"Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?"
May 25, 2013
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
In 1871 Henry Stanley, employed by the New York Herald, went to Tanzania in Africa to find the medical-missionary David Livingstone. After trudging through hundreds of miles of jungle, the two finally met and Stanley is supposed to have begun the conversation with the words quoted above.
The line is what people remember about the event. Sadly, that line is just about all they remember about the meeting. You should know there is a "rest of the story."
To that end let me share that Stanley didn't just find Livingstone and then return to civilization. No, not at all. Stanley spent several months with the missionary. He used a reporter's eye to observe the man and his work. During that time Livingstone never spoke to Stanley about matters spiritual. He just kept up with his selfless ministration to the African people.
Stanley was surprised, shocked and astounded by this well-bred Englishman, who showed such love and compassion to the natives. He admitted his inability to understand why Livingstone was spending himself in untiring service for those whom he had no reason to love ... no reason to love other than Jesus.
Commenting in his journal, Stanley said, "When I saw that unwearied patience, that unflagging zeal, and those enlightened sons of Africa, I became a Christian at his side, though he never spoke to me one word."
Now a lot of people reading that story would come to a wrong conclusion. They would think ah, ha! It's not necessary for us to talk about Jesus. All we have to do is lead a good life, and the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.
Now I would never limit the Holy Spirit and what He can do. On the other hand, look closely at what Stanley wrote. He said, "He never spoke to me one word."
Livingstone may not have preached to Stanley, but he most certainly did some preaching. He did a lot of preaching. He preached through his work, and he preached through his words. Indeed, Dr. Livingstone told everyone he met about the love of God, which is theirs through the sacrifice made by Christ Jesus.
Now I doubt if most of us are going to become medical-missionaries to Africa. Even so, it would be great if people -- having watched our actions and listened to our words -- would paraphrase Henry Stanley and say, "Followers of Jesus, I presume?"
It may not happen, but we still ought to live as if it should.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, let every aspect of my life point people to the Savior who gave Himself, so we might have life eternal. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries