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Where Will They Burry Your Heart?

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Where Will They Bury Your Heart?

I have always found profound inspiration in the stories of men and women who lived and died for Christ. In fact, their incredible level of commitment is a measuring stick for my life; their undying courage is a source of my encouragement; and their burning passion is the light to my personal mission.

Where would I be without the stories of these seemingly ordinary people who behaved extraordinarily against impossible odds? My faith is lifted each time I recall these true heroes.

For me, one of the most moving is the powerful story of David Livingstone and the sacrifices he made to open the great continent of Africa to Christianity. When I first heard this story, I was already very familiar with the hardships that missionaries regularly endure. But the day I heard Livingstone's story, I was finally able to embrace the extreme price one man paid.

Travel with me to the year 1857. David Livingstone had already lived in the land of, "the thousand villages where no missionary has ever been" for sixteen years. He is now back in England, ready to address Cambridge university students. The custom of the time is for the students to heckle the speaker--all in fun. This day is no exception. The students have peashooters and noisemakers of every description. They're ready for whoever this man might be.

Then David Livingstone slowly walks to the podium with the step of a man who has walked 11,000 miles. His left arm hangs dead at his side, having been nearly ripped from his body by a lion, his shoulder crushed into splinters. His skin is a dark, leathery brown from sixteen years in the African sun. His face is furrowed with innumerable lines from bouts with African fever, which have also racked and emaciated his body. His physical being is wasted. He is half deaf from rheumatic fever and half blind from a tree branch that whipped him in the eyes while traveling through the jungle.

The students are staring.

They know this is not just another guest speaker. Before them is a man to be taken seriously. This is a life that was literally being burned out for God.

As he begins to speak they learn that Livingstone's journey began as a young man in Scotland. It was there that he prayed, "Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties, but the tie that binds me to Thy service and to Thy heart." At that very moment god took Livingstone at his word.

Then Robert Moffat, home on furlough, spoke the words that changed the course of David's life, "I've seen the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been." Africa would be the land where God would go with him, sustain him and sever any tie that bound him.

Thirty-two years later and thousands of miles away from home, it had all come to pass. Malaria had claimed Livingstone's wife. His body was broken. During the last five years, he saw no familiar faces. In fact, no one from England ever knew where he was. Discouraged and sick, David insisted on taking one more journey to more of, "the thousand villages..."

Eventually he had to be carried and propped up to speak.

Then one morning his servants came for him. They thought he was kneeling in prayer by his bed. But, David had finally gone to be with the One to whom he prayed.

His faithful servants carried his body back to the coast where it was placed in a coffin and shipped back to Great Britain. Finally, he was buried with dignity and honor in Westminster Abbey.

But, there is much more. The people of Africa knew this man had sacrificed everything for them. Every day for thirty-two years, he gave his life for the souls of Africa. His heart was truly with these people. So, before his body was sent home to England, his faithful companions removed his heart and buried it where it belonged--under a shade tree in the plains of the Dark Continent.

It remains there to this day.

Remember, in his day, Livingstone had few converts. That's the knowledge he had to live and die with. Yet today, 150 years later revivals are sweeping the continent. There are 75 million known converts in the land he traveled through. Evangelist of today surely realize that they are standing on the shoulders of six generations of previous evangelists who have all stood on the shoulders of one man--David Livingstone.

Now, flash forward. The year is 1986 and this time it's me listening to a speaker at a podium at a Sunday School Convention banquet in California. I'm listening to a man whom also looks like he's paid the price. His voice is raspy, his eyes are tired. In his brokenness, he tells of being jumped and beaten on the streets-his eyes being smashed with a brick. The blow also fractured his cheekbone and broke a tooth. But, it was the blood clot behind his eye that caused immediate blindness.

The doctors told him they would have to take his eye out. Just one more price he would have to pay for starting a mission in this new kind of jungle.

Though arrangements had been made for his surgery, this preacher secretly made plans to leave New York on another flight. He was never coming back. He was quitting.

But, the morning of his surgery--the morning he was planning to steal away--he woke up to see perfectly from both eyes. God had other ideas for him. And Bill Wilson stayed in New York.

During bill's talk I begin to learn about the trials, misfortunes, and struggles of ministry in that forgotten and dangerous wasteland--the inner-city jungle. And, like so many around me, tears streamed down my cheeks. I was reminded of David Livingstone, lost and alone in a strange world. Except, this was not a far off place in a time long ago. This is today in America.

In time, I decided to go to New York, 'to one of the thousand villages...'

Today, I look back and realize that I came to Metro Ministries at the beginning of its prime--a point we are still climbing today! I reflect on the stories of all the missionaries who have inspired me through the years. They serve as a reminder that Bill has pioneered this ministry in an unforgiving, often deadly, urban jungle. And for that I am forever grateful.

As I write this, I am looking out the window of my comfortable, almost rodent-free ghetto apartment. It's one

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