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Moffat Sailed to Heroic Endeavors in Africa

May 03, 2010
Moffat Sailed to Heroic Endeavors in Africa

Robert Moffat sailed for South Africa on this day, October 31, 1816. Mission leaders saw him off reluctantly, believing he was unqualified for the task. Little did they know their man.

Born in Scotland in 1795, Moffat hated school as a child. His one textbook was the Shorter Catechism. The schoolmaster saw he did not like to study and coaxed him on with a rod. Unhappy with that state of affairs, Moffat ran away to sea. He found the sailor's life even harder than the scholar's. He was barely a teenager when he gladly found himself on shore again. Apprenticed to a gardener for low pay and hard work, he saw that without an education his life was going to be very tough.

A desire to study possessed him. He gained every skill he could, arranging his work so that he could attend school at night to learn Latin and geometry. He picked up blacksmithing and learned to play the violin. A new employer encouraged him to improve himself even more.

Robert Moffat was twenty when he discovered what it is to have Christ's love in oneself. He shared his faith with all who crossed his path but was shocked to discover that most people did not care to hear. A desire stirred in him to do some great work for the Lord. He applied at a mission agency but was turned down. Yet he persisted and was finally sent to Africa.

There he learned the value of patience. The Africans believed Moffat must be an outcast to leave his own people and live among them. They held him in contempt. But he would not give up. Despite thievery and threats; despite long years without results, he kept at it, trusting that God would keep his promises and produce a harvest of souls. The breakthrough came when African leaders accompanied Moffat to the coast. Seeing the respect with which he was greeted, they realized he was no outcast. They saw the luxuries of civilization. "Why have you left all of this for us?" they asked. Moffat explained the love of Christ.

In the days before modern linguistic tools, Moffat proved what a willing mind under Christ can accomplish. He learned a difficult language and translated the Bible into it. The boy who despised education became a man who educated thousands. Because of his perseverance, hundreds of Africans submitted their lives to the Christ he honored.


  1. Deane, David J. Robert Moffat, the Missionary Hero of Kuruman. New York: F.H. Revell, ca. 1895.
  2. Dennis, James S. Christian Missions and Social Progress. NewYork: Fleming H. Revell, 1909. Source of the image.
  3. Internet articles.
  4. Johnston, Julia H. Fifty Missionary Heroes Every Boy and Girl Should Know. London: S. W. Partridge, 1899.
  5. "Moffat, Robert." Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 - 1996.
  6. Various biographies of David Livingstone, his son in law.

Last updated April, 2007.


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