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ASI Project Report

The Story Behind the Projects

Harold Lance


The roots of ASI’s special project offering program go back as far as ASI itself—back almost a hundred years to the beginning of what eventually became Madison College. E.A. Sutherland and Percy Magan, close friends of Ellen White, were early leaders in the development of Seventh-day Adventist higher education. They served the church at Battle Creek College, Walla Walla College, and in the relocation of Battle Creek College to Berrien Springs, Michigan, where Andrews University now thrives.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Seventh-day Adventists were struggling to define Adventist education: Should it be an adaptation of the classical education that was in vogue at the time? Or should it include a balanced, practical program involving students, teachers, and staff and focusing on practical skills such as agriculture? Should it be a practical program that would lead to equipping lay members as gospel missionaries who would use their skills to serve their communities while acquainting them with the Three Angels’ Messages? The resulting tension over the direction for Adventist education led Sutherland and Magan to resign their positions of leadership and start Madison on a rundown farm near Nashville, Tennessee.

A small group, encouraged by Ellen White, joined Sutherland and Magan in launching the new school. It offered a practical, short-term program that equipped students as self-supporting missionaries to serve in the southern states and beyond. With great difficulty and sacrifice, the new school began to prosper, turning out lay missionaries who established self-supporting health centers, restaurants, schools, farms, and treatment rooms, all designed to provide practical services to their communities while at the same time spreading the gospel.

2012-insideasi-summer-fall_web__page_28_image_0004Soon Magan and Sutherland both enrolled in medical school in nearby Nashville in order to broaden Madison’s health and public service education program. On the other side of the country, Ellen White and other church leaders were launching the College of Medical Evangelists (CME, now known as Loma Linda University) in Loma Linda, California. Starting the new school in California wasn’t easy. In fact, the problems of finance and administration were immense. Church leaders remembered the capable leadership abilities of Percy Magan, noting that he was now a capable physician. Magan reluctantly left Madison and accepted the denomination’s call to serve as a leader at the new medical school in Loma Linda, remaining at the helm for many years and insuring its stability. Few are aware of the connection between Madison College, which closed its doors in 1965, and Loma Linda University, which continues to thrive. That connection represents the ties that continue to bind church and lay workers together with a shared sense of vision and purpose.

The rest of the story…

Madison gave one of its best leaders to the new medical school in California, but it gave much more than that. Word reached Madison that CME was in danger of closing due to overwhelming financial burdens. Without being asked, some of the leading women at Madison rallied together and gathered $30,000 (the probable equivalent of almost half a million dollars today). They took the train to Loma Linda and delivered the funds to the struggling leaders of CME, who were then in a board meeting discussing plans to close the related nursing program. This unsolicited generous gift that helped the Seventh-day Adventist Church succeed in establishing what is now a world class health care and training program in Loma Linda illustrates the spirit that is behind the urge of ASI to find worthy projects that broaden the outreach and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.