“Witnesses . . . to the Most Distant Part of the Earth”
“FOR THIS I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) In these words Jesus pointed to his principal activity when on earth.
He trained his followers to do the same work. After his death and resurrection, Jesus indicated to his disciples the scope that this witnessing work would attain, saying: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
With regard to the fulfillment of this prediction, Sunday, September 7, 1975, was an important date. This was graduation day for the twenty-six students of the 59th class of Gilead, the missionary training school for Jehovah’s witnesses. Since its beginning in 1943, Gilead has trained and sent out thousands of missionaries to remote areas of the earth. As a result, the Witnesses are now active in 207 lands and islands of the sea.
This class was an international one, with students from eight different lands and islands of the sea. Before coming to school they had spent an average of ten years in preaching activities. Upon graduating, the students received assignments to twelve different countries.
What motivates persons to volunteer for missionary training at Gilead? A Danish student observed: “The Scriptures, at 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20, state: ‘You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price.’ We have dedicated, not a part, but all of our lives to Jehovah. It has always been my attitude that, if Jehovah wanted me to do something, I would do it if nothing stood in the way.”
A student from the United States expressed another reason for wanting to be a missionary: “I like people and enjoy working with people. Missionary work furnishes grand opportunities to show love for Jehovah and to ‘widen out,’ as the apostle Paul puts it, in displaying love for fellow humans.” (2 Cor. 6:13 ) Similarly a student from Puerto Rico remarked: “If you move away from a congregation in an area where there are many of Jehovah’s witnesses, there is always someone to take over for you. But this is not the case in many foreign fields. When you see the great need for help in these places, it makes it worth all the sacrifice in the world.”
Gilead’s course of instruction takes only five months. But what an action-packed period it is! During that time the entire Bible is read and studied book by book. World history is scrutinized in the light of Bible prophecy. Special attention centers on God’s promise to bless all mankind by means of Abraham’s “seed.” (Gen. 12:1-3; 22:18) And the course includes detailed examination of prophecies concerning the “parousia” (presence) of Christ.
Did the students appreciate the instruction received? A young woman from Greece commented: “No other school on earth can help one learn what one really needs from God’s standpoint. This course was the most important thing, indeed the ‘stepping stone,’ of my life.” Another student said: “The kindness and tact of our instructors made my wife and me determined to develop these qualities ourselves. Having been a schoolteacher, I appreciated that we were never put ‘on the spot’ in an embarrassing way. When we get to our assignment in Zaïre, we want to display the same patience and kindness with people to whom we bring the good news.”
Many of the students made favorable comments about the opportunity of living together with some 1,700 of their fellow Christians who make up the Brooklyn Bethel family. One commented: “Being here has definitely helped me to develop Christian qualities. Due to living together with so many fellow Christians, every day has afforded opportunity to show that we are looking out for the interests of others, rather than putting ourselves first. For me this has been a ‘crash course’ in being considerate.”
The graduation program at the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Queens, New York, was attended by the students, their relatives and friends, and by members of the Bethel family. The first portion of the graduation exercises featured several short talks to the class.
In one of these, E. A. Dunlap, registrar of Gilead, pointed out that speakers at most of the world’s graduation exercises fail to give the students a real purpose in life. Often the graduates sense the difficulties of just keeping afloat in this world. “But how is it with you students of this 59th class of Gilead?” asked Dunlap. He urged that they not miss the purpose of their special training, namely, “to go to a foreign land and carry the message of Bible truth to its inhabitants.”
Another speaker, G. M. Couch, overseer of the Bethel home, asked: “Will your future days in missionary assignments be as pleasant as the past ten years or so during which you have served Jehovah? Did you ever consider that missionary work may be even more pleasant? In some of your missionary territories people will invite you in at nearly every house and permit you to speak to them about the kingdom of God.”
Among others who addressed the students was F. W. Franz, vice-president of the Watch Tower Society. He pointed out that Christian missionary activity went on in the first century by divine appointment. Likewise today Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have directed missionaries of Jehovah’s witnesses to go to remote parts of the earth. In conclusion of the first part of the program, N. H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Society and of the School, emphasized that Bible principles should have a beneficial effect on the students’ personal lives. “Our conduct day by day, the way we deal with others and the speech we employ,” he observed, “speak loudly about the truth that God has given to us. Our very lives back up the Word of God.”
Following a brief intermission, the class presented an entertaining program that featured French, Danish and German songs, instrumental music and some original interludes. Then the students put on two Bible dramas. The first one portrayed events in the days of the Israelite king Josiah. Just as Josiah rooted out appendages of false worship from ancient Israel, so the audience was urged to get rid of any lingering fascination for the unchristian thinking and practices of the present dying system of things. The second drama stressed the need for all Christians, especially elders, to “take the lead” in showing honor to one another.—Rom. 12:10.
After some concluding remarks by N. H. Knorr, the program ended with prayer and song. The events of the day left the students more determined than ever to take their place among the thousands of missionaries who are serving as “witnesses” of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ to the most distant part of the earth.—Isa. 43:10, 12; Acts 1:8.
[Picture on page 24]
59th Class September 1975
Fifty-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) Dohn, E.; Monnett, G.; Karathanassis, M.; Lundquist, J.; Fossett, P. (2) Horton, M.; Lucas, J.; Boulais, D.; Angerhuber, E.; Grøndrup. A. (3) Sanchez, P.; Pedersen, R.; Ayrault, Y.; Karathanassis, C.; Angerhuber, H. (4) Fosset, M.; Smoot, M.; Sanchez, M.; Grøndrup, M.; Dohn, T. (5) Fourcault, J.; Horton, W.; Monnett, J.; Lundquist, B.; Devito, J.; Lucas, L.