Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)


Lt 44, 1886

Littlejohn, Brother and Sister

Basel, Switzerland

May 10, 1886

Portions of this letter are published in 5MR 275-276.

Dear Brother and Sister Littlejohn:

My mind has been exercised for some weeks to write to you. I commenced and half finished a letter to you last January, but sickness came upon me and I ceased to write any one; therefore you did not get your letter. But I will try to finish this. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 1

A few days since, we returned from a tour into Italy, and our homeward route was through Geneva and Lausanne. In the latter place, which is a very beautiful city, laborers have been at work to interest the people. And as the result of Bro. Bourdeau’s efforts in French, Brn. Ertzenberger’s and Conradi’s in German, about twenty from the Methodist and Baptist churches have embraced the truth. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 2

In all the places we have visited we see much work to be done, and but few to do this work. It is a marvel to me that there is not a greater missionary spirit among our people to bear the truth to other nations, and especially of that class that speak the languages of the different nationalities of Europe. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 3

It will require far greater effort to accomplish the work than in America because of the poverty of the people. Then the ministers are so plentiful. I think of the words of the apostle, “They shall heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.” [2 Timothy 4:3.] As soon as the truth is brought in to the place, the ministers of the different churches become alarmed and send at once for ministers to come in and commence revival meetings. Here they are called conferences. These meetings will continue for weeks, and no less than ten ministers will be on hand; the very best talent will be enlisted, and warnings and threatenings will be poured out from the churches against the seventh-day people, who are classed with Mormons, and who they say are breaking up churches and causing divisions. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 4

It is very hard to get any hold of the people. The only way that we find to be successful is in holding Bible readings, and in this way the interest is started with one or two or three; then these visit others and try to interest others, and thus the work moves slowly as it has done in Lausanne; but twenty have embraced the truth there, and this is not all the good that has been accomplished, for the young men who are preparing themselves for laborers have here had a good drill and received an education that will fit them for greater usefulness in the cause of God. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 5

At first some thought they could go out on their own responsibility and do the work singly and alone, and keep everything to themselves, fearing that another might come in upon their ground. We visited Lausanne, and W. C. White and myself did the best we could to talk, and pray with them, and show them that this was not the way to work; that all must work in harmony; that no one person was competent to perfect these persons in the knowledge of the truth. We labored earnestly by letters and by word of mouth, and we are pleased to see a more pleasant and Christlike mold given to the laborers, and the work is of a much more substantial character. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 6

It has called forth much labor to organize the workers. Brother Conradi is the right help here, and we thought no pains or expense too great to get the work once started right; then the men who were educated to go out as laborers would take hold of the work intelligently and do much better work, and the right ideas of working communicated to them would extend to others. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 7

There is one man who has been laboring in Naples, who by appointment met us in Torre Pellice, Italy, and we labored with him and sought most earnestly to help him to take hold of the work, not as a fighter, contending and debating, as was his habit, driving people away from the truth rather than into it. He saw we talked the truth, not with storm; not pelting the people with denunciations like hailstones. We had very precious seasons of prayer. We held meetings in three different villages in the Waldensian valleys with good interest. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 8

This brother from Naples said he had received much light and would labor in altogether a different manner than he had done. The Italians are an excitable people. They will bring every power to bear suddenly, and under great excitement will exclaim, “Is this so? What will you do? Will you keep the Sabbath? Say Yes or No!” They are as sharp as a razor, [and] cut off the ears of the people, and make them mad, and that is the end of the business, so far as converting them to the truth is concerned. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 9

Now we have to work with these men who are really intelligent, just as we worked with them one by one in the infancy of the Seventh-day Adventist cause; separating from these precious souls their unsanctified ways and manners; talking to them about Jesus, His great love, His meekness, His lowliness, His self-denial. These rough stones we bring if possible into the workshop of God where they will be hewed and squared, and all the rough edges removed, and they be polished under the divine hand until they will make precious stones in the temple of God and shall be living stones, emitting light. Thus they may grow up into a holy temple for God. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 10

Some who are really capable men, intelligent in the Scriptures, do not know what it is to bring religion into their homes. They treat the wife and mother of their children as an inferior, never ask her advice, never consult her taste, never think she has a right to her individual taste or feelings, or judgment. They order, she obeys. I know this is a rag of heathenism, but it is the custom of many in this country. They do not know anything better. They need to be Christianized; and when the truth is once received in the love of it, then we can obtain their confidence and instruct them. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 11

When you see women in Italy doing the heaviest work that belongs to men, driving or leading their cow teams, and great strong men in the wagon riding, you can have a little degradation put upon women. They rear their children, do the hardest part of the work, and they fade early and look far older than the men. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 12

In winter they leave their houses, which they call cold, and because they cannot afford wood for a fire, go into the stables with their cattle. Here are the cows, donkeys—if they are rich enough to have a donkey—sheep, goats, hens, and perhaps one pane of glass, little square holes, or oblong crevices for ventilation. These are kept carefully stuffed with hay in winter to exclude the air. In such places is where our laborers in Torre Pellice and adjoining valleys hold their meetings. They have to reach the people where they are. One would not think of such a thing as sympathizing with them, for they do not know any better way, although some who do thus are financially considered well off, and some have intelligent countenances and minds. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 13

They pity Americans when told that they do not live in stables in winter. They inquire if they do not suffer greatly with cold? The warmth of the cattle they consider as good as stoves. They eat, keep their provision hung up in baskets in the stables. Bro. A. C. Bourdeau has shared their hospitality several times when he has been holding meetings in these stables. This repast would be a piece of black bread, nearly as black as a stone. This bread is made from smutty wheat, ground up smut and all, and eaten with a little milk or wheat cheese. Fifty or seventy-five will congregate in one of these stables and sit on the straw of dry leaves which have been carefully gathered for bedding for the cattle and for their beds. These stables have no floors in them, but the people will sit on the leaves or musty straw, and with ears, eyes, and mouth open listen with intense interest to the Word of God, and they seemed charmed. Some of the very best members of the Vaudois churches are among the hearers in these meetings, and the ministers are doing their best to break up the meetings, but they have not as yet succeeded. Bro. A. C. Bourdeau occasionally attends these meetings, but the principle workers are Italians. The Americans are not inured to the atmosphere of the stables, and their throat and lungs become inflamed and diseased. Italians can stand this atmosphere much better, so we are seeking to educate the Italians to go into the stables, and when once the people are interested, then halls are hired. These halls are generally only rooms in a private dwelling, which will hold about one hundred people. Then Eld. A. C. Bourdeau, our laborer in Italy, speaks to them. But if they should once get the impression that he would not condescend to meet them in the stable, they would say, Because he is an American he thinks himself too good to associate with us and we will not go to hear him. So great care has to be taken to this matter. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 14

Brother Geymet, an Italian, is doing what he can. We tried to educate him. He can talk both French and Italian, so he is fitted for this field. This brother walks up the rugged mountains through the defiles, in paths where precipices are on either side, and where in fogs, which are so common to these mountains, a stranger would most surely imperil his life; but one who is accustomed to these trails can find his way, but he dare not go alone. He is holding meetings in three different villages, one five miles away, another seven, and the other three. He goes on foot to these places, holds his meeting commencing at eight o’clock, and then walks home, getting to his bed about midnight. This is done night after night. W. C. White accompanied him to one place, by name Angronia, meaning the valley of groans. The place was seven miles distant. Mary K. White and I went in a carriage part way, and when we could go no farther because there was no carriage road, we returned and stopped in a pretty village in the narrow valley and inquired for the noted place where so many Protestants perished. We left the carriage, and a venerable-looking man about sixty years of age communicated to us freely the history of the village. Once it was a flourishing village. But the Catholics who had found entrance there burned the village. The inmates of the dwellings were driven out. We were then standing in a beautiful level spot of land clothed with living green. Plum, cherry, and peach trees scattered here and there were in full bloom. Our guide walked along, conversing as he went. Thousands of poor souls were driven to the edge of this level table land which ended abruptly in a deep precipice, from the sides of which projected rugged rocks, sharp and cruel, and were pitched over, and many of their mangled bodies were a prey to the wild beasts or birds. There on those pointed rocks hung for weeks the bodies of pastor, peasant, mother and child, having [been] caught by their clothes. At present there stands a house of worship called Vaudois temple, and at a little distance upon a strong fortification of rocks stands a Catholic church and a monastery. No carriage can reach this from the road some distance below. Our guide informed us that no less than three times had their church been destroyed by fire, and as many times rebuilt. He pointed towards it and the fence and said, We built a strong foundation of stone and then an iron fence with sharp picks on the top, and a Catholic divine asked us what we were doing that for. We answered, You have burned our church three times and we wish to make it as secure as possible, and after we have done all we can on our part we will trust it with God. He said the Catholic flew into a rage and said he was glad they had burned it and wished they would do it again, it ought to be burned. Well the view or the scenery from this point is grand, awful, and awe inspiring. It is indescribable. You look at the mountains reaching thousands of feet above the level of the valley, and there are houses clinging like nests to the brown rocks all up the sides of the valley, terrace after terrace to the very summit. There are houses that are hundreds of years old. These were the places of refuge for the persecuted ones; among God’s mountains was their stronghold and fortress. We turned from this place of interest and stepped into the carriage and carefully descended the steep heights. The Italians dared not drive a carriage along these precipice roads which to avoid the castle-like rocks and high mountains wind up the mountainside like this. We left W. C. White with Bro. Geymet to attend the meeting in the stable. He said there were about fifty present sitting on the mangers, straw, dry leaves, or ground floor. He said he conversed with several before the meeting, and they were deeply interested in the Bible light which has been given to them. They said at first they thought these strange and interesting things were not in the Bible until they began to search their Bibles and found them for themselves. And they were still searching the Scriptures. The Sabbath has been presented, and they want to see the evidence for it themselves. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 15

Now this is good work, but performed under the greatest difficulties. But God has precious souls in these valleys, and this is the only way we can see to reach them. But we shall have to limit our labors unless means shall come into these missions. I have prayed much over this matter, and my mind was carried to you. I have presented to you the hardest fields; there are more favorable fields. God is working in Lausanne, Switzerland, and in France and Russia, and India. Letters are coming, begging for help. We have sent Bro. Albert Vuilleumier to Africa in response to an urgent call. He has made some reports to us, in reference to his visit, which as yet have not been translated to me. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 16

I have a request to make of you, my brother and sister. As God has placed in your hands means and made you His agents, I feel as a servant of the Lord to ask you to give something for this missionary field. I ask Sister Addie if she could not replace that one thousand that was cut off from this mission fund. We need means. We are unable to support laborers in the work. They are poor and cannot work without means. They do not live at all as our ministers in America. They are very economical in both food and clothing; but they must live, and many of them have families to support; these must be fed and clothed. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 17

Brother Littlejohn, how much of your earthly treasure are you laying up in heaven? What are you doing with the means entrusted to your stewardship? I hope you have not wrapped it in a napkin and buried it in the earth. I hope that while you live you will dispense that which God has lent you in a wise, judicious manner, and not leave these things as did Bro. Harvey, throwing upon others the burden of the work which belongs to you, but attend to it while you have your reason and ability. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 18

Jesus for our sake became poor that we through His poverty might be made rich. He requires of us self-denial. He requires us to act a part in sustaining with our means and influence the cause of truth. This work will go, but you and I want to have a part to act in its advancement. There never was a time when we could do more earnest work than now; and while the angels are holding the four winds, we want to work with our means and with our influence. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 19

I have confidence that you will place by the side of your wife another one thousand. You can do this much and not distress yourself. I am working with hired money. My property is for sale, and until I can sell it I borrow money and am paying eight per cent on thousands and shall use it until God shall open the way for me to pay both principal and interest. The Lord wants us to be laborers with Him. Will you carefully consider this proposition? I thought your wife could not feel justly free and clear until that one thousand should be replaced to this European mission. I have been waiting and hoping that she would do this without my introducing the matter to her, but I have now done so. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 20

May the Lord keep you both is my prayer, 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 21

Your sister in Christ. 4LtMs, Lt 44, 1886, par. 22