1915 to 1920: War and pestilence

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We’ve explored the Australasian Record from 1915 to 1920. It was an interesting period, with World War I starting in 1914 (until 1918). Surprisingly there wasn’t too much focus on the war, but you could see its effects within the pages of Record. For example, in 1917 the decision was made to change the distribution of Record from weekly to fortnightly due to a lack of paper, stating “that if the war continues much longer paper will be practically unobtainable”. The text was also changed to a smaller font “in order to get as much matter as possible into each issue”.

Other notable events include the passing of Ellen White (August 1915); the New Zealand Conference was separated into two new conferences, North and South (1915); a fire at the Sydney Sanitarium that was miraculously saved from complete destruction (January 1919); the establishment of Strathfield Adventist College in Sydney (February 1919); and the influenza epidemic causing the closure of churches in Australian cities (February 1919).

Ellen White’s declining health was detailed in the Australasian Record through letters from her son, William White, to the editor. In May 1915 she was quoted as saying to her son: “I am very weak. I am sure that this is my last sickness. I am not worried at the thought of dying. I feel comforted all the time that the Lord is near me. I am not anxious. The preciousness of the Saviour has been so plain to me. He has been a friend. He has kept me in sickness and in health. I do not worry about the work I have done. I have done the best I could. I do not think that I shall be lingering long. I do not expect much suffering.”

One month later William reported that she was “slowly failing in strength, and peacefully nearing the end of her life”. With her health in rapid decline, she lost her appetite—eating only three raw eggs each day and no longer tolerating being in a wheelchair. After a restless night, she prayed with her son: “Lord, I thank Thee that it is as well with us as it is. I will serve Thee to the best of my ability. Amen.” William writes, “This prayer was in harmony with her attitude during all her days of sickness, expressing gratitude to God, and a desire to be of service.”

The final report appeared in Record on August 30, 1915: “Mrs Ellen Gould White fell asleep in Jesus as quietly and peacefully as a weary child going to its rest. The end came on Friday, July 16, 1915, at 3.40 pm.” The special report was a page-and-a-half and summarised the funeral service—extensively quoting all those who spoke and made presentations.

In the first issue of 1919, the first new year after the conclusion of WWI, the Record began with this introductory piece:

“Nineteen hundred and eighteen has gone into history as a gloomy year. War and pestilence have united to make it a year of death. Its ruin and chaos are worldwide, and to the horrors of a world war it has added the afflictions of a plague more deadly than shot and shell. Yet it is the mirror in which are wonderfully reflected to us the goodness, mercy, and protection of God. It is, too, the vehicle in which we have come to this new year—a year of expectant hope, of fairer prospect, of wider opportunity to serve, and of happier conditions in all the world.

During the year just gone, our people in many lands have been tested severely. The forces of evil, marshalled for their destruction, have, at times, seemed to triumph; but the ranks are still unbroken, they still press forward, victors in a cause that must be victorious. God is with them, and He always leads to victory.”

We had a good chuckle at this excerpt from August 1918. Thinking it too good to keep to ourselves, we pass it on to the readers of the Record.
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