In 1841, Dr. David Livingston took up his first medical missionary trip through Africa with the London Missionary Society. Early on in his diary he tells the story of himself, along with some of the locals, defending the village from lions. While Livingston was loading his gun, he was attacked. He writes that the lion pounced on him, biting his shoulder and landing with a paw on his back. The lion growled and shook him like a rat. Livingstone recalled, in this moment of absolute terror, being surprised at the absolute numbness that he felt—like a patient under an anesthetic—unable to feel the knife.
“This peculiar state,” he wrote, “is probably produced in all animals killed by the carnivora; and if so, is a merciful provision by our benevolent Creator for lessening the pain of death.”
By the grace of God, the lion did not kill Dr. Livingstone, nor did it put an end to his missionary journey. He completed this travel and returned for more. By 1856, Livingstone had even gone clear across the continent from west to east.
In 1866, Dr. Livingston embarked on yet another journey. During this time, he lost communication with the London Missionary Society. He was reported as lost and presumed by some to be dead. Journalist Henry Stanley was sent to search for Livingstone, and in 1871 located the missionary in Ujiji, the oldest town in western Tanzania. Upon seeing the Scotsman in this African oasis Stanley uttered the now famous words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Livingstone continued his mission until his death in 1873.
What was it that encouraged David Livingstone to so diligently spread the gospel in so remote a place, in the face of such fierce danger? What sort of commission and assurance had he been given?
As the London Missionary Society sent out this great explorer, they commissioned him with words that always stood as a great comfort to Livingstone. They were the words of Psalm 121.
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.