First, a little bit of history. Livingstone was born into a poor Scottish family in 1813, and like many of his time, faced a bleak life of unskilled labour in the factories of the late industrial age. Any chance of Livingstone having what we would consider a normal childhood was consumed by need as at the age of 10 he was put to work at the Blantyre Mills for 12 hours a day for the princely sum of about four shillings per week.
From an early age, Livingstone had a strong desire to become a missionary and at the age of 23, with the encouragement of his father Neil, Livingstone defied the odds that may have prevented him by class and financial position, entered Medical College in Glasgow with the intention to enter the mission field as a qualified doctor.
Fast forward five years after his training in Glasgow, his first posting was to the London Missionary Society's most remote and cherished mission, Kuruman, in northern South Africa. In December 1840, Livingstone made the journey to work under Kuruman's director, Robert Moffat.
It was at Kuruman that Livingstone first formed his opinions around the effectiveness of traditional mission and evangelical models and how they related to the African people.
Although his opinion wavered a little throughout his life, the crux of his ideology was that it would be through wide spread commercialisation and colonisation of the African interior that would lead to the Christianisation of the dark continent.
His motto, as recorded beneath his statue at Victoria Falls, is 'Christianity, Commerce and Civilisation'.
On the basis of this, for the majority of his missionary life, Livingstone set upon the task of paving the way for future missionaries and traders, to penetrate central Africa leading to what he saw as the most important catalyst to wide spread conversion; British colonisation.
Throughout this biography, based upon Livingstone's and related individual's journals and letters, Livingstone's determination, long suffering, as well as ambitions, insecurities and insensitivities are laid bare.
Accounts of his ordeals through exploration, physically, socially and emotionally are nothing short of staggering, as he pushed through uncharted territories facing everything from tribal conflicts, animal attacks (being mauled by a lion), and severe physical trauma (malaria, starvation and dysentery of a most acute nature) through to enmity, mutiny, even abandonment from members of his party(s).
The author's assessment of Livingstone's character is brutal at times, questioning his intentions, leadership qualities and decision making, although it must be said, based purely on the historical record of Livingstone's journeys, and his subsequent successes and failures (particularly concerning Livingstone's leadership and influence over the European exploration parties he was involved in), the author's assessment could be entirely accurate.
Ultimately Missions from across the world came to Africa as a result of Livingstone's life and ministry and in his case, John 12:24 certainly rings true: "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
This article continues next month.
Ben Kitzelman has spent the last 4 years travelling between Australia and Zambia, serving for one as a missionary, and is now an IT professional in Melbourne.
Ben Kitzelman's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/ben-kitzelmen.html