In 1891 Ellen White had a clear plan regarding the work that she wanted to engage in. She wanted to spend the year writing. In 1888 The Great Controversy had been published and as recently as 1890 Patriarchs and Prophets had come from the press. Now she was anxious to complete a third volume that would fit between Patriarchs and Prophets and The Great Controversy covering the life of Christ.
However, the Foreign Missions Board of the General Conference wrote to her that year, extending an invitation for her to visit Australia in order to encourage and strengthen the work there. There had also been calls to start a training school to train missionary workers in Australia and S.N. Haskell, in particular, felt that this venture would greatly benefit from Ellen White’s presence.
Writing about her feelings before the official invitation came Ellen White commented: “I long for rest, quietude and to get out the life of Christ.” When the invitation from the Foreign Missions Board came she prayed over it for quite some time. The Board had given her the freedom to decide whether or not she would choose to accept their invitation and Ellen White sought out the Lord for specific counsel regarding the issue but nothing specific was forthcoming. Finally, she made a decision. There were a few factors that contributed to it. Firstly, as she herself later wrote she had decided to adopt the practice of accepting invitations and requests made by the General Conference unless she was given specific counsel from God to the contrary. Secondly, she had been given visions regarding the conditions of the work and the workers in Australia and it seemed to her that this was an indication that she should go and bear her testimony. Thirdly since the Lord had not given her any direct word regarding what she must do she realised that the decision was hers to make.
After much contemplation, she decided to go.
Arriving first in Sydney, Ellen White made her down to Melbourne which would become her first base of operations. As soon as she arrived she was struck down with a terrible case of rheumatic fever leaving her in a considerable amount of pain and suffering. Nevertheless, she persisted in writing her book on the life of Christ despite the pain. During this time she spent a great deal of time lying on her back in bed and she spent much time in prayer. Writing about the experience later she stated that she would not have exchanged it for anything because during her terrible illness she found a friend in Jesus. The experience was precious and resulted in preparing her to write out one of the greatest books she ever published – The Desire of Ages.
As Ellen White’s experience with her call to Australia illustrates, God doesn’t always give us specific and explicit directions with regard to where we should go and what we should do. Instead, sometimes he gives us enough information to make a wise, informed and God honoring decision on our own.