They Volunteered to Serve Anywhere
SPEAKING in New York city, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses recently said: “Over five thousand students have graduated from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Upward of a thousand of them are at present active as missionaries in various parts of the world, and many more are in other branches of full-time service.” All of these are persons who, because of their keen interest in the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom, had volunteered to serve anywhere on earth. On April 10, 1977, another class graduated from Gilead School and with the same willing spirit.
In the sixty-second class there were twenty-seven students, who had come from six countries. To attend Gilead School, they had to know English, and for the European students that required special effort. Some of them had learned a little English in school. But they moved into areas where there were English-speaking people, and they lived and worked with them until they had a good grasp of the language. This experience also brought them into contact with people from different backgrounds. As a student from Germany said: “I found real joy in talking to people from all over the world. I myself studied the Bible with people from Vietnam, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.” As she came to know people from various lands, her own love for such people grew, along with a desire to help them.
But why not simply stay in their home country? After all, there are people there to whom they could preach. A student from the United States acknowledged: “The biggest obstacle I had was complacency. I was pioneering, an elder in the congregation, married to a beautiful wife, had my own home and business, and I found myself getting too comfortable.” He and his wife discussed the matter together and decided to offer to serve wherever they were needed.
A Canadian student added: “Since our circumstances were such that we could offer ourselves for this particular work, it would have been withholding something that we owe Jehovah and not serving him whole-souled if we had not volunteered.”
Some of the students had been preparing for missionary service since childhood, due to encouragement from their parents. However, others freely admitted that, although they like to help people, they did not find it especially easy to make house-to-house calls to find those who would listen. As a result, they had not made missionary work their goal. Why, then, had they volunteered?
Because they were willing to fill a need. They reflected the spirit concerning which the Bible writer David said to Jehovah: “Your people will offer themselves willingly.” (Ps. 110:3) Thus one of the students had applied for missionary service with the thought: “If this is what Jehovah wants me to do, I will be glad to do it.” And a Canadian student said: “Missionary work will give me the opportunity to be used where there is a greater need, and when there is a need and I’m able in some way to help fill that need, that’s where I want to be.”
For many of them, moving into an area away from home and working among people with different customs would not be new. They had done it before. Some, with the thought of preparing for foreign service, had earlier left their home congregations to serve where the need for preachers of the good news was greater.
One married couple in the class had joined a canoe expedition 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) up the Mackenzie River and back, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. They slept in tents and put up with hordes of insects in order to reach the people in that area with the good news of God’s kingdom. Settlements were located from 50 to 200 miles (80 to 320 kilometers) apart, with no human habitation between. Visitors were rare in those isolated places, but many persons were grateful to hear the good news from God’s Word. The students who had shared in this work well knew what missionary work can include.
Not until they neared the end of their school course, however, did they receive information as to the countries in which they would serve. The assignments included Bolivia, Botswana, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Lesotho, Liberia, Spain and Western Samoa. With eager anticipation, all assignments were accepted.
But this was not to be simply a travel adventure. On their graduation day, U. V. Glass, one of their classroom instructors, discussed with them frankly why they were going. It was to work. As he acknowledged, this is a distasteful subject to many people in our day. But that has not always been the case. He showed them that there is more than one way to look at work. If a person does work only because it has to be done, it can become unpleasant. But how different it is when he learns to take pleasure in what is accomplished! Glass urged the students to take that latter view of their missionary service.
The School’s other regular classroom instructor, K. A. Adams, encouraged the class not simply to keep stored away in their minds the things that they had learned but to use these to help others. Thus, when comforting a mother whose child had died, in addition to reading the Bible’s promise that “death will be no more,” they could share with the woman that real-life experience of the couple in Capernaum whose child Jesus restored to life. (Rev. 21:4; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56) When aiding someone who shies away from privileges of service, instead of merely telling him that he should view things differently, they might beneficially sit down and read together the Bible book of Jonah so that the full force of its counsel might reach the other person’s heart. And when handling problems in a congregation, instead of simply finding a Scripture verse or two that might apply, they could well call to mind one of the first-century Christian congregations that faced a similar situation, and then draw on the entire portion of the inspired letter to that congregation expressing God’s view on the matter. Their Gilead training had better equipped the students to do this.
In addition to the foregoing parting counsel by their regular classroom instructors several members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses gave the graduating students fine admonition, stressing, among other things, the importance of loyalty, lowliness of mind and self-examination.
Since their graduation, the members of the sixty-second class have begun to move out to their assignments abroad. Some of them will be in lands where the ratio of Witnesses to population gives them three, four or five—even ninety—times as many persons with whom to share Bible truths as they had before. Those who have volunteered for missionary service show that they have the spirit of that ancient prophet of God who said: “Here I am! Send me.”—Isa. 6:8.
[Picture on page 24]
Sixty-second 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) Mang, D.; Delgado, A.; Evans, A.; Schroeder, C.; Carr, B. (2) Humes, T.; Khawaja, J.; Godfrey, J.; Wedmedew, G.; Rhodes, H. (3) Hogg, J.; Hutter, H.; Khawaja, I.; Wedmedew, P.; Edwards, W.; Rhodes, J. (4) Wagner, R.; Carr, G.; Stutts, V.; Mang, R.; Evans, G. (5) Miles, M.; Schroeder, M.; Garcia, R.; Moore, R.; Kritzinger, E.; Godfrey, P.