Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905 (vol. 5)


Chapter 1—Voyage on the Moana

Ellen G. White's home in Australia, Sunnyside, was about a mile from the little village of Cooranbong in New South Wales. It was also about a twenty-minute walk from the Avondale school. It provided Ellen White with what she often spoke of as the most pleasant and comfortable living arrangements that she had ever had. She found the climate to be very favorable; she loved the country, and she loved the people. Her home was modest, but it provided a convenient place to live and work, with her women helpers around her. The several towns and villages within a thirty-mile radius provided easy contact with people of all classes, giving her an opportunity for personal ministry. This she cherished. She would have been pleased if she could have spent the rest of her life in Australia. 5BIO 13.1

But through the winter months of 1900—and, in the Southern Hemisphere, that means May, June, and July—Ellen White was becoming more and more certain that she must soon go back to the United States. Conditions developing in connection with the work of the church in America, revealed to her in the visions of the night, led to growing concern. 5BIO 13.2

When she proposed to her son William that she must return to the United States it was hard for him to grasp. How could it be? The Avondale school was just getting well under way. Construction on the Avondale Health Retreat at the front corner of the school land, across the road from the church, was just recently completed, and that enterprise was developing nicely. Land had been purchased for a sanitarium in Wahroonga, a suburb of Sydney, and building plans were under way. 5BIO 13.3

And then there was her book work on which they were pressing hard. Willie, at his request, had been relieved of administrative responsibilities in Australia and from his membership on the General Conference Committee. Both he and his mother felt that he should give unbroken attention to assisting her in publishing her books. How could they pull up stakes and leave all this and reestablish themselves in the United States? 5BIO 14.1

But the burden pressed ever more heavily upon Ellen White. She could not forget that in January she had been shown a rather unusual outbreak of fanaticism at a camp meeting in America. She was deeply concerned over the increasing imbalance coming into the medical work, fostered by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in Chicago. Of her plans to leave Australia, she wrote: 5BIO 14.2

Things have not been moving in right lines, and I must, in the fear of God, bear my testimony personally to those who are in danger of swaying the work disproportionately in the so-called medical missionary lines.—Letter 123, 1900. 5BIO 14.3

Critical situations had developed in Battle Creek, adding to her anxiety. At first she talked of leaving Australia in November. She did not see how she could close up her work before that. But by all means she felt she should attend the General Conference session scheduled for the coming February. She also declared it her plan to spend two years in the United States and then return to Australia. But shortly she moved the time of departure up to August. She felt that it would be unwise to arrive in the United States with the winter already on them, as would be the case if the November plan were followed. The time was finally set for late August. 5BIO 14.4

As W. C. White was devoting much of his time to assisting his mother in her work, it would be necessary for him to return with her. This meant that two homes must be sold, and on short notice. Could it be done? Naturally, they entertained some misgivings. 5BIO 14.5

In mid-August, with the Australian winter days moving toward spring, the acacias, with their fluffy little yellow blossoms, were in bloom. The family orchard was yielding oranges, tangerines, and passion fruit. The vegetable garden had its cauliflower, with promise of other crops soon. The gum trees would soon be blossoming in shades of pink, red, yellow, and blue, which would bring the forests into their full beauty. It was not easy for Ellen White to abandon the prospects of the coming Australian spring and summer to enter into another winter in the Northern Hemisphere. But go she must, and she declared that “the might of my will comes from a deep conviction that the Lord has a work He would be pleased to have me do in His service in America.”—Manuscript 95, 1900. 5BIO 14.6

With surprising rapidity things fell into line. She had an opportunity to sell her home, completely furnished, to the M. E. Minchin family. All she would have to do would be to pack her personal belongings and move out. What is more, she could retain the home until the sailing date. W. C. White, whose home was across Sunnyside Road, negotiated a trade with Metcalf Hare, who was connected with the college. Hare's home was next to the school, and W.C. found he could sell that to the college. Thus the two big problems were quickly and easily solved. 5BIO 15.1

One question that had troubled Ellen White as she thought of leaving Australia was how she could meet her promise to give substantial financial assistance in the establishment of the Sydney Sanitarium. The sale of her home for cash now provided her with funds for meeting this pledge. So, although it was against her personal wishes to leave Australia, as she freely declared in a letter to her son Edson, she was sure it was in the order of God that she should go. She wrote, “The call comes in so decided and earnest a way that we dare not refuse.”—Letter 123, 1900. 5BIO 15.2

W. C. White began travel negotiations in Sydney with the Union Steamship Company and found that comfortable arrangements for the voyage could be made on the Moana, which would sail from Sydney on Wednesday, August 29. Ellen White would have her four women assistants with her—Sara McEnterfer, Marian Davis, Sarah Peck, and Maggie Hare. The W. C. White family numbered seven—himself; his wife, May; his two older daughters by his first marriage, 18-year-old Ella and 13-year-old Mabel; the twins, 4 years old; and Baby Grace, nearly 3 months old. There were three other friends along also. So it made quite a nice traveling party—fifteen in all. 5BIO 15.3

Packing included not only clothing and personal effects but the Ellen G. White manuscript files. These were particularly valuable and would be taken in trunks as part of the baggage. 5BIO 15.4

On Sunday afternoon, August 26, a farewell service was held in the Avondale church for Ellen White, her helpers, and W. C. White and his family. The auditorium was well filled. Appropriate words were spoken, climaxed by the presentation of two beautiful velvet-bound autograph albums that were to be opened day by day, progressively, as they journeyed across the Pacific. In her farewell speech, Ellen White reminisced a bit about the development of the school and recounted, among other choice items, how the carpenters, when beset with apparently insuperable difficulties, used to kneel down in the shavings and ask God to help them. Her parting admonition was to remember the Sabbath—the seal of the living God (The Bible Echo, September 17, 1900). 5BIO 16.1

Thus closed nine busy, fruitful years in the continent down under. Before them was a 7,200-mile, 23-day journey across the Pacific. Willie had been successful in securing the most comfortable room on the Moana for his mother, the bridal stateroom in the first-class section in the aft of the ship. The tickets had cost $160 each for Ellen White and Sara McEnterfer. The rest of the party traveled second-class. Willie reported that they had been successful in securing the four best rooms in that section, with tickets costing $70 each. With anticipation and a little excitement, they boarded the Moana in Sydney shortly after noon on Wednesday. Ellen White was pleased with her room. “I have a wide bed,” she wrote in her diary, “as I have at home. Sara [McEnterfer] has her berth opposite mine. It is rather narrow. I have a bureau, wardrobe, and every convenience.”—Manuscript 96, 1900. 5BIO 16.2