Shining a light on Ellen White

Zoe Cochrane and Megan Skene from the Adventist Heritage Centre team.

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Two university students are helping younger generations to discover a fresh perspective on the life and impact of Ellen White.

Megan Skene and Zoe Cochrane, both third-generation Adventists, have a deep appreciation and enthusiasm for Mrs White. But that wasn’t always the case. Growing up they perceived Mrs White as a distant historical figure placed on a pedestal by many Adventists. As a result, they found it challenging to connect with her.

Their attitudes changed after joining the Adventist Heritage Centre team last year and getting to know Mrs White as a woman who went above and beyond to help her local community during her years living in Cooranbong, Australia.

“I learned about what she did for the community—and for me actions speak louder than words,” said Miss Skene, a psychology student at the University of Newcastle.

“She was constantly going out and helping people. She was known as the ‘buggy woman’ in Cooranbong because she would go around on her one-horse buggy and constantly give food and clothing to people.

“Her writings are really important, but I feel we should also focus on how she helped people in the community.”

Megan and Zoe outside Sunnyside, Mrs White’s former residence in Cooranbong, Australia.

As tour guides for Sunnyside, Mrs White’s former residence in Cooranbong, Miss Skene and Miss Cochrane are excited to share their discoveries with younger generations. Through an engaging and educational program, they have already welcomed five school groups this year. Students not only receive a guided tour of the historic home and grounds, but also have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the 1800s by dressing up in period clothing and participating in activities like making damper, using an old washboard, churning butter and playing traditional games.

“It’s making history come alive and the kids just get so excited to learn about everything,” Miss Skene said.

Moreover, the tours can provide opportunities to discuss spiritual themes. “In one room there’s a painting of Jesus on a wall and a student recently pointed up at the painting and asked, ‘Who is that?’,” Miss Skene recalled. “So it opens up conversations [beyond history], which is awesome.”

Miss Cochrane, a secondary teaching student at Avondale University, is enjoying introducing the children to Mrs White’s stories and achievements. “Presenting her as a real-life person who was friends with people in the community and did things just like they do, has been a real eye-opener for a lot of them, but an eye-opener for me as well,” she said.

“I think it would have made Ellen White so happy to have laughter and light in her house again.”

Miss Skene believes they are helping to reshape public perception of Mrs White. “Even I’m viewing her in a different and better light,” she said.

“I love how the tours are making Ellen White and Adventist history more fun and engaging for people and it’s bringing it to life. And people are finding new ways to connect with Ellen and Adventist history and learning more about their identity.”

Adventist Heritage Month

Ellen White and Adventist history will be in the spotlight for a month of activities in October to celebrate the rich heritage of the Adventist Church. The lineup of events for Adventist Heritage Month is:

  • October 7: Picnic of the lawns at Sunnyside
  • October 14: Adventist Record’s 125th anniversary
  • October 21: The Great Appointment 2.0
  • October 29: E G White Symposium

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