Meeting the Requirements to Become Missionaries
“DURING the past five months of school, you have all been able to experience in what a great way Jehovah, the Great Potter, can mold human vessels, just as a potter molds clay.” With those words T. Galfas, the first in a symposium of seven speakers, began to address seventy Christian ministers who were graduating from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.—Isa. 64:8.
In addition to the graduates, close to two thousand of their friends and relatives gathered on Sunday, September 13, at an assembly hall in New York for the graduation of the forty-ninth class of Gilead. And what a joyful and instructive time it was. The day passed all too quickly!
As its name suggests, the school these graduates attended is not designed to provide a general secular education, but rather it specializes in preparing Christian ministers to be missionaries. Thus, the speaker, one of the school’s instructors, added: “When you accepted the invitation to come to Gilead School, you were, in effect, telling Jehovah, ‘I want to be molded into a type of vessel that you can use for a special purpose, for missionary work.’”
The students were reminded that they had received much “molding” during the five-month course, and would continue to be “molded” by God through “learning, counsel, correction and blessing,” as all Christians are. But also the graduates could look back on their lives and see that even prior to coming to this school they had made numerous beneficial adjustments, many of which directly helped them to meet the requirements for attending this Bible school.
Some Requirements for Gilead
Those invited to Gilead are not youths who want to become ministers, but are men and women between twenty-one and forty years of age who are already ministers with a couple of years’ experience as full-time preachers. One Swedish student in the class was a young girl when she set Gilead School as an objective. She was urged along in that direction by her cousin who became a missionary. in 1962 this young woman started preaching full time in Sweden. Six years later she was appointed as a special representative of the Watch Tower Society. Hence, even though foreign missionary work was her goal, she was proving to be a diligent worker in her home country. And she knew that this special activity would, as she said, “make it easier to adjust to the schedule of a foreign missionary.” Over fifteen years after setting missionary service as her goal, she was delighted to be assigned to Bolivia.
The graduating class contained twenty-two married couples, who, in accord with Gilead’s requirement, had been married for at least two years. Thus each husband-and-wife team had had time to get adjusted to married life as well as to decide whether they wanted a family or could, without family obligations, be missionaries in another country. After nearly two years of married life and while serving together as special ministers nearly three thousand miles from their families, one Canadian couple applied for Gilead. By then they knew that they would not be overcome by “homesickness” if assigned to a distant place. Furthermore, they saw that their health was good, not being dependent on some specialized medical treatment. They felt certain they could meet the challenge of a new climate, different food and a foreign way of life. How they radiated happiness as they received their assignments to the Republic of Congo!
A vital requirement for one interested in Gilead training is a good working knowledge of English. At the school most of the students study the new language that they will use in their assignment. But aside from the language classes, all of the other school classes and lectures are in English.
One of the graduating students from Germany had, some years before, analyzed his prospects for becoming a missionary. He seemed physically and emotionally prepared to make the large adjustments that would be necessary. He had been baptized for over three years, was a zealous full-time preacher and was willing and able to go to any country the Watch Tower Society would designate. But he realized that his knowledge of English was limited. To improve it he listened each day to an English-language news broadcast on the radio. Also, he began to study in English one of the Society’s large Bible-study aids. It was slow going, and he was constantly consulting a dictionary, but he progressed. Now he speaks English very well and had no difficulty in understanding all of the class discussions and homework. During the course he gained a basic knowledge of still another language, Spanish, and he was well pleased to be assigned to Honduras, to help in the preaching there.
Those attending the graduation could tell from what the speakers said that the school instructors had real interest in the graduates. The school’s registrar pointed out that many things would ‘take place in their assignments that they should look at as the reproof of life that would help them to gain heart, which is even more valuable than knowledge.’ (Prov. 15:31, 32) Another instructor stressed their continuing not only to love what is good but also to hate what is bad. (Ps. 45:7) Two overseers from the Society’s headquarters addressed the students too. One urged them to be “all-weather shepherds” who would not abandon the “sheep” in the face of hardship—such as the problem of getting used to a new language or a different climate, new types of food or customs of life. (Ezek. 34:1-14) The second encouraged them not to judge people in their assignments by outward appearances—economic conditions or secular education—but to look for people who have a good heart, which is what God searches.—2 Cor. 10:7.
The symposium reached its climax with the addresses by the vice-president and president of the Watchtower Society. The former highlighted that, as with the disciple Timothy, God and Jesus will be watching over the missionaries to see that they fulfill their duties and to aid them. (2 Tim. 4:1) And the president, N. H. Knorr, nicely compared the expansion of the evangelizing work in the first century C.E. with its expansion in this century.
In the afternoon the students enacted a moving Biblical drama. It showed a modern-day family in which a young man whose parents were Jehovah’s witnesses displayed a lackadaisical spirit. Though he went to Christian meetings and engaged in no wrongdoing, his whole life was not involved in doing God’s will. Then the drama turned to the Bible account of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz and proved how intensely interested they were in Jehovah’s purposes. The drama’s message was clear—that it is vital to let Jehovah’s purposes guide one’s way of life. How appropriate it was that the students should help to present such an important thought, for all in attendance knew that the graduates had let God’s purposes guide their way of life, as shown by their meeting the requirements to be sent out as missionaries.
[Picture on page 24]
Forty-ninth Graduating Class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead
In the list below, rows are numbered from front to back and names are listed from left to right in each row.
(1) Norton, L.; Schwarzrock, E.; Major, D.; McNutt, D.; MacDonald, C.; Janzen, S.; Gustavsson, S.; Böde, A.; Barnes, M.; (2) Barnes, J.; Palmer, N.; Gravedoni, L.; Sanderson, G.; Bleckmann, A.; Klauer, E.; Hamrén, E.; Rohatynsky, R.; Dultz, G.; Maldonado, M.; (3) Klapschi, K.; Gravedoni, D.; Mitchell, T.; Abke, G.; Christiansen, E.; Davis, G.; Hansson, V.; Jensen, E.; Lomker, G.; (4) Davis, P.; Norton, G.; Deadmond, D.; Carpenter, R.; Carlsson, A.; Carlsson, B.; Gustavsson, Ö.; Jakobsen, K.; Lomker, P.; Nielsen, M.; (5) Wallace, J.; Schoenhardt, G.; Millman, J.; Kirschmann, A.; Hermann, L.; Hummel, P.; Clauss, S.; McNutt, M.; Nielsen, J.; Christiansen, O.; (6) Leydig, J.; Byron, P.; Millman, D.; Janzen, H.; Raju, V.; Griffin, J.; Hummel, S.; Jones, C.; Peyton, B.; Poburski, D.; Major, L.; (7) Hamrén, T.; Böde, G.; Zinke, W.; Schwarzrock, A.; Deadmond, G.; Clauss, N.; Jones, R.; Rohatynsky, V.; Peyton, J.; Carlson, J.; Olson, T.