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    Chapter 26—Who Made the Furrow?

    A few months after Mrs. White arrived in Australia, she said, “We must have a college in this country.” She also stated that this college should be located on a large piece of land where agriculture and other industries could be taught.SMG 178.1

    When the brethren heard this, they asked in dismay, “With only about five hundred Adventists in all Australia, how can we support such an expensive enterprise as a college?” But grandma continued talking about a college where Australian young people could receive an education without having to go to America. Finally a group was organized to find suitable property.SMG 178.2

    They located several large tracts of good land for sale, but the prices were too high. After several months of searching, they came across the Brettville Estate of 1,450 acres of forest land for about three dollars an acre. It was favorably located, seventy-nine miles north of Sydney, New South Wales. The men wrote to Mrs. White, asking her to come and look it over. She boarded a train in Sydney, where she was living at the time, and with Elder George B. Starr and his wife and one or two other friends went to investigate.SMG 178.3

    While making the journey, she told about a vivid dream she had had several nights before. This kind of dream is sometimes called a night vision. In the dream the same angel who had appeared to her in daytime visions stood by her side and talked with her. It seemed that she was looking over property which was being considered for the college. She thought she was walking with friends through a deep woods when they came to a small clearing and saw in its center a furrow freshly turned with a plow. It was a small furrow, only nine inches deep and six feet long. In her dream, as she stood looking at the furrow, she saw two men approach and begin examining the soil. “This is not good land. The soil is not favorable,” they said.SMG 178.4

    She looked up and saw an angel standing on the furrow. “False witness has been borne against the land,” she heard him say. The angel then described the various layers of earth and explained the science of the soil. He said the land was well adapted to raising fruits and vegetables, and would yield well if properly cultivated. He added, “The Lord is able to set a table in the wilderness.”SMG 179.1

    The friends on the train with Mrs. White were glad to hear this dream. They felt sure angels of God were guiding them to the right place for the school.SMG 179.2

    After traveling for two and a half hours, they got off at a small railway station near a fishing village. Here they were joined by Elder Daniells, Elder William White, and several other conference men. They ate dinner together, then got into three rowboats and paddled up Dora Creek, which was really a small river. When the tide came in from the ocean, the water was salty for several miles, but it became fresh farther up. The pull upstream was a stiff one, and the men took turns at the oars.SMG 179.3

    The trip was pleasant and the scenery interesting. Trees and thick shrubbery grew along the riverbanks, with some ferns and wild flowers. Birds called from the branches overhanging the water. Some made a sound like the ringing of a bell. Once they were startled by what sounded like a group of boys laughing, but the raucous noise came from the throat of one little bird called the “Laughing Jack.”SMG 179.4

    At the boat landing on the edge of the property they climbed the bank and entered a forest. It was a clear, crisp day in May—early autumn in Australia. Mrs. White sat down to rest on a log near a fire the men had kindled, while the group divided into teams and started off in various directions.SMG 180.1

    After a while the Starrs returned, delighted with what they had seen on their tramp through the woods, and exhilarated by the fresh, cool air laden with fragrance from the eucalyptus trees. They suggested that Mrs. White go with them to look around. As they walked through the deep woods, they came upon a small clearing, and there in the center was a freshly turned furrow. It was nine inches deep and six feet long, exactly like the one Mrs. White had seen in the night vision.SMG 180.2

    While they stood wondering how it came to be there, two members of the inspection party came from opposite directions and stood, one at each end of the furrow. They bent over, took some of the soil in their hands, and began to examine it. One of them said, “This is not good land. The soil is not favorable”—the very words Mrs. White had heard spoken in her dream. The other man remarked, “It’s sandy, and seems to be sour. In my estimation it will not raise a thing.”SMG 180.3

    Then they asked, “How did this furrow come to be here?” They were all puzzled, wondering who could have made it, and how. No plow or other farm implement was in sight. No vehicle had been driven to the spot—no trace of horses’ hoofs could be found. The grass had not been trodden down nor the shrubbery disturbed. Yet there was that short freshly turned furrow.SMG 180.4

    Those who had come up on the train with Mrs. White waited for her to tell the men her dream; and this she did. When they heard what the angel had said, they had no more to say. They believed God knew more about the land than they did. He had sent them word that it would bear good fruit and vegetables, and that settled the question. Everyone felt impressed that God was guiding them to the right place for the school.SMG 181.1

    The men scattered again, and Mrs. White returned to her seat on the log by the fire. She was happy, for she was thinking about the college which would be established on those grounds and of the hundreds of missionaries who would be trained there.SMG 181.2

    They made the return trip down the river by starlight. In the evening the company met in a cottage to talk things over. They had requested the government land expert to visit the place. His report was very unfavorable. In his opinion the land was so poor that “if a bandicoot [a small animal something like a rabbit] were to hop across the estate, he would have to carry his lunch pail with him.”SMG 181.3

    The committee must now choose between the report of the scientifically trained man and the words of the angel. They talked a long time. They discussed times in past years when God had especially blessed His people because they followed His counsel. Now He had spoken to them through His angel, and they decided to let His word settle the question. They voted unanimously to locate the school on that property.SMG 181.4

    A few months later the Australasian Union Conference approved their decision, and the college project was launched. The estate was named Avondale because of the many streams of clear water running through it. The next question was how they were to pay for the land. Money had been borrowed for the down payment, but where would the $4,500 come from to repay the loan and finish paying for the property? Although the church was growing rapidly, there were still fewer than one thousand Adventists in all Australia. They had little money and no rich friends. But the brethren had followed the counsel of God, and now He honored their faith.SMG 181.5

    About this time a Mrs. Wessels of South Africa, her daughter Anna, and her daughter’s husband visited the new school estate, and Anna gave $5,000. This finished paying for the land and left a little over. Grandma White later borrowed another $5,000 from Mrs. Wessels and lent it to the school to start the building construction.SMG 182.1

    An old abandoned hotel in Cooranbong Village, within walking distance of the new school site, was rented as temporary quarters, and a night school was begun. In this same building lived the young men who had come to work up credit toward future school expenses by clearing land for orchard and garden. In the evenings they attended classes. Because there were no bulldozers or motorized farm implements, the giant eucalyptus trees had to be dug out with pick and shovel and the land plowed with oxen and horses.SMG 182.2

    They bought a sawmill to transform the mammoth trees into timber. A second story was added to the building which housed the sawmill, and Sabbath services were held there. The night school was moved from the old hotel building to the sawmill loft.SMG 182.3

    On October 5, 1896, about thirty-five people gathered to watch Mrs. White lay the corner brick of the first building, a girls’ dormitory. As a girl in my teens I was present, and I remember that the outlook seemed discouraging. So little money and so few people to accomplish the great work undertaken! Noticing the sober looks on some of the faces, grandma said, “Cheer up, children; this is a resurrection, not a funeral.”SMG 182.4

    School opened on April 28, 1897, with four teachers and ten students. Within a month other students and teachers arrived, and the school grew rapidly. As soon as the girls’ dormitory could be used, Sabbath services and some college classes were conducted in its dining room. Cots were set up in the sawmill loft, curtains were hung between them, and it became home for some of the young men students that first year. God blessed the school from the beginning. There was not one case of sickness among the students and teachers that first winter.SMG 183.1

    And what about the land? Did it produce as the angel predicted? Within a remarkably short time from the planting, vineyard and orchard began to bear delicious fruit. The school garden provided green vegetables and melons in abundance. The entire school community prospered. A stalk of sweet corn brought into our cottage from the garden reached nearly to the ceiling.SMG 183.2

    About a year after school opened, Australia suffered a severe drought. Cattle and sheep died by the thousands. A horse could be purchased for a shilling (equal to about twenty-five cents at the time), and a sheep for sixpence (half a shilling). I remember how my sister and I begged father to buy us a pony, but we were too far from the markets to make such a purchase practical. It was a wilting summer, with the thermometer registering as high as 116° F. inside our cottage.SMG 183.3

    Miraculously, the drought missed the school property. A Sydney newspaper, commenting on the sad condition of the country in general, made the statement that the one exception was the Avondale School Estate, which it compared to an oasis in the desert.SMG 183.4

    That was more than half a century ago. Now each year, on the opening day of school, the new students walk around an artistically arranged campus, looking at the substantial buildings where they may study the arts and sciences or acquire useful skills and trades while working to earn their school expenses. They are conducted through the health food factory, a thriving industry sending its products to all parts of Australia. The factory building stands on the banks of Dora Creek, near the boat landing.SMG 184.1

    Returning to the campus, they are shown a little stone monument near the music hall. On it they read an inscription telling the story of the furrow, and they are reminded that God sent an angel from heaven to give special help in finding the right place for Australasian Missionary College, now called Avondale College.SMG 184.2

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