Gilead’s Fifty-eighth Class—Willing and Appreciative
SUNDAY, March 2, 1975, was a special day in the lives of twenty-five of Jehovah’s witnesses who made up the fifty-eighth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. This was their graduation day, and exercises took place at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall in Queens, New York. The activities included several addresses to the students, a fine musical program and two Bible dramas.
What is Gilead School? Why do people seek to benefit from its course of instruction?
Gilead is a school for training missionaries of Jehovah’s witnesses. Since its founding in 1943, this school has prepared more than 5,500 persons for Christian missionary work in faraway lands. As a result, Jehovah’s witnesses are now located in 207 lands and islands of the sea. Brief discussions with some of the students of the fifty-eighth class revealed their willingness to take on additional responsibilities and their appreciation for what they had learned.
“Though I had been in full-time preaching activity for years,” noted one student, “I wanted to do more for Jehovah, to be really ‘whole-souled,’ as the apostle Paul said Christians should be.” (See Colossians 3:23.) Another commented: “When you look at all that Jehovah has done for you, the only thing to do is to serve him as fully as you can.”
Another factor that motivated these students to take up missionary work was awareness of the spiritual needs of others. “Ever since I first learned about the true God, Jehovah,” explained one student, “I wondered how people in remote villages would gain this lifesaving knowledge. I was convinced that missionary work would enable me to get right down to earth with such people, to help them.”
Some of the students put forth special efforts to be able to attend Gilead. For example, a German-speaking couple had to learn English first. The wife relates: “At the beginning it took me seven hours to study a single article in the English edition of The Watchtower. I could not express even a sentence correctly in English. But gradually I progressed. I remember a humorous experience when I asked a person: ‘Who do you think God’s greatest enemy is?’ When he replied, ‘The elephant,’ I was puzzled. Then I realized that I had said ‘animal’ instead of ‘enemy.’”
The responsibility that these new missionaries were undertaking was emphasized at the graduation program. During his talk to the students, Max Larson, overseer of the Watchtower Society’s Brooklyn factory, pointed out: “Your responsibility in your missionary assignments is to engage in a spiritual building program. You must work to build spirituality into the minds of the people. . . . Your building material will be, not wood and pitch, as in the case of Noah when constructing the ark, but the Word of truth, the Holy Bible.”
To fulfill such an assignment calls for a broad knowledge of the Bible. The program of instruction at Gilead is designed to meet that need. It includes a course in Bible history that spans the entire period from man’s creation to the end of the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ. Coverage of Bible doctrines takes in subjects such as sin, restoration, different covenants and the “presence” of Jesus Christ. A special feature of the Gilead curriculum is a book-by-book, sometimes chapter-by-chapter, study of the entire Bible.
The fifty-eighth class took their studies seriously. “I think this class has proved to be a big question,” observed their instructor, U. V. Glass. “What I mean is that I think this class has asked more questions per person than almost any previous class.” He noted that this was good; it revealed that the students desired to become firmly rooted in Bible truth.
But can a satisfactory study of the whole Bible take place in just five months? “Though the coverage was rapid,” observed one student, “the main ideas stay with you. Now I am able to fit together important Bible teachings like pieces in a mosaic.” Another said: “We’ve gotten the bulk of it. Instead of ‘learning it all,’ we have received a foundation, a marvelous platform on which to build.” Yet another commented: “This program of study has helped me to have greater appreciation of Bible truth and deeper love for Jehovah.”
The students also appreciated living and working with the Watchtower Society’s headquarters staff, known as “the Bethel family.” One said of this experience: “When you live and work with more than a thousand others, you come to realize that things do not always go your way. You learn not to become disturbed at small things but to give a little.” Another remarked: “We know that the Society has provided a place for all the missionaries in which to live in our various assignments. Bethel life has helped us to adjust to living closely with others.”
In a letter of appreciation read aloud at the graduation, the class expressed gratitude for “the spiritual thinking of the younger brothers we met [at Bethel] as well as the faithful service of the older ones, this making a fine impact on our lives.”
The students radiated happiness as they presented a musical program that included classical, Middle Eastern and Oriental selections. Following this, they staged two Bible dramas. The first depicted the childhood of the prophet Samuel, emphasizing the need for parents to train their children in godly principles early in life. The second drama dealt with Noah and his family as they prepared the ark for survival of the global flood.
The graduation program furnished opportunity for joyous reflection on the previous months of hard work and study. But by no means did the students view graduating from Gilead as a final goal. Milton G. Henschel, a director of the Watch Tower Society and a member of the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses, emphasized this in his address to the students:
“Your graduation day is the end of something and the beginning of something. The Latin root for the word ‘graduate’ means ‘step by step.’ You have taken a step forward in God’s service by coming to Gilead. And now you are going to take another forward step into missionary service.”
The twenty-five students of Gilead’s fifty-eighth class came from four different countries and received assignments to thirteen different lands. Referring to their willingness to serve as missionaries, Henschel concluded his discourse by saying: “We . . . feel about you as the apostle Paul felt about Christians at Philippi when he wrote: ‘For I am confident of this very thing, that he who started a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.’”—Phil. 1:6.
[Picture on page 24]
Fifty-eighth 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) Rühle, E.; Rühle, D.; Woodcox, L.; Novak, T.; Chu, T.; Bisang, M.; Alford, J.; Rossmann, A. (2) Acher, H.; Tucker, B.; Hulinsky, G.; Spratling, B.; Rossmann, G.; Jeub. H.; Bisang, R.; Novak, P. (3) Spratling, J.; Tucker. W.; Hulinsky, D.; Woodcox, G.; Fierro, R.; Merrill, A.; Slutz, D.; Khawaja, E.; Walker, J.