Sister White


Chapter Nine—As Many as Six Children

“They want you down in Australia,” said Brother Haskell to Sister White. “Our work is new there, and the needs of our people are many. If you would go and strengthen them in their faith by your courage and your counsel, they would love you and follow you, and it would be a wonderful blessing to the work of God.” SWhite 76.1

Now, Brother Haskell had been the first Seventh-day Adventist to go to Australia and New Zealand. These lands are about as far away from America as you can go, farther than to China. It is a long way from here to China. Sometimes we say, “China is right under our feet, on the other side of the world.” And that is so, or nearly so. But Australia is on the other other side of the world. For America and China are both on the upper half of the earth, but Australia and New Zealand are on the lower half of the world. And to go from America to Australia you not only have to go halfway around the world westward, but halfway around the world southward too. It is a long, long way to Australia. Well, in 1885 Brother Haskell took a company of men and women and went to Australia. He went to New Zealand too, which is a thousand miles to the southeast of Australia. In both these countries he and his helpers taught the truth, and within a year there were 250 believers. One of them, Robert Hare, came to America to get a training for the work. He went back in 1888, and has worked there ever since. The very first year after Brother Haskell and his company arrived, a young minister, Arthur G. Daniells, went down, first to New Zealand, then to Australia. We shall hear more of him. By the time they called for Sister White, they had five hundred Seventh-day Adventists down there. That was just a beginning. Now there are fifty times that many. SWhite 76.2

Sister White said, “I will go.” And late in the year 1891 she did go, taking with her, her son, William C. White, Elder George B. Starr and his wife, and four helpers. For nine years Sister White remained in Australia, visiting New Zealand also. She gave great courage to the believers, who multiplied to more than two thousand. And she led them in teaching the gospel, in publishing, in medical work, and most of all in school-work. It was here that she got them to build their training school, or college, in the country, at Cooranbong. She lived right there with them, and made that school the model for all other schools in the church. SWhite 77.1

And she did not forget the children. She knew that if we are to have strong and true men and women as workers, we must start with them young. So she said there should be Christian schools started for them, even “if there are no more than six children to attend.” She said this, and wrote this, down in Australia, and the brethren and sisters there tried to do as she said. SWhite 77.2

But it was in America that her words took greatest hold. The first school we had was at Battle Creek, begun a quarter of a century before. And it was at Battle Creek College, in 1897, that what we now know as the elementary church school system was begun. The teachers in the college studied what Sister White had written, and they decided that they must start a movement to have church schools everywhere. SWhite 78.1

Professor Frederick Griggs was at the head of the training of teachers, and the president of the college was Edward Sutherland. They began to train teachers for the church schools. And almost before they began, God moved on the hearts of some of His people to call for teachers for their children. SWhite 78.2

Away up in northern Michigan there was a little church at Bear Lake. Elder Luther Warren, who when a boy was the first one to start young people’s societies, held some meetings which brought out this company of believers. And he taught them that they should not send their children to worldly schools but should have a Christian school for them. SWhite 78.3

One of the families he taught was that of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Alkire. In the spring of 1897 Brother and Sister Alkire wrote to President Sutherland that they wanted a teacher to start a school for their children. It was the first call that had come for a church school teacher, and there was no one yet ready to start such a school. During the summer letters traveled back and forth, while down at the college President Sutherland was trying to get some teachers ready. SWhite 78.4

Then in the fall sad news came. Brother Alkire had died. But Sister Alkire wrote that still they must have the school. So Professor Griggs went up to see them. And there, as the cold winter began, the heart of the church was warmed, and they decided that they would start the school. Professor Griggs came back and called for a teacher. By this time there were four other churches calling for teachers, and five young men and women offered to leave their college studies and go out to start the church school work. SWhite 79.1

Up to Bear Lake was sent a teacher named Maud Wolcott. It was a cold, white world to which she came. The snow piled up in drifts higher than the heads of children and grownups, and the lakes were frozen over. One time when it was too cold for the horses to go, Miss Wolcott, with her oldest pupil, Laura, walked five miles to Sabbath school, and over the ice on the lake. She froze her nose and ears, but she got to Sabbath school, where she was superintendent, and opened it on time. SWhite 79.2

This church school was held out in the country, in the farmhouse of Sister Alkire. It was not a big house. It had only two rooms and a shed on the first floor, and the upstairs was only partly finished, with a little room for the teacher and a big room for the family. The only heat they had was from the kitchen stove below and from a sheet-iron stove in the front room. SWhite 79.3

That front room was the schoolroom. They had tables and chairs for desks and seats. They had a homemade blackboard. And they had a parlor organ. That was the center of cheer, for on it the teacher taught the first lessons in music, and she played it to lead them in the songs with which they brightened the day. Their favorite song was one she taught them the first morning. Do you know it? SWhite 80.1

“Do you fear the foe will in the conflict win? SWhite 80.2

Is it dark without you, darker still within? SWhite 80.3

Clear the darkened windows, open wide the door, SWhite 81.1

Let a little sunshine in!” SWhite 81.2

Besides the five children in the Alkire family, other children of the church came, so that there were thirteen students in this first church school. It was a brave thing this dear mother undertook, to have this school. SWhite 81.3

They had many blessed times that year, that showed the Lord had His hand over them. Once, in the dead of winter, the roof of their house caught fire, and if it had burned down, that would have been the end of the church school, and the family would have had nowhere to live. But the children and the teacher put out the fire. Laura climbed a rickety ladder to the roof outside, and the children passed up buckets of water to her. Miss Wolcott and Alice went upstairs, and piled up chairs on which the teacher stood and dashed up dippers of water that Alice handed to her. SWhite 81.4

The mother did not know of the fire, for she was out in the barn loft, praying for her children and the teacher and the school. She was weary and sad, because she had lost her husband, and she prayed that the Lord would not desert her and her fatherless children. All without her knowing, the Lord was right then helping her children and the teacher save their home and school. When she came out she was astonished, for she saw that God had answered her prayer. SWhite 81.5

So the church school work was started, in November and December of 1897. Before the end of the school year there were fifteen of these schools, and every year the number grew. Every year things got a little better. More churches took hold, better schoolhouses were built, new textbooks were written, and more teachers were trained. SWhite 81.6

When Sister White learned of the church school movement in America, she was very glad. “This is just what should be done,” she said, “and this is what should have been done long ago. God will bless this work, and make it pay, in souls saved and children trained up in the ways of God, to become workers in His cause.” She wrote a good deal about how church schools should be carried on, what should be taught in them, and how the teachers and the parents should work together in making them a success. SWhite 82.1

In 1900 Sister White came back to America. She bought a home in California, just below the St. Helena Sanitarium, which is built on the side of a mountain. And Sister White lived for the rest of her life in this home. She named it Elmshaven, because there were great elms arching over the house, and here was a harbor or haven to shelter her in her old age. Sometimes she took long journeys to teach in the conferences and in the churches. But mostly she wrote, preparing more books to teach the truth and to guide the church in the right way. And always on her heart was the loving burden for the children—the children in the home, the children in the church, the children of every nation and kindred and race, the children of the great family of God, whom Jesus loves. SWhite 82.2