THE year was 1943. World War II was raging and many people may have thought it impractical for Jehovah’s Witnesses to begin training missionaries for service throughout the earth. Nevertheless, that was being done at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, which opened on February 1, 1943. Some months later, the School’s first graduates were heading for missionary assignments in various lands. Why were they being sent forth?
The basic reason is embodied in the words of the Christian apostle Paul, who wrote: “‘Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’ However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent forth?”—Rom. 10:13-15.
Gilead’s Sixtieth Class
It was with that very objective that twenty-five men and women came to Brooklyn, New York, from six countries to attend the sixtieth class of Gilead School. For them, Sunday, March 7, 1976, was especially significant. Their graduation exercises then took place at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall, Long Island City, New York.
During the graduation program, one member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses emphasized the fact that these Gilead School graduates were being sent forth to preach. Reference was made to the apostle Paul’s words cited earlier. The speaker also made the significant point that the greatest privilege any person can have is to receive an assignment in Jehovah God’s service.
On to Distant Lands
Before long, these happy graduates—some married, others single—would be taking up their assignments to preach in twelve lands. No, they would not be traveling to faraway places for the sake of adventure. Yet, they will find their assignments to be absorbing, even intriguing.
For instance, two of these graduates are young men assigned to preach in the “Land of Frost and Fire.” That title has been applied to Iceland because of its glaciers, geysers, hot springs and volcanoes. Though this island nation is situated in the North Atlantic just south of the Arctic Circle, and the inland plateau is cold and barren, the Gulf Stream warms the lowlands along the southern and western coasts and portions of the northern coast.
The two Gilead graduates will serve as missionaries in Reykjavík, the country’s capital. Over half of Iceland’s 216,628 inhabitants live in or near this southwestern city. During the year ending August 31, 1975, a peak of 157 Kingdom proclaimers was reached in Iceland. Hence, the ratio of Jehovah’s Witnesses to population was 1 to 1,380. Incidentally, one of these Gilead graduates is of Icelandic descent and speaks that tongue. The other is from the Netherlands, and he will have to learn the language. But he optimistically says, “It’s a challenge.”
To the southeast, in mainland Europe, is Spain. For many years, Jehovah’s Witnesses operated there without legal recognition. But in July 1970 the Spanish government legalized their organization in that country under a new law of religious liberty. During the years since then, the Witnesses in that land have been making intense efforts to preach the good news.
A married couple of Gilead School’s sixtieth class are “definitely pleased” with their assignment to serve as missionaries in Spain. Originally from Germany, they will have to learn Spanish, but will do so gladly, as this will give them a good opportunity to fulfill their great desire to help people. During the 1975 service year, a peak of 30,838 witnesses of Jehovah preached among Spain’s 34,196,245 inhabitants—a ratio of 1 to 1,109.
One of the young women in this graduating class has been assigned to serve as a missionary in a West African land that got its name from the valuable trade carried on there for years. Late in the fifteenth century, the French began trading for ivory in this coastal country. Can you name it? Yes, this Gilead graduate will serve in the Ivory Coast.
What a contrast with Iceland! The Ivory Coast is a tropical land, the home of 4,100,000 people. Though French is the official tongue, over sixty languages are spoken by the country’s various tribal groups. Religions are diversified, too. Some 23 percent of the populace are Moslems, and about 12 percent belong to the religions of Christendom. However, the majority of Ivorians practice centuries-old tribal forms of worship. The latest published peak of Kingdom proclaimers in the Ivory Coast was 1,021. So, with a ratio of 1 to 4,016 persons, Jehovah’s Witnesses have much to do there in preaching the good news.
One married couple of Gilead’s sixtieth class ‘always wanted to go to South America.’ Now they will have this desire fulfilled, for they have been assigned to preach as missionaries in Colombia. More pointedly, their destination is that country’s second-largest city—Medellin. It is situated in northwestern central Colombia, up in the Andes at an altitude of 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) above sea level. Medellin has a delightful climate and is in an area well known for beautiful orchids. It holds prospect of both pleasant and fruitful preaching, for this city is the home of an estimated 1,039,800 persons.
Many “Sent Forth”
When Gilead School was opened on February 1, 1943, attention was drawn to its name. “Gilead” was said to mean “heap of witness.” It was hoped that this institution would prepare preachers who would ‘pile up a heap that would serve as a witness world wide for God’s kingdom and for the vindication of Jehovah’s name.’ Since then, this School has lived up to its name, for many Gilead graduates have gone to lands around the earth, there to preach the good news of God’s kingdom “for a witness.”—Matt. 24:14.
During the years 1943 through 1975, 5,809 graduates have been sent forth from Gilead School. Of these, over 2,500 still are active in their assignments. In fact, a number who attended Gilead’s first class are still serving in the lands to which they have been assigned.
Now, another twenty-five graduates of Gilead School have been sent forth. Like fellow witnesses of Jehovah throughout the earth, these men and women will zealously preach the good news of God’s established kingdom. They cherish their inestimable privilege of serving the Most High and of aiding others to call upon the name of Jehovah in faith.
[Picture on page 26]
Sixtieth 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) Ellis, M.; Walker, E.; Sissons, M.; Yamasaki, K.; Sagorski, C. (2) Halls, S.; Tomasko, P.; Plager, L.; Gross, B.; Nagorne, M. (3) Ellis, A.; Sagorski, D.; Nyitrai, K.; Hedman, L.; Sissons, T. (4) Nagorne, K.; Mills, J.; Halls, M.; Hunter, I.; van Veen, F. (5) Nyitrai, D.; Gross, R.; Jonsson, O.; Walker, T.; Gauntt, C.