David Livingstone  (1813-1873)

     In the fall of 1838 David had been accepted by the London Missionary Society.  It seemed a dream to the 25-year-old former cotton-mill laborer. But it would take determination. He was no missionary yet. He was beginning three months of probation. He had to master Latin, Greek and theology before he began more medical training. But after several weeks David was worried. Reverend Cecil, mentor of new recruits, didn't seem to recognize David's better qualities, as others had. He grudgingly admitted David's theology was simple but sound. But the reverend frowned all the while David labored on Latin and Greek. He even questioned David's motivation, even though every time David was called upon to lead prayer he concluded, 'Let us imitate Christ in all his inimitable perfections.'
     There was another qualification to become a missionary. Every missionary had to preach the Gospel. Each student had to write his sermon, then subject it to Reverend Cecil's severe review. After the reverend's inevitable revisions the student memorized the approved sermon, then delivered it passionately to a local congregation. David's opportunity came when the minister at a church in Stanford Rivers became ill. David was told to deliver the evening sermon. He read through his approved sermon one last time and mounted the podium. 
     "Good evening, friends...," he began nervously.
     His mind immediately went as 'black as midnight'. 
     David's mind buzzed with horror: he must not fail his sermon! Yet, his memory was impenetrable. How could this happen to someone who once memorized the entire 119th Psalm? If only he could remember the first sentence. That would be the spark to set him ablaze. He had to remember it. His faltering way of speaking was another of Reverend Cecil's criticisms of him. What was the first sentence? Suddenly he noticed Reverend Cecil in the front pew. The reverend's eyes were lowered in disappointment, but it seemed disappointment he expected. Others in the congregation were wide-eyed with concern.
     David stammered, "Friends, I have forgotten all I had to say."
     He rushed out of the chapel, smothered by the silence of the congregation. He had failed. Oh, how he had failed.

David Livingstone: his life and his letters by George Seaver, 1957]

"Friends, I have forgotten all I had to say," admitted Livingstone helplessly.

Reverend Cecil's final report in 1839 on David Livingstone, his 'crude' plodding Scottish candidate for missionary, was scarcely a ringing endorsement:
          The objection I mentioned, his heaviness of
     manner, united as it is with a rusticity, not likely
     to be removed, still strikes me as having importance,
     but he has sense and quiet vigour; his temper is
     good and his character substantial, so I do not like
     the thought of his being rejected. Add to his stock
     of knowledge and then I trust he will prove after all
     an instrument worth having - a diligent, staunch,
     single-hearted labourer. If the decision were now
     coming on I should say accept him…"
Livingstone seemed to bear no grudge whatever over Reverend Cecil's weak recommendation of him, but corresponded with the reverend after he reached Africa in 1840.

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Florence Nightingale  (1820-1910)

     In 1850 Florence turned 30. For five years she had known her calling was to help the sick. For five years she had been thwarted by her family. In England, nursing was a work done by drunken floozies, they insisted. It did no good to tell them about honorable nursing societies in other countries. Their interest was solely England. For a long time Florence had risen well before dawn to be able to study medical reports. The rest of her day was consumed by the lightweight but constant duties of an unmarried daughter in an aristocratic family. She daydreamed almost incessantly about nursing. Her world was so bizarre she often had to chastise herself for the way she had behaved in her daydream! Had she not been humble enough in her nursing duties? Had she been seeking personal glory?
     In 1850 Florence was allowed by her family to travel with friends. First stop was Egypt. Away from Cairo the desert unhinged her. The desert seemed truly Satanic. She started a diary. Many days she recorded little but her torment:
          1 Jan -  (at Luxor) ...dreaming...
          17 Jan -  (at Abu Simbel) ...Dreamed in the very face of God.
          20 Jan -  ...Oh heavenly fire, purify me - free me from this slavery.
          11 Feb -  Did not go out - but the demon of dreaming had possession of my
                           weakened head...
     In Greece weeks later her condition only worsened:
          18 May -  ...my history...(is) a history of miserable woe, mistake, and blinding vanity,
                             of seeking great things for myself.
          19 May -  ...God I place myself in Thy Hands...if it be Thy Will that I should go on
                            suffering let it be so...
          12 June -  ...it little matters where I go - sold as I am to the enemy...
          18 June - …My enemy is too strong for me, everything has been tried…All, all is in vain...
          30 June - (in very shaky script) I cannot write a letter, can do nothing…
          1 July - I lay in bed and called on God to save me...
     Even the thought of visiting the nursing deaconesses of Kaiserwerth in Germany later in July did not buoy her. What, if after all these years of dreaming, she was disappointed? What then would sustain her? However, Kaiserwerth did buoy her - for a while. But returning to home life again in England sank her. She had no money of her own, no position, no way to declare her independence. By the end of 1850 she wrote, "I have no desire now but to die.  There is not a night that I do not lie down in my bed, wishing that I may leave it no more. Unconsciousness is all that I desire…"

Florence Nightingale in Egypt and Greece: Her Diary and "Visions" edited by Michael D. Calabria, 1997, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters edited by Martha Vicinus and Bea Nergaard, 1990]

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Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984)

Francis Schaeffer's anecdote is available HERE.

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