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Mar 14 Dr Livingstone I Presume

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

On this day in Christian History we go back to year 1871 and travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa where today the journalist Henry Stanley and explorer-missionary Dr David Livingstone parted company, after five months in Africa together. Livingstone had been missing in Africa for four years, and although already famous of his mapping work in Africa, the British government had seemed uninterested in rescuing him. So the entrepreneurial editor of the New York Herald dispatched the rookie journalist Henry Stanley to find him. After spending a few months with him Stanley returned to England to write his bestseller, How I Found Livingstone. After they parted ways, Livingstone, got lost again—in a swamp literally up to his neck and within a year and a half, he had died in a mud hut, kneeling beside his cot in prayer.

Stanley travelled to Zanzibar in March 1871 and his expedition began numbering 111. Stanley borrowed money from the United States Consul as the publisher of the New York Herald and funder of the expedition, had delayed sending the money he had promised. During the 700-mile expedition through the tropical forest, his thoroughbred stallion died within a few days after a bite from a tsetse fly, many of his porters deserted, and the rest were decimated by tropical diseases. He found David Livingstone near Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania. He later claimed to have greeted him with the now-famous line, "Doctor Livingstone, I presume?" However, this line does not appear in his journal from the time and maybe a possible embellishment. The Herald's own first account of the meeting, published 1 July 1872, reports, Mr. Stanley said: – "Doctor Livingstone, I presume?" A smile lit up the features of the pale white man as he answered: "Yes, and I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you."

David Livingstone was a Scottish physician and pioneer Christian missionary with the London Missionary Society, and famous as an explorer in Africa. He had become one of the most popular British heroes of the late 19th-century Victorian era. His fame as an explorer and his obsession with discovering the sources of the Nile River was founded on the belief that if he could solve that age-old mystery, his fame would give him the influence to end the East African Arab–Swahili slave trade. "The Nile sources", he told a friend, "are valuable only as a means of opening my mouth with power among men. It is this power [with] which I hope to remedy an immense evil." His exploration of the central African watershed and "disappearance", and eventual death in Africa‍—lead to his subsequent glorification as a posthumous national hero. At the zenith of British imperial power he represented what were then many noble aspirations. Protestant missionary martyr, working-class "rags-to-riches" inspirational story, scientific investigator and explorer, imperial reformer and anti-slavery crusader.

In Britain he became known as "Africa's greatest missionary," yet he is recorded as having converted only one African: Sechele, who was the chief of the Kwena people of Botswana. However it is said that Sechele "did more to propagate Christianity in 19th-century southern Africa than virtually any single European missionary". Livingstone was known through a large part of Africa for treating the natives with respect, and the tribes that he visited returned his respect with faith and loyalty. He could never permanently convert the tribesmen to Christianity. Livingstone was quite content being, so far as he knew, the only white man in a large area, familiar with the local dialects, an admirer of the women and satisfied with the food, and he had developed a passion for observing the activity of the village market. For, of all the gifts Livingstone possessed—perseverance, faith and fearlessness among them—the most remarkable was his ability to insinuate himself into African cultures. Livingstone died at the age of 60 in present-day Zambia, from malaria and dysentery. His loyal attendants Chuma and Susi removed his heart and buried it under a tree near the spot where he died = now known as the Livingstone Memorial. The rest of his remains were carried, together with his journal, over 1,000 miles and returned by ship to Britain for burial. In London, his body lay in repose at No.1 Savile Row, then the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, prior to its interment at Westminster Abbey


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