The First Visit to Italy

Chapter 14—The First Visit to Italy

Attack by “friend” and foe

Arriving back in Basel, Switzerland, on Thursday evening, November 20, Ellen White found Mary K. White healthy, but granddaughter Ella, [Ella in young womanhood married Dores Robinson, son of asa T. and Loretta Farnsworth Robinson. Dores was a pastor-teacher-editor-evangelist. But his real talent was editorial research and writing. For years he served in the white estate offices assisting Ellen White until she died in 1915. He served in editorial work and teaching in the United States and Africa, then in the White Estate offices at Elmshaven and Washington, D.C. In all of his service at home and overseas the eBullient Ella was a faithful participant. At the time this book is being written both she and her younger sister, mabel, are living.] now almost four, was ill, but not seriously. So it was good to be “home” again. EGWE 133.1

Many times in the months ahead she would return to her home base in Basel, then venture forth as God’s messenger to deliver His word to the people. This was the pattern of her labors in Europe. EGWE 133.2

W.C. White, who arrived in New York a week after his mother’s return to Basel, wrote instructions to Mary his wife: “I suppose Mother will be let down after her long, hard journey. You must help her rest. Make dresses, ride out, walk around, kill time, and give nature a chance to strengthen her for another campaign.”—W. C. White, November 28, 1885. But Willie’s hope that his mother might get some rest before another “campaign” had been thwarted long before he even wrote about it. On her first full day in Basel, B. L. Whitney told her she was needed in Italy immediately. A. C. Bourdeau, who went there just after the European Council, badly needed encouragement and help. EGWE 133.3

The very next evening Whitney returned for another long interview, this time about the spiritual health of the workers in the office, especially the younger ones. Sister White’s work was cut out for her before she had any chance to think of making dresses, riding, walking, or resting. EGWE 134.1

Bernard Kaloria, the “Converted” Jew

She spoke Sabbath morning, and in the social meeting that followed listened to Bernard Kaloria, a Jew converted to Christianity who was attending a theological school in Basel. Kaloria had become interested in Adventist beliefs and was trying to get work at the publishing house as a German translator. EGWE 134.2

Willie White had even written a letter to the General Conference president asking whether there might be a place in one of the church’s American colleges where the twenty-four-year-old scholar could teach Hebrew. EGWE 134.3

But Ellen White was not anxious to see him hired at Basel. Though he “spoke well,” he had not yet taken his stand for the truth. She was afraid that to speak to him encouragingly about employment would cloud the issue. “The question is, What does God say? What does He require?” she wrote. She did not want him to make his decision on the basis of whether he could get employment. He was not to be “bribed or bought” (Manuscript 28, p. 2). EGWE 134.4

As it turned out, the young man was hired for a while but did not remain long. “Kaloria,” wrote W. C. White a little later, “has left us after doing what harm he could.” Circumstances proved it was better to test him early rather than late. EGWE 134.5

Ellen White through the years was given instruction concerning labor for the Jewish people: “We are plainly taught that we should not despise the Jews: for among them the Lord has mighty men who will proclaim the truth with power.”—Manuscript 87, 1907. And before the General Conference in session on May 27, 1905, she made the prediction: “The time is coming when there will be as many converted in a day as there were on the day of Pentecost, after the disciples had received the Holy Spirit. The Jews are to be a power to labor for the Jews; and we are to see the salvation of God.”—The Review and Herald, June 29, 1905, p. 8. EGWE 134.6

Labors in Northern Italy

During the next few weeks Ellen White was to journey by rail over the magnificent Alps and labor in the Waldensian regions about Turin. This large city, like Milan, is situated in the “boot top” of the Italian peninsula. Her appointments in Italy were all concentrated here. She never had occasion to travel south to Florence, Rome, or Naples. All her speaking appointments were in the subalpine regions of Torre Pellice. EGWE 135.1

At Torre Pellice she learned of the problems in which A. C. and D. T. Bourdeau were involved. Daniel was the first of the Bourdeau brothers to work in Italy. His brother, A. C., followed him. Now A. C. Bourdeau was in need of help in northern Italy, and his brother, Daniel, who was launching an evangelistic program in Geneva, was also sadly in need of counsel and direction. EGWE 135.2

He was proposing to get out a handbill advertising himself as an American missionary and citing flattering remarks made about him in the past year in American newspapers. Ellen White tried to dissuade him. She told him that two extremes needed to be avoided. On the one hand, Americans should not be ashamed of their nationality and try to mimic the people among whom they lived, but on the other hand, she said, “I have been shown that we need to move with the greatest wisdom, that we shall not in anything create prejudice by giving the impression that Americans feel themselves superior to people of other nations.”—Letter 24, 1885. She also pointed out the folly of Bourdeau’s representing himself as a “missionary”. This, she said, would create jealousy and suspicion and be regarded as “the worst kind of insult” (Manuscript 28, 1885). EGWE 135.3

Reduce the length of your sermons, she further counseled, for these wear out everybody, audience and preacher included. EGWE 136.1

The Bourdeau brothers were talented evangelists, zealous of good works, but they needed balance and wisdom, which the Lord provided through the Spirit of Prophecy. But more about this later. EGWE 136.2

By Train Across the Alps

Mrs. White celebrated her fifty-eighth birthday, Thursday, November 26, 1885, by beginning the interesting journey into Italy. With her she took Mary K. White, leaving Sara McEnterfer behind to care for Ella. Martha Bourdeau accompanied them. EGWE 137.1

The trip by rail through the famous St. Gotthard pass and “along the borders of the beautiful Lake Maggiore” had brought the party to Turin in northwest Italy. The train ride through the Alps fascinated Mrs. White, and she wrote at length about the uniqueness of the mountains. “The Alps of Europe are its glory. The treasures of the hills send their blessings to millions. We see numerous cataracts rushing from the tops of the mountains into the valleys beneath.”—Manuscript 29, 1885. EGWE 137.2

At Turin the party spent a pleasant night in a hotel, and Friday morning at an early hour they were on their way again to the quaint little town of Torre Pellice. Mrs. White described the journey: EGWE 137.3

“About thirty miles west of Turin we left the vast plains which ‘stretch like a garden for two hundred miles along the foot of the Alps,’ and passing through a narrow opening in a low range of mountains, entered the Piedmont valleys. Only one of these valleys…is traversed by the railroad. Soon after entering this valley, several others spread out like a fan, some at our right and some at our left. But it is in this central and largest valley at the terminus of the railroad, that Torre Pellice is situated.”—Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 230, 231. EGWE 137.4

And she commented, Thither our course is directed that, if possible, we may encourage the little company there who are striving under great difficulties to obey God.—Ibid. EGWE 137.5

When the travelers reached Torre Pellice, A. C. Bourdeau was there to meet them and was particularly happy to see his wife, Martha, again. EGWE 137.6

Early Labors of Czechowski

The little city of Torre Pellice was the first place M. B. Czechowski entered when he arrived in Europe in 1864 as an unofficial missionary. There he led Jean David Geymet and Catherine Revel to a knowledge of the third angel’s message. They were the first SDA converts in Europe. EGWE 138.1

Brother Geymet describes his experience with the zealous Czechowski in the Revue Adventiste of May 1, 1922: EGWE 138.2

“In 1863 on leaving my work one evening in a silk factory in Torre Pellice, in the Piedmont Valley in Italy, I saw a small group of people on the main road in front of a store…. In the middle of the group was a man with a long beard and a little stick explaining the prophecy of Daniel 2 with the help of a prophetic chart. It was Mr. M. B. Czechowski.” EGWE 138.3

“As far as I was concerned I didn’t belong to any church, and I had had no religious instruction. I was won to this truth as soon as I heard it, and thus became the first Seventh-day Adventist (with Sister C. Revel) as far as date is concerned.”—The Review and Herald, December 27, 1973, p. 20. EGWE 138.4

Geymet and Czechowski and later heralds of the Advent in those Waldensian valleys, like the Bourdeau brothers, must have hoped that they could lead some of these Bible-loving people to the full light of the “present truth.” Doubtless they succeeded to some extent, but the harvest from those valleys was not yet ripe. Mrs. White wrote prophetically: EGWE 138.5

“There will be many, even in these valleys, where the work seems to start with such difficulty, who will recognize the voice of God speaking to them through His word, and, coming out from under the influence of the clergy, will take their stand for God and the truth. EGWE 138.6

“This field is not an easy one in which to labor, nor is it one which will show immediate results; but there is an honest people here who will obey in time. The persecutions which their fathers endured have made them apathetic and close-mouthed, and they look upon strangers and strange doctrines with suspicion. “But the miracle of God’s mercy, working with man’s human effort, will yet cause the truth to triumph upon the very soil where so many have died to defend it. Knowledge will be increased, faith and courage will revive, and the truth will shine as the light of the morning all through these valleys. The old battle field will yet be the scene of victories now unseen, and the adoption of Bible truth will vindicate the past fidelity of their fathers.”—Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 249. EGWE 138.7

Geymet was like Zacchaeus, small of stature but honest in heart, a man with unbounded energy, and destined to be a leader in the publishing ministry of the church. E. Naenny, prominent in the publishing work in the Euro-Africa Division, recently wrote about this pioneer and Czechowski, his mentor: EGWE 139.1

“Brother Geymet devoted himself to the spreading of the gospel. He accompanied Brother Czechowski in Switzerland in 1866, where he helped him in his evangelistic labors, in publicity, and in building, earning his livelihood in between times. EGWE 139.2

“In 1867 Czechowski built a house in St. Blaise, Switzerland, and set up a print shop and founded the journal The Everlasting Gospel with J. D. Geymet and Ludomir Czechowski as the printers, and Anna de Prato as the editor. Unfortunately, lack of funds forced the journal to be discontinued after only two years. During his stay in Tramelan, Switzerland, he translated Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith into French (it was never published). After 1870 he spent a number of years in the Piedmont, where he married Theresa Trombotto. EGWE 139.3

“In 1877 J. N. Andrews visited the Waldensian valleys ‘and made such an impression on my wife that she cried when she heard of his death,’ Geymet wrote. EGWE 139.4

“During the winter of 1884-1885 D. T. Bourdeau, an American minister, and Albert Vuilleumier, a Swiss, gave public lectures. Among those who were baptized was the wife of J. D. Geymet. Shortly afterward a church … was established in Torre Pellice. EGWE 139.5

“In 1885 Ellen G. White … visited the Waldensian Valley, a visit that had a decisive influence upon Brother Geymet and his choice of a future vocation. He became a book evangelist [After he was 75 years of age he would walk ten or twelve miles a day to place his precious books in the homes of interested readers. When he was 80 years old he wrote a message in the Revue Adventiste, including this challenging paragraph which has meaning today: “I cannot conceive of how a true adventist can remain inactive and silent about the second coming of Jesus Christ, and not impart this happy hope to the hearts of his fellow men.” (See The Review and Herald, December 27, 1973.)] about 1886.”—Ibid., December 27, 1973. EGWE 139.6

Opposition in Torre Pellice

Among D. T. Bourdeau’s converts in Torre Pellice, during the winter of 1884-1885, were Mary, Mrs. Revel’s daughter, and Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Malan, who edited a secular newspaper l’Avvisatore Alpino. EGWE 140.1

In late February, A. C. Bourdeau came to Torre Pellice to relieve his brother, Daniel, and Ademar Vuilleumier, his assistant. He succeeded in formally organizing a church of eighteen members in May. EGWE 140.2

Ellen White did not have to wait long to observe the nature of A. C. Bourdeau’s trouble. J. P. Malan, Daniel Bourdeau’s most promising convert, had apostatized, and was doing all he could to obstruct the progress of the little church. Like seed planted on shallow ground, he had no root in himself and did not long endure. It seems that Malan had borrowed heavily to improve his printing establishment in Torre Pellice, but when he had become an Adventist early in 1885 his creditors had demanded their money in full. Malan borrowed from the bank to pay them off, but by the time of the European Council in September (which he attended), the note was due. EGWE 140.3

Malan owned and operated the only press in Torre Pellice. He had a good command of French and Italian. His wife could speak English, French, and German, also Dutch. It looked as though he would become the strong local leader of the Adventists. So. W. C. White and B. L. Whitney helped scrape together $1,600 to help Malan pay his note to the bank. EGWE 140.4

During the European Council, White went so far as to compliment Malan in a letter to Elder Butler noting that he was “sharp as a steel trap.” Now, two months later the steel trap had sprung! EGWE 140.5

Interference and Hostilities

When Bourdeau asked Malan on Friday whether he would print some handbills to announce Ellen White’s talk in Torre Pellice for the next afternoon, he flatly refused. They went ahead anyway, but because of the lack of announcements, only twenty-five people were present and only three or four of these were non-Adventists. She spoke for some time on the importance of obeying God and walking in the light, regardless of the opinions or course of the world. EGWE 141.1

As she was about to finish her talk, Malan, who had been in the audience taking notes, leaped to his feet. He demanded to know whether keeping the Sabbath was necessary to salvation, and wanted a “yes” or “no” answer. EGWE 141.2

“She tried five or six times to answer it,” wrote Mary K. White to Willie the next evening, “but he would spring to his feet every time and in a fury of passion demand an answer, ‘yes or no.’”—M. K. White letter, November 29, 1885. EGWE 141.3

Ellen White attempted to explain that such an important question called for more than a yes-or-no answer, and in between Malan’s outbursts tried to tell him that if a person had light on the Sabbath he could not be saved while rejecting it. EGWE 141.4

Malan took out a paper he had written, and began to read something to the effect that one could observe the Sabbath without abstaining entirely from labor. A. C. Bourdeau tried desperately to translate so Sister White could understand, but Malan rushed ahead. Finally she told Malan courteously but firmly she would reply in writing, and the Sabbath afternoon meeting closed. Then Malan’s distraught wife, who was still faithful to the Advent message, came forward and begged Sister White to excuse her husband. It was a tearful time for her. EGWE 141.5

The Difficulties Mount

Sunday morning dawned clear and beautiful. Ellen White was impressed by the scene she saw when she walked out into the market place. There women with inflamed eyes and coarse, leathery skin were crying out, trying to sell their wares. In the wintertime many of these mountain people lived in stables with their cows and goats, in order to keep warm. The buildings generally had only one small window. EGWE 142.1

On Sunday afternoon Ellen White stood up to talk to a small group once more. While she was speaking Malan came in again. This time he sat there looking very agitated. Whenever something was said with which he agreed, he would nod his approval. If he didn’t agree, he would shake his head and begin to murmur to those around him. Finally he popped up again and asked Bourdeau, who was interpreting, “Do you keep all the Commandments any better than the Pharisees? Answer me!” Bourdeau ignored him, and Malan presently grabbed his hat and hurried angrily from the room. EGWE 142.2

“This was not a very encouraging beginning,” Ellen White wrote in her diary that night, “but we will remain and see if the Lord has anything further for me to do.”—Manuscript 29, 1885. EGWE 142.3

Happily she could write the next day, “We have a most glorious morning. The sun shines so warm and mild, the doors are open and it seems like spring.”—Ibid. All through her stay in Italy the air was soft and clear, and she took full advantage of the situation to get outdoors as much as she could. EGWE 142.4

That afternoon Bourdeau hired a carriage and took Ellen White and B. L. Whitney for a ride. They went up past St. Johns, a Protestant village, and on through a quaint Catholic town. They saw men and some boys, even small ones, at work in a granite quarry. EGWE 142.5

The little party then returned to Bourdeau’s house, with a better understanding of the life-style of these humble folk of the mountains. EGWE 142.6

Part of Ellen White’s plan in coming to Italy was that she should get some of the rest and quiet she had missed in Basel. So on Thursday there was another five-mile carriage ride. On Friday it was time to plunge back into the evangelistic meetings again. EGWE 143.1

The workers had concluded after Malan’s two intrusions during the meetings on the first weekend that they would have to hire another hall. Malan owned the hall they had been meeting in, so felt free to break in whenever he pleased. EGWE 143.2

Intrusions of Miles Grant

By going to a town a few miles away they had managed to get handbills printed announcing meetings on Friday and Sunday evenings, and Sabbath and Sunday afternoons. But as if the opposition from Malan was not enough, handbills appeared the next morning proclaiming the arrival of Miles Grant, an American and an old foe of Seventh-day Adventists. He announced he would hold meetings in the hall just above the new one Bourdeau had rented. Grant’s meetings were slated for the same days, but different hours. His handbills were the same size and style as those Bourdeau had posted. EGWE 143.3

Grant was an Advent Christian minister and evangelist, editor of the World’s Crisis, during the years 1856-1876. At one point Seventh-day Adventists had sponsored some meetings of his in California since he taught conditional immortality and had similar prophetic views, but the arrangement did not work out, and Grant became an active opposer of Seventh-day Adventists and particularly Ellen White. EGWE 143.4

On Friday night she spoke at seven o’clock on Matthew 11:28-30,“Come unto me all ye that labour.” Half an hour later Grant opened his meeting in the room above, speaking on sanctification, but making little mention of Mrs. White. He did tell his audience that she was among them in the crowd, but later corrected himself. Instead, Mary K. White and A. C. Bourdeau attended, Mary K. taking down Grant’s sermon in shorthand. At Grant’s side to do the translating was a Mr. O. Corcorda whom Mary described as a “smooth voiced, age-to-come no-Sabbath man.” EGWE 143.5

The next evening Grant launched into a tirade of criticism, speaking with the single purpose of “exposing and discrediting the Lord’s messenger,” “He spoke more freely,” Ellen White said, “bringing forth the precious dish of slander that he loves so well. He served up to the people in his very best style the rare tidbits that he has been gathering and manufacturing during the last thirty years, as condemning evidence that the vision of Mrs. White are not of God.”—Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 236. [Attacks upon Mrs. White and her visions have come from outside the church and from within. As far back as the 1840’s Ellen White wrote: “I saw the state of some who stood on present truth, but disregarded the visions—the way God had chosen to teach in some cases, those who erred from Bible truth. I saw that in striking against the visions they did not strike against the worm—the feeble instrument that God spake through—but against the holy ghost. I saw it was a small thing to speak against the instrument, but it was dangerous to slight the words of God. I saw if they were in error and God chose to show them their errors through visions, and they disregarded the teachings of God through visions, they would be left to take their own way, and run in the way of error, and think they were right until they would find it out too late.”—Selected Messages 1:40.] EGWE 144.1

Ellen White, however, steadfastly refrained from mentioning Grant or from replying to any of his charges. “It has ever been against my principle to enter into controversy with any one, or to spend my time in vindicating myself.”—Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 237. She confessed in her diary, though, that at times she felt “sorely tempted” to depart from this custom and attempt to vindicate her cause (Manuscript 29, 1885, p. 9). EGWE 144.2

Naturally the report went out that two Adventists had come into the valley to fight each other, and although she pointed out that this was not true since she did not fight against Grant, the effect on the work was not good. EGWE 144.3

On Sunday she had a long visit with Mrs. Malan, who was in “deep trial” because of her husband’s opposition. She was kind and understanding of her distress. After speaking again Sunday night, Mrs. White had a good rest and woke refreshed (Manuscript 29, 1885, p. 8). EGWE 144.4

Tuesday, she and Mary, along with the Bourdeaus and J. D. Geymet, set off on a journey three miles up the mountain to Catherine Revel’s home. They had only a little donkey to pull the carriage, and the animal could hardly make the grade. Bourdeau’s son, Arthur, spent most of his time out of the carriage literally pulling the donkey up the mountain. EGWE 145.1

The next day Martha Bourdeau took her stepdaughter, Sarah (A. C.’s daughter), and left for Basel. Edith Andrews’ condition had continued to deteriorate, and Martha wanted to be with her child during her last days. There were more rides into the mountains for Ellen White that week, and more trouble when the weekend came. Now Corcorda and Grant had managed to influence the man from whom Bourdeau had rented the new hall to turn the Adventists out of that one, too! He finally decided to hold the meetings in his own house until he could purchase a hall. Here the messenger of the Lord spoke to the believers for the balance of her visit. EGWE 145.2

Back to Basel

On Tuesday, December 15, Ellen White rose at 3:30 A.M. to catch the train for Turin. To save money they traveled third class. Though the car was cold, they reached Turin without too much discomfort. EGWE 145.3

The train passed through some magnificent Alpine scenery that delighted Mrs. White, leading her to exclaim that she had never seen anything so spectacular, not even in the Rocky Mountains of her own country. EGWE 145.4

Arriving in Geneva in the evening, they were met by Daniel T. Bourdeau, Marion, his wife, and his 10-year-old son, Augustin. They walked a short distance to Bourdeau’s rented house at Chautepoulet 12. EGWE 145.5

The next morning Bourdeau hired a carriage and took Ellen White and Mary for a two-hour tour of the city. “We walked some distance upon a very high eminence,” she wrote in her diary, “and looked down where the two waters meet—the Rhone and the Geneva [Arve]. One is dark blue, the other a greenish color, and although the streams meet they do not lose their distinct colors and blend in one for a long distance.”—Manuscript 30, 1885. EGWE 145.6

Counsel for a Young Couple

Mrs. White stayed in during the afternoon, while Mary went out to a museum with Bourdeau’s daughter, Patience (later Dr. Patience Bourdeau Sisco). But even though she stayed at home, she was not completely at rest. It seems that Albert Vuilleumier’s daughter, Elise, was being courted rather ardently by a tenacious young man. Here Sister White met Elise’s suitor and in an earnest conversation told him that since both of her parents did not approve of his marrying their daughter, he should honor their wishes. Later she wrote him a lengthy letter that formed the basis for an article on courtship and marriage in the Review. The entire article was finally reprinted in Messages to Young People, 443-451. Here is a pertinent section: EGWE 146.1

“A young man who enjoys the society and wins the friendship of a young lady unknown to her parents, does not act a noble Christian part toward her or toward her parents. Through secret communications and meetings he may gain an influence over her mind; but in so doing he fails to manifest that nobility and integrity of soul which every child of God will possess. In order to accomplish their ends, they act a part that is not frank and open and according to the Bible standard, and prove themselves untrue to those who love them and try to be faithful guardians over them. EGWE 146.2

“Marriages contracted under such influences are not according to the word of God. He who would lead a daughter away from duty, who would confuse her ideas of God’s plain and positive commands to obey and honor her parents, is not one who would be true to the marriage obligations.”—Page 445. EGWE 146.3

A typical aspect of Ellen White’s writings is that she consistently points her readers to the Bible as the established standard of conduct. If the parents were unbelievers or misguided believers, the young would be wise, she counseled, if they would seek their directions in the Scriptures and wise Christian counselors. EGWE 146.4

Leaving Geneva, Thursday noon, December 17, she and her daughter-in-law reached Basel that evening. It was a journey that had brought some joys, and much heartache and distress to the servant of God. EGWE 147.1

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