Why Ellen White called for Help

Ellen White and the spirit of sacrifice and devotion to the needs of human beings

D. A. Delafteld is an associate secretary of the Ellen G.  White Estate


"Dear  Brethren  and  Sisters:  The treasury in the Poor Fund, consisting of clothes,  et  cetera,  for  those  in  need,  is nearly  exhausted.  And  as  there  are cases  of  destitution continually arising, and  one  new  one  has  arisen  recently,  I thought it would  be  well  for those who have  clothing,  bedding,  or  money  to spare  to  send  it  on  here  immediately. We  hope  there will  be  no  delay,  for we are  going to  assist some that are needy as  soon as we  get things together. Send your  donations  to  Sr.  Uriah  Smith  or myself ." Welfare Ministry, p.  325.

The  "Poor Fund," mentioned by Ellen White, belonged to the Battle Creek Adventists  among  whom  a  simple  plan  of organized assistance  for needy families, Adventists or not,  seems to have been a tradition.

Mrs.  White's  statement  written  so long ago that "there are cases of destitution  continually  arising,  and  one  new one has arisen recently," testifies to the truthfulness  of  the words  of  Jesus, "Ye have  the  poor  with  you  always"  (Mark 14:7).  What  is  true  of  those  who  are chronically  poor  is  true  also  of  the acutely  poor  whose  property, including house,  automobile,  and  all  earthly possessions,  has  vanished  in  a  flood,  or crumbled  literally  upon  the  heads  of their owners in a disastrous earthquake or  hurricane.  Disaster  relief  for  the newly made poor is also a tradition with Adventists,  and  it is  basically a  Christian concept.

When Ellen G.  White's work took her to  Australia  in  1891  she  came  face  to face  with  starvation  there.  In  a  letter written in 1894 she wrote, "We purchase wood  from  our  brethren who  are  farmers,  and  we  try to  give  their  sons  and daughters  employment.  But  we  need  a large  charitable  fund  upon  which  to draw to  keep  families  from  starvation." — Welfare Ministry, p.  329.

Ellen  White's  solicitous  interest  and care  for  people  in  situations  of  destitution, poverty, or extreme need are worth repeating.

"Will  you  please  inquire  of  Brother ____ in regard to the clothing that he requires, and what he needs  please  furnish to him,  and charge the same to my account.  He  has not received his trunk, and I fear he may suffer for the want of necessary changes." —Ibid.

The concept of sacrifice was deeply in grained  in  the  White  family  and  the pioneers  of  this  message.  Money  was given  not  simply  for  the  support  of the ministry  and the  building  of  churches, but the early workers  sacrificed of their meager  possessions  to  obtain  means with  which  to  help  the  less  fortunate.

Listen to this from  a letter written in 1894:  "We  live  economically  in  every way  and  make  a  study  of  how  every penny  is  to  be  laid  out.  .  .  .  We  make over and over our clothing, patching and enlarging  garments  in  order  to  make them  wear  a  little  longer,  so  that  we can  supply with  clothing those who are more  needy.  One  of  our  brethren  in Ormondville,  who  is  an intelligent  carpenter, could not go  forward in baptism because he had not a change of clothing. When he was able to get a cheap suit he was  the most  grateful man  I  ever  saw, because he could then go forward in the ordinance  of  baptism." —Ibid.,  p.  328.

Ellen White did  not give away her old clothes feeling that these might help the poor.  She  bought  new,  strong,  durable clothes  and placed them in the hands of the needy.  In this way she did not have to give the  oldest clothing she had, thus making them feel they could not use the clothing because it was patched and old. She esteemed others better than herself and went the second mile in welfare re lief.

The  spirit of  sacrifice  and devotion to the  needs  of  human beings, whether in times  of  disaster  or  personal  disasters that might occur every day, is Christian in the truest sense.

 


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D. A. Delafteld is an associate secretary of the Ellen G.  White Estate

April 1976

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