In November 1848, nearly 165 years ago, Ellen White received a vision with a message for her husband, “You must begin to print a little paper and send it out to the people. Let it be small at first; but as the people read, they will send you means by which to print, and it will be a success from the first.
From this small beginnings it was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world”. However, it wasn’t until the summer of the following year that James was “impressed that the time had come for him to write and publish the present truth”. The major drawback common to most beginnings which had left James “in doubt and perplexity” was that he “was penniless”. “There were those who had means” Ellen White wrote, “but they chose to keep it”.
James’ enthusiasm waned until he “gave up in discouragement” and looked to mow grass instead. This of course reminds us of Peter and the disciples who; after the death of Jesus, confused and discouraged, they went fishing for fish, not people. However, as James White left the house to find grass to mow, Ellen White received another vision making it plain to her that God had other plans for James which did not include grass. James must “write write write and walk out by faith”. And so he immediately began to write.
Similarly, in July of 2011, Gary Webster approached Pastor Michael Worker, then General Secretary of the Greater Sydney Conference, and shared the idea of a conference-wide mission. Michael caught the vision and spoke with Pastor David Blanch, who was president of the conference at the time, as well as a number of committees and local church pastors.
In January of 2012, with Michael at the helm, the vision took root. In fact, it grew exponentially with seventeen paid ministers, five volunteer ministers and seven evangelists (not employed by the Greater Sydney Conference) with their hands up to speak in twenty-nine locations. Forty-five churches pooled their resources. All of this was realised within a budget of $700,000 (which is a miracle in itself).
And so “The Last Empire” Sydney city-wide campaign became a reality. The first event had a total attendance of 3,816 — 1,550 of whom were potential people of God. God’s blessings have since overflowed: many people are receiving Bible studies; a number of people are preparing for baptism; some are already attending churches on Sabbath mornings; all the presenters received encouragement and Godly affirmation and local church communities have become stimulated and open to further evangelistic co-operatives.
In all of this activity, there loomed a question: “Where will the money come from?” This same question brought doubt and perplexity to James White so many years ago. For Greater Sydney, the question was answered through the generous spirit of a church member, who used her God-given talent and gave a sum nearly equal to the cost of the city wide campaign through her estate.
Ellen White’s statement “to walk out by faith” no matter the lack of health or means, might be old but it still applies today, both individually and corporately. God be praised!
Contributed by Pr Rod Woods Trust Services Director, Greater Sydney Conference.