Faithful Heroes: Robert Moffatt
Robert Moffat was a well known Scottish missionary and the father-in-law of David Livingstone.
Robert Moffat was born on December 21, 1795 in Ormiston, East Lothian, Scotland. He
was the son of a poor man and given little hope for life.
At a young age, he accepted Christ into his heart.
He moved to Cheshire, England to find work as a young man and worked as a gardener.
In 1814, he successfully applied to the London Missionary Society. While working as a farmer in Dukinfield, England, he met his future wife, Mary Smith.
Along with his skills as a gardener and farmer, he also became skillful at building, carpentry, printing, as a blacksmith and as a writer.
In September 1816, he was formally commissioned as a missionary for the London Mission Society and sailed to South Africa.
He left his fiancee behind and it would be three years before they were reunited.
“In 1817 he set out for the kraal, or village, of the Namaquas where the chief, Afrikaner, a blood-thirsty butcherer, was converted. That conversion has been considered one of the great accounts of the grace of God on the mission fields. On that trip he saw for the first time the Kurumon River and the Bechuanas, the peoples with whom he would spend most of his long missionary ministry.”
His reception as a missionary was met with everything from “steeled intolerance to incorrigible rejection.”
Mary joined him and they were married on December 27, 1819. Early the next year, they moved to Griquatown, South Africa where their daughter Mary was born. Nine more children would follow.
They couple experienced many hardships in spreading the gospel. “Once he went for days without water and his mouth became so dry he was unable to speak. Often he bound his stomach to help him endure fasting when he could not find food to eat.”
While in Britain on furlough, he published “Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa” about the family’s experiences as missionary. The book was published in 1842. On this mission, he met and encouraged David Livingstone to join him in Africa. The younger man eventually became his son-in-law.
“It was twelve more years before his message bore the fruit of revival. Suddenly the meeting house was crowded. Heathen songs were not sung in the village and dancing stopped. Prayers came to the lips of the Bechuanas, and the songs of Zion were sung. They began to give up their dirty habits. Converts were recorded, then time-tested, then baptized. Other tribes, hearing the news, sent representatives to learn of the white man’s teaching. Moffat often would return with them and thus the revival message and results spread.”
Moffat translated the entire Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress into Setswana.
The couples daughter, Mary, married the famous explorer David Livingston in 1845. She died in 1862, while on an expedition with her husband.
Moffat lost his own wife, Mary, to death in 1870. By this time they had retired to England due to failing health. His son-in-law, David Livinstone died in 1874.
Moffat spent the remainder of his life speaking throughout England and raising aawareness and interest in mission work.
Robert Moffat was presented twice to Queen Victoria at her request. Edinburgh University presented Robert Moffat with a Doctor of Divinity degree.
Robert Moffat died on August 9, 1883 near Leigh, Kent, England.
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