Wonderful Beginnings

HOW much the Australasian Di vision owes to the personal counsels and inspired guidance of Ellen G. White, eternity alone will reveal. When the Lord's messenger arrived in Australia in 1891, a small but sturdy beginning had already been made by such forth right leaders as S. N. Haskell, J. O. Corliss, M. C. Israel, A. C. Daniells, and others. But -the coming of Sister White and her small group of associates meant much to that growing field. . .

-now retired, was formerly secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and editor of The Ministry.

HOW much the Australasian Di vision owes to the personal counsels and inspired guidance of Ellen G. White, eternity alone will reveal. When the Lord's messenger arrived in Australia in 1891, a small but sturdy beginning had already been made by such forth right leaders as S. N. Haskell, J. O. Corliss, M. C. Israel, A. C. Daniells, and others. But -the coming of Sister White and her small group of associates meant much to that growing field.

Shortly after her arrival the first Bible school in the Southern Hemisphere was organized in the city of Melbourne. That was the be ginning of today's strong educational work throughout the division. Her appeal for such a school appeared in a Supplement to the Bible Echo, the earliest denominational journal published there. My father later became its editor. Note this brief statement from her appeal:

"The Lord would have schools established in this country to educate workers, to give character to the work of present truth in these new fields." Fundamentals of --Christian Education, p. 203.

Andersons Converted *

Among the early converts to the Advent message were two young men, professionally trained musicians, who were conducting one of the largest music businesses in Melbourne. But the pressure of business, plus constant professional engagements, so impaired the health of the older brother that despite all available help and expense of physicians he failed to get better and was threatened with an early death. It was a bleak outlook for a 23-year-old wife with a 1-year-old baby. "He cannot live to the age of thirty," was the sad verdict of the doctors in 1892 who, by contrast with today's knowledge, understood little about real nutrition. "Drink at least ten cups of tea and almost as much coffee, and be sure to eat lots of meat to keep up your strength. And to sooth your nerves, smoke about six cigars a day!" He continued to get worse, of course.

Then an announcement appeared telling about an American lady who was to lecture on health and temperance. That worried wife and mother attended the lecture and was greatly impressed. Seeking an interview with the lecturer she asked whether she thought anything could be done for her young husband. "Bring your husband and let me see him," said the lady.

Next evening they both were there. After the lecture they chatted with the speaker, listening attentively. "Your husband does not need to die; he needs to learn to live," said Ellen White the "American lady." And she backed up her statement with some strong counsel and wise instruction. That night completely changed the eating habits in that home. All stimulating foods and beverages were eliminated from the diet. Before long the professional musician and business executive was on the road to full recovery. More important still, he became a stalwart leader in the work as a minister and an administrator in the Australasian Division. I know that story is true because that young couple were my father and mother. This all happened before I was born and very shortly after the arrival of the Lord's messenger in the land of koalas and kangaroos.

Being soundly converted Christians and active members in the Congregational and Presbyterian churches, my parents did not change their worship patterns very quickly. And the same could be said of my father's younger brother and his wife. However, "the Anderson Brothers," as they soon became known, readily accepted the message in its fullness. But a whole year was to pass be fore their wives, good Presbyterians, made the change. How earnestly those young husbands prayed that light and conviction would come to their spouses. And so much more wonderful if conviction came under the actual ministry of Sister White. Their prayers were answered at an unexpected time.

Having been called to a special meeting elsewhere, those young musician husbands were away that Sabbath morning when the Lord's messenger preached the sermon. Their Presbyterian wives found it difficult to accept a woman preaching. When they attended the worship service that day, they were somewhat disappointed when they discovered that Sister White was going to address the congregation. But they listened attentively, and near the close of the sermon, ac cording to Sister White's own ac count, she felt distinctly impressed to make an altar call. Both my mother and my aunt responded, coming forward to "sign the covenant," as they used to do in those early days.

What a joy awaited those young praying husbands when they arrived home! When some years later I came on the scene, it was natural that I was reared in an Adventist home where not only the principles of healthful living were practiced but where there was also profound respect for Ellen C. White and the Lord's counsels that came through her.

First Gathering at Avondale

The story of the first gathering at Avondale is well known, when the decision was made to establish the college there, but there are a few unpublished details concerning that meeting that will add a touch of interest to what happened that day. Elder A. C. Daniells and Sister E. C. White arrived by train at the little railway station, Dora Creek, the evening be fore the counselors were to meet, intending to survey the area ahead of time. Alighting from the train, they looked around and saw only two or three little houses. Making their way to one, they inquired about hotel accommodations only to be told that there were no hotels anywhere near there. "Well, where can we stay?" they inquired. "We want to go to the site called Avondale and then return."

The fisherman to whom they spoke just smiled and said it would be impossible for them to go, for the only way to travel the four miles would be in a little boat. The creek, though wide, was full of snags and at that late time of day it would be too dangerous.

After some discussion, their kindly fisherman host invited them to share his humble four-room home. They did. Early the next morning, their host rowed his little boat up the four miles of water, carrying his overnight visitors to the future college site. Later in the day he brought other members, among whom were some laymen, including my father and my uncle. They came from Melbourne, 700 miles away.

All were impressed as Sister White outlined the need for a strong college, especially when the events of that day pointed unmistakably to that place as the site where the college should be established. Then to express her confidence in God's plan and to get the institution started, she assured them that the 1,000 pounds ($5,000) would be forthcoming.

My uncle, in his inimitable humorous way, said quietly to my father, "Where is that good lady going to get 1,000 pounds? She does not have two ha'pennies (cents) to jingle on a tombstone." But when the money was needed it was there, the Lord having provided it through Sister A. E. Wessels and her daughter of South Africa. Those were days when the leaders of our work had no budgets, but they had abounding faith. Ellen White envisioned Avondale supplying workers for other fields. And in less than two decades, "the number of workers in mission fields outside of Australasia, who received training at Avondale, reached nearly one hundred." (See note p. 378, Life Sketches.)

Neither Bricks nor Money

When the time came to start building the college they had neither bricks nor money. But the Australian bush yielded the lumber; and when one visits Avondale today, he can still see the remains of the old sawmill where the timber was cut for the college. Sister White lived in the community, and the people there spoke of her endearingly as "that dear old lady."

She visited all the homes in that sparsely settled community, treating the sick and healing hurt hearts. Consequently, everyone loved her. In fact, many of the builders, the carpenters, and plumbers worked for half pay and some for no pay for a year and even more; the assurance from this "mother in Israel" that they would be paid when the money arrived was sufficient for them to continue. Even those non-Adventist builders worked on faith. Those were real days of "faith and works."

In the almost ten years she spent in Australia and New Zealand, she gave a guidance to the work that was far more than money and books full of policies. This led Elder A. G. Daniells to say in his report for the 1899 General Conference session:

"We in Australasia have been slow to grasp the meaning of God's providence in keeping His servant, Sister White, in this country. When she came we all thought she was making us only a short visit. She thought so. But the Lord knew better. . . . Ever since she came, God has been instructing her regarding the work here. He has pointed out the mistakes in our methods of labor. He has caused another mould to be placed on the work throughout the entire field. . . . He has planted the Avondale School, and we have the plainest evidences that He will be glorified by it. He has given minute instructions regarding its location, object, and management. Now He is telling us that if we walk in the light He has given, Avondale will become the training ground for many missionary fields. The hand of God is in all these things.

"We have an army of intelligent young men and women, anxious to fit themselves for the work of God. . . . The Lord is revealing this to us through the Spirit of prophecy, and He will bring it to pass. . . .

"We have moved out by faith and have made large advance ment," Mrs. White wrote at the close of 1899, "because we saw what needed to be done, and we dared not hesitate." --Ibid., pp. 372-375.

Inspired Guidance

Since those early beginnings the work throughout the Australasian Division has moved forward with precision. Although I was only young when Ellen White returned to her homeland, yet I can well remember her resonant voice as she proclaimed God's message at camp meeting. Her greatest work while in Australia and New Zealand was the writing of her matchless book, The Desire of Ages, and the book Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing. Christ's Object Lessons also took shape while she lived there. No publications in all the religious world have ever surpassed these tremendous portrayals of our Lord's marvelous ministry, His atoning death, resurrection, and His ascension to His Father to begin His work at the throne of grace.

The remark of my old English professor from Melbourne University, who years earlier had also taught my father, is apropos. When he was presented with the book The Desire of Ages, which he read with real interest, this brilliant scholar's remark was, "If what you say is true, that this woman had very little formal education, then I will have to conclude that she writes the ideas and then you men pick it up and make it read like this." On being assured that her books appear in print just as she penned them by hand, the professor was even more baffled. Then in a subdued voice, he said, "I can't understand it, for this book is a marvel of pure English. The only explanation one can give is that she must have been inspired." Adventists around the world, of course, know that she was indeed inspired.

The work in Australia was soon organized into conferences and the first union conference in the world came into being there. In those early years we had no world divisions like we now have; local conferences, union conferences, and the General Conference comprised the whole organization. At the turn of the century the challenge came from the Lord's messenger that upon the Australasian Union Conference rests the burden of carrying the third angel's message to the islands of the Pacific. As children and youth we heard this repeated over and over again.

That one large union conference has now grown into several union conferences throughout Australasia and the island fields. We are now a strong world division. But with the growth and the many changes, the field has never lost its vision of missions.

On her way to Australia, Ellen White called at Samoa. Doubtless this gave her a vision of the needs and opportunities of those tropical isles. Addressing the leaders of our work, she constantly laid upon their hearts the burden of those primitive untouched island groups. It was not only the tropical isles of which she was thinking but also the home field.

When she attended the Ashfield camp meeting in Sydney in 1898, a year or two before she left, she urged the brethren to think of the untouched areas in Australia and New Zealand. West Australia, for example; acting upon her counsel, plans were made to open up the work over there in the west some 3,000 miles from Sydney. The result is we have a strong work in that part of the world.

Vibrant Counsels

Not only was Ellen White writing books and giving counsel to the Australasian leaders, she was at the same time sending forth some of her most sage and vibrant counsels to ministers and leaders of our rapidly developing Advent Movement in the United States and other areas. When reading her messages concerning preaching, teaching, and administration, note the dates of the writing and see how often they are between the years 1891 and 1900, the years of her sojourn in Australia.

One closing thought will be of interest. Among those who accompanied Sister White to Australia was George B. Starr. It was largely through his clear studies on the everlasting gospel every Tuesday night in my home over a period of two years that my parents be came members of the Adventist Church. In his late years he lived in California. He opened up to me some interesting things concerning his contact with God's chosen messenger that led to his decision to join her in the Australian work.

When at last it was decided that she should pay an extended visit to that land and add her strength to the work there, she came to Brother Starr at the camp meeting and expressed her desire for him to assist her. When he passed the suggestion on to his good wife, she was not at all happy over the thought of leaving her older sister, the only living relative she had. But Sister White expressed again her eagerness to have George as an associate worker with the group. "But why are you so insistent on my going?" he asked.

Her reply was to the effect that he understood the great truth of righteousness by faith.

So he knew and had experienced the saving truth of the gospel. When Sister White left for Australia, it was only three years after the 1888 Conference where this and kindred truths had been so clearly presented. She evidently felt it wise to have some leaders around who knew the central message of the everlasting gospel. So Brother and Sister Starr went, for which this writer will always have cause to thank God, for as I said, Brother Starr's Bible instruction meant much in my home. As a boy I knew him well and later fellowshiped with him in his closing years.

Yes, those were wonderful beginnings. And in these tumultous days of change we who live so close to the end of all things must be sure we are proclaiming the unadulterated message that made us a people. How comforting and challenging are those familiar words: "In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." --Ibid.,p. 196.

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-now retired, was formerly secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and editor of The Ministry.

August 1975

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More Articles In This Issue

Australasian Diary, 1891-1900

LATE IN September, 1900 seventy-five years ago Ellen White returned to the United States after a fruitful nine-year sojourn in Australia. Hers was a busy, itinerant ministry during that near-decade of her life full of preaching appointments, council sessions with the brethren, and endless writing assignments. . .

Ellen White and Public Evangelism in Australia

THE influence of the Spirit of Prophecy upon evangelism in Australia is as difficult to assess as the love of Cod. Who can measure it? On January 3, 1875, before a distinguished congregation of Adventists in the United States, Ellen White was given a vision that proved in later years to be of tremendous interest to our people in Australia. It was the vision of the lights. In this she beheld an ever-enlarging work of evangelism depicted by jets of light shining like stars in the darkness, ever increasing until the whole world was illumined with their glory. . .

A Memorial of Divine Guidance

THE ESTABLISHMENT of Avondale College was a significant development in the rapidly expanding work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia in the final decade of the past century. It was raised up under the direct guidance of Ellen G. White, and from the first reflected very largely the ideals of Christian education that are today acknowledged as the norm of the church's educational philosophy. . .

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