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Missionary Spotlight – Zambia

May 2001 | by Conrad Mbewe

Livingstone planted the seed

When Zambia gained independence in 1964, all towns with foreign names were given local names — all, that is, except Livingstone. Zambia’s tourist capital is still named after the great missionary explorer, Dr David Livingstone (1813-1873).

Clearly, Livingstone endeared himself to the people of this part of Africa. In May 1973, on the 100th anniversary of his death, Christians gathered in stadiums across Zambia for church services, to thank God for his life.

He did much to stop the cursed slave trade. But he also brought the light of the glorious gospel to the interior of this vast continent. Today, at least 80% of Zambians consider themselves to be Christians (although the genuine number is much less than that).

David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, Scotland, on 19 March 1813. When he first came to central Africa, it was just a blank space on the map of the world, and the name of Christ was totally unknown by the local people.

As a result of his sacrificial pioneering work, the vast interior of Africa was charted, and roads and railway lines were built into the hinterland. There was a subsequent development in trade and commerce, although the slave trade was halted. Mission stations were established.

Original item held by National Library of Scotland.
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We prepare the way

In one of his journals, Livingstone wrote, ‘Our work is cumulative. We work towards another state of things … Missionaries in the midst of masses of heathenism seem like voices crying in the wilderness … future missionaries will see conversions follow every sermon.

‘We prepare the way for them. May they not forget the pioneers who worked in the thick gloom with few rays to cheer, except such as flow from faith in God’s promises! We work for a glorious future which we are not destined to see’.

Livingstone was not destined to see the glorious state of the Christian faith that now exists where he laboured. He died on his knees on 4 May 1873 in a little hut in northern Zambia.

The people, knowing that his ‘heart’ was in Africa, buried his actual heart under a large tree in the small village. Then his faithful helpers carried his remains through dangerous forests and across the seas back to England, where he was buried in Westminster Abbey on 18 April 1874.

Livingstone planted a seed that has brought much fruit. Those of us who have reaped where he sowed will ever be grateful to God for this one man’s life, labours and sacrifices

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