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

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The First Leg of the Voyage

Of course, friends and fellow workers were at the wharf to see them off. Frederick Sharp, treasurer and business manager of the developing Sydney Sanitarium, came on board to present a final farewell gift to Ellen White. It was a handsome journal book bound in soft black leather. She wrote in it, “Presented on board the steamer by F. W. Sharp, August 29, 1900.” Later that day she was to make the first entry, opening with the words, “We feel very much affected as we leave Sydney.” 5BIO 16.3

The journey would be broken by three stops—New Zealand, Samoa, and the Hawaiian Islands. All augured well. Ellen White was reported to be a good sailor, and she suffered only a touch of seasickness the first night out. Willie reported that they were soon on good terms with the stewards and stewardesses: “We feel as much at home as if we had lived with them for six months.”—15 WCW, p. 861. The first 1,280-mile leg of the journey was almost due east to Auckland, New Zealand. Thursday and Friday were sunny days, and as the sun was setting behind them on Friday evening, they hunted up all the songbooks they could find and gathered for a little sing. They were pleased that about a dozen fellow passengers joined them. 5BIO 17.1

Sabbath morning dawned dark and cloudy, and Ellen White chose to stay in her room most of the day. It was the first Sabbath of the trip, and the noise on the deck above, with the passengers pitching quoits, made it hard for her to realize that it was the Sabbath. Part of the day she spent writing some important instruction given to her in reference to the responsibility resting on medical missionary workers. The newly established medical institutions in Australia were much on her mind, and this was not the only communication she would write that would review important guiding principles. 5BIO 17.2

They found the food on the ship well prepared and appetizing, but to be certain of having a dietary to their liking, they had brought some of their own food on board, particularly oranges and tangerines, zwieback, canned fruit, and canned grape juice. This greatly broadened their selection of menu choices. One favorite dish turned out to be fruit toast, made by pouring fresh hot water and then grape juice over zwieback. For their evening meal, popular items were fresh fruit and crackers. 5BIO 17.3

As the ship sailed eastward at its steady pace of about 340 miles a day, Ellen White thought much of Australia and the nine years she had labored there. “I love the work in Australia,” she wrote. “The cause of God there is a part of me.”—Letter 149, 1900. “For so many years my interest has been bound up with this work that to separate from it seems like tearing me in pieces. I have confidence in those left in charge of the work at Avondale.”—Manuscript 82, 1900. But as the days passed, she began to cast off the burden of the work in Australia, and her thoughts turned to challenges that lay ahead in America. 5BIO 17.4

On Sunday morning, their fourth day out, the Moana was steaming down the east coast of New Zealand, past Great Barrier Island and into Auckland harbor. At ten-thirty the ship dropped anchor opposite the quarantine station. Some of the sailors rowed over in a small boat, leaving the passengers in suspense about the possibility of going ashore. Willie was disappointed because he had hoped to see some of his friends from Auckland. “Here we lie,” he wrote. “We cannot go ashore, and thus far no one has come to speak to us. It is a big lot of humbug, this quarantine business.”—15 WCW, p. 861. 5BIO 18.1

Finally, George Teasdale, with Brethren Mountain and Nash and a few others, came out in a rowboat, but could not go aboard. The White party found that by leaning over the rail they could converse with the folks in the rowboat. Willie Floding, a young man bound for Battle Creek to take the medical course, came on board at Auckland. The travelers were shocked to learn of the death of Mrs. F. L. Sharp, following major surgery. Willie and Ellen White sent messages of consolation back with the workers. 5BIO 18.2

The passengers pleasantly anticipated spending Sunday night on the boat while it was not in motion. But they soon changed their minds, for with the ship filling its coal bunkers it was impossible to sleep. There was a constant, thunderous roar. Monday morning the ship headed north and east, passing between the Tongan Islands en route to Samoa. This would be a long week, for they would cross the dateline just before reaching Samoa, which would give them two Thursdays. Ellen White spent as much time as possible in a steamer chair on deck, writing letters, mostly to friends left behind in Australia. She was fascinated and refreshed by the sea and the fresh salt air. From girlhood days she had loved the ocean. One day she wrote, “We now have a full view of the ever-changing, restless, beautiful sea.”—Letter 164, 1900. And at another time, “I am up on deck writing, and enjoying the fresh air.... This morning my soul is filled with praise and thanksgiving to God.”—Manuscript 96, 1900. 5BIO 18.3

She spent many pleasant hours paging through the autograph album given her during the farewell service at Cooranbong. So did the Willie White family on the deck below, as day by day they read a few pages. These albums, gold embossed and bound in bright, royal-blue velvet with gold-edged leaves, still convey nostalgia and warmth; one cannot read them without feeling drawn to those for whom they were so lovingly and carefully prepared. There was a section for every day of the voyage, and each section was introduced by an exquisite little watercolor painting, the Moana itself often appearing in the picture. 5BIO 18.4

The brown-toned photographs help to tell the story of the work in Australia. There is the electro-hydropathic institute in Adelaide. There are pictures of neat little churches Ellen White had visited and in which she had made investments to help the companies of believers who needed meetinghouses. There are portraits of friends, and scenes from her Sunnyside home. One page was reserved for pictures of their watchdog, Tiglath-Pileser, at Sunnyside. It will be remembered that parts of Australia had been settled by convicts, and as some of their descendants seemed to inherit the proclivities of their forebears, a good watchdog served a very useful purpose at Sunnyside. 5BIO 19.1

The messages are beautiful examples of nineteenth-century script. They reflect the very high regard in which Ellen White was held: “Mrs. E. G. White's presence in our little village will be sadly missed. The widow and the orphan found in her a helper,” one woman wrote. 5BIO 19.2

A student at Avondale said, “I shall ever remember with gratitude the many kindnesses shown me by you while living in your home.” 5BIO 19.3

G. B. Starr and his wife, Nellie, listed all the times they were with Ellen White from the time she landed in Australia aboard the Alemeda in 1891 until she left. They had journeyed from Honolulu to Sydney with her when she went out nine years earlier. 5BIO 19.4

One wrote how she had been converted while reading the chapter on repentance in Steps to Christ. Another had had the same experience with The Great Controversy. Another thanked her for saving him from spiritual disaster when he had become deeply involved in spiritualism. 5BIO 19.5

There was even a cartoon showing Ellen and Willie busy reading their autograph albums on the deck of the Moana, although the height of the waves pictured by the artist surely would have prohibited such gentle pastime pursuits! 5BIO 19.6

On shipboard she was to write a letter about the album, addressing it “Dear Friends All, in Cooranbong”: 5BIO 20.1

I thank you with much pleasure as I look into my memorial. It is a beautiful reminder of my friends, and it came so unexpectedly to us. I appreciate it more than anything my friends could give me. It is so beautifully gotten up, and it has so great a variety and expresses so much skill and taste and beauty.... I thank you all who have so freely bound up your heart with my heart.—Letter 190, 1900. 5BIO 20.2

She also spent time making friends with some of the passengers. One woman, Mrs. Goward, noticing The Desire of Ages, expressed admiration for it. Ellen White, hoping for just such an opportunity, gave it to her, along with Christian Education. 5BIO 20.3