As we continue with our series of The Advent Movement Survey, there is a wonderful story of the development of the school in Australia – Avondale. You will appreciate the importance of our study of this as you read this statement:
The Avondale school was established, not to be like the schools of the world, but, as God revealed, to be a pattern school. And since it was to be a pattern school, those in charge of it should have perfected everything after God’s plan, discarding all that was not in harmony with His will. – Counsels to Teachers, pg. 349
It is called here a pattern school. A similar expression is used:
When we were laboring to establish the educational work in Australia, the Lord revealed to us that this school must not pattern after any schools that had been established in the past. This was to be a sample school. It was organized on the plan that God had given us, and He has prospered its work. – Ibid., pg. 533
Page 349 says a pattern school; this one says a sample school. The question might arise: Why was it necessary to have a pattern school at Avondale when there were already a number of schools in existence in this movement?
I have been shown that in our educational work we are not to follow the methods that have been adopted in our older established schools. There is among us too much clinging to customs, and because of this we are far behind where we should be in the development of the third angel’s message. Because men could not comprehend the purpose of God in the plans laid before us for the education of workers, methods have been followed in some of our schools which have retarded rather than advanced the work of God. – Ibid
On the previous page, it says:
The plan of the schools we shall establish in these closing years of the message is to be of an entirely different order
from those we have instituted.
For this reason, God bids us establish schools away from the cities, where, without let or hindrance, we can carry on the education of students upon plans that are in harmony with the solemn message committed to us for the world. Such an education as this can be best worked out where there is land to cultivate… – Ibid., pg. 532
You can see that, although there were a number of schools already in operation, no one place, apparently, was carrying out the full blueprint that Sister White recognized was necessary. And so, far off in Australia, away from other influences, a pattern school, a sample school was established. Let’s review the background a little.
–Avondale, The Pattern School–
In the mid 1870s, our first educational institution had been started in Battle Creek. You remember we studied the crisis that arose there in 1881 and 1882 due to a number of things: being in a town rather than in the country, patterning the curriculum after the classical university course rather than after the schools of the prophets, the clash of ideals represented in 1881 by Professor Bell on the one hand and Professor McLearn on the other. But after that particular crisis, Battle Creek College did a good work for many years, and was doing a good work when Sister White went to Australia. But as we have seen, God did not recognize it as a pattern school, a sample school. That must be done somewhere else.
In the 1880s, Sister White had been called to Europe. In the latter part of the 1880s and the early 1890s, she was busy in this country helping to meet the crisis over the message of righteousness by faith. Early in the 1890s, she was called to Australia by the General Conference. Elder Haskell, Elder Daniels, and other workers had helped to start the work in New Zealand and Australia, and there were at this time in Australia and Tasmania around 500 believers. That is not very many for such a large expanse of territory, but it was in the pioneer days.
Sister White came with her son and some secretaries and helpers. With Elder and Sister Starr, they began their work visiting the people in the churches both in Australia and New Zealand, encouraging the spirit of evangelism, and talking about a school. You can imagine that a little group of 500 people who were already straining to get a publishing work well established and get their churches built could hardly see how they could start and support a training school. Nevertheless, inspiration said it was to be.
Sister White kept talking it, and, thank the Lord, there were earnest, honest hearts in which the good seed found good soil. They began to respond and plan for a school. First, they rented some buildings and had a short term of 16 weeks in one of the large cities in Australia. This was followed by another term. It was for the training of colporteurs and Bible workers and gospel helpers so that the work could get under way. Sister White was very much encouraged with this small beginning. At the opening of the Bible school, she made these remarks:
“The missionary work in Australia and New Zealand is yet in its infancy; but the same work must be accomplished in Australia, New Zealand, in Africa, India, China, and the islands of the sea, as has been accomplished in the home field.” – Fundamentals of Christian Education, pgs. 208-209
That was in 1892. What a very sweeping statement that was. With prophetic vision, Sister White saw what must be and what would be accomplished in New Zealand and Australia, and also in Africa, India, China, and the islands of the sea, as had been accomplished in the United States. We’ve lived to see that, and, in some ways, still more than that. So, we can rejoice in the fulfillment of that, as well as many other predictions.
Sister White was not satisfied to see a little training institute in a city in rented quarters when the Lord had repeatedly shown her that something different must be done. To follow the exercises of her mind at that time, we turn to the book Fundamentals of Christian Education. Here is a wonderful chapter called “Work and Education”. Notice how she expresses herself:
Our minds have been much exercised day and night in regard to our schools. How shall they be conducted? And what shall be the education and training of the youth? Where shall our Australian Bible School be located? I was awakened this morning at one o’clock with a heavy burden upon my soul. – Fundamentals of Christian Education, pg. 310
She tells how it was represented to her in various figures. She speaks of the life of Christ and the life of John the Baptist. At this time, she was writing about the life of Christ. That was in the providence of God. Her attention was called to the experience of John the Baptist, how he received his education away from the cities, away from the influence of priests and rabbis. She says these lessons are for us. She goes on and speaks of the great need for getting away from the cities to carry on the training program:
Never can the proper education be given to the youth in this country, or any other country, unless they are separated a wide distance from the cities. – Ibid., pg. 312
Then she speaks of some of the reasons – the conditions in the cities, liquor drinking, smoking and gambling, horse racing, theater going, the great importance placed upon holidays; she called all that a species of idolatry. She speaks of the offering of prizes, the disposition of the people to be excited over what was going on in the world. All this is false education.
We shall find it necessary to establish our school out of, and away from, the cities, and yet not so far away that they cannot be in touch with them, to do them good, to let light shine amid the moral darkness. – Ibid., pg. 313
Beside the need for getting away from city influences because of its sin and folly and excitement, some other important reasons are given. The great need for teaching people to work, to be masters of labor and not slaves of labor. She speaks of this as the fulfillment of the command to love the Lord not only with all the heart but with all the strength. She speaks of the need for combining the powers of the mind with the strength of muscle to get the work done in an efficient, careful way.
There is something to be learned every day as to how to improve in the manner of labor so as to get through the work, and have time for something else. – Ibid., pg. 316
On page 317, Sister White spoke of conditions there in Australia. Australia was in a depression at that time. There had been a land boom, and extravagant prices had been paid for lands. Then debts accumulated. And then came the foreclosures and mortgages. But she said that one of the things that was needed to deal with that situation was to have a school where students could be educated to be masters of agriculture.
This country needs educated farmers. – Ibid., pg. 319
On page 320, Sister White speaks of the advantage of having a school where the scenery of nature is delightful and where the students have places to visit without going to the cities. On page 325, she speaks of the importance of teachers and students working together in these various enterprises. That’s a wonderful chapter, and I hope you will give it careful study. As these things were agitated among our believers there, and as Sister White kept talking about them and writing about them, a committee was finally appointed to look for locations. They found that land was high – $75 and more an acre for good land. As prices were in those days, that was quite a bit of money, especially when Sister White had indicated that they needed a large acreage.
Writing a letter to a friend of his in this country, Elder W.C. White remarked, “We are planning to buy a large tract of land, and we can scarcely get enough money to go and see it.” At any rate, they kept looking; and finally a large tract of land 75 miles north of Sydney was located that seemed to meet some of the prerequisites. And best of all, it could be secured for a low price – a little less than $5,000 for nearly 1,500 acres.
As they investigated it, they found that the reason the price was so cheap was probably because the land was not considered very good. They had a government expert look at this land and make an examination. He said he understood that the plan was for a missionary society to use it as a training school for missionary work and agriculture, and he advised them that they would not make good use of their money to do this. Even though it cost much more to get land in other places, it would be to their advantage to do it. I believe he’s the one who said that if a bandicoot (a little rabbit-like animal) should travel across that land, he would need to carry his lunch pail with him.
You should not get from this the idea that it was just a desert without any vegetation. There were great eucalyptus trees on parts of the land. But part of it was swampy, and the land itself was sandy. Some of the men who examined it said it had a hungry look. They did not feel that it was going to be a place where they could do well with agriculture. Since testimonies from Sister White had called for a place where fruit and vegetables and grain might be raised for the benefit of the teachers and workers and students, you can see that they were trying the best they could to find such a place.
At any rate, they finally decided to send a locating committee up there to look at it; some had already looked it over. This locating committee said Wednesday, May 23, 1894 is the time for a final survey of the property and the decision whether to buy it. Sister White was asked to join the committee. Several went up in advance. Sister White, accompanied by Elder and Sister Starr, left Sydney on the morning of May 23, and arrived two and a half hours later at Dorah Creek Station.
Something very interesting happened on the train going up. As they were riding along these two and a half hours, Sister White told Elder and Sister Starr about a dream that she had. In the dream, she saw they were out looking over a property, and they saw water running through the property – a river or creek of some kind. She said as they came through the woods they noticed a place where there was a furrow that had been plowed a quarter of a yard deep and two yards in length. As they stood there, two men came from the woods. One stood at the head of the furrow and the other at the foot of the furrow, and looked at that soil and said, “This is not good land. The soil is not favorable.”
In the dream, Sister White saw Jesus stand there, and He said, “False witness has been born of this land.” He described the properties of the different layers of the soil. Wouldn’t it have been interesting to hear Jesus explain the properties of the different layers of the earth? She heard Him do that. He explained the science of the soil, and said that the land was adapted to the growth of fruit and vegetables, and if well worked it would produce its treasures for the benefit of man.
Join us next week, as we continue with our study on the establishment of the Avondale School.
Until then… Maranatha!
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.