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    Chapter 21—Miracle at a Camp Meeting

    There was great excitement in the sugar-maple grove behind Farmer Root’s house. Axes were flying and trees falling. Branches were being trimmed and thrown aside, and the tallest, straightest trunks were neatly piled.SMG 145.1

    Under a clump of maple trees near the back of the clearing men were constructing a speaker’s stand with a shelter over it. Others arranged seats in front of the stand and set smooth tree trunks on the ground in parallel rows, extending planks from one row to another with their ends resting on the trunks. In a short time these seats were ready for use.SMG 145.2

    Campers began arriving, some by train, some by steamboat across Lake Michigan, others in wagons.SMG 145.3

    Eager boys and girls joined the workers, clearing brush and raking leaves. They piled branches and brush at the edges of the clearing to be used later for bonfires. Farm wagons loaded with camping supplies stood under trees a short distance away. Horses were being watered, and tethered where they could crop the grass.SMG 145.4

    Now the homemade tents were going up. For the erection of each tent the men selected two straight tree trunks with forked branches on one end. These they set in the ground, and they laid a longer pole in the crotches for a ridgepole. Women nailed long, wide strips of coarse factory sheeting to the upright poles to form sides for the tent. Some of the strips were sewed together to make tent roofs.SMG 145.5

    This was the first general Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting, and it was held as an experiment. People were advised against purchasing expensive factory-made tents. They were to make their own; for then if there were no more camp meetings, the cotton material could be used for other purposes.SMG 146.1

    Some of the campers made small family tents, but the majority decided to pool their resources and erect community shelters housing fifteen or twenty persons each.SMG 146.2

    If all of a sudden we could be transported back to that first camp meeting, this is what we would see:SMG 146.3

    Wagons pull in loaded with straw for use in making sleeping mattresses. The work continues for days in preparation for the great event. Finally the campground appears neat and attractive with its semicircle of glistening white cloth houses and its straight rows of plank seats, sufficient for an audience of two thousand.SMG 146.4

    Cooking is done on campfires. Milk, eggs, fresh vegetables, and fruit can be purchased at surrounding farms to supplement the food brought from home.SMG 146.5

    A posted program announces the hours for eating and sleeping, also for preaching services. Time between is for prayer and social meetings in the family tents.SMG 146.6

    And now the hour has arrived for the opening meeting. At five o’clock Friday afternoon a bell calls the campers to assemble in the beautiful out-of-door auditorium. From all directions they come, bringing pillows and coats to make the plank seats more comfortable. Small children sitting beside their mothers dangle their feet and fidget about, trying to get down onto the grass. Everyone joins in singing a stirring hymn. The ministers welcome the campers and speak a few words outlining the purpose and program of the meeting. Then Mrs. White speaks. She pleads for the people to forget for the time their farms, their crops, their flocks and herds, and to empty their minds of all home cares and make room for God’s special blessing.SMG 146.7

    The short service closes, and the campers return to their tents, drawn by the appetizing aroma rising from large pots of savory soups and stews simmering over campfires. They line up on each side of the dining board inside the tents, and stand while eating. After the meal the board is raised overhead, out of the way, by pulleys attached to the ridgepole. Candles or kerosene lamps are lighted. As twilight descends and the Sabbath hours begin, the campers tuck in for the night, after a hymn and prayer, men and boys sleeping on one side of the curtained aisle, women and girls on the other.SMG 147.1

    The retiring bell rings. Lights inside the tents are blown out. Elder Andrews makes his rounds of the camp, inquiring at each tent door, “Are you all comfortable for the night?” He requests silence till the rising bell which will announce the five o’clock devotional meeting in the large tent.SMG 147.2

    A soft glow like moonlight pervades the camp outside. It emanates from burning pine knots placed in five or six shallow boxes of earth, nailed to six-foot posts and distributed at intervals throughout the camp. A bonfire is also kept burning all night.SMG 147.3

    At this very first camp meeting a bookstand was constructed from three planks placed as a triangle and loaded with books and tracts. During the first five days of the meeting young John Corliss sold five hundred dollars’ worth of literature. (In the years following, John became a great preacher and foreign missionary.)SMG 147.4

    The Sabbath meetings were well attended, and on Sunday campers and townspeople filled all the seats.SMG 148.1

    Every day Elder White gathered the children and told them stories. On the last day he gave each one a small book called Little Will. It told how, on the night before Christmas, Willie’s father came home early and heard his small son praying for a sled “all painted wed.”SMG 148.2

    Elder White also had surprises for the adults. One day while preaching, he opened a package of small tracts, saying, “The time is coming when these tracts will be scattered like the leaves of autumn,” and he threw them out among the audience.SMG 148.3

    The camp meeting program proceeded according to plan until the day before the camp broke up. Then, quite unexpectedly, came a brisk thundershower. There was a rush for shelter under the two large waterproof tents. The only other dry spot in the camp was inside the J. N. Andrews family tent. Fortunately for the Andrews family, they had brought a factory-made tent of heavy canvas, the only one of its kind on the grounds.SMG 148.4

    As the campers hung their dripping clothes and bedding to dry on bushes, logs, and tent ropes, they said, “This has been a good meeting, and we vote for another one next year. But never again will we make our own tents!”SMG 148.5

    Two other camp meetings were held that season, and seven the following year. Soon these sessions were the regular program. Ministers were few, and those able to conduct camp meetings had to rush from one to another with little or no time to rest between. Sometimes James and Ellen White and Andrews and Loughborough did much of the preaching themselves.SMG 148.6

    Often my grandparents spent the entire summer traveling from one camp meeting to another. Railroads were few and stations far apart. Occasionally friends had to meet them at the station and bring them with horse and carriage ten, twenty, or even forty miles to the campground.SMG 150.1

    Farmers living at a distance would leave their farms for ten days to two weeks in order to attend these sessions. They would pack their clothes, bedding, and camping necessities into covered wagons and drive the long miles over prairie lands or through forests, camping by the wayside overnight, caring little for summer heat and dust if only they could get to the meetings.SMG 150.2

    Stoves were sometimes set up in the tents when camp meetings occurred in the fall. At one late meeting in Kansas snow was falling as Mrs. White went from tent to tent visiting the mothers. One family had driven two hundred miles. Looking at the children huddled around the stove in the tent, she said, “This life is the Christian’s winter, but someday we’ll change climates and leave behind the fierce tempests of pain, sorrow, and disappointment, to enjoy heaven’s summer in the mansions above.”SMG 150.3

    From her diaries and from her husband’s reports in the Review we learn that during the following twelve years either one or both of them attended 106 camp meetings.SMG 150.4

    Sometimes the Whites were prevented from going because of illness, but oftener they went in spite of it. Five months after Healdsburg College opened in California, a camp meeting was conducted there. Mrs. White was then living in Healdsburg. She wanted very much to attend the meetings, but she was ill with malarial chills and fever. Home treatments did little good. “Take me to the St. Helena Sanitarium,” she pleaded. She was placed in a wheelchair and lifted, chair and all, into a baggage car and taken by train to St. Helena, then by carriage to the sanitarium.SMG 150.5

    After several days of treatment with no apparent improvement, she begged, “Take me home.” So a bed was made for her in a spring wagon, and she rode the thirty-five miles over the hills to Healdsburg.SMG 151.1

    “I must go to the camp meeting,” she said; “I have many things to say to the people. For one thing, I want to encourage them to give liberally toward building a home for the college students.”SMG 151.2

    The day came for the meeting. “Prepare a place for me in the tent, for I’m going if possible,” she insisted.SMG 151.3

    A couch was placed near the speaker’s stand; and Mrs. White was lifted from her sickbed, brought to the tent, and laid where she could hear the sermon. When Elder Waggoner had finished speaking, she said to those near her, “Help me onto my feet.” Her son on one side and her nurse on the other assisted her to the desk.SMG 151.4

    Grasping it with both hands, she began in a feeble voice to say, “This may be the last time you will hear my voice at camp meeting.” Her face was deathly pale.SMG 151.5

    After a few sentences, a dramatic change occurred. Those seated before her saw the natural color creep back into her face, starting at the neck and slowly ascending to her lips, her cheeks, her forehead. Her voice rang out clearly, while the congregation looked on in amazement. “A miracle has been performed in our sight,” they said.SMG 151.6

    She had felt a thrill of healing power. The weakness and fever were gone. Again she took up her public work with vigor. Five times during that camp meeting she spoke with power.SMG 151.7

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