“The Smoke That Thunders”



David Livingstone

On November 16, 1855, David Livingstone stumbled upon Mosi-oa-Tunya (Tonga for “The Smoke that Thunders”). Like any good European explorer, he renamed the falls after Queen Victoria of Britain. Although the World Heritage List recognizes both names, most people are familiar with the English name, “Victoria Falls.”


David Livingstone’s original goal was never to be an explorer. Even as a child, he was fascinated by the relationship between religion and science. As time and curiosity continued, he enrolled in a college focused on science and technology, then entered medical school. His goal to become a medical missionary is what brought him to Africa. This journey to Southern Africa opened up a heart for not just medical missions but also to help end the vast slave trade. As his interests persisted, he ventured to undeveloped areas of current day Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia which encouraged his urges of exploration. Today, he is regarded as a great explorer but it all began with his love for God and science.

Livingstone’s life story is one of passionate risk-taking. As I read through the “CliffsNotes” version (For those of you youngsters who have no idea what CliffsNotes are, please look it up), I see a man who took some amazing chances with the goal of making a difference in the world. He did not always get it right. At one time, those looking on from Europe called him a failure, a disaster, a waste of money and effort. And yet today, he is regarded as a hero of his time. Why? Because he had big dreams, chased them despite the dangers and impacted lives. What legacy will you leave behind?


Double rainbow from the end of Victoria Falls

“The Smoke that Thunders” is a brilliantly beautiful description for Victoria Falls. As the water crashes down the cliff edge to the gorge below sounding like thunder, it causes mist to shoot back up the narrow crevice creating “smoke.” Beyond that, I really do not have words to describe the way my chest pounded in sync with the water hitting the bottom or how it felt to stand near the edge of the cliff as the mist was so thick it came down like rain, soaking us to the core. I cannot adequately detail the green, leafy trees intertwined with vibrant ivy that lined the walk path to the viewing spots. But what I can tell you is how my life was changed.



Walking the path around Victoria Falls. Photo credit: Juyoung Ha.

Fifteen years ago I stood in this very spot. I walked the same paved path. I observed a rainbow from the same view-point. I experienced the thundering water in my chest. I felt the mist soak my clothes and skin. And I hardly appreciated it.

I was a much different person back then. I was angry about anything and everything. I had unrealistic expectation of circumstances that lead to major disappointment. I felt slighted by situations which by my perspective, did not play out in my favor. I was stubborn and moody. I wanted things my way, even when I did not know what I wanted. My main life theme was “I hate people.” I often wanted to be left alone. In reality, I had very little self-worth or self-esteem. Looking back, I have wondered how miserable I made my family while we were on this vacation.

Then, just over ten years ago I found myself at the “end of my rope.” My life felt like it was in ruin. I did not know who I was. I did not know what I liked. I did not know what I was worth. I did not like who I had become. I came to a crossroads and thought to myself, “Maybe life does not have to be this way. I am tired. I am tired of being angry. I am tired of hating everything. I am tired of hating myself. Maybe that can change.” And so started the journey of trying to figure out who I really am, why am I here and what is my purpose.

During that transition period, I looked back at my time in Africa and wished for a chance to redo the experience. I wondered how it would be different if I could see it through the eyes of the person I am today. I wondered what I missed out on by being crabby, upset or selfish. I wondered if I would ever get the opportunity to do it all over again.


Heart restoration by Victoria Falls

As I stood before Victoria Falls for a second time in my life, I realized my wish…or maybe it was my prayer, was happening. It was really happening. God heard me and cared enough to bring personal restoration by providing the opportunity to return to this specific place. He is in the business of restoring those who believe in Him and choose to follow His lead in life. Anger, fear, self-lies, self-doubt, despair, disappointment, failure, pride and arrogance robbed me ten years ago. Yet He says I matter. I am worth the time, money and effort. I am not a burden but a blessing. I am not an annoyance but a joy. I am not a convenience but a priority.


God says you matter. You are worth the time, money and effort. You are not a burden but a blessing. You are not an annoyance but a joy. You are not a convenience but a priority. Restoration awaits you if you choose to believe Him and follow His lead in life. He promises it in His Word. And He never fails to keep His Word.

“Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor.
You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
For I, the LORD, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering
and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Isaiah 61:7-8

Even though David Livingstone was labeled a disappointment and a failure, he pressed on after the dream because he had hope of what was to come. I found that very hope ten years ago and it led me on a very unexpected, enjoyable and rewarding journey so far. The same hope is available to you. What are you waiting for?

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