Response to the Need for Workers
SEPTEMBER 10, 1973, dawned bright and clear in New York city. It was a day filled with anticipation for a group of fifty young men and women graduating from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. They had completed their twenty-week training, designed to equip them to serve as missionaries in distant lands.
What had motivated them to apply for Gilead School? Was it love of adventure? No. Already before coming to school, the students of the fifty-fifth class came to appreciate the import of Jesus’ words: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”—Matt. 9:37.
Commenting on why he made missionary service his goal, a twenty-nine-year-old student from Sweden remarked: ‘What I learned from the Bible gave me a different outlook on life and made it meaningful. So I wanted to help others. Jehovah’s witnesses in Sweden can care well for the interested people there. But since I was in position to go to another land where there are few Witnesses, I wanted to go and serve.’
A Danish couple in their thirties at first were somewhat apprehensive about serving as missionaries in a foreign land. The wife observed: ‘But when we read about the great need for more workers in other lands, our conscience told us that it was right to respond. People put up with hardships to find gold. Doctors have gone to developing countries and made these their home. Why should not a servant of Jehovah be willing to do the same when he can aid others to find the way leading to everlasting life?’
It took advance effort for this couple to come to Gilead School with the prospect of serving as missionaries. About twenty-two years earlier the husband had studied English in school for about a year but did not really know the language. His wife had no knowledge of English. Therefore both of them took an eleven-month correspondence course and were able to learn enough English to qualify for missionary training at Gilead.
These and other graduates of the fifty-fifth class were certainly not novices. They had already worked hard in teaching Bible truths to people in their own countries. On the average, members of the class had been doing so for more than eleven years. But all felt that Gilead training had equipped them to serve even better.
Here are some of their observations: ‘The instruction appealed to the heart. It strengthened our decision to serve in a foreign assignment.’ ‘Association with people from many lands at the headquarters of the Watchtower Society broadened our view of the human family. A foreign assignment no longer seemed distant. Our association deepened heartfelt concern for other people.’ ‘Going through the whole Bible in twenty weeks was very helpful. It impressed upon us the efforts put forth by others, like the apostle Paul, moving us to want to imitate them.’
Just as the course had been instructive, the discourses delivered by the speakers during the graduation exercises, beginning at 2:00 p.m., contained practical counsel.
U. V. Glass, one of the instructors, drew on the example of ancient Israel to encourage the graduates not to tire out nor to give way to complaint.
The registrar of the school, E. A. Dunlap, pointed out that their missionary assignment was a special ministry, one that they should not be walking out on without valid reason. Were they to do so, they could be grieving God’s spirit.
M. G. Henschel, branch overseer for the United States, realistically spoke of the new and sometimes difficult conditions they might encounter in their missionary assignments. He admonished them to maintain their sense of humor and urged them to be observant of the customs of the people in their assignment, allowing what they might see to impel them to preach.
Supervisor of printing facilities of the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn, Max Larson, stressed the need to gain the confidence of the people to whom they would minister, being gentle and tender as is a nursing mother with her baby.—1 Thess. 2:7, 8.
G. M. Couch, supervisor of the Watchtower Society’s Bethel home, noted that as missionaries they might someday experience shortage of physical food but would always have spiritual food in abundance. He encouraged them to imitate Jesus when he said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.”—John 4:34.
In his remarks to the graduating class, F. W. Franz, vice-president of the Watchtower Society, discussed a man only briefly mentioned in the Bible, Jabez, showing that in the brief account about him there were valuable principles to be discerned. (1 Chron. 4:9, 10) Jabez prayed for the peaceful enlargement of his territory, evidently so that it might accommodate more God-fearing people. He realized that he could not do this in his own strength, but earnestly prayed for God’s help. Applying the example, F. W. Franz urged the graduates to work for the enlargement of their territory in an individual sense by laboring zealously in making disciples.
N. H. Knorr, president of the Watchtower Society, highlighted the importance of appreciation. He encouraged the graduates to appreciate Bible knowledge, esteeming it highly. Such knowledge provides a solid basis for faith and therefore he appropriately counseled them to keep their faith strong.
After an intermission the audience thoroughly enjoyed the remaining portion of the program presented by the graduating class. This included music and a stimulating Bible drama portraying the powerful activities of the apostle Paul.
With the close of the program, the graduates knew that they would soon be on their way to serve in twenty-four different lands. Thousands had gone before them, setting a fine example for them to imitate. A case in point is that of the missionaries serving in South Vietnam. Though given an opportunity to leave when things were difficult there, they remained. One of the missionaries assigned to Saigon related the following:
“It was an interesting stay. From the roof of our missionary home, we could see the battles taking place. We could see the dive bombers drop their bombs. We could see fires all over the city. And right in front of our missionary home, people by the thousands were fleeing for their lives, as the Communists were advancing in various parts of the city. One day seven of us were walking down the street, when a terrorist came by and threw a plastic bomb. It hit about twenty feet from us. We could feel the concussion of the air and we all fell to the ground.”
By continuing to imitate the faith of missionaries who have stuck to their assignments despite problems, the graduates of the fifty-fifth class will be demonstrating that they have indeed responded to the need for more ‘workers in the harvest.’
[Picture on page 24]
Fifty-fifth 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) McFarland, K.; Weiss, B.; Hepworth, B.; Sorrels, D.; Taylor, B.; Hernandez, A.; Jung, I.; Labatzki, C.; Padgett, C. (2) Archibald, R.; Sekomoto, D.; Mølck, A.; Chapa, M.; Patterson, I.; Müller, M.; Shinsato, M.; Padgett, T. (3) Patterson, T.; Fook, G.; Hepworth, D.; Frandsen, E.; Rieman, A.; Nako, G.; Hernandez, R.; Melinder, A. (4) Müller, W.; Ellmark, L.; McFarland, T.; Glinka, U.; Hunter, T.; Labatzki, W.; Jensen, H.; Tabor, G. (5) Mølck, E.; Andrews, W.; Glinka, U.; Weiss, R.; Kutschke, C.; Makaike, E.; Frandsen, V.; Martensen, S. (6) Kutschke, H.; Fourcault, H.; Jung, A.; Tabor, M.; Taylor, B.; Sorrels, A.; Harrison, R.; Hunter, D.; Ray, S.