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


Captain Norman Disappears

A whirlwind love affair developed between the captain and one of the General Conference secretaries. Shortly thereafter he informed his fiancee that he was unexpectedly called to New York on urgent business. Being without ready cash, he asked whether she could lend him $300, which would be paid back when he returned. The young woman withdrew the money from her savings account and happily put it into the hands of her wealthy suitor. Capt. Norman left Battle Creek on the eastbound train, expected back in a few days (DF 368). As the days slipped by and the May deadline for the captain to pay his pledges came and passed, his fiancee and the workers in Battle Creek grew increasingly uneasy and finally disillusioned. The captain and his wealth had disappeared. 4BIO 418.1

G. A. Irwin was in Australia. L. A. Hoopes, secretary of the General Conference, wrote to W. C. White on June 7, 1899: 4BIO 418.2

You will remember that in my letter I made mention of the offer that Capt. Norman had made, and that I could tell you more in the next mail.... I had every evidence to believe, from the human standpoint, that the offer was genuine. Doubtless Elder Irwin has told you ere this something of the situation. We have heard nothing from the captain since Elder Irwin left; and as the pledge was to be paid in the month of May, everything seems to indicate that there is nothing to it.... I can only say that I am disappointed thus far, and await with patience the developments, and trust that God will help us to see all that is needful for us to see and understand.—Ibid. 4BIO 418.3

Ellen White spoke of the matter a few months later: 4BIO 418.4

When I read in the General Conference Bulletin that $20,000 had been donated to Australia, and that large donations had been made to the General Conference to help in other places, a feeling of sadness came over me. I felt that if this donation came to our people in this way, it would deprive them of a blessing, according to the eighth and ninth chapters of 2 Corinthians, so that rich supplies of grace might flow in upon God's people, because of their self-denial and self-sacrifice.

Christ says: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”—UCR, July 28, 1899. 4BIO 419.1

Hoopes later wrote to Ellen White of the experience, particularly of what took place subsequent to the Norman pledge at the General Conference session: 4BIO 419.2

I have no doubt that the Lord has revealed to you the fearful state into which we all have fallen in reference to the spirit that actuated the conference after the Norman gift was proposed. It is simply horrifying as I review the history at the present time. For one, I mean to profit by the experience. I never was so convinced of the utter necessity of our being where we can discern the leadings of the Spirit of God as I am in this whole transaction.—DF 368, L. A. Hoopes to EGW, October 3, 1899. 4BIO 419.3

The promise of a new day in which the wealth of the Gentiles would flow into the coffers of the church resulted in a failure on the part of the church leaders to come to grips with sound financial planning at the General Conference session of 1899. The sense of release and relaxation that came to the members of the church throughout the world field as the result of promised large gifts that would make individual sacrifice no longer necessary bore an ill harvest severely felt for a number of years. 4BIO 419.4

But to Australia, the cumulative adverse circumstances that greatly reduced the flow of means from America forced the field to financial self-reliance, and proved an awakening blessing. The work in Australasia was coming of age. 4BIO 419.5