Thank you for joining us, as we continue our survey through our precious Advent Movement. In today’s study, we resume the experience and history of establishing the Avondale School, in Australia! Please feel free to share these studies, the history of our movement, with others who may not be familiar.
“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.” – Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, pg. 196
–A Living Demonstration–
In Elder Gilbert’s book Divine Predictions Fulfilled we find written similar details on the search for land in Australia [click here for part 1 of this experience]. You understand that, at this time, Sister White had never been to this place, and she didn’t know in advance that this was the place they were coming to. She knew they were going up to see a place. They were met at the station and had dinner. A number went out in different directions to look the land over.
They went in boats on this little stream, Dorah Creek. Sister White said it was really a river. So they came to the landing and got off. The men separated and went to different places with shovels to test out the land and look at it. Sister White rested awhile. She later said to Elder and Sister Starr that she would like to look at the place.
Presently, they came to a clearing, and they saw a furrow plowed – just as she had seen in the dream. As they stood there, one of the men who was looking over the land came through the woods from one direction and another man from another direction. They came to the furrow and met there. One stood at the foot of the furrow and the other at the head, and they said, “This is not good land.”
Both of them were acquainted with the rich, deep, dark soil of Iowa, and that poor, sandy, hungry soil, as they called it, didn’t look very favorable to them. What do you suppose Elder and Sister Starr thought as they watched the men make that examination of that furrow?
Let me tell you something else very interesting. The men asked how the furrow had come there. It was a freshly-plowed, neatly-cut furrow, but there was no evidence of any machinery there. There was nowhere to show where it had come from or where it went. There was only the furrow cut just so. There were no footprints of horses. They began to wonder. Then Sister White told the men of the dream she had, and how the very thing that was happening before their eyes the Lord had showed her in a dream before they ever came to the property. You can imagine that made quite an impression.
They went on and looked over the land. Sister White rested on a log. While she was sitting there, she began to dream of how it was going to look. Her mind began to think of what crop would grow here, what crop would grow there, of an orchard set out, and all the rest. Her mind was settled.
You must remember that God has given His people the opportunity to use their minds. He wants them to use their minds, and the presence of a prophet in Israel was never designed to make men mere automatons. So, while God was giving counsel and evidence of his will, nevertheless those men continued their search. That night they met, and far into the night studied the thing from one angle after the other. They had the report where the government expert had advised against it, but they finally voted to go ahead with it.
The next morning, some had misgivings and thought it ought to be reconsidered. As they met for prayer that morning, Sister White led out to seek the Lord for some special evidence that would be an encouragement. Elder McCullagh, one of the members of the locating committee, had a bad case of tuberculosis. It seemed that he had not long to live. As they were having that prayer season in a little fisherman’s cottage, Sister White was moved to pray for him especially.
As he expressed it afterward, it seemed like an electric wave went over him. He was completely healed. He lived for 50 years after that – no trace of tuberculosis. So that was another precious piece of evidence that the Lord gave on that occasion that they were where He wanted them, that God was with them and answering their prayers. You can see that God was helping them to know that this was the right place.
Later in the year, the entire Australian Union conference agreed to the purchasing of the property, and a sister from South Africa, visiting there with her daughter at that time, encouraged them. The daughter gave $5,000 which paid for the land. They had many problems during the next few years. In Elder Daniel’s book The Abiding Gift of Prophecy he tells the wonderful story. He brings some of the experiences that I have told you. He tells some of the most difficult problems that came after they had decided to go ahead with the school. Months and months went by. Financially, the country was in a depression. Money that they expected from North America didn’t come.
It seemed that they could do nothing. They learned that Sister White had borrowed $5,000 from a personal friend and had lent it to the school for the erection of buildings.
“This generous act of faith and courage on her part made a powerful impression on our hearts. We felt much condemned and confessed our wrongs in allowing our unbelief in dallying to increase the burden, perplexity, and heart-sorrow of the Lord’s servant.” – The Abiding Gift of Prophecy, pg. 308
This was two years after they had decided to buy the school. I read this to point out that no matter how many miracles there are, there are still problems. Israel had a wonderful providence when they went through the Red Sea, didn’t they? But a few days later, they ran out of food. Did they have problems about water? Did they have other problems along the way?
Miracles are not to keep us from having problems. They are to keep us from being sunk. They are to help us to survive so we can tackle one problem after the other. The school was finally opened April 28, 1897.
Elder Daniels said they opened the term with four teachers and 10 students. It was a tiny little school, but before that term had closed they had 50 or 60 students in attendance. From that time on, the work advanced – land was cleared, fruit trees, vegetables, and other crops were planted, and God blessed. Speaking of the activities that went on there:
We have seen the giant trees felled and uprooted; we have seen the plowshare pressed into the earth, turning deep furrows for the planting of trees and the sowing of seed. The students are learning what plowing means and that the hoe and the shovel, the rake and the harrow, are all implements of honorable and profitable industry. Mistakes will often be made, but every error lies close beside the truth. Wisdom will be learned by failures, and the energy that will make a beginning gives hope of success in the end. – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, pg. 192
Isn’t that a wonderful paragraph? Yes. When the little school was getting started, and all they had to meet in was their little crowded dining room, Sister White conducted early morning meetings there. She said the only place she had was crowded up into one corner, and students and teachers and a few from the community were packed in. But she said the Spirit of God came in, and, morning after morning, they had some of the most precious seasons she had ever had in her life.
Sister White not only talked, she acted. She bought a number of acres out away from the school, but on a part of the 1,500-acre estate, and she moved out there into a tent. She was at this time about 70 years of age. To save the workmen time, she and her secretary would do various things like arranging about getting lumber. She would go for the cows; in fact, she purchased a cow or two.
I want to read you some interesting experiences that Sister White tells about over there in Australia:
I drive my own two-horse team, visit the lumber mills and order lumber, to save the time of the workmen, and go out in search of our cows. I have purchased two good cows—that is, good for this locality.
Almost everywhere in the colonies they have a strange custom of confining the cow at milking time. They put her head in a fixture called a bail, then tie up one of her legs to a stake. It is a barbarous practice. I told those of whom I bought my cows that I should do no such thing, but leave the creatures free, and teach them to stand still.
“The owner looked at me in astonishment. ‘You cannot do this, Mrs. White,’ he said. ‘They will not stand. No one thinks of doing it any other way.’“`Well,’ I answered, ‘I shall give you an example of what can be done.’ I have not had a rope on the cow’s leg, or had her head put into a bail.
“One of my cows had run on the mountains till she was three years old, and was never milked before. The people have not the slightest idea that they can depart from former practices, and train the dumb animals to better habits by painstaking efforts. We have treated our cows gently, and they are perfectly docile. These cows had never had a mess of bran or any other prepared food. They get their living by grazing on the mountains, and the calf runs with the cow. Such miserable customs! We are trying to teach better practices. – Letter 42, 1895
They were way out in the country, out in the bush – “in the sticks,” as we would say. I want to ask you a practical question. What has all this to do with making ready a people prepared for the coming of the Lord? Why not just preach righteousness by faith and let people go on living much as they have lived before? Isn’t it wonderful that God saw fit to allow (to encourage and inspire) his prophet to not only talk and write on these practical things, but get out and live it and demonstrate it? Does that have a bearing on us? Yes.
I want to read to you about how she planted her fruit trees on her place out there. She wrote this several years after, describing what happened. In fact, she wrote this to her son James Edison White who was one of the pioneer workers here in the South:
While we were in Australia, we adopted the … plan … of digging deep trenches and filling them in with dressing that would create good soil. This we did in the cultivation of tomatoes, oranges, lemons, peaches, and grapes.
The man of whom we purchased our peach trees told me that he would be pleased to have me observe the way they were planted. I then asked him to let me show him how it had been represented in the night season that they should be planted. I ordered my hired man to dig a deep cavity in the ground, then put in rich dirt, then stones, then rich dirt. After this he put in layers of earth and dressing until the hole was filled. I told the nurseryman that I had planted in this way in the rocky soil in America. I invited him to visit me when these fruits should be ripe. He said to me, ‘You need no lesson from me to teach you how to plant the trees.’
Our crops were very successful. The peaches were the most beautiful in coloring, and the most delicious in flavor of any that I had tasted. We grew the large yellow Crawford and other varieties, grapes, apricots, nectarines, and plums.– Letter 350, 1907
Almost makes you hungry to read about it, doesn’t it? Sister White used this fruit in her missionary work. As the fruit came on, she would take it out to neighbors. She made friends among the rich and the poor with this fruit. You see, she was giving a demonstration of how it could be done.
Oh, how she loved to do missionary work. Her secretary, Sara McEnterfer, was a secretary and a nurse. Sister White would take her out into the community. When they came to the people who needed help, Sara would give treatments. Sometimes they took them to their own home – Sunnyside was the name of the house that Sister White built there. From time to time, she took in the poor and the sick and the needy. From time to time, she went out into the surrounding country making friends…
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.