Ellen G. White in Europe 1885-1887


Chapter 2—A Historical Prologue

No volume devoted to the story of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe will overlook the far-reaching contribution made by the pioneer minister and editor John Nevins Andrews. With his headquarters in Switzerland, Elder Andrews labored from the autumn of 1874 till the autumn of 1883. The witness of Andrews in Europe marked the merging of two forces: first, the most earnest appeals from Sabbathkeeping Adventists residing in Switzerland for the assistance and cooperation of the General Conference in sending to them a minister; and second, the growing conviction on the part of church leaders that one of their number should be sent from the New World to the Old World to cooperate with the European brethren in developing a European constituency. EGWE 17.1

Albert Vuilleumier, of Tramelan, Switzerland, one of the first fruits of Czechowski's labors, was in early contact with General Conference leaders in Battle Creek. In a letter written to “Dear Brothers in Christ,” January 6, 1869, he lamented the fact that Czechowski “is almost always away,” and he confided “we long for our organization, for the brethren to send some one on a mission to us who is filled with courage and faith, and who can endure all for the love of the truth and who will agree [harmonize] with us. We feel in need of the experience and directions of our brethren, and we therefore desire that a brother will come here and remain for some time ... in order to organize us, counsel us, strengthen us.... We stretch out our arms, our hearts, and we offer you our homes.” EGWE 17.2

In addition to these thoughts of brotherhood and appeal, there were questions about the doctrine of the church and comments regarding the work of M. B. Czechowski and a new young worker, James Erzberger, who, the letter says, “studied at the Institute of St. Chrischona near Basel to become a missionary.” Erzberger, the letter continued, “has now been baptized and is proclaiming the third angel's message in German Switzerland, and he is sustaining us. He is a true servant of the Lord and works well. Two sisters have also been baptized, and we have the hope that this year some persons very much impressed will join the church. This is how the mission is making its way, slowly, but we are certain surely. The time is very solemn for us in the mission here.” EGWE 18.1

The reply to Vuilleumier's letter came from Andrews himself, the president of the General Conference. His letter is dated April 12, 1869. He wrote with feeling: EGWE 18.2

“Our General Conference will probably meet about the last of May. We will give your letter serious attention at that time and do what we can to help you. Our laborers are comparatively few and the field in this country, now destitute of any help, is vast. Yet we deeply feel your appeal and will prayerfully consider what can be done. We mean that men who got out to labor as missionaries shall be men of piety and of sober judgment, and that zeal and caution shall be mingled in their characters.... The sending out of missionaries pertains to the General Conference. So great is our lack of laborers to fill the urgent demand that we know not what way to turn.” EGWE 18.3

A postscript to the letter is appended by James White, who indicates his full agreement with the statements of Brother Andrews, and says, “We love you and feel a deep interest in your prosperity. At a special meeting of the church yesterday Mrs. White appealed to the brethren in a most affecting manner in your behalf. Nearly all were in tears.... We shall not remain silent and inactive respecting you.” EGWE 18.4

The call for help from Switzerland in 1869 was repeated and emphasized through the instrumentality of James H. Erzberger, whom the Swiss Adventists dispatched to America to plead for a minister. He himself was ordained in America and returned to the Continent as the first Seventh-day Adventist minister to labor there. EGWE 19.1

The knowledge that there were little companies here and there in Europe who through the study of the Word had come to accept the Sabbath truth and the light that the Lord gave to Ellen White indicating the international outreach that must distinguish the church, helped Adventists to sense their responsibility to evangelize the world field. The General Conference leaders pondered prayerfully their responsibilities to launch work overseas and the choice of someone to send to Europe in response to the call. One thing was certain: if a representative was to go from the United States he must be the best. And so it was that their eyes began to turn toward John Nevins Andrews. EGWE 19.2

Andrews had worked very closely with James White and with Ellen G. White in the earlier years of his ministry, and both of these leaders gave strong support to the proposal that he go to Europe. They followed the development of the European work with keen interest. EGWE 19.3

The many letters Andrews wrote to the Whites, filed in the vault of the Ellen G. White Estate, indicate that the Whites were his close advisers, almost like parents. And he was bound to them by love and a deep loyalty. While the difference in age was not great, the differences in temperament were such that their associations became complementary. Andrews was mild, submissive, and fearful of making mistakes, but zealous and hard working. He had great intellectual strength and was an indefatigable student and researcher. He could see and understand the deep and wide meaning of truth and searched diligently to find it. The Whites reciprocated the confidence expressed by him, and they ever stood by his side to strengthen him by their mature judgment and robust and courageous traits of character. EGWE 19.4

A combination of useful knowledge and brain power, with faith in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy counsels, were big factors in Andrews’ success, as it has been with other spiritual leaders of the Advent Movement from the earlier days of the message. EGWE 20.1

The repeated appeals from Europe for ministerial help and the sense of responsibility deepening in the hearts of church leaders led to the decision. Ellen White, at a later time, addressing our believers in Europe, declared: “We sent you the best man among us.” EGWE 20.2

John Corliss wrote of the experience that highlighted Andrews’ call: EGWE 20.3

“A camp meeting was appointed to convene a short distance west of Battle Creek, in the summer of 1874, just prior to the departure of our first missionary to a foreign field, and Elder Andrews was present. When the expansion of the message was dwelt upon, and notice was given that he would soon leave for Europe, a change came over the meeting, and Elder Andrews, who had never before appeared so solemn, at once seemed altered in appearance. His face shone with such pronounced brightness that, as I saw him and heard his apparently inspired words of quiet contentment to be anywhere with the Lord, I thought of the story of Stephen,” whose face was “as it had been the face of an angel.”—Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, vol. 2, p. 203. EGWE 20.4

This describes the spirit of the man whose pioneer labor in Europe ended in death two years before Mrs. White arrived on the scene. EGWE 20.5

Andrews, a widower, taking with him his children, Charles and Mary, sailed from Boston on September 15, 1874. His first assignment was to visit the new converts, assist in giving instruction, and organize the believers and companies that were springing up in Switzerland, Scandinavia, and other places. EGWE 20.6

He settled in Switzerland and began publishing in the French language, a language new to him and one he set about at once to learn. In time he was joined by A. C. and D. T. Bourdeau, French-Americans who lived in the State of Vermont. They had accepted the faith in 1857, and preached it vigorously in many towns and villages in New England and Canada. In an effort to strengthen their ministry they translated and printed several tracts in French. EGWE 21.1

God placed a burden of ministry to European immigrants in America upon others, and in time, tracts were published in German and Dutch. These were followed by literature in Danish and Norwegian. J. G. Matteson, a Dane, labored diligently and self-sacrificingly among the Danes and Norwegians in the United States, and he too was later to go to Europe to figure prominently in the early development of the work in the Scandinavian countries. But Andrews was first on the scene from America. EGWE 21.2