The Church Officers’ Gazette, June, 1944
BY DOROTHY WHITE CHRISTIAN
Storytelling is the oldest and most important of arts. God made us to en- joy stories, and set His seal of approval on the art by being the first storyteller and by putting into His Book many, many stories. About one half of the Bible is in story form, and that half is the best known and most often read. , Stories are important because of their great influence. They stimulate us to emulate the characters in the story. They appeal to the emotions, which are levers that move us to action. They are a highway to the heart of the world. They appeal to us in such a’ way that they arc easy to remember.
In our school a number of years ago was the son of the man who gave to our pioneer among the Indians, Brother Stahl, the money to establish the Broken Stone Mission. This boy was only seven years old, but every night he repeated to his mother the story of the day’s Bible lesson: a story of the second advent, or of the signs of Christ’s coming or the events that would follow, or maybe a story from the life of Mrs. White or some Bible character, or perchance a mission story. In wonder and delight that mother listened to him as he repeated the story, realizing that deep and good impressions were made. I repeat, the story is an easy and happy form by which children receive facts and ideas and ideals.
In Judges the second chapter and the seventh verse we read: “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that He did for Israel.” We are likely to think, Wonderful! But see what God did for them. How could they be anything but true?
Now read verse ten and the first part of verse twelve: “There arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. . . . And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers.” If loyalty to God came as the result of knowing the great works of the Lord, and lack of loyalty came as the result of the ignorance of the generation which knew not the works of the Lord, is there not a lesson in this that we dare not ignore? The second generation did not have the privilege of seeing the works of the Lord with their own physical eyes, but they should not have been denied the privilege of seeing them through the eyes of others. The mothers and fathers failed in their duty of Storytelling. Seventh-day Adventist parents should not fail. The children should know the stories of God’s providences and guidance in our early denominational history, as well as Bible stories, that they too may “serve the Lord all the days of the elders” who have outlived our pioneers.
Seventh-day Adventist history is rich in stories of God’s providences. There is the story of the establishment of our sanitariums. Think of what Mrs. White told us about properties on the West Coast that could be bought for a fraction of their value. Think of the direct pointing to the Paradise Valley Sanitarium property, which was finally secured for one fifth of its value because the original owners could not find water after, a short time” of operating. “But,” said Mrs. White, “there is water there.” Our people purchased the property, drilled for water, and found it. Paradise Valley Sanitarium is a monument to God’s leading of this people. Shouldn’t our children know that story?
Think of what has been done for our publishing work. In the early days of the establishment of one of our plants, the loss was $12,000 from the first year’s operation. It had been built at the urgent appeal of Mrs. White. Greatly troubled, the men in charge went to her, wishing to close it up. She said, “Study your methods.” The second year the balance showed another loss of $12,000. Again they went to Mrs. White. Again she said, “Study your methods.” Again the third year they had the same experience. In desperation they were determined to close the plant. But the same counsel obtained again—”Study your methods.” The fourth year showed a net gain of $36,000, balancing their three years’ losses. Today that institution is one of our largest printing plants. Will such a story help to establish the children’s faith in God’s leading of this people.
Think of our schools. Think of the providential establishment of our Australian school. The Lord picked out the identical farm and marked it by three unmistakable signs. Against the advice of government experts that land was purchased, against which Mrs. White said, “False witness has been borne.” The first year that crops were planted, such an excellent harvest was obtained that the people met for special thanksgiving and called in the government expert, who said, “I cannot understand it.” Don’t you think our children ought to know that story?
I repeat, one great source of stories for our children is found in the providential leadings of this people. Some of these will be found in such books as F. C. Gilbert’s Divine Predictions, J. N. Loughborongh’s Great Second Advent Movement, Ellen G. White’s Early Writings and Life Sketches, A. W. Spalding’s Pioneer Stories, W. A. Spicer’s Pioneer Days, and others.
Then there are personal stories that our children should know—stories of leaders who have been influenced at the right moment by the words of Mrs. White. I am reminded of a story told us by the late G. B. Starr regarding Elder Olsen, then president of the General Conference. Elder Olsen was sitting at the table in his dining room; his elbows were resting on the table, his head in his hands. He was discouraged. He had too much to do, and could not do his work well. So he turned his burdened heart to the Lord and said, “I am bringing back to you the presidency of the General Conference. I am not fitted for it. Another man can do the work better.” After he had unburdened his heart he felt better and retired for the night.
Early next morning he went to the conference office, where a letter was handed him, written by Mrs. White in Australia over a month before. In it Mrs. White said, “Dear Elder Olsen: I was shown you sitting in your dining room, at your table; your elbows were resting on the table, your head was in your hands. You were praying, and you said, ‘Dear Lord, I am bringing back to you the presidency of the General Conference. I am not fitted for it; another can do the work better.’ Now Brother Olsen,” Mrs. White continued, “the Lord says, ‘Who made you chairman of the sanitarium board? I did not. Who made you one of the leaders on the Review and Herald board? I did not. But I have made you the president of the General Conference. Do the work that I have given you to do, and you will find that My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’ ”
How can you account for such a letter? Only one way; the Lord showed to Mrs. White, away over in Australia, a month before, what Elder Olsen was going to do in his home in Battle Creek. She wrote this out in a letter and sent it to him, in order that he might not give up the work that the Lord had given him to do. It arrived the morning after he had this experience. Could anyone but God have foreseen this?
Then there is the story of Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, who was very ill at her home in the Middle West. She was scheduled to go to the West Coast to speak at a large W. C. T. U. gathering. She was so ill that her children felt she should not go on the trip. But she felt the Lord had called her. She stayed in bed on the train all the way across the continent, and felt better when she arrived. However, she was so frail that her hostess insisted on her going into a private home and not to a hotel. One of the wealthy ladies of the city opened her home, and Mrs, Henry was made very comfortable. The morning after she arrived she received a letter from Mrs. White, written several weeks before, in Australia, with her name and address on the envelope. Not her home address, not the W. C. T. U. address, but the address of the home where she was staying in that city, a home that would not have been opened to her if she had not been ill. How did Mrs. White know that Mrs. Henry was going to stay at that home? No one had known it until the day before. And yet the letter was written several weeks before. Isn’t that a story you would like to have the children know, to help fasten in their minds the thought that God through His angels revealed to Mrs. White the things of the future?
It seems to me that no one who believes absolutely the truthfulness of the Spirit of prophecy can ever leave this denomination. And it seems to me further that we should not hesitate to impress upon our children and young people the stories that will bring this belief to their hearts, a belief that will serve as an anchor in times of stress.
Another source of stories for our children is mission experiences. Elder Spicer’s story of Celia, the little black girl who gave her all when she gave her earrings, raised thousands of dollars for the mission work of this denomination. And how many children have been inspired to be more true to their convictions by the story of the two little children in Czechoslovakia who refused to obey the man who took them after their mother’s death, when he told them they must not keep the Sabbath. Though he punished them every Sabbath for their disobedience, yet he was finally won over and became an ardent Seventh-day Adventist himself. Mission, stories should not be confined to dramatic incidents only. Should they not rather be built upon the principle of trial and triumph, letting the hearers know that mission work is not just one grand lark or series of exciting adventures, but, like work anywhere else, is made successful by building steadily, earnestly, thoughtfully, prayerfully, even routinely, day by day and year by year?
(To be continued in August)