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Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

“Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

These famous words were uttered by American journalist Henry Morton Stanley on November 10, 1871, as he met David Livingstone on the banks of Africa’s Lake Tanganyika.

The Background

Livingstone was an internationally renowned missionary of British origin. We was made famous for his discovery of the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. He also awakened the world to the horrors of the Arab slave trade and this effectively led to its end. Because of this, his writings gained the affections of both westerners and native Africans. In the 1860s, Livingstone left on a new voyage to find the source of the Nile. When he didn’t return for years, it was rumored that the famous missionary had died.

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Stanley, a journalist and skeptic from America, set out to find Livingstone and write a story. To do so, he and his team were forced to fight through hostile territory and almost had to suffer a bout with malaria. Although some porters deserted the journey, Stanley and what was left of his team finally saw an old white man on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Knowing it could only be one person, Stanley greeted the old man with his now world-famous greeting, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Livingstone was very ill at the time, so in the sweet providence of God, the food that Stanley brought with him ended up saving Livingstone’s life. Stanley urged Livingstone to leave Africa, but Livingstone refused. The two would journey together for another few months before Stanley would return to America, spreading the joyous news of Livingstone’s ministry and survival.

Stanley described Livingstone as:

A man who is manifestly sustained as well as guided by influences from Heaven. The enthusiasm of his life comes, beyond question, from Christ… (His Christianity) is not of the theoretical kind, but it is a constant, earnest, sincere practice… and it is always at work.

The man’s resolve to live for Christ

Livingstone was so loved by Africans that when he was found dead from illness in his mud hut home in 1873, his followers buried his heart in Africa before carrying his body, packed in salt, on an 11-month journey back to England, where he was to be buried in Westminster Abbey.

In his journals, Livingstone wrote:

I 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 the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time and eternity.

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”
(Philippians 1:21)