Ever since its beginning in 1898, Adventist Record has been reporting and registering significant events in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific.
In issues from 1900, we find records of Ellen White’s departure from Australia when, after contributing significantly to the work of the Church in this part of the world for nine years, she felt it was time to return to the United States.
In a letter published in the September 1, 1900 issue of the Union Conference Record, her son, William C White, explained that Mrs White had felt for several months “that duty called her to return to America, to bear her testimony in various places, and especially at the General Conference, appointed to be held in Battle Creek, in February, 1901”.
Her return arrangements and farewell service were reported in the September and October 1900 issues of the Union Conference Record.
Mr White’s letter continues: “It is with great reluctance that she has thought of leaving her humble, but comfortable home, and the genial climate of New South Wales, which is so favourable to her health. It is with anxiety and regret that she has contemplated a separation of two years or more from the work of the Lord in the Australasian Colonies. Every feature of this work is very dear to her. She has had views of its progress, growth, and development in the future, that naturally lead to a desire to still participate in the labours and successes of the educational work, the publishing work, the medical missionary work, and the evangelical work in its many branches.
“But the burden of heart for the work in America increased, and with it the conviction that she should go in August. So arrangements were made to go on August 29, and places secured on the Moana for herself and Sisters Sara McEnterfer, M. A. Davis, S. E. Peck, and Maggie Hare.”
With the departure date set, a farewell service was organised and held on August 26 in Cooranbong (NSW), where those attending the Union Conference Council and others living in the area met in the church for the special event.
Hymns, special items and short speeches were part of the program. Many spoke about the White family’s considerable contribution to the advancement of God’s work in the then Australasia.
Excerpt from Vol 3, No 10:
Doctor E. R. Caro on behalf of the medical department said these friends now leaving us had laid the foundation of a great work. It remains for us to “Arise and build“.
The Committee on Resolutions who had acted for the Union Conference Council, then presented the following reso-lution which was carried unanimously, all present having the privilege of voting:—
“That in view of Brother and Sister White departing soon for America, after a stay of nine years in Australasia, we hereby express our appreciation of their active and earnest efforts to establish the work in this country, our thankfulness for the success which has attended their labours, and wish them the rich blessing of God, and a safe and pleasant voyage homeward.”
Sister White then spoke words of hope and good cheer which will not soon be forgotten by those who heard them. She said: “Yesterday when I spoke to the congregation, all the time I felt my heart welling up with gratitude to God. Now we have but little time, and I want to say that I do not go to America because I feel driven to go on account of the burdens I have been carrying here. I feel that God has assisted me in the work here. I leave all the churches and the brethren and sisters with the most pleasant feelings. It means very much to me to know that our hearts are united, that we are one in the body of Jesus Christ, one in faith, one in hope.
Do you talk of the work now flagging or being bound up? I expect you will press the battle to the gate. I expect you will each act your part and close up the ranks, that you may realise that the power of God has come upon you. You can pray for us, and we will pray for you.
I expect angels of God will go with us on our journey. I never like the sea. I never want to be on the sea; but when the Lord seems to make it my duty, I can go on the sea and trust Him every moment, and that is how I go at this time. I have not a tear to shed. I am only changing my work under the same General, and I go to another part of the field where they are calling earnestly for our help.
I did not want to come here when I came, but they were determined that we should come, and they sent us to stay two years. It will be nine years when we return to them. We praise God as we see the work that has been accomplished. O, I thank the Lord with heart and soul and voice, and we want to keep all the tokens of His love and hang them in memory’s hall. We want to see advancement step by step, and how God has helped us out of our difficulties, and how He has given us His power and His spirit.
Do you say that you will be weakened by our separation? Close up the ranks, brethren, and every one look to Jesus Christ. He is your wisdom, your life, your strength, the Bread of Life. To eat of that bread is eternal life to you. You must disappoint all who say, ’Now when Mr. and Mrs. White leave it will be a closure.’ Closure of what? It will be a closure of the ranks. Everyone must stand shoulder to shoulder, and you will advance from strength to greater strength. By beholding Jesus you will be changed from glory to glory, and from character to character, advancing all the time.
I shall bear in mind those I have met here, and our prayers will ascend that the blessing of the Holy Spirit shall be upon these believers who live in my heart that they may advance from character to character, till in the heavenly courts it shall be said of them, ’Ye are complete in Him.’
I have not strength to take you all by the hand to say, Farewell, but my heart is with you and I will say Farewell in the name of the Lord.”
Ellen White’s contribution to the Church in the South Pacific was undeniably significant. Her deeds are a legacy left to those who stayed after her departure and to future genera-tions. Along with her family, Mrs White laid the foundation, and as Dr Caro said, “It remains for us to arise and build.“