Ellen G. White: The Australian Years: 1891-1900 (vol. 4)


Work at Cooranbong Brought to a Standstill

In late August, as W. C. White, L. J. Rousseau, L. N. Lawrence, and others were at Cooranbong with the surveyor, tramping over the newly purchased land, two letters were handed to W. C. White, one from F. M. Wilcox, secretary of the Foreign Mission Board in Battle Creek, and the other from W. W. Prescott, educational secretary of the General Conference. White read them to Rousseau and Lawrence as they rested in the forest. The two letters carried the same message. The writers of each had just attended a meeting of the Foreign Mission Board at which W. C. White's letter of June 10, with his description of the land at Cooranbong, had been read. Each conveyed the same word, that the board felt, from the description of the land, it would be well to look for other property that was more promising, even if because of a higher price not more than forty acres could be secured. White called a halt to the work in progress, and the surveyor was sent back to Sydney (DF 170, “Report of the Proceedings of the Executive Committee of the Australasian Union Conference for the Year 1894”: 6 WCW, pp. 126, 129). 4BIO 158.3

To Prescott, White wrote on September 3: 4BIO 159.1

As regards the land, we are acting upon the suggestion of the Mission Board, and have suspended all operations as far as we can. How this will affect our future progress and prospects, we cannot now conjecture. If it were an enterprise of our own, we might have many forebodings, but as we are servants of a King, and as He has power to make light from darkness, and to turn what looks to be failure into success, we shall wait and trust.—6 WCW, p. 126.

Dreaded misgivings swept over W. C. White. He later described the circumstances in the report he prepared to present to the constituency at the camp meeting to be held at Ashfield, near Sydney. After noting the careful inspection of many properties and that there had been twenty-eight meetings of the committee on school location between January 23 and August 29, he reluctantly wrote: 4BIO 159.2

Letters were received from the secretary of the Foreign Mission Board and the educational secretary of the General Conference acknowledging receipt of the description of the place sent them by W. C. White and intimating their fears that the place was not suitable for our work. The same fears were felt to some extent by W.C. White, L. J. Rousseau, and [A. G.] Daniells; therefore, at a meeting held in Sydney, August 27, White, Daniells, McCullagh, Reekie, and Rousseau being present, the following resolution was adopted: 4BIO 159.3

Whereas, The Mission Board has expressed its doubts and cautions regarding our school location, therefore, 4BIO 159.4

Resolved, That we delay further proceedings at Cooranbong until we have time to consider the question of location.—DF 170, “Report of the Proceedings of the Executive Committee of the Australasian Union Conference for the Year 1894.” 4BIO 159.5

Somewhat stunned, W. C. White found himself frequently humming the words “Wait, meekly wait, and murmur not” (6 WCW, p. 137), and threw himself into the search for what might be a more promising site for the school. To Ellen White also, the decision of the Foreign Mission Board was a blow, and she waited at Cooranbong for word on what action would be taken by the committee on school location to be held in Sydney, Monday, August 27. On that same day she wrote: 4BIO 160.1

The more I see the school property, the more I am amazed at the cheap price at which it has been purchased. When the board want to go back on this purchase, I pledge myself to secure the land. I will settle it with poor families; I will have missionary families come out from America and do the best kind of missionary work in educating the people as to how to till the soil and make it productive.—Manuscript 35, 1894. 4BIO 160.2

On Wednesday, August 29, Ellen White received a telegram calling for her to return to Sydney the next morning. Cutting her restful stay at Cooranbong short, she and her women helpers took the morning train, arriving at Sydney about noon. They were met by W. C. White, Daniells, Reekie, and Rousseau, and taken to the mission. Here, after refreshments, the news of the decision of the committee on Monday was broken to Ellen White. That evening she wrote in her diary of it: 4BIO 160.3

Brethren Rousseau and Daniells had propositions to lay before us that the land selected for the locating of the school was not as good land as we should have on which to erect buildings; we should be disappointed in the cultivation of the land; it was not rich enough to produce good crops, et cetera, et cetera. 4BIO 160.4

This was a surprising intelligence to us, and we could not view the matter in the same light. We knew we had evidence that the Lord had directed in the purchase of the land. They proposed searching still for land.... The land purchased was the best, as far as advantages were concerned. To go back on this and begin another search meant loss of time, expense in outlay of means, great anxiety and uneasiness, and delay in locating the school, putting us back one year. 4BIO 160.5

We could not see light in this. We thought of the children of Israel who inquired, Can God set a table in the wilderness? He did do this, and with God's blessing resting upon the school, the land will be blessed to produce good crops.... I knew from light given me we had made no mistake.—Manuscript 77, 1894. 4BIO 161.1

It was clear where her confidence lay, and this was a point that neither the committee in Australia nor the Foreign Mission Board in Battle Creek could put out of mind, yet their best judgment led them to look with misgivings on plans to build a college at Cooranbong. 4BIO 161.2

While to Ellen White the Brettville estate at Cooranbong was the right place, she knew that the final decision must be made by the men carrying the responsibility of leadership, and they must be sufficiently confident of their decision to see the plans through not only in favorable circumstances but also in the face of the most foreboding difficulties. 4BIO 161.3

The course now outlined seemed to her “very much like the work of the great adversary to block the way of advance, and to give to brethren easily tempted and critical the impression that God was not leading in the school enterprise. I believe this to be a hindrance that the Lord has nothing to do with. Oh, how my heart aches! I do not know what to do but to just rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”—Ibid. 4BIO 161.4

The decision to search further for land held, and the task was begun. Ellen White reluctantly joined the committee in inspecting some new sites. 4BIO 161.5