Who was David Livingstone?

David Livingstone was a 19th century, Scottish Presbyterian medical missionary, physician, abolitionist, explorer and philanthropist who was known for his "unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, and to abolish the slave trade." [quote from his tombstone]. Some have likened him to Mother Teresa, Neil Armstrong and Abraham Lincoln all rolled into one!

We have chosen to honor his legacy because as a non-clergy person, Livingstone had a holistic view of his service in the mission of God. He wrote, "[I am] not a dumpy sort of person with a Bible under his arms, [but someone] serving Christ when shooting a buffalo for my men or taking an observation, [even if some] will consider it not sufficiently or even at all missionary."

His pioneering work led to opening a road into the interior of Africa so that unreached peoples could be reached with the gospel. The African maps of his day showed vast unexplored areas with no roads, countries, landmarks or locations noted. Through his missional exploration, he redrew the map of his day to include dozens of countries in areas now known as South Africa, Rwanda, Angola and the Republic of the Congo. His attention to geographic detail as well as noting the connection of peoples to locations as a means of furthering his mission strategy foreshadows today's use of GIS technology, cultural geography and cultural anthropology in modern-day mission efforts.

Abhorring the colonial mentality of the day, Livingstone stood against forms of social injustice that he encountered. Speaking to the indigenous peoples with respect, he was driven to expose the slave trade routes and to end the slave trade through what today would be called international economic development.  As a result of his missional efforts, many other missionaries went to Central Africa where they established schools, health care and other facilities in those areas.

Livingstone also pioneered a gospel message that was communicated with respect for his audience. Rather than trying to force the tribal chiefs to accept Christianity (as some missionaries of his day attempted to do), he proclaimed the gospel in a non-confrontational manner.  He communicated with his Christian audience through print publications such as "Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa" (1857) and "Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries" (1864).  His use of visual art in journals and writings to represent geographical features and artifacts that he discovered in his travels gives evidence of his use of current media to maximize the effect of his missional communication.

Thus we choose David Livingstone as an example of a life dedicated to service in the mission of God.  Missional University encourages its students to emulate the passion and vision of David Livingstone to join in serving in the mission of God wherever God leads them in many different vocational capacities.