Lion and Club


David’s religion had a big impact on his life and work. From a young age, his father read him Bible stories and he attended the local church twice every Sunday. He learnt about the work of Christian missionaries – people who travel across the world to tell others about their God. David was influenced by the writings of German missionary Karl Gützlaff, who advised missionaries to become doctors so they could carry out their missionary work and convert people through serving others with their medical needs.

After finishing his medical training, David trained at the London Missionary Society and he planned to go to the East Asia, but then the first Opium War broke out between Britain and China. By chance, he went to a talk by Robert Moffat, a Scottish missionary who was on leave from his base in Southern Africa. David was inspired by Moffat’s stories and decided to go to Southern Africa instead.

When David got to Africa, he was interested in learning about the religious and cultural beliefs of the people he met, however his work as a Christian missionary meant he was there to convert people to his faith. He shared his beliefs by learning African languages so he could read the Bible to lots of different community groups. His wife, Mary, knew many African languages, including Setswana. Knowing the local languages was important for missionary and other colonial work. Another way he shared the stories from the Bible was through images. He used a magic lantern, which worked similarly to a projector. Lantern slides were used to show biblical stories.

At the time, many European missionaries in Africa set up mission stations near the coast, but few had gone into the heart of Africa because there were no maps and no roads. David, wanting to spread the Christian message far and wide, spent much of his life exploring and mapping Southern and Central Africa, opening up these routes for other missionaries and commercial activities.

Lantern slide depicting David Livingstone using a magic lantern
Lantern slide depicting David Livingstone using a magic lantern.
Music Notes


Happy Land

David’s life wasn’t always easy. Among the many difficulties he encountered, as he travelled through Africa, were: illness, lack of food, and water, loss of supplies and lion attacks.

He was also deeply affected by witnessing the horrors of the east African slave trade, something he wrote about in his journals.

Throughout his life, David found solace in his Christian faith. When he felt lonely, sad or angry he had a favourite hymn (a Christian song) that helped to motivate him.

What do you think these lyrics mean? How would they have helped or inspired David?

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Missionary Work Today

There are still Christian missionaries today. Missionaries can live lives very similar, in some ways, to David’s. They aim to help others by sharing their faith with people all around the world.

There are missionaries who represent all faiths and all seek to serve others and share their faith through relationships and acts of service. This can be through education, social justice, healthcare and economic development.

Missionaries are often present in disaster zones and global catastrophes. Some examples of these include Islamic Relief and Christian Aid.

People’s values are shaped by many things, including religion. In this activity, we look at the values of a Global Citizen, and think about what our values might be...

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Tunya Investigates Religion - Part 1

In this episode of Tunya Investigates, we’re talking to Douglas who is a volunteer tour guide and museum trustee with the David Livingstone Trust.

Douglas is also a former Christian missionary, a bit like David Livingstone. We talk to Douglas about the differences between missionary work in David’s time and missionary work today, as well as the importance of faith to Livingstone and to Douglas himself.

Tunya Investigates Religion - Part 2

In this episode of Tunya Investigates, we talk to Fizza who is one of our volunteers on the MGS Upskilling and Celebrating Volunteers Programme.

Fizza has been doing some research into people who travelled with David and people he met while travelling. Many had different religions and beliefs to his own. We ask her a little bit about her research and what she’s discovered along the way that has surprised her.

Coming Soon...

Religious Celebrations

There are many religions and ways for people to practise and celebrate their faith. One way is through religious festivals. Most religions mark certain days in the year where people come together and concentrate on a particular aspect of their faith through certain rituals. If you look at this Interfaith Calendar you can see how many religious festivals there are.

In spring, Christians celebrate Easter, the Jewish people celebrate Passover, Hindus celebrate Holi and Sikhs celebrate Hola Mohalla – and that’s by no means a complete list. These religious celebrations all have completely different origins, rituals and meanings. Watch these videos to find out more:

28th March, Palm Sunday (Christian)
28th March – 4th April, Pessach/Passover (Jewish)
28th/29th March Holi (Hindu)
29th March Hola Mohalla (Sikh)
Holi Festival
Holi Festival Photo by John Thomas on Unsplash

Also see our other Learning Resources and Learning sections for more information.

If you have enjoyed these activities please share them with your friends and family.


We would like to acknowledge the support and help of our partners in creating these resources.

WOSDEC - Global Learning Centre

We are very grateful to our key funders the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Government for their support in helping us deliver the Birthplace Project.

National Lottery Heritage Fund
Scottish Government
Historic Environment Scotland
Note: Please note that David Livingstone Birthplace (and the David Livingstone Trust) is no longer part of National Trust Scotland (NTS). NTS members will therefore no longer receive discounted/free entry to the Birthplace Museum.

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