One of the most powerful missionary stories of all time revolves around the great Christian explorer David Livingstone (be sure and click the link to read of his fascinating life). After losing contact with the outside world for six years, the New York Herald Magazine sent Henry Stanley to search for him. He found Livingstone near the shore of Lake Tanganyika (one of the African Great Lakes, it is the world's second largest lake by volume, the second deepest and the longest lake in the world).
Stanley is reported to greeted him with, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Livingstone is said to have replied, "Yes, and I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you." There is some question as to whether this exchange actually happened, but it makes a good story and that's why the press saw that it was widely distributed. You can download Stanley's How I Found Livingstone for a full account.
According to the Burundian Government, the exact spot of this encounter is 12 km south of Bujumbura near the shore of Lake Tanganyika. According to Stanley's account however, their famed meeting actually occurred about 15 days earlier in another town. But it is clear that they did travel to the spot marked by the big rock together and that makes it special to me.
I mention this abbreviated history for several reasons. First, as believers, we can all be inspired by the genuine greatness of David Livingstone. I've comment on the believer and social ethics recently, citing William Wilberforce as an example in a subsequent post. Yet here is another man that I could easily have mentioned, a man who put feet on all the theory. Livingstone will almost certainly make everyone feel like an underachiever, but he remains an example to us all.
Second, history matters. Modern biblical scholars line up for their turn to dismiss the authenticity of the Old Testament, claiming (in some cases) that there is nothing genuinely historical before the exile. Yet they go on to claim with a straight face this really doesn't matter because the teaching of the Old Testament is still inspired revelation.
When it comes to the exact spot that Stanley met Livingstone, close is good enough for me. After all, I have nothing riding on the veracity of the claim. But when the Old Testament speaks, it matters if it is telling the truth or not.
For this is what the LORD says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—he says: “I am the LORD, and there is no other. (Isa 45:18 NIV 84)
Either God created the heavens as described in Genesis 1 or he did not. And if he did not, why should I accept his statement concerning "no other" at face value? Perhaps I should give Allah a second look if the Old Testament's account of creation is merely interesting theological history.
No, I don't care if Stanley said, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" at the spot where there's now a big rock (and lots of children). But that doesn't mean that I no longer find history important.
I've endured…um…"Livingstone's revenge" all day. Even though Livingstone and Montezuma weren't alive at the same time, they both have a vengeful streak and were at least on speaking terms. I think I'm better now, but I covet your prayers just the same.
I start teaching the pastors and preaching in the village tomorrow. I need a clear head and a strong body to do so. Please pray that God in his mercy would grant me both so that he receives the glory.