A Work Bee


“Just when they were within three weeks of target date for the school to open, Haskell was suddenly called to Adelaide to assist in meeting the crisis in the church there, brought about by the apostasy of the pastor, Stephen McCullagh. With Haskell’s leaving, even if for only a couple of weeks, Hare’s courage sank to an all-time low. He could see there was no hope of meeting the April 28 deadline for the opening of school. Taking in the situation, Ellen White began to plan a strategy, for she held that the school must open on time. She was not able to attend church on the Sabbath, but she sent an announcement to be read appointing a meeting for all who would, to attend on Sunday morning at six o’clock. She had something to say to them. She sent word to Metcalfe Hare to come to her home after the Sabbath to meet with Mrs. Haskell, Sara, and herself.

Mrs. White told the story to Willie as to what took place:

On Saturday evening we had our interview. Our means were gone, and the school building could not be finished to open school at the appointed time. Sister Haskell asked just how many hands could be put on to the building, how many on outside work, how many on the cistern, and how many inside. She wrote these down on paper, and after everything had been stated, she and I said, “We will have every position filled.” Brother Hare argued that it was impossible.

We opened the morning meeting with singing and prayer, and then we laid the situation before them all. I told them that I would let them have Brethren Connell, James, and Worsnop, and pay them hire.

Brother Connell said that he had a two weeks’ pledge to work out. Brother James said he would give one week’s work in any line or place where they might put him. Brother Anderson also had pledged two weeks, and so one and another volunteered until men, women, and children were accepted.

I told them that I would give Sara to work in union with Sister Haskell, and they agreed to lay the floor with the help of Brother James to place the boards and press them into position, while Sister Haskell and Sara should drive the nails.

Our meeting lasted from six until eight o’clock. After [the] meeting the brother from Queensland made some depreciatory remarks about “lady carpenters,” but no one to whom these words were addressed responded.

Every soul was put to work. There were over thirty in number. The women and children worked in the first building, cleaning windows and floors. Sister Worsnop came with her baby and children, and while she worked on the inside of a window, her eldest girl of 10 years worked on the outside. Thus the work in the first building was nearly completed in the first day.

Sister Haskell and Sara completed nearly one half on the dining-room floor. Brother Hare says everyone was enthusiastic. The women who engaged in the various branches of the work did well. Brother Richardson was putting the brick in the floor of the cellar. Some of the girls passed the brick from outside, while others inside passed them to Brother Richardson.

In the afternoon I was sent for to consult with Brother Hare in regard to making changes in the divisions of the dining room.... Then Brother Hare conducted me over the immediate premises, and we decided on the trees that must come down, one of which went down yesterday.... We left all the acacia trees, wattle trees they are called here. They are a very beautiful green, and bear a fragrant yellow blossom....

Yesterday all the furniture in the mill loft was washed and cleansed from vermin, and prepared for the new building. One more floor is to be laid this afternoon.... The carpenters are siding up the building. Both ends are done, and quite a piece of the lower part on both sides....

Monday, April 6, the workers, men, women, and children are all at work....

The sisters had put the first coat of paint on the window frames. Brother Hare said that the women’s diligent work had done more to inspire diligence in the men at work than any talk or ordering. The women’s silence and industry had exerted an influence that nothing else could do. These women have worked until their hands and fingers are blistered, but they let out the water by skillful pricking, and rub their hands with Vaseline. They are determined to get at the work again....

Brother Hare is full of courage now. Brother Haskell will be back in a week or two at most from the time he left.... His wife and Sara are heart and soul in the work. They make an excellent span just at this time. They will be in readiness to lay the upper floor after today, I think. Everything that is needed has come from Sydney and is right at hand, so that there will be no delay.

School will be opened April 28, 1897.—Letter 152, 1897.

About the time the work bee began, word was received from W. C. White that at the General Conference session action was taken to send Prof. C. B. Hughes, principal of the school in Texas, to assist at Cooranbong. He was a well-qualified and experienced educator and would bring good help to Avondale. The word brought courage to all.

Entering fully into the spirit of things, Sara McEnterfer set out to raise money to buy a school bell. From the families in the community she collected about £6, and what Ellen White declared to be “an excellent sounding bell” was put in operation

Announcement of the Opening of the School

The good word reached most believers in Australia and New

Zealand through the April 5, 1897, issue of the Bible Echo. S. N. Haskell signed the article that informed constituents that school was opening at last. He promised:

The Avondale school will give a liberal education to its pupils. Its founders are decidedly in favor of this. And at the same time the Scriptures will hold a prominent place in the school. It will aim to give that education in the sciences that will fit those who attend for the practical duties of life.


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Vision Concerning Size of the Building

“Last night, August 23, I seemed in a vision of the night to be in Ashfield. Several of our brethren were present. I said to Elder Haskell, “This church will answer for this place, but the church at Cooranbong must be larger in width and longer than this building. It must be larger than you have estimated, and should seat four hundred people.”

Then I saw papers where the length and breadth were marked out and the figures given. I had thought thirty-two by fifty was not enough, and we were saying it must be lengthened. Then the width of the Ashfield church was given, and the width of the chapel, which was wider than the Ashfield church, and after consideration the chapel was enlarged, and as the size was stated in figures, all seemed to be pleased with width and length.

Wednesday morning, August 25, Haskell called on Ellen White to report a very successful buying trip to Sydney; materials had been secured at lower figures than anticipated. Later in the day, sample seats were displayed at the school, and Ellen White was invited to participate in the decision of the type to be ordered. Four experienced carpenters were employed at six shillings per day, and some would make a donation of half their wages.

Ellen White’s letters and diary entries through the next month provide almost a day-by-day account of the work on the church building and of God’s special providences. Interestingly enough, hers were not on-site observations, for Ellen White decided it would be best to keep away as the work progressed. “I felt,” she wrote, “that the building was under the especial supervision of God; and it was so, the circumstances had been arranged by the Lord, without any of our wisdom.”—Letter 162, 1897. So what she wrote of the work was based on reports brought to her by Sara and the Haskells.

She wrote:

The workmen have put heart, cheerfulness, willingness, into the work. They have expressed that they felt the angels of God were round about them.... We had stated seven weeks to complete the building. Ten days—lumber did not come. If we had had the lumber, it would have been done before the seven specified weeks.

“We know,” she wrote, “that the angels of God were with the workers. When anything came up that was perplexing to the workmen, Elder Haskell was on hand to encourage them. He would say, ‘Let us have a season of prayer’; and the presence and blessing of God came upon them. Their hearts were subdued and softened with the dew of Heaven’s grace. I never saw a building where we had greater evidence that the Lord managed the matter as in this.”

The New Church Is Dedicated

Ellen White was to speak in the chapel at the school on Sabbath afternoon, the day before the dedication service. There were many visitors at Cooranbong, for the church dedication and for the closing exercises of the school on Sunday evening. The school chapel was totally inadequate, and so her meeting was held in the new church—the very first. Sunday, October 17, was a beautiful day, and in the afternoon all gathered in the church for the service of dedication. Ellen White describes it:

Every seat was occupied, and some were standing at the door. Between two and three hundred were present. Quite a number came from Melbourne and also from Sydney, and from the neighborhood, far and nigh.

Elder Haskell gave the dedicatory discourse. Seated on the platform where the pulpit stands were Elder Daniells, Farnsworth, Haskell, Hughes, Wilson, Robinson, and your mother, whom they insisted should make the dedicatory prayer. Herbert Lacey conducted the singing, and everything passed off in the very best order. We felt indeed that the Lord Jesus was in our midst as we presented our chapel to God and supplicated that His blessing should constantly rest upon it.

And we have not heard one word of criticism. All are surprised at such a house built in so short a time, and so nice and tasty and presentable.

The Bible Echo, in reporting the dedication, described the building as situated on the school land near the Maitland Road and three quarters of a mile from the school buildings, built of wood, well constructed, neatly painted, and presenting a very nice appearance.

The land for the church was donated by the school. The building itself cost only about £550 and is capable of accommodating 450 persons. And one of the best features connected with the whole enterprise is that it was dedicated free from debt, every penny’s expense having been provided for beforehand. So there was no collection called for on this occasion to clear the church from debt.—The Bible Echo, November 8, 1897.

One feature of the developing enterprises at Cooranbong was the determination to avoid debt, even though the work was at times slowed, and all concerned had to sacrifice and deprive themselves of

ordinary comforts and needs. Earlier in the year Ellen White had commented:

There is no necessity for our meetinghouses to continue year after year in debt. If every member of the church will do his duty, practicing self-denial and self-sacrifice for the Lord Jesus, whose purchased possession he is, that His church may be free from debt, he will do honor to God.

The last paragraph of the November 8 Bible Echo report of the dedication significantly declares:

In conclusion, it should be stated that the erection of this building at this early stage of the school enterprise is mainly due to the faith and energy of Pastor S. N. Haskell and Mrs. E. G. White, and the rich blessings of God on their efforts. But for them, the building would perhaps not have been built for some time yet. With but £100 in sight, they moved out by faith and began to build, and the results are as already stated.

But of special significance to Ellen White was the fact that in this new start in Christian education, not only was it a success, but was, as she observed, “the best school in every respect that we have ever seen, outside our people, or among Seventh-day Adventists.”

Twenty of the students have been baptized, and some came to the school who had not an experimental knowledge of what it means to be Christians; but not one student leaves the school but gives evidence of now knowing what it means to be children of God.—Letter 162, 1897.

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