Messenger of the Lord


Removing Prejudice

In developing the work in Australia, when Adventists were numbered only in the hundreds, Ellen White showed how prejudice would be broken down “by the medical missionary work“: “We made a hospital of our home. My nurse [Sara McEnterfer, Mrs. White’s personal secretary] treated successfully some most difficult cases that the physicians had pronounced incurable. This labor was not without its reward. Suspicion and prejudice were removed. The hearts of the people were won, and many accepted the truth.” 40 MOL 225.3

Through the years Mrs. White gave specific instruction regarding how individuals, and, at times, the church as a body, should care for the “unfortunate, the blind, the lame, the afflicted, the widows, the orphans, and the needy.” She said that Christians who have pity on those people are represented by Christ “as commandment keepers, who shall have eternal life.” 41 MOL 225.4

But she kept this ministry to the unfortunate in perspective. She was insistent that struggling church members should not be overlooked in “the wholesale business of feeding the wretched class who are in poverty“: “If you knew the circumstances of this brother, and did not make earnest efforts to relieve him, and change his oppression to freedom, you are not working the works of Christ, and are guilty before God. I write plainly, for, from the light given me of God, there is a class of work that is neglected.” She called it “misdirected zeal” to pass by those in “the household of faith and let their cry of distress come up to God because of suffering which we might alleviate.” 42 MOL 225.5

Ellen White was specific regarding the Christian’s responsibility to widows with children, 43 to orphans and foster parents, 44 to the aged, 45 and to the blind. 46 MOL 225.6

In the 1890s, Dr. Kellogg was reaching out to the social outcasts in Chicago. Ellen White had joined him through the years on similar projects. In 1898, however, she wrote him seventeen letters, many of them concerning the unbalanced focus in the welfare missions that the Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association was sponsoring “in a dozen large American cities scattered from New York to San Francisco.” 47 “Constant work is to be done for the outcasts, but this work is not to be made all-absorbing.... All the means must not be bound up in the work, for the highways have not yet received the message.... No one should now visit our churches, and claim from them means to sustain the work of rescuing outcasts. The means to sustain that work should come ... from those not of our faith.” 48 MOL 225.7

Though Ellen White continually held up the challenge of taking the gospel to those “however fallen, however dishonored and debased,” 49 she clearly strove for perspective: “The Lord has marked out our way of working. As a people we are not to imitate and fall in with Salvation Army methods. This is not the work that the Lord has given us to do. Neither is it our work to condemn them and speak harsh words against them. There are precious, self-sacrificing souls in the Salvation Army.... The Salvation Army workers are trying to save the neglected, downtrodden ones. Discourage them not. Let them do that class of work by their own methods and in their own way. But the Lord has plainly pointed out the work that Seventh-day Adventists are to do.” 50 MOL 226.1

These cautions were aimed at the misdirection of city mission work; it needed correction, not dismantling. Ellen White was most explicit regarding the work to be done in the cities, strongly supporting the evangelistic centers with their restaurants, literature distribution centers, and, in some cases, lodging for the workers involved in the centers. 51 MOL 226.2

Whenever her counsel was heeded, “Seventh-day Adventist urban involvement maintained equilibrium. It was not trapped in the social gospel movement (bottom-heavy with humanitarianism) developing in this period; but neither was it like the conservative Evangelicalism (top-heavy with evangelism) that developed after World War I.” 52 MOL 226.3