As missionary David Livingstone plunged ever more deeply into the African interior, all the world followed him. He was a hero, an explorer whose every foray was widely discussed. But in the early 1870s word from him ceased. The world held its breath and waited and wondered. Five years passed. Finally the New York Herald sent reporter Henry Stanley to find him, dead or alive. Stanley was an untamed adventure-seeker and journalist. He was also an infidel who viewed Christianity with considerable cynicism. “Spare no expense,” his newspaper said. Stanley organized 200 persons in five caravans and plunged into the jungle.

Stanley finally located Livingstone near Lake Tanganyika. He bowed and uttered his famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” He arrived just in time, for the old missionary was sick, lonely, and desperate for medicine, supplies, and news from home. Stanley stayed with Livingstone four months, and the two men grew very attached. Stanley later reported, I went to Africa as prejudiced against religion as the worst infidel in London. But I saw this solitary old man there, and I asked myself, “What is it that inspires him?” For months I found myself listening to him, wondering at the old man carrying out the words, “leave all and follow me.” Little by little, seeing his piety, gentleness, zeal, and how he went quietly about his business, I was converted by him.

On their last day together, March 14, 1872, the two said little. Stanley lingered as long as he dared, then he said, “Now, my dear doctor, the best friends must part.…” Livingstone, heart throbbing, replied, “God guide you safe home and bless you, my friend.” Stanley went a way then turned for a last look. Livingstone had also turned. Stanley waved his handkerchief, and Livingstone lifted his hat. They would not see each other on earth again. When Stanley heard of Livingstone’s death the following year he determined to follow his footsteps.

Paul … knelt down with all of them and prayed. Everyone cried and hugged and kissed him. They were especially sad because Paul had told them, “You will never see me again.” (Acts 20:36-38)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Mar.14.

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