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


Recreation at the Avondale School

The Avondale school opened its fourth year on Thursday, February 1, 1900, with more students than any previous year. Ellen White addressed faculty and students with appropriate remarks for the occasion, based on the character of Daniel, a man who had a well-defined purpose in his heart that he would not dishonor God by even the slightest deviation from the principles of righteousness. The noticeable change in the faculty was in the Bible teacher; A. T. Robinson had been appointed to that post. The prospects were good for a profitable school year. But there is an enemy who is constantly alert to divert that which is planned as a benefit into a drawback, and this showed up on April 11, the day set aside as the first anniversary of the completion of College Hall. 4BIO 441.5

E. R. Palmer and C. B. Hughes, principal and business manager, respectively, planned for the day what they thought to be appropriate—a morning service at which Ellen White was invited to address students and faculty, and in the afternoon various recreational games, including cricket for the boys and tennis for the girls. Faculty members and students joined in raising money with which to purchase the equipment (DF 249e, C. B. Hughes to WCW, July 22, 1912). Other games, as remembered by Ella White Robinson included three-legged races; eating apples suspended from a string, with the players’ arms tied behind them; carrying eggs in a teaspoon in a knee race, et cetera (Ibid., E. M. Robinson to David Lee, November 9, 1967). Wrote Professor Hughes in his July 22 letter to W. C. White: 4BIO 442.1

The students enjoyed the day very much, and at the close of it felt very grateful toward me, especially, for planning such a pleasant time. You know the Australians very much enjoy holidays and sports. When Mark Twain visited Australia, he found this such a characteristic of the people that he exclaimed, “Restful Australia, where every day is a holiday, and when there is not a holiday, there is a horse race.” 4BIO 442.2

After giving her morning address, Ellen White returned to her Sunnyside home and her work. But “during the following night,” as she was to write later, “I seemed to be witnessing the performances of the afternoon.” 4BIO 442.3

The scene was clearly laid out before me, and I was given a message for the manager and teachers of the school. I was shown that in the amusements carried on, on the school grounds that afternoon, the enemy gained a victory, and teachers were weighed in the balances and found wanting.—Manuscript 73, 1912 (see also Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 348). 4BIO 442.4

In her diary she noted, “The whole transaction was presented to me as if I was present, which I did write out.”—Manuscript 92, 1900. She later declared: 4BIO 442.5

The Avondale school was established, not to be like the schools of the world, but, as the Lord revealed, to be a pattern school. And since it was to be a pattern school, those in charge of it should have perfected everything after God's plan, discarding all that was not in harmony with His will. Had their eyes been anointed with the heavenly eyesalve, they would have realized that they could not permit the exhibition that took place that afternoon, without dishonoring God.—Manuscript 73, 1912 (see also Ibid., Teachers, and Students, 349). 4BIO 442.6

Apparently there was much involved, in a country given to holidays and sports, in allowing any beginning toward what could easily become an infatuation. 4BIO 443.1

The next morning, as Hughes was leaving his house for the school, Ellen White's carriage drove up, and he was informed that she wished to speak to him. As he wrote of this in 1912, Hughes bared his soul: 4BIO 443.2

I went out to her carriage, and she leaned out toward me and said in very earnest tones, “I have come over to talk to you and your teachers and your students about the way you spent yesterday. Get your teachers together. I want to speak to them before I go in to speak to the students.” 4BIO 443.3

If Sister White had struck a blow full in my face, I do not think I would have felt so hurt as I did at her words. What she said sounded so unreasonable to me. I believed that what I had done the day before was for the best interests of the students.... 4BIO 443.4

I was very much troubled, knowing as I did the attitude of the Australians toward holidays and games. I felt that Sister White was acting rashly.... I was very much tempted to advise her not to talk to the students that morning. 4BIO 443.5

We went into the chapel and she delivered her talk, but it did not produce the commotion that I had expected. In fact, the students generally seemed to receive it quite well, but not so with myself.—DF 249e, C. B. Hughes to WCW, July 22, 1912. 4BIO 443.6

We cannot here trace in detail the personal struggle Professor Hughes experienced. When, through Miss Peck, he inquired of Ellen White why, in the light of her counsel that teachers should play with their students, he should be reproved for what they had done, the answer came that the students at Avondale were not children but young men and young women preparing to be laborers for God. Then, with his concordance, he searched his Bible. One of the first references he turned to related to the children of Israel, when they “sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor were other texts any more helpful. When he came to recognize that winning in games meant others must fail, he was led to conclude that the spirit of most games and sports was not the right spirit of the adult Christian. “These thoughts,” he declared, “brought me out of darkness into light, and I left behind me an experience which was a very trying one.”— Ibid. 4BIO 443.7

As was usually the case when counsel was given regarding the perils of a certain course, constructive alternatives were suggested. Ellen White did so along two lines: 4BIO 444.1

In the place of providing diversions that merely amuse, arrangements should be made for exercises that will be productive of good. Satan would lead the students, who are sent to our schools to receive an education that will enable them to go forth as workers in God's cause, to believe that amusements are necessary to physical health. But the Lord has declared that the better way is for them to get physical exercise through manual training, and by letting useful employment take the place of selfish pleasure. The desire for amusement, if indulged, soon develops a dislike for useful, healthful exercise of body and mind, such as will make students efficient in helping themselves and others.—Manuscript 73, 1912 (see also Ibid., Teachers, and Students, 354). 4BIO 444.2

After Hughes and Palmer sought Ellen White's help in planning activities, she wrote: 4BIO 444.3

They said they were perplexed to know what to do with the students’ Sunday afternoons. They thought they could unite with them in these games and they would not be strolling around in the bush. I said, “Is there not an abundance of work to be done on this farm where all the energy and tact would be turned to the most useful account in a good work?” ... 4BIO 444.4

All are to be rightly educated as in the schools of the prophets.... Let another teacher ... educate how to do work in helping some of the worthy poor about us. There are houses that can be built. Get your students under a man who is a builder and see if you cannot find something that can be done in the lines of education and in the lines of holiness.—Manuscript 92, 1900. 4BIO 444.5

As Ellen White addressed the students and faculty, she was disappointed that there was dead silence. She wrote a few days later: 4BIO 445.1

I knew after I had borne my testimony that the teachers and students might have taken a stand.... But not one word was said in response to the testimony; not one word spoken before that school to say, “The Lord has spoken to us through His servant and we will thank God for the light that is come to us and will receive the light and prayerfully ask God to give us clear perception of right and wrong.”—Ibid. 4BIO 445.2

It seems that teachers and students were too stunned to speak. But the message sank into hearts and was effective. Faculty and students did some prayerful studying and thinking. Hughes reported that the equipment was disposed of, and recreation was found in activities other than sports and games. 4BIO 445.3

The author, when visiting Australia in 1958, talked with a physician who was one of the students at Avondale in 1900. He volunteered the experience of some of the students, the memory of which had not dimmed in his mind. He and another young man banded together, in the light of Ellen White's counsel, to study what they could accomplish in helping others in the community. They found many places where they could help those in need, and this positive type of recreation provided soul-warming experiences in Christian service. In just a short time they sensed the advantages of finding recreation in activities that bring strength to the character as well as to the body. The grueling experience bore a good harvest. 4BIO 445.4

On June 11, 1900, Ellen White could joyfully record in her diary: 4BIO 445.5

I can but praise God for His goodness and mercies and blessings which are coming to the school and to the church. The Spirit of the Lord has come into the school, and the report is that every student is now a professed Christian. May the Lord bless them and sanctify them and refine them by His Holy Spirit that they may from henceforth reveal the character of the only true Model which is the character of Christ.—Manuscript 94, 1900.

The Union Conference Record included the following under a note entitled “Students Building Churches“: 4BIO 446.1

Many of the older students, under the direction of Brother and Sister Robinson, are working up the missionary interests in the neighborhood. Children's meetings and a Sunday school are being held at Awaba, Sabbath services and Sabbath school at Dora Creek.... A little church is now being erected at Morisset for the accommodation of the meetings held there. This undertaking originated with the students. They have raised the money, and with the exception of a little help from experienced carpenters, they have done the work. Thus the students are learning the ABCs of church building. One important feature of the lesson is to be how to dedicate a church with no debt upon it. When this church is finished, they intend to build another at Martinsville.—August 1, 1900. 4BIO 446.2

In the April confrontation Ellen White had suggested as an alternative to engaging in sports, “There are houses that can be built.” 4BIO 446.3