The Truly Greatest Africans of All Time

So revered is his memory in Africa, that two towns are named after him, Livingstone in Zambia, and Livingstonia in Malawi; with Blantyre in Malawi being named after his birthplace in far-away Scotland. Although other names from Colonial times were changed when Zambia ceased to come under Britain, they did not change the name of the town of Livingstone.

Of him it has been written, movingly and truthfully:

He needs no epitaph to guard a name

Which men shall praise while worthy work is done.

He lived and died for good – be that his fame;

Let marble crumble: this is LIVING STONE.

Then there is Livingstone’ father-in-law, Robert Moffat. This faithful servant of the Lord came out to Africa, and served his whole life in Africa, in Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) and in what is present-day Zimbabwe, becoming the first man to ever translate the whole Bible into an African language (Tswana). He also wrote the first hymn in Tswana, and translated many other hymns into Tswana. He befriended the tyrant King Mzilikazi of the Matabele (Ndebele), and was the first to ever preach the Gospel to the Matabele people. When eventually Mzilikazi allowed him to begin Gospel work among the Matabele, Moffat led a band of missionaries, including his son John Smith Moffat, to begin the work. They suffered terrible hardships for over twenty years and without a single convert; and yet, when advised to stop the work, they replied: “The sword can blot out the Matabele, the Gospel alone can save them.” And in time, the Lord saved many Matabele as a result of their faithful labours. A great man indeed, surely deserving of a place in any list of the greatest Africans of all time.

One of the converts of the Moffat mission to the Matabele was a man named Makhazo Mkala, who was put to death because he was “a follower of the Book”, thus becoming the first Ndebele Christian martyr, laying down his life for Christ and His Gospel. One of Africa’s great sons indeed!

And there have been so many others: great men, great African servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was Kenneth Fraser, missionary to the Sudan and medical doctor, who in addition to pioneering Gospel preaching in the Sudan, also established the very first school and hospital in Moruland in Sudan. There was Ezra Lawiri, a Sudanese Christian who translated the Bible into the Moru language and was killed in an ambush.

There was John Boyana Radasi, a Fingo from South Africa who established a mission work among the Matabele tribe of what is now known as Zimbabwe; a man of wisdom, humility and self-denial, who amidst many difficulties spent his life in the preaching of the Gospel.

“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of” so many others (Heb.11:32), “who through faith” (v.33) did great exploits. These were the greatest of all Africans, little noticed by the world, but known to God, beloved of Him, who lived and often died for the people of the Dark Continent. In them, truly, were the words of the Lord Jesus fulfilled: “whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt.20:26,27). This – this – is true greatness, and the world knows it not. But what of that? The Lord sees all, He knows, and these faithful Christians, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb.11:38), entered into the glories of heaven when they died, to be received by the Lord they had loved and served so well, and to hear His wonderful words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!” (see Matt.25:21).

The evil men of this world have their wicked heroes; but they, like them, will pass into a Christless eternity. What will become of their “hero status” then? What, then, will it matter to have been one of the “great men” of the earth, when throughout the endless ages of eternity, they shall suffer the vengeance of eternal fire?