A map of Africa as explored and detailed by David Livingstone

Even as institutions opted to close indefinitely, there was always an air of optimism among the departing comrades that they would soon be in the company of each other, reunited to resume the daily commonplaces of school and public life. Maintaining such an attitude was close to impossible for the earliest missionaries who came seeking for souls in the expansive ‘Dark continent.’ These sang tirelessly the hymn “God be with you till we meet again”; singing it as often as three times on most days while traversing the African mainland in search of native settlements. It is easy to understand why they sang this Advent hymn; It brought wistful memories of home and their beloved, albeit with a resignation that they would never be reunited, alive at least, in death probably.  Some of their friends “did not care to” even “say goodbye.” They were aware they may “never, never meet again.” [1]

The Master Missionary

All these were following in the footsteps of the Master missionary himself, the man Christ Jesus. David Livingstone, the famed abolitionist and explorer, wrote that “God had an only son and He made Him a missionary.”  As the only begotten of the Father, He bore witness that He was one with God, in the bosom of the Father [2]. But all this He risked on one turn of pitch and toss, choosing a life of suffering and anguish, knowing full well that he could be separated from the presence of the Father eternally. “The gulf,” for him “was so broad, so black, so deep, that His Spirit shuddered before it.” [3]

This is the cross laid on every single one who enlists to the service of the Master Missionary. Dietrich Bonhoeffer aptly notes that “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” William Spicer, the missions director immortalized in the eponymous Spicer University, urged that “those who go into the fields must be ready to lay down their lives and at the least must be ready to lay everything they have in the world upon the altar of service.”

The Ablest Men in our ranks

In the wake of the puritan reawakening and the subsequent spread of the Advent message, men and women in the major protestant denominations took up the missionary call. In 1900 alone, there were more than 17000 protestant missionaries worldwide. Nine in ten of these were from Western countries alone while a sixth among their numbers worked in Africa, where they grappled with malaria, dengue fever, smallpox and sleeping sickness. The continent was not referred to as the “White Man’s Graveyard” for nothing. Adventist missionaries to West Africa had an average life expectancy of two years. This was the cost of service. The Solusi University cemetery in Bulawayo is a grim reminder of Adventist missionary mortality.

Solusi University Cemetry

The striking fact was that these grim statistics did not dampen the spirit of self-sacrifice and service. There were always enough volunteers to take up posts in foreign missions. As a pioneer missionary, Elder J.N. Andrews left his aged mother, and an only brother in North America to enter the mission fields of Switzerland as the church’s first foreign missionary in 1874. He was set “to do a work others could not do” to the loss of his beloved daughter, Mary, who succumbed to tuberculosis only four years later. He himself paid the price with his own life. Andrews died of tuberculosis as well in 1883, at only 54, while still in Europe. This is the story of many more, for the time would fail me to tell of C.E.F Thompson, a pioneer black missionary; and of Charles Lynn, and of Christoph Wunderlich, and of Alfred Vollmer; of Pearl Tolhurst also, and Emma Wakeham, and of Dores A. Robinson: many of these being little known.

Something Better

And all these, having obtained a good report through faith, died whilst declaring plainly that none is ever “called upon to make a real sacrifice for God.” Their only plea to the arm of omnipotence was, “God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Yours” [4]

Young George Tripp Jr. and his father Elder George Tripp Sr. died one month apart and both rest at the Solusi University Cemetery

With Him, anywhere!

Will you at this moment, enlist to his service. Be the hands of Jesus, wherever you may be at this critical hour. “Look upon every duty, however humble, as sacred because it is a part of God’s service. Your daily prayer should be, “LORD, help me to do my best. Teach me to do better work. Give me energy and cheerfulness…” whilst bringing into your service the loving ministry of the Savior.[5]

While we hope to see each other again, make your time away worthwhile.


  1. Manuscript Release, Vol. 5 p. 437
  2. John 10:30
  3. Desire of Ages, p. 686
  4. Attributed to David Livingstone
  5. Ministry of Healing, p. 474