Book #18 David Livingstone: Missionary and Explorer

Andy Andrews’ story has always intrigued me. I was reminded of it again after having read his latest novel The Noticer last week. Andrews had an idyllic childhood. His father was once a minister in the church we now attend. Life for Andy was “normal”. But then came a devastating turn of events.

When Andy was nineteen years old, his mother died of cancer. Shortly after his mother’s death, his father died in a car accident. Through a series of events, Andy found himself alone and living under a bridge in Orange Beach, Alabama. Frustrated and hopeless, Andy began asking the question “Does life just happen, or are there choices we can make that change the course of our future?” His search for the answer to this question took him to the library.

Andrews read over 200 biographies of successful people, people who had excelled in their own particular field. He began to see a pattern of seven principles that all of these successful people demonstrated. Out of those seven principles came the best-selling book The Traveler’s Gift, which would catapult him into recognition.

I began to meditate on his having read over 200 biographies. That’s a lot of books. I have tried for several years to read 100 books every year. I never, ever reached that goal, so the last couple of years I have trimmed down my goal to 52 books in 52 weeks. Even that is a stretch. So how in the world can a person read over 200 biographies? And if I were to add biographies to my line-up of books, how much could I learn about principles of success as well.

I decided I was up for the challenge. Not necessarily the challenge of reading 200 biographies, but for adding more biographies to my reading rotation. Hence, my latest book called David Livingstone: Missionary and Explorer by Sam Wellman. It is published by Chelsea House and is part of their Heroes of the Faith series.
I didn’t really know much about David Livingstone before picking up this book. I recognized his name as an explorer in Africa, but I don’t think I ever realized that the purpose of his exploration was to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to indigenous African tribes.The exploration for which he gained world-wide acclaim was merely the means to the end.
Livingstone was from Scotland. He was raised in a very poor family. His father sold tea all over Scotland in order to provide a good education for his three boys. Education was important to the Livingstone family, and Agnes and Neil Livingstone scrimped by on his meager salary in order to pay for his sons education. As Neil went door to door selling tea, he also handed out Christian tracts and evangelized the people of Scotland.
Along the way, Neil and his middle son David left the church of Scotland to join a local Congregational church. Both David and his father were avid readers of theology, but David also had an insatiable interest in reading about science, much to his father’s chagrin. Neil Livingstone though that science undermined the Bible and tried to keep his sons from studying any discipline of science. However, David felt called to study medicine, and he also had a keen interest in studying nature. Even at a young age, God was preparing David to carry out His plan in exploring and mapping the interior of Africa, reaching the people with medicine, and fighting slavery by opening up Africa’s interior to European trade.
The book is a fascinating story of humility and perseverance. David stayed on the task God had called him to, even though he had little visible success for YEARS. David spent all of his adult life exploring Africa, evangelizing the indigenous people (with far less success than he would have liked), and exposing Africa’s interior to the rest of the world so that it could be opened up for trade. David understood that the only way to free Africa from slave trade was to reveal to Europe the other vast resources which so far had gone undiscovered.
The story of David Livingstone reminds me a lot of the story of Moses.He labored his entire adult life to turn people’s hearts toward God and free them from slave trade, but was never allowed to enter the “promised land”. Although David Livingstone planted seeds of the gospel throughout his whole life, it wasn’t until after his death that those seeds began to flourish and Christianity began to spread throughout the interior of Africa. The harvest of those seeds is still being produced in Africa today. Livingstone is hailed as being the single most effective minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ ever to reach the people of Africa.
All because he was too wise to abandon God’s call just because he wasn’t seeing fruit.
Have you read a biography that especially challenged you in some way? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to pick it up at the library.


  1. Carol Calloway Mills says

    Ashley, I also can't imagine reading over 200 biographies. He put quite a lot of work into that that book. Dad and I have enjoyed the rest of his books, and certainly enjoy relating to the settings. Don't forget to read "Island of Saints" about forgivness. You will love is as well!!

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