DISCOVERING THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY
Making Ellen White's Writings Kid-Friendly
They can’t be appreciated if kids don’t read them.
By Cindy Tutsch
I asked my Bible class how they felt about Ellen White, and all I heard were groans and arghhhhhs!”
Kameron DeVasher was describing the reaction of the teens at his school to the name Ellen White. “So,” Kameron continued, “I asked my students to unpack their response. ‘Why do you feel this way about Ellen White? What experience have you had with her writings that has given you these negative feelings?’”
Kameron said there was a lot of humming and hawing, plus a few comments like, “She’s so strict, she’s rigid and legalistic and boring.”
“OK,” Kameron said. “Let’s make a list of all the characteristics you can think of about Ellen White and her writings and list them on the board.”
After everyone had had an oppor-tunity to contribute, Kameron asked, “On what basis did you make that as-sessment?” He pressed further. “What Ellen White books have you read?”
Ultimately, the class admitted that their perceptions were based largely on what they had heard others say about Ellen White, and not on their own per- sonal experience reading her writings. At this point, Kameron suggested that the class begin studying together Ellen White’s book The Desire of Ages in order to make an informed evaluation based on their own experience.
The outcome? Students discovered that Ellen White’s book on the life of Christ had immediate relevance in their spiritual life. Many students began mar- king and underlining their copies and were eager to discuss their favorite citations in class discussion.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church holds that the writings of Ellen White pass the biblical tests of confession in Christ and are in harmony with Scripture.1 Adventists believe Ellen White communicates messages from God through her writings for the edifi- cation, encouragement, and conso-lation of the church. Thus, it is important that teens and even young children understand that her writings are a gift from God that can help Christians know Jesus and experience His love, obeying His teachings out of a response to God’s wonderful grace.
Ellen G. White’s Writings for Young Readers
So, how do we introduce children to the writings of Ellen White? First, don’t underestimate kids’ ability to appreciate Ellen White’s writings, when presented in a way that allows them to participate. Recently, I brought a group of children ages 10 to 13 together to read and discuss Ellen White’s first vision, found on pages 13 to 20 of Early Writings. I gave each child their own beautiful copy of the book and invited them by turn to read a paragraph aloud. During the reading, anyone could raise a question or make a comment about what they were hearing. There was so much discussion I ultimately had to limit the group to one com-ment per paragraph so we could finish the six pages in one afternoon!2
Some children and even teens really struggle to read and understand the nineteenth-century language that Ellen White uses. To help communicate suc-cessfully with youthful readers, the Ellen G. White Estate has worked with selected authors and editors to publish a number of Ellen White books in con- temporary language. Sentences and paragraphs have been condensed and language modernized. But every effort has been made to be faithful to the con- tent, ideas, and principles set forth by Ellen White. In no case has the thought been changed. These adaptations are not intended to take the place of the original publications. But by introducing children to Ellen White in language that they can understand, it is hoped that young readers will find her wri-tings so compelling, interesting, and inspiring that they will ultimately explore the deep spiritual treasures found in her standard writings.
Children ages 8 to 14 who have ac- cess to the Internet may enjoy the on- line magazine about Ellen White found at www.whiteestate.org/vez. Through stories, adapted citations, puzzles, games, Q & A, Bible search, and even through the kids’ own posted contributions, the writings of Ellen White become alive and relevant for children. The White Estate is preparing to post audio ver- sions of Ellen White’s standard and adapted books that children and youth can download free to their MP3 players. These audiobooks can be accessed soon at www.whiteestate.org.
The Power of Stories
I enjoy telling stories about Ellen White to children, sometimes providing them with opportunities to act out the stories. If you need resources for stories about Ellen White and Adventist heritage, check out the plethora of offerings at the Adventist Book Center, either in- store or online. If you’re invited to share a children’s story at your church’s worship service, consider making it a story from Ellen White’s extraordinary life! Chances are, many adults in your congregation will never have heard or will have forgotten the story and may also be benefited by the reminder of God’s care for His chosen messenger. Did you know, for instance, that Ellen White allowed the students living in her home to have a weekly pillow fight? Or that her shortest vision concerned the whereabouts of a hairnet stolen by one of her boarders? Or that the last of Ellen White’s 2,000 visions focused on God’s great love for the youth and His desire that they be saved in His kingdom?
The Ellen G. White Research Centers, found in all the divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, have artifacts, pictures, and memorabilia about Ellen White, her writings, and her contribution to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Consider organizing a field trip to one of those centers with the children and youth of your family or your church. If you live in North Am- erica, perhaps you could plan a family vacation that includes a visit to the White Estate at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, where your children can see a Bible that Ellen White held in vision, a large wall mural of her first vision, and other artifacts about her life. Or visit Elmshaven, Ellen White’s northern California home near Pacific Union College, or Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, Michigan, or take a podcast tour to Adventist heritage sites in the northeastern United States, hosted by 11-year-old Kaili Kimbrow.3
Back Into the Classroom
Back to Kameron DeVasher’s class of students who were initially reluctant to read anything Ellen White wrote. What was your own response when you read that he allowed—yes, encouraged!—the students to state their feelings, positive and negative, about Ellen White? Before your “adult hackles” rise too high, consider this instructive citation from the pen of Ellen White: “The youth should have a chance to give expression to their feelings.”4
But note that Kameron didn’t stop teaching after he allowed his students “to give expression to their feelings.” He led them on to “test and see” for themselves, to evaluate Ellen White’s personal spiritual benefit to them, not on the basis of others’ opinions, but from their own experience. By encouraging the students to read, journal, underline, and discuss the spiritual concepts found in Ellen White’s writings, many of his students underwent a complete transformation of attitudes toward the gift of prophecy.
Teaching our children to appre- ciate God’s prophetic word takes effort, creativity, persistence, gentleness, patience, and tenacity. But it will be worth it all when parents, teachers, and caregivers see “the crown, the robe, the harp, given to their children. The days of hope and fear are ended. The seed sown with tears and prayers may have seemed to be sown in vain, but their harvest is reaped with joy at last. Their children have been redeemed.”5
1Seventh-day Adventists Believe (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2005), p. 247.
2You can find the entire discussion at www.whiteestate.org/vez/jul08/podcast/podcast.html or the shortened version at www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbP4M2DAaCo.
4Ellen G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1938), pp. 69, 70.
5Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1954), p. 569.
Cindy Tutsch is an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, who enjoys working with young and inquisitive minds.