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


The Avondale Health Retreat

Again and again in 1897 and 1898, Ellen White had mentioned the dire need of a small hospital in Cooranbong. Writing on April 21, 1899, she made the situation plain: 4BIO 437.6

Sister McEnterfer is nurse and physician for all the region round about. She has been called upon to treat the most difficult cases, and with complete success. We have at times made our house a hospital, where we have taken in the sick and cared for them. I have not time to relate the wonderful cures wrought, not by the dosing with drugs, but by the application of water.—Letter 74, 1899. 4BIO 437.7

W. C. White pointed out why the particular need existed: “With no physician living nearer than Newcastle [twenty-five miles distant], it is impossible to secure proper attention for the sick, even when the sufferers can afford to pay the usual charges.” In the case of emergencies, the city hospitals were just too far away (13 WCW, p. 84). During this time, Sara, working night and day with the sick, was nearly dead with exhaustion. Ellen White earnestly declared: “We want that hospital so much.”—Letter 73, 1899. 4BIO 438.1

On March 26 the newly appointed board of the Cooranbong Hospital held its first meeting and organized the work. Its objectives were set forth by W. C. White: 4BIO 438.2

The purpose in view is to provide a place in which to properly treat the sick of the neighborhood; a convalescent home for the Sydney Sanitarium patients; and a health retreat for worn and weary aged workers in the cause. A place to accommodate about thirty to forty persons will be the ultimate capacity.—13 WCW, p. 70. 4BIO 438.3

Earlier in the month, a self-appointed group—A. G. Daniells, Dr. Edgar Caro, Ellen G. White, W. C. White, Iram James, and Sara McEnterfer—had driven over the school grounds and had selected a likely site near the entrance to the school grounds from the Maitland road. There were nineteen acres comprising the site thought to be most suitable (Manuscript 184, 1899). In early April, work began, and Ellen White wrote to Elder and Mrs. Haskell: 4BIO 438.4

We are now at work on the hospital ground. We are securing volunteers to clear at least two or three acres. Today the students from the school under Brother Palmer's direction will make a bee to help in this work.... 4BIO 438.5

I expect to speak today to those who shall work on the hospital ground. A dinner is to be prepared by the school, and served on the grounds for the whole school family, making the occasion a kind of picnic in the open air. 4BIO 438.6

We are trying to make every move possible to advance. This hospital must now be erected without delay. If the Lord favors us, we shall put up a two-story building, and several small houses around it for patients sent out from the Sydney hospital. 4BIO 438.7

Regarding finances she wrote: 4BIO 439.1

As yet we have received not quite $1,000 for the hospital. The appeals sent to America have not yet brought returns. Dr. Kellogg states that if I say so, he will raise $5,000 from our people.—Letter 61, 1899.

The terms Kellogg proposed were unacceptable to Ellen White. A short time later she wrote to John Wessels that she had directed that everything she had in America should be sold, which would provide but little, but it would help (Letter 63, 1899). This was just the time the school was suffering so severely for want of money and Elder Daniells was in Melbourne and Adelaide seeking relief. A few months later, at the union conference session held in Cooranbong when the building was under construction, Ellen White reviewed the experience, and told of the part played by repeated visions given to her relating to the health retreat. 4BIO 439.2

In the night season I was looking at a building. “What is this?” I asked. “The building in which you shall take care of the sick and suffering.” “But,” I said, “I did not know that we had such a building.” “No,” was the answer, “but you must have it.” This building presented was very nearly like the building now being erected here. 4BIO 439.3

The building is so placed that it will get all the sunshine possible, not only in the sleeping rooms, but in the rooms where the patients sit. The sun is God's doctor, which brings health and strength, purifying and giving color to the blood, and we must have it. 4BIO 439.4

It was objected that the building would be askew with the road. “Askew let it be,” I said; “that building must be where it will get the sunshine, in whatever position it is.” The building is just right as it now is. It will get the sunshine, and I am well pleased with it.—UCR, July 26, 1899. 4BIO 439.5

In late April when the decisions were being made, Ellen White told, in a letter to Dr. Kellogg, of the committee meeting held on the site. Some sat on the trunk of a freshly cut eucalyptus tree; she and Sara sat first in her carriage and then on cushions on the ground. They all debated the way the building would face so as to get the sunshine. She presented redrawn plans that she, Sara, and Miss Peck had spent two days preparing, putting the rooms in the most favorable position. Then the committee knelt among the eucalyptus logs and sought heaven's guidance. She at first feared that the arguments for appearance would prevail. She told Dr. Kellogg, “The matter came out all right. The building will be blessed with plenty of sunshine.”—Letter 252, 1899. 4BIO 439.6

Again in the night season light came as the committee, so pressed financially, considered a plan that would cut the size of the building down by four feet. 4BIO 440.1

But a building was presented to me, tall and narrow and disproportionate. I asked what building that was. One came forward and said, “That is the structure that will appear if you take out four feet.” I said, “This must not be. Give the full size and merely enclose the building, finishing off a few rooms, but it must not be made smaller.”—Ibid. 4BIO 440.2

Thus God guided in the planning stage. Writing of this project to his brother Edson on May 9, W. C. White stated: 4BIO 440.3

Tomorrow we shall begin to dig the foundations and hope to have it enclosed in time to form a shelter for the delegates to the union conference, which is appointed to open July 6.—13 WCW, p. 142. 4BIO 440.4

The scarcity of funds delayed the work, and they were disappointed in having the building serve as they had hoped. On September 11, Ellen White wrote to an old friend, Mrs. Josephine Gotzian: 4BIO 440.5

I am much burdened regarding the dearth of means which delays the opening of our Avondale Health Retreat. The principal part of the building is up, roofed, floored, and enclosed, but it is not plastered. And we are losing precious time, which ought to be filled with effective work in behalf of those for whom this building is erected.—Letter 139, 1899. 4BIO 440.6

Mrs. Gotzian responded with a gift of $1,000, which helped spur the work along (Letter 190, 1899). One gift brought from Ellen White a recognition of sacrifice. It was a dime given by a child in America, and it called forth a tender thank-you note: 4BIO 440.7

My little sister Elsie Wilson, I thank you for your precious offering. It is a small sum, but it is more precious in the sight of God than a large sum given grudgingly. If all the little children would present their dimes to the Lord as you have done, little rivulets would be set flowing which would swell into a large river. 4BIO 441.1

The Lord looks with pleasure upon the little children who deny themselves, that they may make an offering to Him. The Lord was pleased with the poor widow who put her two mites into the treasury, because she gave all that she had, and gave it with a willing heart.... 4BIO 441.2

Sister White appreciates your words “This is all I have, but I want to help Sister White“: and the Lord is pleased. God is made glad when the little ones become laborers together with Jesus, who loved the little children and took them in His arms and blessed them. He will bless your gift to Him. In love, E. G. White—Letter 155, 1899. 4BIO 441.3

The Union Conference Record dated January 1, 1900, carried an announcement of plans for the dedication of the Avondale Health Retreat on December 27, and stated that it would be open for boarders December 28 and be fully prepared to treat the sick on January 1, 1900. 4BIO 441.4