Was David Livingstone a failed missionary?

"David Livingstone failed as a missionary. He only had one convert in his decades of ministry."

Let me show you why David Livingstone was one of the most successful servants of God in a century of amazing men of God.

It is true, Livingstone only brought one person to Christ in Africa... However, he trained in Scotland, between shifts at the cotton mill, to be a medical missionary. Up until Livingstone, no Europeans had successfully explored the interior of Africa due to disease. It's easy to forget that Africa was literally a blank spot on the map. Men had literally sailed around the world and discovered all of the American continent but they still did not know what lay inside of the continent of Africa. Livingstone defied all odds by doing it.

Not only crossing Africa, but he also used his medical expertise to figure out what medicines the people were using against diseases. By this, he became the first person to link quinine to curing malaria. His relative years later would use his notes to create its cure. He was also one of the first people to link malaria to mosquitos. He was also able to help create ideas and notes on curing "Sleeping Disease." A disease not well known today, it killed 1/3 OF ALL people in Uganda in the 20th century. Can you even imagine that?

It was the number one disease that killed Europeans who tried to settle into the continent as well. His medical notes and expeditions led to it being a disease that only kills a couple thousand a year there now. Further, he investigated and found links to diseases and ticks, parasites, and a whole host of other issues. Dysentery, typhoid, and pneumonia on the continent were better treated due to his work. And not just him, but the doctors he brought with him and kept safe.

One example was Dr. John Kirk, whose notes would be instrumental in curing diseases in Africa, and who helped bring about the end of slavery trading in East Africa by brokering a treaty. He was kept safe on early expeditions by Livingstone. Another man Livingstone inspired was Henry M. Stanley, who is famous for the line, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" He became a Christian shortly after meeting Livingstone because of their encounter. When he died, he went to Africa.

Henry M. Stanley's expedition to Africa and eventual work there led to the end of the slave trade in central Africa. Combined with the work of other men inspired by Livingstone slavery that was so common was abolished in Africa.

And finally, Livingstone inspired so many to come after him. Mary Slessor, the before mentioned Stanley, the Livingstone Inland Mission founded in his name, and the Africa Inland Mission, among so many others owe their existence directly to Livingstone's example. 

How many countless missionaries went, inspired by Livingstone's work?
How many countless missionaries survived because of his work curing terrible disease?
How many lives managed to live long enough to hear the gospel due to his work?
How many people listened to the message brought by European missionaries because they weren't associated with slave-traders?
How many people didn't become slaves and so lived longer lives that were able to hear the Gospel?

All in all, I think God used Livingstone mightily. One more aspect of his work that's often forgotten. Many, many doctors poured out of Scotland in the thirty years following Livingstone's death and they pointed to him as their inspiration. They cured many well known diseases.

If you enjoyed learning about Livingstone and his incredible work, make sure you listen to the podcast Revived Thoughts where we have covered each of the three speeches of his that have been preserved by history.

And share this blog so others can learn.