Gilead—The School Students Love!
“I DIDN’T like school all that much,” said Curtis, reflecting on his high school days. “I didn’t like college, either.” He continued: “But that was before I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Explaining why, his wife Kathy added: “In high school they give you information that doesn’t seem to be useful at the time. And a person who is shy, like me, is left to fend for herself. I really felt cheated going to school for 12 years.”
Yet Curtis, 31, and Kathy, 32, are recent graduates of another school—the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. “Gilead is different,” says Kathy. “The teachers really cared and they took a personal interest in each student. It was most beneficial in helping me realize my goal in life.”
Similar is the case of two other students of Gilead, Michael and Sheryl, both 27. “High school is very competitive,” says Michael, “and not really conducive to learning. I had a hard time in school and I was glad when it was over.” “The reason,” says Sheryl, “is that many people in school today really don’t care. Often teachers want to be like the students, and anyone who is different just doesn’t fit in.” “Now, with Gilead,” added Michael, “you have a purpose. It’s designed to help you do the work you love. You learn how to help people better—to care for them. I’ve always wanted to be involved in the full-time preaching work, and the Gilead course stressed how to serve Jehovah fully despite what others do.”
For both couples, their Gilead schooling was a most recent memory. They were among the 38 students who graduated on Sunday, September 11, during the graduation ceremonies held before an audience of 2,023 at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall in Queens, New York. The sessions were beamed by microwave to Brooklyn Bethel so that hundreds more heard and saw the program on television.
But just what is Gilead? And why is it the school that students love?
What Gilead Is
According to instructor Jack Redford, “Gilead is a school arranged and sponsored by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York for the training of those desirous of engaging in foreign missionary work. The basic textbook during the five-month course is the Bible, and the students, who are already experienced ministers well grounded in the Bible, receive intensive training in a deeper understanding of the Bible and how to teach the Scriptures, as well as practical subjects relating to everyday life in a foreign country.” The students receive this training, as well as food and lodging, free of charge.
There are five basic courses: Hebrew Scriptures, Greek Scriptures, Theocratic Organization, Foundations of Bible History, and Missionary Service. “The courses on the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures give basic coverage of each book of the Bible,” says Redford. “Foundations of Bible History covers the history of religion and background world history that will help students to understand Bible prophecy. Theocratic Organization traces the history of God’s organization from its beginnings in ancient times until now. Missionary Service deals with the common problems that missionaries have in living in a foreign country.”
All together, 6,067 students have graduated in the 75 classes that have been held since the inception of Gilead School in February of 1943. Its students have been drawn from many lands and have been sent to countries where additional missionaries are needed. These missionaries have certainly heeded Jesus Christ’s command: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
Students of the recently graduated 75th class were drawn from Canada, Finland, France, Ghana, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States and Venezuela. Two students will return to their homelands, and the rest are being sent to 15 different countries for special missionary work. For instance, Curtis and Kathy have received an assignment to the Caribbean island of Dominica. Michael and Sheryl are anxious to take up their assignment in Taiwan, where they will have a crash course in Mandarin Chinese.
Loved by Students Past and Present
So much is Gilead loved that student Leena, from Finland, asked: “Couldn’t you prolong the school for a few weeks more?” One thing she especially appreciated was being able to meet and talk to so many former graduates of the school, as they passed through Brooklyn on their way to and from recent district conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It was so thrilling!” she exclaimed. “Just talking to all the missionaries coming through helped us to be more prepared for our own foreign assignments.” And these former graduates of Gilead, many of whom have been in their assignments for a considerable number of years, still look back fondly on the school they loved so much.
“I can still remember when we were in Gilead back in 1945,” says Dora. She and her missionary partner, Dorothea, graduated from the fourth class of 104 students in February of that year. “The curriculum was a bit different then,” Dora remembers. “But the teachers were just wonderful! They really took an interest in us individually.” Did the course prove to be really practical during the nearly 40 years they have spent as missionaries in Chile? “Oh, yes,” says Dorothea. “We learned how to get along better with people. We were trained in how to speak up and express ourselves, how to study and learn on our own. And we have used the same methods in teaching others the Bible.”
“Gilead is a wonderful arrangement,” says Jessica, a native of the Netherlands who has been serving as a missionary in Ecuador. “Everything in Gilead was beneficial. Gilead builds you up so much that you are prepared to accept any differences and handle any problems you may encounter.” Ollie, whose assignment is Upper Volta, concurs: “It’s a very real course,” he said. “It gives you a lot of help and encouragement. Even though you are thousands of miles away, the Society is still very concerned and lovingly helps you to stay in your assignment.”
Despite its demanding entrance requirements, hundreds of applicants are still waiting and hoping to get invited to attend Gilead School. Many graduates had applied several times over a number of years before finally being accepted. But, then, that surely is what one would expect in the case of a school that students love.
[Pictures on page 20]
Watchtower Bible School of Gilead 75th Class—September 1983
In the list below, rows are numbered from front to back and names are listed from left to right in each row.
(1) Schavers, L.; McLeod, G.; McLenithan, S.; Kardell, K.; Eaton, T.; Shewkenek, S. (2) Sebenik, E.; Nelson, J.; Hobby, M.; Maves, V.; Van Doorn, A.; Aho, L.; Burnett, B. (3) Saakwa, K.; Longa, R.; Johansson, T.; Speegle, J.; Mulford, D.; Johansson, E.; McCray, K.; Dawson, P. (4) Curiel, J.; McLenithan, M.; Aho, H.; Shewkenek, G.; Eaton, W.; Young, B.; Schavers, I.; Burnett, M. (5) DiGregorio, M.; Sebenik, T.; Speegle, C.; McLeod, J.; Maves, G.; Reed, G.; McCray, C.; Van Doorn, H.; Tagliabue, D.