Fathers Away on a Mission: Part 2

June 22, 2014

Last week we looked at the paradox of God putting children into families, but sometimes then calling the fathers away from their families for ministry. We saw Robert Sheffey’s first wife struggling with health and survival while he tried to pursue the mission he felt called to do. After her death, Sheffey went on to become a great preacher, while married to another Elizabeth.

This week we look at David Livingston (1813-1872). Livingston died kneeling beside his cot in prayer. The civilized world wept. They gave him a 21-gun salute and a hero’s funeral among the saints in Westminster Abbey. His tombstone read: “David Livingston: missionary, traveler, philanthropist. For 30 years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, and to abolish the slave trade.” He was Mother Teresa, Neil Armstrong, and Abraham Lincoln rolled into one. His body may have been taken to England and buried there, but the Africans kept his heart because it “belonged to Africa”.

How did Livingston’s wife fare with his mission?

Mary Moffat joined him on two journeys. Of their six children, two were born during their journeys, delivered by her husband.

During his first trip to Zambezi, Mary remained with the children in London for their education. Those four years were unhappy for her. When David returned, she insisted on returning with him to Africa.

That was for the second Zambezi expedition. Livingston pushed the men, forging a 30-foot waterfall. Mary died by the Zambezi River, having just given birth to her sixth child.

No wife could have done more than Mary. David told his daughter, “Your mama was famous for roughing it in the bush, and was never a trouble.”, even though Livingston was known for pushing his men beyond human endurance.

Mary had no thought of holding him back from his mission. She held the heart of Africa close to her own heart. She endured suffering, waiting, and separation in order that he might do the work.

Biographies conflict over her interest in his explorations. Rumors suggest problems while separated. But all tell of their strong partnership.

David Livingston’s one regret was that he didn’t spend more time with his family.

God’s mission completed through the work of one man. God established a family who worked together for the mission. A testimony to God’s paradoxes.

He puts children in families, yet calls the fathers away.

He holds both in His hands.

They are safe.

They are blessed.

The world knows God better.

How do you help support your husband with his mission even when he is away?
How do you cope while he is gone?

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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Tell of My Kingdom's Glory
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