Remarkable People

ID #5273

David Livingstone 3 Robert Moffat.

Livingstone hoped to go to China as a missionary but was prevented from doing so by the First Opium War, which broke out in 1839. In 1840, while continuing his studies in London, Livingstone met Robert Moffat who was on leave from Kuruman. He was excited by Moffat's vision of expanding missionary work northwards. He was also influenced by Moffat's opinion that he was the person to travel north of Bechuanaland (Botswana), where Moffat had seen "the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been."

Livingstone was assigned to Kuruman and arrived at Moffat's mission in July 1841. Upon arrival, he was disappointed by the small village and Christian population – it had only forty communicants and a congregation of 350. Reasoning that conversions would be more likely if the missionaries were indigenous converts, Livingstone adopted plans to found a mission farther north. While establishing a mission at Mabotswa in 1844 he was mauled by a lion. He might have been killed had the lion not been distracted by an African teacher, Mebalwe, who was also badly injured. Both recovered but Livingstone's arm was disabled which caused him pain for the rest of his life.

Moffat arrived in Kuruman with his family in December 1843 and Livingstone married his eldest daughter Mary in January 1845. She was also Scottish but had lived in Africa from age four. After falling out with Edwards, Livingstone moved to an out-station at Chonuane among the Kwena under Chief Sechele, and finally moved with the Kwena to Kolobeng in 1847. For a time Mary travelled with Livingstone despite her pregnancy. She gave birth to a daughter, Agnes, in May 1847, and at Kolobeng began a school while Livingstone analysed the Setswana language, in which he had become fluent. The only Christian convert of his career was made in Kolobeng when Sechele was baptized after renouncing all but his senior wife, although he was later denied communion after he took one of them back. Livingstone emphasized the importance of understanding local custom and belief as well as the necessity of encouraging Africans to proselytize. However he had difficulty finding converts suitable for training. He grew increasingly frustrated with established missionary strategies and was willing to consider unconventional methods.

As Livingstone planned new initiatives, he recognized the difficulties presented by his growing family, and in 1849 he sent them back to Kuruman. Later Mary and David's family returned to England but returned on the Zambezi Expedition.

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Last update: 2014-03-30 20:24
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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