“I'd Like To Ask Sister White ...”


Turn Back the Clock

It isn’t easy to make some things go backward, especially time. But find an imaginary calendar, and start turning it back. You will go back to the years before you were born, then past the second world war, and keep going back even to the times before your mother and father were born. Past the first world war you will go and keep going, past 1900 and into the 1800’s, past the years when your grandparents were children, and then back some more. Finally, just before Abraham Lincoln became President of the United States and your great-grandparents may have been small children, your journey in reverse will stop. Circle the year 1859. LASW 4.1

Now your mind will have to go into reverse. Planes, TV, radio, even electric lights—all must disappear. Cars and buses will vanish, along with paved roads. Skyscrapers, push-button machines, noise of traffic, will cease. You will begin to hear the cloppety-clop of horses as they pull wagons loaded with passengers and farm produce. All the activities of life will slow to a more leisurely pace. Children will have time to roam the hills, wade, swim, and fish. Or they can just lie on the grass watching the clouds slide past. Or, between chores at home, they can walk down to the railroad station to watch that wonderful, noisy, early invention of the age of speed, called in those days “the cars,” come steaming into the station with whistle shrieking and cinders flying. LASW 4.2

It is from the cars that you will disembark at Battle Creek, Michigan. In order to meet a certain person living there, you have turned both your calendar and your mind far backward. And when you get off you will probably need to ask the station agent, “Can you tell me where the Whites live?” Since Battle Creek is still quite a small town, he will be able to tell you, “Well, it’s on Wood Street, out in the west end of town. You go right up here to Van Buren Street, turn left, and keep going. You will pass a park on the left and the Adventist printing plant nearby. The Whites are Adventists, you know.” LASW 4.3

Indeed you know. The man continues: “In another block or two you will pass the new Adventist meetinghouse on the right and a couple of more blocks will take you to Wood Street. Turn up, away from the river. It’s the frame house on the left, where Champion Street dead-ends into Wood Street, just a block from the corner. You can’t miss it. It’s about a mile. Probably one of the White boys will be out in the yard. They have three, you know. The Whites are busy people. Always somebody coming or going.” LASW 5.1

After thanking the man, you start on your way. The walk doesn’t seem long, for Battle Creek is one of those I’m-on-my-way towns, and you sense an atmosphere of progress, of growth. You pass a tall man carrying a satchel. It seems heavy, as though filled with books. Never having met him, you have no way of knowing that this is Elder James White on his way to work at the Review and Herald printing office. LASW 5.2

Finally you reach Wood Street. With no difficulty you find the house you are looking for. It has two stories, with a porch in front. It appears to have about six rooms. In back is a barn, then the usual vegetable garden, fruit trees, and finally a wood lot. LASW 5.3

Walking up the path toward the front door, you notice a flower garden and in the garden, a lady at work—a lady who appears to be in her early thirties. You ask, “Can you tell me, please, where I can find Sister White? I’d like to visit with her.” LASW 5.4

She straightens herself, rubs off some garden soil, then stretches out her right hand. You shake hands, noticing her warm welcoming smile. As you look into her dark gray eyes—and you almost have to look down, for she is only a little over five feet—you know without being told that you have already met Sister White. LASW 5.5

She welcomes you into her home. While she changes from her gardening clothes, you are entertained by four-year-old Willie, who reports that his two big brothers, Henry and Edson, are down at the printing office, working with their father. Sister White re-enters the room, bringing you a drink of cool water fresh from the well behind the house. She sees that you are comfortable, then asks concerning your errand. LASW 5.6

A little nervous, you say, “Sister White, I’ve heard so much about you. There are so many questions I’ve been wanting to ask, and I thought you could answer them better than anyone else. So I took the cars to Battle Creek, and came to your house, and—would you have time to answer them for me?” LASW 6.1

Her smile and motherly manner make you feel completely at home. And so your visit begins—your first visit with Sister White! There will be many other visits with her, too, through the years. LASW 6.2