Today, we resume the experience and history of the Avondale School, in Australia!
I want to call your attention to a wonderful chapter in Testimonies to Ministers, beginning on page 239, that Sister White wrote in between the purchase of the place and the formal opening. They were having some classes while they were building the first building. She says that when they came to a little vacation, the students begged that the school might continue as before with manual labor each day combined with certain hours of study.
The students did not want to give up the present opportunity of learning how to labor and how to study….
The building they now occupy, the only one at all fit for the purpose, was an old hotel which we rented and are using to
its fullest capacity….
Four tents pitched in an adjoining paddock are also occupied by students. Every morning at six o’clock the members of the school are called together for morning worship and Bible study. –Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 239
Here is where it tells about these early morning meetings and how greatly God blessed. The congregation averaged from 26 to 30. I want to ask you something: If you were managing the work in all the world, would you tie up the prophet of God with 26 to 30 people morning after morning, day after day, week in and week out? Would you do that?
There’s a verse in the Bible that says:
Who hath despised the day of small things. – Zechariah 4:10
Every tree begins with a tiny little seed, doesn’t it? Bethlehem was not large. I hope you will all read this wonderful chapter in Testimonies to Ministers. She tells of the lessons they were learning from agriculture. She tells about the peach trees bearing some fruit the first year after they were planted, and a good crop in two years.
Then, in the midst of this heavy work in the pioneer stage, she expresses the vision of what is to be. Oh, listen:
In the school that is started here in Cooranbong, we look to see real success in agricultural lines, combined with the study of the sciences. We mean for this place to be a center, from which shall irradiate light, precious advanced knowledge that shall result in the working of unimproved lands, so that hills and valleys shall blossom like the rose. For both children and men, labor combined with mental taxation will give the right kind of all-round education. The cultivation of the mind will bring tact and fresh incentives to the cultivation of the soil.
There will be a new presentation of men as breadwinners, possessing educated, trained ability to work the soil to advantage. Their minds will not be overtaxed and strained to the uttermost with the study of the sciences. Such men will break down the foolish sentiments that have prevailed in regard to manual labor. An influence will go forth, not in loud voiced oratory, but in real inculcation of ideas. We shall see farmers who are not coarse and rough and slack, careless of their apparel and of the appearance of their homes; but they will bring taste into farmhouses. Rooms will be sunny and inviting. We shall not see blackened ceilings, covered with cloth full of dust and dirt. Science, genius, intelligence, will be manifest in the home. The cultivation of the soil will be regarded as elevating and ennobling. Pure, practical religion will be manifested in treating the earth as God’s treasure house. The more intelligent a man becomes, the more should religious influence be radiating from him. And the Lord would have us treat the earth as a precious treasure, lent us in trust. – Ibid., pgs. 244-245
Isn’t that a wonderful description? Yes, you will value that chapter. Then, with that, you will want to study carefully the instruction in Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, from page 181 to 192 entitled “The Avondale School Farm”. You will find some very practical warnings in this chapter. For instance, the prophet warned the management at Avondale not to allow individual families to come and buy up land close by the school buildings, or to build their individual homes close by the school buildings. She gave several reasons for that. She said the land near the school buildings was to be a lesson book, a great lesson book of nature, in which Jesus, through the teachers, was to teach the students precious lessons from nature. Also, she said that if private families settled close to the school buildings, there would be problems because some would be selfish, and they would want things done their way instead of the way of the school. The chapter is very interesting.
Satan tempts them to ask favors which, if granted, will only injure them, and thus they bring anxiety to their brethren .
Among those who will desire to settle near our schools there will be some who are filled with self-importance and anxiety about their own reputation. They are sensitive and factious. – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, pg. 183
Elder Starr told us that at the time Sister White was given special light on this it was represented to her in a vision in which she saw two pictures. She saw Avondale as it would be if all these families were allowed to build close by the school. She saw garbage out in the yards, and other things that weren’t tidy and nice. She saw neighbors gossiping over the back fence with one another, criticizing the management of the school, and making problems. Then the Lord also showed her Avondale as He wanted it, free from those influences. The result was that some of the people who had gotten in close to start with turned the land back to the school. The school went ahead with its program, saved from that problem by the Spirit of God.
Also in this chapter, you will find some wonderful instruction regarding the different types of industries that were to be there at Avondale. Remember, this was to be a pattern school, a sample school. And as you read this, you will see that many types of industries were to be taught there. The buildings were not to be crowded close together:
Cottages and buildings essential to the schoolwork are to be erected by the students themselves…. In the management of this work small companies should be formed who, under competent leaders, should be taught to carry a full sense of their responsibility. – Ibid., pgs. 182-183
Then comes a sentence that I’ve often been glad of:
All these things cannot be accomplished at once, but we are to begin to work in faith. – Ibid., pg. 183
Can you imagine why that’s been an encouragement to me? Yes. Again I say, this instruction is very practical. Avondale had the great advantage of the prophet of God being right on the ground. Instruction was given there to lift the standards.
For instance, in the matter of association. Some of the problems that have plagued educational institutions in many places were dealt with very frankly by the management, coached and inspired and sometimes prodded by the servant of the Lord.
In our schools in Battle Creek, Healdsburg, and Cooranbong, I have borne a straight testimony concerning these matters. There were those who thought the restraint too severe; but we told them plainly what could be and what could not be,…
Again and again I stood before the students in the Avondale school with messages from the Lord regarding the deleterious influence of free and easy association between young men and young women. I told them that if they did not keep themselves to themselves, and endeavor to make the most of their time, the school would not benefit them, and those who were paying their expenses would be disappointed. I told them that if they were determined to have their own will and their own way, it would be better for them to return to their homes and to the guardianship of their parents. This they could do at any time if they decided not to stand under the yoke of obedience, for we did not design to have a few leading spirits in wrongdoing demoralizing the other students. – Counsels to Teachers, pgs. 101-102
There was nothing weak-kneed or spineless about the Lord’s servant, was there? No. This was good, practical instruction. And thank the Lord, as those who led out in the work at Avondale testify, the young people who came to Avondale were glad to accept the counsel of the prophet of God. Where mistakes were pointed out, they were willing to change their lives and bring them into harmony with the Testimonies instead of arguing against the Testimonies and trying to bring them down to what they were doing.
Take the matter of recreation and amusements. Notice how the prophet dealt with the question of recreation:
While we were living at Cooranbong, where the Avondale school is established, the question of amusements came up for consideration. ‘What shall we do to provide for the amusement of our students?’ the faculty inquired. We talked matters over together, and then I came before the students and said to them:
`We can occupy our minds and our time profitably without trying to devise methods for amusing ourselves. Instead of spending time in playing the games that so many students play, strive to do something for the Master. “The very best course for you to pursue is to engage in missionary work for the people of the neighborhood and in the nearby settlements. Whenever you are listening to an interesting discourse, take notes and mark down the passages that the minister uses, so that you can review the subject carefully. Then after faithful study you will soon be able to give a synopsis of the discourses, in the form of Bible readings to some who do not come to our meetings’. – Ibid., pgs. 549-550
Then she tells how the older students decided to follow that counsel. They had evening meetings studying the Bible. Some of their own number who weren’t converted gave their hearts to the Lord, and then they began to work out through the community. Those who found the sick reported it, and those who had been trained to give treatments helped them. Thus the influence spread. As the result, when some who were prejudiced tried to get the officers to enforce the Sunday laws against them, they had won such goodwill by their community missionary work and labors of love in medical missionary lines that the officers looked the other way. Still later, Sister White gave counsel that Sunday should be used for missionary work rather than flying in the face of public opinion and the Sunday laws.
These few pages from 549 on will give you a wonderful picture of the program of recreation – the program of missionary work – that was followed there under the guidance of the prophet of God.
On page 348, there is an interesting story of an experience that took place a little later. You remember that the school itself was formally established in 1897. In April of 1900, as the day came for the anniversary of the starting of the school, the principle of the school decided that it would be a good time to have a holiday. So, it was decided that Sister White would give a talk in the morning at chapel for a gathering of the students and teachers. Then they would have some exercises in the afternoon.
Sister White came from her home at Sunnyside to the school and met with them. She went back to her house and had dinner. Then they went into games and races and other exercises. They had tennis, and they had cricket. Everyone had what they thought was “a good time.” But the next morning, as the principal of the school was about to go into chapel, Sister White’s carriage drove up and she said, “Get your teachers together. I want to talk to them about the way they spent yesterday afternoon.” The principal was very much distressed, and even incensed. Sister White met with the faculty, and some of them felt as he did. But she talked with the students, and they received what she gave.
If you want to hear what she gave, you will find her message in the chapter “The Danger in Amusements” found in Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, page 348 and onward. She shows how, in the night vision, the Lord had shown her what went on that day in the playing of these games of tennis and cricket, in the grotesque mimicry that was seen acting out the mind of the enemy, and other exercises. On page 350, she says that the Lord showed these things to her as a species of idolatry, like the idols of the nations.
On page 351, she says it was a repetition of the course of Aaron at Mount Sinai – the letting down of the standards, the teachers leading out in these worldly amusements. She speaks of the great effort that was necessary to cause a recovery from the letting down of the standards that day. Thank the Lord, teachers and students finally did rally – the students at once and some of the teachers. And later, others of the teachers rallied, and the school was brought back.
In this chapter, she speaks of one reason why it was so important that everything be just right at that school. It was to be what? A pattern school, a sample school. Well, thank the Lord, as the result of following counsel from the Spirit of Prophecy day in and day out, that school was established on a firm foundation. Students were educated in industrial lines as well as in the sciences and the Bible. And from that school have gone dozens and scores and hundreds of workers through the years all through Australia, New Zealand, the islands of the sea, out to various parts of the Orient, and to all parts of the world.
In later years, some of our own administrators in this country have come from that school. Elder Watson, who was president of the General Conference, came from Australia. Elder Turner, who was vice-president for the North America division, came from Australia. We had several men in the General conference who have come from training in Australia to carry heavy responsibilities.
The wonderful counsel that God gave through the Spirit of Prophecy in these many lines has borne fruit in a demonstration that has reached around the world in its influence. Isn’t it something to thank the Lord for?
At the close of his wonderful chapter on this subject in his book Abiding Gift of Prophecy, Elder Daniels quotes that great text:
Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. – 2 Chronicles 20:20
I think it’s a good text. Don’t you? May the Lord bless as we study the lesson that we have gone over today.
Dear Lord, bless to our minds and hearts the things that we have studied today. Oh, we thank Thee for the wonderful story of Thy providence in establishing that pattern school in Australia. We pray that Thou wilt help us to build according to the pattern, to help to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.