Those Sent Forth—What Are They Like?
“WHAT kind of missionary are you going to be?” K. A. Adams posed this question to the 24 students that he had been instructing for the previous five months. The occasion was the graduation of Gilead School’s 64th class, held on March 5 at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall, Long Island City, New York.
“There are lessons that you can learn from the lives of those who have gone before you,” Adams continued. Then he drew the students’ attention to two missionaries mentioned in the Bible, Jonah and the apostle Paul. Jonah, he noted, had a poor attitude toward his assigned territory, Nineveh, failing to share God’s view toward its people. So Jonah headed off in another direction. “But God stopped him short,” Adams said, “gave him a few days to think it over, and finally, from the belly of the fish, Jonah said: ‘What I vowed, I’ll pay.’”
“But Jonah still had problems,” Adams observed. “Although he went to Nineveh and was doing the work, evidently he did not have real concern for the people. Thus, when they quit their bad ways, and Jehovah determined not to destroy them, the Bible says: ‘It was highly displeasing to Jonah.’” This is food for thought, especially since the Bible indicates that Jonah showed great concern for his own personal comfort.—Jonah chaps. 1 to 4.
The graduates got the point of the lesson—that they should be genuinely interested in helping other people, rather than being overly concerned about their own comforts. In the days following graduation, many good-byes were said as the students began heading off to the 10 countries to which they were assigned—the Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Japan, Paraguay, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Altogether now, since Gilead School began 35 years ago, 5,633 graduates have been sent to some 160 different countries.
Those departing during the past few weeks have the fine example of many missionaries from previous classes to imitate. Consider, for instance, Leo and Eunice Van Daalen of Gilead’s first class. In March 1944 they arrived in Puerto Rico, where only six persons were active as Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Van Daalens found a place to live and went to work preaching in the hot tropical sun. The half-dozen Kingdom preachers there in 1944 increased to 622 by November 1951.
Then, the following April, the Van Daalens left for the United States to visit their parents. However, the plane plunged into the ocean. Eunice, an excellent swimmer, gave her life preserver to another person, the newspapers praising her act of unselfishness. But she and her husband drowned. For eight years they had worked hard preaching, and, to a large extent, due to their activity and that of fellow Gilead graduates, there are now over 16,700 Kingdom proclaimers in Puerto Rico.
Then there is Donald Baxter, a graduate of Gilead’s fifth class. On June 2, 1946, he landed in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. There were only four Witnesses in the country at the time. A little house with no running water was found on the edge of the city, on an unpaved street. Here the first missionary home in Venezuela was started. Baxter is still in Venezuela, having shared in the growth to over 13,800 Kingdom publishers today.
In country after country, Gilead graduates have opened up the Kingdom-preaching activity—in Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru and many other lands. Regarding the start of the work in Ecuador, the 1948 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses reports: “It takes real determination on the part of missionaries to go into a land where they are total strangers and where no one is in sympathy with them or believes the truth as they do, and then march ahead fearlessly and courageously . . . This the graduates of Gilead have done.”
During the graduation exercises of the 64th class, eight members of the headquarters staff of Jehovah’s Witnesses urged all 1,944 persons present to demonstrate similar determination and faithfulness. L. Weaver pointed to the privilege the graduates have enjoyed of attending Gilead, but noted that under stressful conditions they could lose appreciation for their privilege. “Consider Demas,” he said. “He enjoyed the privilege of being a fellow worker with the apostle Paul. But later on Paul states: ‘Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things.’”—2 Tim. 4:10.
L. Greenlees gave fine counsel on the need for wisdom in dealing with people, both with fellow missionaries with whom the graduates will soon be living, and with the local people who may have very different customs and ways of doing things. He encouraged missionaries not to consider their own ways to be superior. To illustrate the importance of really getting out among the people and learning their customs, Greenlees read this experience of a Peace Corps member, published in The Wall Street Journal:
“At the time, I had been living in Kenya nearly two years, and was teaching in a small town in the central part of the country. A student named Samuel invited me to his home, where I met his family and ate the fine meal his mother had prepared. Naturally, I praised the cooking.
“On the way home, Samuel asked me if he could tell me something. ‘Madam,’ he said, ‘not to hurt your feelings, but it’s very impolite to say anything about food unless there’s something wrong with it.’
“With that, I felt my spirits drop. Two years and I was still so ignorant of the ways of these people I had come to live among and ‘help’ that I still didn’t even know a simple thing like how to behave at dinner.”
Yes, genuine interest and care for people—that is what missionaries need. Judging by their results in helping people in the five countries from which they had come, there is good reason to believe that the present graduates will make fine missionaries. Indeed, some already have spent more than 10 years in the full-time preaching work. So they are not inexperienced youths. They average over 29 years of age.
In his final talk to the class, instructor U. V. Glass quoted the Bible, saying: “Better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning.” (Eccl. 7:8) Then, at the conclusion of his heartwarming talk, in which he took note of their fine quality of loyalty, he said: “This is our wish for you. May your missionary service turn out in the end even better than in the beginning.” Yes, may each and every one of the graduates of the 64th class continue to show loyalty and other Christian qualities in their missionary assignments.
[Picture on page 13]
Sixty-fourth Graduation 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) Beatty, M.; Gillar, W.; Byrd, L.; Regalade, L.; Jefferson, M.; Landells, C.; Gabel, G.; Gabel, U. (2) Keller, R.; McCoy, S.; Triplett, B.; Segura, L.; Aponte, S.; Keller, C.; Jones, C.; Regalade, E. (3) Triplett, R.; Beatty, M.; Gillar, H.; Segura, G.; Reed, A.; Aponte, R.; Fawcus, B.; Henser, S.