The below article was written by Dr. Eugene Murphey and was published in The Tower newsletter of June 2006.
Missionaries in our universal Christian and many-faceted Presbyterian denomination have literally covered the world in the last three centuries in their efforts to carry the good news message of Jesus Christ to all people. Their stories an as varied as their names and ethnic backgrounds, but probably none are more exciting and intriguing than those of the men whose faces appear in the central lancet stained glass window in the chancel area of our church sanctuary. Last month we discussed the middle figure in the panel, Rev. Sheldon Jackson. Now let us consider the next person above him, Dr. David Livingston, one of the first Caucasian men to penetrate the African continent along with Robert Moffat who immediately preceded him in missionary efforts in Africa. Dr. Livingston later married Moffat’s oldest daughter Mary in 1844. She bore six children, with one dying in infancy, and she died in Africa in 1862.
Dr. Livingston was born in Blantyre Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1813 to parents of meager means but strong religious faith and members of the Congregational Church. Early on he became intrigued with the missionary work of Henry Martyn among the Mohammedans and Charles Gutslaf, medical missionary to China. He then met his future father-in-law, a pioneer African missionary, and this led Livingston to pledge himself to service in the so-called ‘Dark Continent.’ He was ordained a missionary in Albion Street Chapel, London, November 8, 1840.
The story of Dr. Livingston’s travels, explorations, and missionary work is far too extensive for repetition here, but it is sufficient to say that he accomplished much good in the name of Jesus Christ. He was tireless in his efforts and
often faced unbelievable trials in carrying out his work. His repeated exposure to disease, pestilence, and starvation eventually reduced him to ‘a living skeleton.’ It was in this condition that in 1871, after being lost in the interior for a time, he was found by New York Herald journalist Henry Stanley who was sent to find him. You probably remember the oft-repeated story of their meeting when Stanley approached, lifted his hat and said, ‘Dr. Livingston, I presume?’ The emaciated, grey-haired missionary replied, ‘Yes’, when Stanley said, ‘I thank my God I am permitted to see you,’ Dr. Livingston is said to have replied, ‘I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you.’
Dr. Livingston not only was intensely dedicated to his missionary work in Africa but also responsible for making many important geographical observations that he sent back to England. His efforts were also instrumental in opening the continent to free trade and exposing the injustice and horror of slave trading.
-Eugene M. Murphey, M.D.