We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Under the Mango Tree. "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?"

Dr Livingstone, I presume?” We visited the spot in which these words that made history were allegedly uttered. Henry Stanley, a journalist on a mission to find David Livingstone, finally caught up with the "lost" explorer under a mango tree in Ujiji on November 10th, 1871. And almost 150 years later, our imaginations carried the story as we sat at the scene. The huge shady mango tree sadly died in the 1920’s, but two of its branches were used to plant two mango trees that stand there today, beside the plaque commemorating one of the most famous meetings in history.
Re-enacting the Scene!

Under the Mango Tree. The Mongers, I presume.

Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, is a very obviously Muslim village. It has nothing of the beauty of Livingstonia in Malawi, which was our last Livingstonian pilgrimage (a mountainous village where a mission was established which later took a public stand against racial tension in 1959). In Ujiji we see the beginnings of a long slave trade route, a route that goes all the way from Lake Tanganyika to Bagamoyo on the Indian Ocean coast. The route is marked by huge mango trees planted on either side. Captured slaves were taken along this route of mango trees to the coast where they would then be sent by ship to Zanzibar and sold. Slaves in chains, exhausted and starving, walking over 1200km in the searing heat, beaten to move forward or left to die in the sun if they couldn’t.
The Mango Trees. Slave Trade Route
The steps of David Livingstone and those of the many slaves through the mango trees were retraced in 1993 by Livingstone’s great grandson, Dr. David Livingstone Wilson (age 67)… although instead of a compass, he was guided by three satallites and a GPS.

Sitting under a large, fully grown mango tree, planted from a larger, even older one, reflecting on the links between the slave route and David Livingstone and also the generational links of Livingstones causes one to think about what has changed. Yes, David Livingstone changed the course of history with his passionate and determined efforts to abolish slavery. But yet, even as we look appalled at the atrocities of the past, we still see slavery today. They may not be marked by mango trees, but the routes for trafficking enslaved people are there nonetheless. We don't need to look far.

Livingstone frees slaves
David Livingstone’s aim when he arrived in Africa, a young doctor in twenties from Scotland, was to bring Christianity to Africa. He died at the age of 60 (after years of terrible illness and hardship), fighting to end slavery. He saw the horrific results of the slave trade: villages burned, corpses in rivers and people in chains. And he himself freed hundreds of slaves. His dream was for sustainable development for Africa. And up until the day he died in 1873, everywhere he went he talked about “a redeemer who was his master.” Slaves redeemed.

Slaves redeemed. The price paid. A good Master. Sitting under the shade of an historic mango tree, looking at the dirt road of mango trees, I know the reality of a world enslaved. But I also know the significance of a tree. A slave route here in Tanzania is marked with mango trees but we have a slave redeemer who marked the way to freedom crucified on a tree. 
In the Mango Tree

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