Ellen G. White Writings

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Bible Echo and Signs of the Times

August 1, 1886

The Spread of the Truth in Italy

In a private letter from Sister White, she writes of her labors, and those of her son, W.C. White, in Italy. We take the liberty to publish a portion of it, knowing it will be of interest to all our readers:

We returned a few days since from a tour in Italy, and our homeward route was through Geneva and Lausanne. In the latter place, the efforts of Bro. Bourdeau in French, and brethren Ertzenberger and Conradi in German, have brought about twenty from the Methodist and Baptist churches to receive the truth. It requires far greater effort to interest people here in the truth than it does in America. There are “heaps” of teachers in this country, who, when the truth is introduced, band together, and labor to keep the people from hearing it. They will get together the best talent they can procure, and as many as ten of these will unite in holding a protracted meeting. After bringing the people together, they will warn them against us, and breathe out threatenings against the Seventh-day Adventists.

About the only way we can get hold of the people, is to hold Bible readings, and the interest commences with one, then two or three, and these after getting interested, call in others. In this way the interest is gradually worked up, slowly though it may be, yet in Lausanne great good has been accomplished besides inducing some to obey the truth. It has been a good school for some of our young [laborers] who thought they could go out single-handed and alone, and draw the people to them. We labored earnestly to correct some of the wrong impressions that had been entertained by some, regarding methods of labor, and are much gratified to see the improvement that has been made.

We held meetings in three different villages in the Waldensian Valleys with good interest. A brother who had been laboring in Naples, met us by appointment in Torre Pellice, and was much encouraged by the meetings. He said he had received much light, and would from that time labor in a different manner. The Italians are very excitable. Their method of labor is to bring every power to bear suddenly, and in an excited manner to exclaim, “Is this so? What will you do? Will you obey? Say yes or no!” Some of these are really capable men and intelligent in the Scriptures, but do not know what it is to bring religion into their homes. We have tried to set before these the great love of Jesus, his meekness, his lowliness, his self-denial, and thus bring them into the workshop of God, where they may have the rough edges taken off, and be polished into precious stones for the temple of God.

Italian men have little regard for the women. In that country one may see a woman driving or leading a cow team, and a great strong man riding in the wagon. From this you may gather some idea of the degradation of Italian women. All the heaviest work is borne by them, which causes them to fade early, while the men retain their freshness and vigor. In winter, because they cannot afford a fire to warm their houses, these people remove into their stables. Every crack and crevice of these is stuffed with straw to keep out the cold, and there with cows, donkeys, (if able to own them), sheep, goats, and hens, the natives of Torre Pellice and adjoining valleys spend their winters. Some of these people have intelligent countenances, and financially considered, are well off; but they know of no better way. The say that the heat from cattle is as good as a stove. They only pity Americans when told that they do not live in stables during winter. They think that Americans must suffer much from the cold in consequence.

To help these people, our laborers must go to these stables in which they live, and share their hospitalities among the cattle. At such times, the repast consists of black bread, made from smutty wheat ground up without cleansing, with a little milk, or a vile substitute for cheese. In these stables there will congregate from fifty to seventy-five persons, who seat themselves on the earth floor littered with leaves or musty straw which has been gathered for their family beds, and for the cattle. Here they sit and listen to the word of God, with ears, eyes, and mouth all open. The atmosphere of the stables is not very pleasant to an American, although the Italian laborers do not mind it much. After the people become interested, a hall is hired, and Elder A.C. Bourdeau speaks to them there.

Bro. Gynette, an Italian, does what he can to assist in the work. He attends meetings far up in the mountains, which are reached only by traversing narrow defiles, and precipitous paths on the edges of precipices. To one unacquainted with these paths, they are positively dangerous, especially when the fog, so common in those parts, settles down densely upon everything. Bro. Gynette goes night after night over these roads walking seven miles to reach the place of meeting, and returning the same night. W. C. W. accompanied him on one occasion to Angrogna, seven miles. M. K. White, A. C. Bourdeau and I rode in a carriage a part of the way; but when we could proceed no farther, turned our course homeward.

On our way we tarried at a small village to obtain information in regard to the place where so many thousands of Protestants perished at the hands of their Catholic persecutors, by being thrown from the precipice to the rocks below. A venerable Vaudois informed us that the village was once very prosperous; but when Milan and Turin, after a long struggle, reluctantly bowed their necks to the Roman yoke and yielded their liberty of conscience, many in the adjacent country would not take the step, and were persecuted, and driven from their homes in consequence. At that time this village was partly depopulated. God provided a home for the persecuted refugees amid the clefts of the rocks in the neighboring mountains. As we drew near the hills, thirty miles west of Turin, there suddenly opened before us a narrow portal in the mountain side, which proved to be the entrance to the Waldensian Valleys.

This entrance to the mountains is guarded by a low hill thrown up in the form of earth works before an army. But even with this defence the Waldenses were not safe. The Catholic authorities scented their prey, and came upon them like blood-hounds, burning their buildings, and murdering their inmates. Here from an eminence, where stands a Vaudois temple we had a view that was grand and awe-inspiring. The mountains tower thousands of feet above the valley, and to their sides, rising terrace above terrace, may be seen the houses looking like nests clinging to the eternal rocks. Here, thought I, was the homes of the persecuted; here among God's mountains was their stronghold and fortress; here the word of God was honored and the Creator revered. And now the truth for these last days is being echoed here from valley to hilltop.

But we were soon obliged to leave this interesting place, and descend to the valley. The roads are nearly impassable for carriages, but we managed to traverse the zigzag course in safety. Upon meeting W.C. White again, he said that fifty attended the meeting in the stable, and all seemed deeply interested. He said that those who had Bibles searched them carefully to learn the truth for themselves. This is a good work, but performed under difficulties. God has precious souls in those mountains, however, and this is the only way we know of, at present, to reach them. If we only had the means to devote to the work there, that our brethren could bestow, the truth might be pushed forward vigorously among those people. What we will do we do not know. Letters come in from different parts begging for help. God is doing a great work in France, Prussia, and India.

Mrs. E. G. White

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