as well as Latin, Greek and Hebrew under Cecil’s tutelage.

The students were also given the responsibility of leading, in rotation, the daily family worship sessions that were held in Cecil’s home. They were further required to prepare sermons that were submitted to Cecil for editing. Those sermons were then committed to memory and delivered to village congregations in the area.

David Livingstone buying a book as a boy - London Missionary Society painting

David Livingstone buying a book as a boy – London Missionary Society painting

Livingstone’s first attempt at preaching proved a disaster. One Sunday he was sent to deliver the evening message at a church in nearby Stanford Rivers. After reading the scripture text for his sermon very deliberately, Livingstone suddenly found that he could not recall a single word of his intended discourse. After a painful silence, he blurted out, “Friends, I have forgotten all I had to say,” then hastened, humiliated, out of the chapel.

Early in 1839 Cecil submitted his report on the current mission students to the LMS Board. Due to Livingstone’s hesitating manner in leading family worship and while praying during weekday chapel services, as well as his failed first attempt at preaching, Cecil’s report on Livingstone was rather mixed:

“His heaviness of manner, united as it is with a rusticity, not likely to be removed, still strikes me as having importance. But he has sense and quiet vigor; his temper is good and his character substantial, so that I do not like the thought of his being rejected.” Cecil thought Livingstone was “hardly ready in point of knowledge” to go to a theological college but stated his hope that his plodding Scottish charge “might kindle a little.”

Having read the report, the Mission Board was about to decide against Livingstone as an acceptable missionary candidate. But one of the Directors “pleaded hard” that Livingstone’s probationary period should be extended, with the result that it was. Six months later Livingstone was finally approved to serve as a missionary with the LMS. After finishing 1839 under Cecil’s further training in Chipping Ongar, Livingstone moved to London for a year of additional medical education. He sailed for South Africa in December 1840.

Gravestone of David Livingstone, Westminster Abbey.

Gravestone of David Livingstone, Westminster Abbey.

What does Livingstone’s example in this early phase of his history have to teach us?  When we sense God leading us to a particular ministry, we should diligently prepare for it. Even if at first we don’t seem (to ourselves or others) highly qualified for our future course of service, we should persevere in preparing for it if we remain convinced that the Lord is still leading us that direction. If God is, indeed, leading us into a particular course, He will give us success in becoming well prepared for it and will direct others to affirm and support us in pursuing it.

From a different angle, perhaps the Lord has us in a position to guide and encourage along an individual of less-than-obvious qualifications who nonetheless senses God’s leading to a particular ministry. Let’s seek to be careful and to be guided by God’s Spirit ourselves in how we advise that person. The Lord may use us to help bring to light a diamond in the rough.

Copyright 2016 by Vance E. Christie