Ellen G. White in Europe 1885-1887


Strenuous Personal Labor

During the first three months of 1886 Ellen White carried on a steady correspondence with the Bourdeau brothers, Daniel, who was working in Geneva, and A. C. Bourdeau, still laboring in Torre Pellice, Italy. Both of these men, although veteran workers, apparently had more than their share of personal problems. A. C. Bourdeau did not seem to be accomplishing much in Italy, but when she suggested early in January that he might come to Geneva and help his brother, he gave all kinds of reasons why he should not leave the Waldensian valleys. She finally succeeded in prying him loose, and he reluctantly went to Geneva for a month. EGWE 154.1

Since Ellen White always worked closely with conference officials, there is reason to believe that this suggestion was acceptable to the Swiss leadership. Then a series of circumstances finally called for Ellen White to go to Geneva herself. EGWE 154.2

When L. R. Conradi had first arrived in Basel it was planned that his work would be to hold meetings with James Erzberger for the German-speaking Swiss in that city. But since so little preliminary work had been done, the two men were sent to Lausanne, near Geneva, in D. T. Bourdeau's territory. Conradi found the colporteurs in Lausanne lacking any systematic approach to their labors, and set about at once to put everyone on a regular schedule. He was a good organizer. EGWE 154.3

Just as the work was getting well under way, Bourdeau wrote from Geneva that “after meditation and prayer” he had decided to come to Lausanne thefollowing Sunday night (March 14) and preach on the subject of the Sabbath. This word was quickly relayed to B. L. Whitney and W. C. White, who were in Basel, and they hastily sent a telegram to Bourdeau, who was on his way to Lausanne. They urged him to abandon his intention to introduce the Sabbath truth at so early a point in the program. EGWE 154.4

Ever since her letter to Bourdeau about his handbill in which he called himself an “American missionary” Ellen White had been writing him, giving kindly counsels and urging him to take a more humble view of himself and not try to do all the preaching. Then in mid-January he had a dream which he unfortunately felt had some significance. In his dream, he and James Erzberger were out fishing. Bourdeau was baiting the hooks, and when he offered the pole to his colleague, Erzberger politely insisted that Bourdeau do the fishing himself. Bourdeau, of course, stepped forward to do so, but it seemed that in the dream, other ministers were scaring the fish away. Naturally Bourdeau interpreted the dream as a sort of divine approval of his course. EGWE 171.1

The week before he had planned to go to Lausanne and preach on the Sabbath truth, Ellen White had written him a letter, attempting to open up to him in a kind and tactful way some of his weaknesses. Among other things, she said: EGWE 171.2

“If you do as you have done in the past, you will press yourself forward, grasp the opportunities which your brethren should have, and use the time yourself to your own injury, and to the disappointment of the hearers. You flatter yourself that you can interest the hearers better than any of your brethren, and sometimes in this you deceive yourself.”—Letter 35, 1886. EGWE 171.3

Meanwhile, Bourdeau's wife, thinking to do him a favor, decided that he was too busy building up the work to stand the fragmenting shock of Ellen White's message, and so she held it up until the Sunday morning when he started for Lausanne. He read it on the way. Then to make matters worse, when he reached Lausanne he was handed the telegram from Whitney and White urging him not to preach on the Sabbath question. The double surprise was more than Bourdeau could accept. Instead of staying in Lausanne where he was needed, he returned to Geneva at once for a “week of meditation.” EGWE 171.4