Gilead Graduation Stresses Expansion
PUSH on with continued preaching of the good news of the Kingdom! Step up the disciple-making work! This was the dominant spirit of the Gilead missionary school’s fifty-fourth graduation exercises, held at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall in New York city, Monday, March 5, 1973.
The forty-nine students had come from six countries to attend the School. All successfully completed the intensive five-month course, each receiving a diploma of merit before an audience of about 2,000 friends and relatives. They were assigned to twenty-three lands, including Canada, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, Chile, countries in Africa, New Zealand, the Philippines and other islands.
The keynote was struck by F.W. Franz, vice-president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, when he posed the questions, ‘Have Jehovah’s witnesses reached their peak, now that the end of this system of things is so near?’ ‘Will the trend be downhill from now on?’ Not at all, was the emphatic answer. Then he quoted from Colossians chapter 1, citing the example of the first-century Christians and their forward-looking view. He pointed out that they did not diminish their activities because Jerusalem’s end was near—they zealously increased in vigorous preaching.
N. H. Knorr, the Watchtower Society’s president, then further encouraged the prospective missionaries as he spoke on the subject “Your Faith Is Proved by Your Lips.” He drew heavily on the Bible letter of James, showing the need of Christian works in order to prove faith. The many examples of faith found in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, chapter 11, all made it clear that those approved for their faith were energetic in works to God’s praise and for the good of their fellowman.
Gilead an Effective Instrument
The Watchtower Bible School of Gilead has received international attention since its establishment in February 1943. It has graduated 5,332 students, a large number of them from foreign countries. These have been sent to well over a hundred lands, including remote islands of the sea. In many of these places there were none of Jehovah’s witnesses, or only a few. The graduates, however, followed the apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy: “The things you heard from me with the support of many witnesses, these things commit to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.”—2 Tim. 2:2.
The training received at the School enabled the graduates to teach the good news to the natives in their own languages. The response was marvelous, tens of thousands hearing with open hearts, changing their lives, often from pagan customs, forsaking their gods, their immoral or polygamous life, and dedicating themselves to Jehovah in true worship. (Col. 3:5-11) The graduates trained them in preaching and teaching, in congregational organization and in arranging local and even international assemblies.
Evidence that God’s spirit has backed up the work of the Gilead missionaries is seen in a simple comparison. In 1945, before missionaries from the School had had time to make their influence felt, there were, in the world, 127,478 of Jehovah’s witnesses actively proclaiming the Kingdom. Of these, 65,207 were residents of lands outside the United States. Twenty-seven years later, in 1972, there were, in the world, 1,596,442 engaged in this preaching work, 1,178,203 of these in countries outside the United States. This represents, for the world, an elevenfold increase, and for countries outside the United States, to which the missionaries were primarily sent, more than seventeenfold!
Of course, to Jehovah the Almighty God goes the credit for this expansion of his Kingdom interests in the earth, for, as the apostle stated: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6) But the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead has indeed been an instrument in Jehovah’s hand, directed by his spirit, in training missionaries to go to far-flung fields. It has equipped them to have a hand in gathering together and training nuclei of Kingdom proclaimers so that they, in turn, have helped hundreds of thousands of others to become strong servants of Jehovah.
The Motivation to Be Missionaries
What moves people, most of them young and healthy, to take up a work in a strange land, often to sacrifice the comfortable life they could have in their own country? In the new land they have to learn a new language, call on the people and study with interested persons in their homes, patiently take time to help them, often teaching these meek ones to read and write. Yet they are eager to do this. Why?
These missionaries take seriously the words of Christ, who said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) They see the great spiritual need the people in these nations have, who have been “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd” by their religious leaders. (Matt. 9:36) Typical of the attitude of the students, one of them expresses himself:
“My wife and I began to think seriously about what we were doing with our lives after hearing a talk by Brother Knorr, in which he discussed how Witnesses in countries such as the United States could be caught up with easy living, performing only token service in the field ministry. We began to ask ourselves, What are we looking to as our future? Here we were, with no family responsibilities, working, both of us, yet wondering on payday which bills would get paid. Yes, we were seemingly satisfied to continue in our routine, spending some time in preaching each month, but certainly in a position to expand our service to Jehovah.
“We prayerfully considered the matter of entering the pioneer [full-time preaching] work and, a few months later, I had quit my full-time job, we had moved out of our apartment and began to engage in pioneer service September 1, 1967. We looked for a place where there was a real need for more Kingdom publishers, and moved to a town in Kentucky.
“In our five years there we met a real challenge, but it was a great aid in our spiritual growth, teaching us to lean upon Jehovah and trust in him. We worked hard to qualify by increasing our preaching and teaching activity, and were finally invited to Gilead School’s 54th Class, that began in October, 1972.
“The School has provided a faith-inspiring experience, giving us a broad background of Bible history and prophecy as well as deep, meaty information as to the doctrines taught in God’s Word. It is so good to see that our efforts as individuals are a part of the whole work being accomplished to Jehovah’s praise. Thus we find great satisfaction in our labors.”
Many of the students said that, from the time of their learning God’s purposes, it had been their desire to attend Gilead School, not primarily for the education it offers, but so that they could effectively serve as missionaries, helping as many as possible to come out of the darkness of this world to God’s marvelous light.
[Picture on page 24]
Fifty-fourth 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) Breyer, S.; Burgos, S.; Fix, N.; Toguchi, Y.; Ploeger, B.; Salazar, R.; Niebergall. A.; Toy, V. (2) Tiganish, D.; Jess, C.; Myers, J.; Clair, B.; Bean, D.; Makin, M.; Richter, I.; Andrews, M. (3) Mannings, I.; Pichurski, O.; Jess, K.; Smallwood, R.; Pompl, P.; Fry, C.; Angelo, Y.; Madsen, M. (4) Niebergall, W.; Salazar, R.; Garza, A.; Mihank, L.; Malpass, D.; Makin, R.; Breyer, M.; Skantz, D. (5) Nickerson, G.; Latham, C.; Myers, J.; Bean, R.; Burgos, J.; Angelo, M.; Kasten, W.; Fix, T. (6) Ploeger, S.; Andrews, P.; Richter, F.; Shanafelt, G.; Tiganish, R.; LeVenton, L.; Oehm, R.; Mroz, T.; Sørensen, N.