What a Witness Gilead Has Heaped Up!
MARCH 7 of this year was Graduation Day for the fiftieth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. The exercises were held at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall in New York city. It was a notable occasion because the 5,000 mark was passed in the number of the School’s graduates. All together, a total of 5,037 have now received Gilead’s special missionary training.
The all-day graduation program was charged with feeling. A number of speakers, including the president and vice-president of the Watch Tower Society, N. H. Knorr and F. W. Franz, gave fine counsel from the Scriptures. Each of the fifty graduates then received the School’s Certificate of Merit along with an assignment of service in the foreign field. They had come from eight countries and were being sent to nineteen.
During the afternoon the graduates themselves put on a fine musical program, as well as a moving Bible drama. The drama, built on the theme “Jehovah Blesses the Loyal Ones,” furnished a fitting climax to a day that will long be remembered by the 1,999 who were privileged to attend.
For many present, the graduation of this fiftieth class brought back memories of twenty-eight years ago when the School was first opened on February 1, 1943, in the midst of World War II. On that occasion N. H. Knorr, the School’s president, outlined the purpose the School hoped to accomplish. It was, to quote him, for “the preparing of ministers who, by the Lord’s grace, will, in all parts of the world, pile up a HEAP OF WITNESS for the Kingdom and for the vindication of Jehovah’s name. . . . We believe that, true to its name [Gilead], a ‘heap of witness’ will go forth from this place to all parts of the world and that such witness will stand as a monument to the glory of God.”
This announced purpose was indeed a high and noble one, but could it ever be accomplished? Some may have wondered when graduates of that first class were sent only to Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico during 1943-1944. But in the 1945 service year other graduates of the School went to Alaska, Brazil, British Honduras, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama and Uruguay.
As more completed their studies at Gilead they moved out to Africa, Europe, Asia and to many island territories around the world. So by the end of 1949 they were busy witnessing concerning God’s kingdom in more than eighty different countries. During the 1950’s more were sent to nearly fifty additional countries, and since 1960 another thirty countries have benefited from the presence of these specially trained ministers. All together, Gilead graduates had been sent to 159 countries by the end of the 1970 service year.
In some forty of these countries very little if any witnessing was done prior to the arrival of these missionaries. Here and there a few isolated proclaimers of God’s kingdom were sometimes found, but the giving of a thorough witness in a well-organized manner dates from the arrival of the Gilead graduates. These lands included Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ivory Coast, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Israel, Korea, Laos, Malagasy Republic, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Peru, Portugal, Senegal, Singapore, Venezuela and Vietnam.
The “heap of witness” in some of these countries has been nothing short of phenomenal. Take Nicaragua as an example of this growth. When two of the School’s graduates first arrived in 1945 there were none of Jehovah’s witnesses in the country. But in this past year there was a peak of 1,446 reporting as active ministers, together with 21 missionaries. Or consider what happened in Korea. In 1949, when two graduates of Gilead arrived, only 13 Kingdom publishers were there. But what a growth in the last twenty years—12,267 Witnesses reporting along with 18 missionaries in 1970!
There are still a number of countries where Gilead-trained ministers have not been able to enter. Russia and her satellites behind the Iron Curtain are very much opposed to activity of even their own citizens in making announcement of Jehovah’s glorious Messianic kingdom as mankind’s only hope for peace and prosperity.
At present Gilead graduates are serving in only 124 countries. This is due in large measure to the hostile attitude of some governments toward the activity of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, which attitude is demonstrated in their expelling the missionaries already there. One instance of this took place in Communist China when the two graduates of the School who went to Shanghai in 1947 were arrested in 1958 on trumped-up charges. After serving prison terms of five and seven years, they were expelled from continental China. Gilead missionaries have also been put out of Burma, Cameroon, Gabon, Malagasy Republic, Malawi, Zambia and other countries, to the shame of those governments.
When the first class of Gilead graduated on June 23, 1943, N. H. Knorr warned that such experiences could be expected by these envoys of Christ’s Kingdom rule. “The road ahead,” he declared, “may yet be long; it may be hard. We are sure it will be hard, but it may not be too long. It will not be as long as Abraham had to go, nor Moses, nor the other prophets . . . But whatever time that may be, let the trying of your faith work patience, endurance;. . . that you may be found blameless in integrity, doing the Lord’s will at all times, . . . never wanting in zeal, devotion and obedient effort.”
President Knorr then referred to what the Bible writer James (1:5) said about wisdom. “‘If any of you lack wisdom’ under the trying conditions that are bound to come upon you, have faith in the Source of wisdom and appeal to Him.” Interestingly, at the recent graduation President Knorr again chose wisdom as his theme, from the same book of James, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”—Jas. 3:13.
What a joy it is for the more than half of the 5,000 graduates who are still in their assignments, when they see how Jehovah has richly blessed this preaching work! Especially is this so for the more than thirty-five of the ninety-four who were in the first class of Gilead, and who are still sticking to their assignments. They have seen the growth from fewer than 110,000 of Jehovah’s praisers world wide in 1943 to thirteen times that number in 1970—1,483,430!
To be sure, this growth has not been solely through the efforts of the graduates. A more realistic measure of the School’s effect on the work would be the tremendous expansion in the number of countries that have been reached by the Witnesses. In 1943 there were only 55 countries reporting, compared with the 206 countries in 1970! What “a HEAP OF WITNESS for the Kingdom and for the vindication of Jehovah’s name” this has been! By the power and blessing of Jehovah, Gilead School is certainly fulfilling its purpose.
[Picture on page 24]
Fiftieth 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) Schmidt, H.; Theiser, R.; Jepsen, I.; Shiroma, J.; Shiroma, S.; Jakobsen, B.; Hake, U.; Claesson, B.; (2) Tsutsui, E.; Sjoberg, K.; Pauschack, M.; Kober, I.; Lathrop, T.; Bleckmann, G.; Schlosser, I.; Hansen, M. (3) Pauschack, K.; Hoder, A.; Wedig, M.; Crepaz, D.; Jeppesen, K.; Jespersen, A.; Luddecke, U.; Chewning, J.; (4) Fleck, G.; Buis, J.; Lathrop, G.; Wedig, N.; Weyand, J.; Brunn, F.; Crepaz, L.; Schlosser, W.; Claesson, E. (5) Buis, J.; Foerster, R.; Duncan, R.; Schachner, W.; Rasonsky, A.; Neilsen, N.; Chewning, M.; Gournon, W. (6) Carr, M.; Jespersen, H.; Seidl, H.; Hockett, J.; Selling, U.; Hilton, J.; Zillner, C.; McNeil, L.; Morris, D.