Thought for the Month (July 2013)

Flanders and Swann wrote in their Weather Song:
"In July the sun is hot Is it shining? No, it's not!"
As I write this, the sun is shining but it certainly is not hot! I hope it is as you read this.

July means "end of term" and beginning of the holidays when all the records for the children have to be completed and progress discussed with parents. Often a Sports' Day (if it stayed fine) with parents shouting and encouraging. Our most successful Sports' Day, I thought, was the year my very sporty Deputy decreed the prize would go to the child who came in last! At least we had different prize-winners. The staff had to clear out cupboards ready for a new start in September. Then the holidays! Sitting in my garden by the pond, often with visitors dropping in for coffee or tea.

Ah! A relaxed summer! I send lots of good wishes for your summer whatever you enjoy doing.

Now I can share with you an interesting book that has come out recently about David Livingstone, the famous missionary to Africa in the London Missionary Society of happy memory.

David Livingstone was born on 19th March 1813 so we are celebrating his bicentennial year. In 1848, in what is today Botswana, King Sechele was baptised by David Livingstone.

Livingstone has gone down in history as a fearless explorer and missionary, hacking his way through the jungles of Africa to bring light to the people, and also to free them from slavery. We have always looked up to Livingstone but he was an extraordinary character. Unbelievably bad at personal relationships at least with white people he had infinite self-belief, courage and restlessness. He was also a complete failure as a missionary; King Sechele was his only convert so Livingstone became an explorer and campaigner against the slave trade, hoping to save African souls that way. Instead he helped, however unwittingly, to set the tone and the extent of British involvement in Africa.

Livingstone died believing himself to be a failure but in 1873, two years after his death, on his inspiration the Livingstone Mission entered Africa. By 1900 it had five churches with 1,578 members: one-third of whom were preachers. Livingstone turned out to be a lousy missionary himself but he found a different way to contribute to mission.

And Sechele became a missionary, a brilliant theologian, interpreting the Bible in a way that connected with Southern Africa life.

Failure and success; we are both and experience both. God seems to use both.

Have you read the story about the prophet Jonah, sent by God to the City of Nineveh? Jonah goes in the opposite direction and is swallowed up by a big fish but ends up in Nineveh, at the second attempt.

What God wants, God gets. Look at David Livingstone and Sechele. But why aren't we also celebrating this brilliant African missionary alongside David Livingstone?

Audrey Mitchell

NB Readers may be interested to know that the (non-denominational) David Livingstone 200 Project has organised a year-long programme of events throughout 2013 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Livingstone. For further information please or telephone Nat Edwards (David Livingstone 200 Project Leader) on 07848 448731.

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church