Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

Wow.  A lot has happened since I posted last.
School ended on May 26th with kids and May 27th for teachers.  Mark and I celebrated at the Court of Two Sisters on Royal St. in the French Quarter.  The courtyard was beautiful, and we lazily sat for three hours sampling New Orleans best cuisine:  jambalaya, turtle soup, shrimp etouffee, roast beef and gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, oyster dressing, crawfish dressing, bread pudding, praline sauce, homemade vanilla ice-cream, etc.  It is an amazing place to go to get a complete taste of NOLA in one stop.
Mark and I spent the rest of the weekend looking at furniture, hoping to get a Memorial Day deal.  When you know someone is expecting a baby, the natural thought is to think, "They were looking for baby furniture!"  Oh no.  Not us.  We have waited 7 years to get our bedroom furniture, and by golly we're getting it before the baby comes.  I know that our priorities will be entirely shifted to the needs of our baby when he comes, so the time is now.  We have been using old furniture Mark's dad gave us when we got married, and it wasn't designed to last very long.  We have procrastinated long enough, so on Monday we bought a bedroom suit.  Here is the set we got.  Unfortunately, the windows in this picture were not included.
Since it was raining all day Sunday, Mark and I went to the library and picked up some books/DVD's on Africa.  The Jefferson Parish library is pretty amazing.  I have to admit...the best books on Ethiopia are picture books from the children's section.
We picked up a DVD called Expedition Africa which was originally aired on the History Channel.  If you're ever in the mood for a 5 hour quest through Africa, this is the DVD for you.
Dr. David Livingstone

The premise of the film is 4 modern-day explorers journey through Tanzania along the same route that Sir H.M. Stanley took in search for Dr. David Livingstone.  To recap the story briefly, Livingstone was best known for being a missionary/explorer who searched for the source of the Nile River.  During his time in Africa, he developed a deep love for the people, and a life-altering passion to work as an anti-slavery crusader.  During his time in Africa, he became so enthralled with finding the source of the Nile, that his contemporaries and the media in London began to rumor his death.  Eager to attract the public spotlight, young reporter H.M. Stanley sets out to "find" Livingstone.  It is truly remarkable how Stanley made it all the way across Tanzania.  The rugged terrain, swamps, crocodiles, rhinos, lions, and hyenas are no small obstacle, much less the diseases that claimed many of his porters:  malaria and dysentery. Astonishingly, the man makes it to Livingstone where he supposedly utters the famous phrase, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
The entire time I watched the trek of these modern-day explorers as they fought disease, exhaustion, rain, mud, and wildlife, I wondered, "WHY IN THE WORLD ARE THEY NOT TAKING A CAB?"  I honestly don't relate to their desire to walk in Stanley's shoes AT ALL.  Who would wish upon themselves sleepless nights, danger, disease, and 24 hour dirtiness?  It beats me.
What I did get though, was Stanley's determination to meet Dr. Livingstone.  Aside from the fact that "finding" this great explorer/missionary would make him Europe's most famous reporter, I have to believe that something inside of Stanley longed to understand a man that would risk his fame in London, his comfort, and his life for a people who lived in fear of being sold into slavery.  London couldn't find Livingstone because Livingstone didn't want to be "found".  To Livingstone, his home was among a people that he knew he was called by God to serve...Africa.
Stanley was eager to jump into the rat race.  His idea of a meaningful life involved risking his life to be in the tabloids.  Because explorers in his day were like modern-day rock stars, Stanley knew that this was his chance at fame.  Risk his life, he did, but what is the man known for?  Four words:  "Dr. Livingstone, I presume."  Ironically, the most famous thing he is known for saying doesn't even point to him; it honors Livingstone!  It's no wonder.  Stanley was a violent, selfish man.  He was brutal to his porters who traveled across Africa with him.  He left a fellow explorer to die of malaria just outside his destination.  And for what?  A temporary fame that left him lacking depth in our history books.  On the contrary, Livingstone did not seek the praise of man.  In fact, he was probably despised and shunned by most of the white men he encountered in Africa.  He would have opposed them because they would have been there to capture his people.  Instead of seeking fame and approval from London, he dedicated himself to giving people a voice who had no rights. To Livingstone, proclaiming freedom for the captives (Isaiah 61:1) was a cause he took literally and the world is better for it. Livingstone understood that "when you lose your life for Christ's sake, you find it."  (Matthew 10:39)
I wonder what it would look like if followers of Christ took God's word literally.  What would happen to our lives?  Would we lose them?  And what if we did?  Doesn't God's word say we would find life in Him?  What are we so afraid of?
Livingstone's story is one I will continue to tell because when I look at his life, I see a man who really "got it."  This is what it means to live... "I (Jesus) have come that you might have life and have it to the fullest." John 10:10.

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