In the footsteps of Dr Livingstone

This post was originally written on Thursday, 23 August 2012 10:07 at

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.”  

Psalm 25:5

Chavuma Mission Station

The impact of the Gospel never ceases to amaze me. But the power with which it’s changing hearts and inspiring lives for Christ Jesus here—against the deeply rooted traditions of pagan African religion and culture—leaves me utterly astounded on a regular basis.

Our ministry in north western Zambia was shepherded by the leadership of John Leach, who is working to permanently set up an outreach to local children.

2012-07newsletter3Chavuma, the town we ministered in, lies on the Zambezi River and immediately south of the Zambian border with Angola. There we found inspiration for our efforts in the almost 100-year-old Chavuma Mission Station, situated on a hill overlooking the town and the Zambezi River.

At the mission we met Mr Bob Young and his team. Under the leadership of this lifelong missionary, his team manages the mission hospital with the lowest infant mortality rate for the whole nation of Zambia. More than 1,200 babies are born there annually. These children arrive in a land lacking modernity and even basic infrastructure—where human resources in the form of doctors and nurses and even basic living supplies—remain desperately scarce. Charles, as hospital administrator, explains that the medical outreach is a tool to a much greater cause — the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And he demonstrates it with action, too.


Our ministry included preaching, teaching and serving the locals. Sleeping in tents on the Zambezi River bank, river crossings by boat—during which we spotted crocodiles—and walking up steep embankments and distances in very loose sand to remote villages, were all par for the journey.

Bending the knee

Many Angolans visit the mission hospital in search of remedies for diseases and end up attending the church services on the premises. It was with great joy that we welcomed new converts into our spiritual family after our mission team member, Pastor Mark Parris, preached an inspiring message beginning with creation and sin, and explained the message of salvation thereafter.

One Angolan convert commented: “I have travelled over a great distance and seen many things; now I know why God brought me here!” Many of us missionaries felt the same way.

Many others turned to faith in Christ when confronted with the Gospel presented by our team members.

We crossed to the western side of the Zambezi River by boat and walked to villages to present the Gospel. Mr Bob Young told us that Dr David Livingstone’s writings show he had passed on the opposite side of the Zambezi to the town known as Chavuma. We were privileged to minister in the same area.

When Mr Young arrived at the mission in the early 1950s he remembers seeing letters of correspondence between Livingstone and a local missionary.

African culture

But back to the African culture and the impact of the Gospel on lives:

Chavuma Mission Station houses six very old ladies. We learned that the reason they were living on the mission—and not with their families—was that their families did not want to care for them any longer. They were considered no longer any benefit to society. They were accused of being witches. This abandonment to the African wilds is like the signing of a death warrant for an elderly person.

Christians don’t do this. In fact, they’re building new accommodations for these ladies.

“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:32

The age-old plague of stealing from widows is still rife in north western Zambia. When a husband and father dies, his family members (brothers and sisters) arrive at his home and steal all the house contents for themselves and leave his widow and children destitute. It sounds too hideous to happen anywhere, but sadly it’s commonplace in this region. What looks like evidence of Satan’s stranglehold we as followers of Christ also recognize as an opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace and mercy.

This sorrowful situation is a great opportunity for church deacons to start a “Protect the Widows with Baseball Bats” ministry.

Converts to Christ provide for widows and orphans.

“You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes. You take away my blessing from their children forever.” Micah 2:9

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  James 1:27

This destitute environment can be too much for some to bear. Young girls who fall pregnant often insert a root of a shrub into their vagina, killing both mother and baby. There is no way to stop the process once begun. But there is a way to prevent it from beginning.

Christians, choose life!


“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”  Deuteronomy 30:19

Some cultural norms reveal how uneven things are in the family structure—sometimes by necessity, but often by design. Men typically walk in front of their wives, to protect them no doubt, while the poor woman lingers behind carrying all their worldly goods on her head and a baby in her arms.

Christian couples serve each other.

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life…”  1 Peter 3:7

The ostracization for living the faith can take unimaginable forms. A Christian brother was falsely accused, by a witchdoctor, of causing the death of someone. These sorts of lies normally originate from the witchdoctor who uses fear and intimidation to maintain control over the anxious local population.

Naturally it was decided that the accused would be a Christian, who does not fear, nor is intimidated by the witchdoctor and those who worship the dead. He must therefore be removed from society.

In this case, the Christian stood firm!

“…stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the Gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”  Philippians 1:27-28

Gospel impact

Praise the Lord that these sinful practices are not the norm in societies that have been influenced by the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Once again the Gospel emphasis on forgiveness and freedom—possible in a true and lasting way only through Christ— confirms its powerful influence on the hearts and minds of people, their families and this nation.

Mr Young and his team have had to take a strong stand for righteousness and truth, sometimes against tremendous odds. On occasion thousands of people, calling for their lives, have surrounded and threatened them. His home and a mission truck have been burnt.

Weaker brothers would have fled by now, but not Mr Young – who claims he will always be ‘young’. At 78 years old, he intends to finish the race Christ has called him to run.

It’s easier to understand our inspiration now, isn’t it?

The Gospel is going forth in north western Zambia and will continue to be preached and lived out by the lifelong missionaries at the Chavuma Mission Station. To see more photographs, please visit: Facebook photos

Please pray for Mr Young and his team.

Charl van Wyk

P.S. Whatever mission field God calls you to—whether war-torn regions of Africa or your current community—study His Word, listen for His guidance, pray, praise Him and stand ready to serve and do His Will.

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