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


Consulting with W. W. Prescott

Professor Prescott made an extended visit to Cooranbong, invited there to give counsel about establishing the new school. On Tuesday afternoon, February 11, he came to Sunnyside to see Ellen White. “We had a long talk,” she wrote. “We would see some matters in a clearer light. The problem of studies in our school was canvassed.”—Ibid. The diary record indicates that this visit was followed by others: 4BIO 262.1

Wednesday, February 12: Rode to Cooranbong.... Brother and Sister Prescott rode up with us. 4BIO 262.2

Thursday, February 13: Awoke in the morning at four o'clock. Commenced writing. Found some special writings dated 1874 [the year the first SDA college was established]; very important instruction in them. I am writing out some things upon education to go in the next mail.... 4BIO 262.3

In the afternoon Professor Prescott and wife again visited me in my room. We had a long talk in regard to the management of school matters. 4BIO 262.4

As questions were asked, the Holy Spirit revived many things in my mind, and I could tell them the way many matters concerning our educational interest had been presented to me. 4BIO 262.5

We are to lay the situation of dearth of means before the whole school and then make known the Lord's plan as presented to me. In place of devoting time to inventing amusements to use their muscles, they can strengthen nerves and muscles to good advantage in the work that needs to be done on the school grounds. If we shall be compelled to hire the work done, the price of tuition must be increased. 4BIO 262.6

Every student may consider it to be his privilege to have a part in saving means they would pay for hiring work done that [they] themselves can do. Earning their expenses is to be considered a part of their education. Every student is to exercise brain and bone and muscle. Here is the education of the whole man, right on the ground—an education essential for all, for there is work for all to do.—Ibid. 4BIO 263.1

The Prescott visit to Cooranbong buoyed up Ellen White's spirits, and in mid-March she wrote to Edson: “I am only too thankful to report that Professor Prescott's testimony is that of all the places where our schools have been located, none seems to be as favorable as this place.”—Letter 147, 1896. Yet with the scarcity of money—and with litigation unnecessarily instigated by a legal firm employed in obtaining proper registration of the transaction that would put the land in the name of the General Conference Association—time went on with little visible progress in getting the school under way. 4BIO 263.2

One means of getting the enterprise under way while conserving funds was the purchase of a sawmill. They found it idle in Sydney, available for £300, or about half its value. It was now cutting lumber from timber on the estate, and tallow wood for floors. (9 WCW, p. 201). 4BIO 263.3

The principles under which they hoped to start the new school in Australia were a little different from those commonly held. It was therefore desirable to orient the thinking of those who would carry on the educational program when the school finally opened. W. W. Prescott was an experienced educator and in full sympathy with the principles set forth in the Spirit of Prophecy. He was also an effective evangelist. So it was decided to hold a month-long institute for teachers at Avondale. Notice for it was given in the March 23 Bible Echo under the heading “An Institute at Avondale for Teachers, Ministers, and Bible Workers.” 4BIO 263.4

A forty-foot camp meeting tent was brought onto the ground, and institute work began on Thursday, March 26. Many who came brought their own tents, bedding, and cooking utensils. Ellen White had the Sabbath-morning service and spoke frequently through the four weeks of the institute, emphasizing fundamental principles of Christian education. 4BIO 263.5

The large round tent on the Avondale grounds, with the six family tents neatly pitched nearby, gave the appearance of a small camp meeting and attracted the attention of the community. Not a few came in, especially to the evening meetings, which were given an evangelistic turn. Ellen White reported: 4BIO 264.1

Those not of our faith were in attendance all through the meeting. After the first meeting they came with their Bibles and answered the questions with the rest. I generally spoke once in the day. Unbelievers say they knew more about what the Scriptures contained, and they were highly pleased.—Letter 168, 1896. 4BIO 264.2

As the institute progressed, attendance increased, and Ellen White reported in a letter to Haskell: “The very best class of the community have come out to hear. We have been made glad to see families attending these meetings. They are as sheep without a shepherd.” She continued: 4BIO 264.3

Last Sunday night the constable came to the meeting. He saw some of the brethren and told them that some boys designed to cut the ropes of the tent, and he was watching them. But the constable and the boys listened with deep attention, as if afraid they would lose one word, as did also the postmaster, the schoolteachers from Cooranbong and Dora Creek, and a number of other outsiders.—Letter 36, 1896. 4BIO 264.4

As the institute came to a close, it was decided to leave the large tent standing for a time and to hold weekend meetings, in which Elder Starr and Ellen White led out. On June 1 she could write of one family at Dora Creek that had embraced the truth from attending the meetings and reading The Great Controversy (Letter 167, 1896). Others were deeply interested in the message. 4BIO 264.5