Missionary Work Spreads Liberty and Love
Gilead’s eighteenth class graduates
TWENTY-SIX centuries ago the prophet Isaiah wrote his belief in missionary work in these words: “Say to the prisoners, Go forth.” The same Bible writer willingly volunteered himself for such liberating activity wherever needed, saying, “Here am I; send me.” (Isa. 49:9; 6:8) Today, in New York state’s scenic Finger Lakes region near Ithaca, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead stands as a modern testimony to this same conviction. Heathen lands in complete darkness to the purposes of the true God are served by its missionary graduates, but activity is not at all limited to these lands. Christendom’s self-righteousness merely masks her own pagan beliefs and reveals her spiritual need.
Hence, Jehovah’s witnesses train their full-time ministers at Gilead to carry out Christ’s command to ‘disciple all the nations’. (Matt. 28:19) Who will deny that spreading knowledge of God and love for God and man is most practical in today’s strife-torn world? This purpose was made clear at the graduation of Gilead’s eighteenth class on February 10, 1952.
By 9 a.m. that Sunday morning the largest crowd ever to attend a wintertime Gilead graduation was seated in four different halls. Activities began when the farm servant and the school’s four instructors successively offered their parting counsel and farewells. Then telegrams were read expressing congratulations from Christians the world over whose thoughts were turned toward Gilead that day. Then N. H. Knorr, president of the school and of the Watchtower Society, began his talk on the theme, “Working Together with Him.”
Brother Knorr had just returned from an extended service tour in which he had talked with the Society’s missionaries in lands as far distant as India. It was evident to observers that he wished to impart something close to his heart, something gained from his intimate contact with the great expansion of true worship being carried on in the world field. In perhaps the most pointed and direct graduation talk in the school’s history he proceeded to enlarge on the true minister’s unique position as a “substitute” for Christ serving the spiritual needs of persons of good will. Basis for the discussion came from the apostle Paul’s letter, Second Corinthians, chapters five and six.
“You have had a most wonderful opportunity to study and equip yourselves,” he said, “but are you going to work together with Him? Will you really be a substitute for Christ, to help his sheep reach maturity? What part are you going to play? You may have much knowledge, but if you do not express love from your heart you will not be of any use to the Lord. You will not do any good for the honest people in these other lands.”
He continued, showing how greater knowledge might wrongfully bring pride. “Much responsibility is on you. Much, much more will be expected of you by your brothers in the field. Are you going to take the lead in expressing love?” Sad to relate, some missionary graduates have not, and a contrast was made between them and the many who have, showing that it is possible for pride, haughtiness, or cold, unfeeling indifference to come in and cause one to harm rather than aid the Lord’s sheep.
With a strong appeal to all present to carefully study the apostle’s letter, especially 2 Co chapter six, the speaker outlined twenty-eight points listed by Paul as essential to prove one a real, mature minister of Christ. Finally he summarized the essence of his talk by reading the following brief personal note which was found in an envelope handed to each graduate:
“DEAR GRADUATES OF THE EIGHTEENTH CLASS OF GILEAD:
“Today you are considered qualified to engage in educational work and devote your efforts in behalf of permanent peace among all peoples loving righteousness. A great deal is expected of you on the part of your brothers everywhere. They believe that now that you have finished the course at Gilead School you are mature. Your brothers expect you to set a proper example in word and deed. You have the knowledge. You have had the opportunity to make your mind over considerably during the five months of study.
“Will this training reflect itself in your daily actions? Are you going to show love and patience toward your brothers? Are you going to be long-suffering in helping the babies in the truth to grow up? Briefly stated, Are you going to show your maturity in the Lord’s organization? ‘Of him that has much the more will be required.’
“Never for a moment treat any future assignment in the Lord’s organization lightly. There is so much expected of you by your brothers in all parts of the world. Don’t fail them. Show real devotion and sincere love toward all your brothers; and say to those who are still prisoners, ‘Go forth.’
“Here is a little gift to help you get started now that you are leaving school. Use it wisely to keep in the work. Plan your affairs to keep really busy in preaching the gospel. Our prayers are for you in this behalf. We love our brothers worldwide, and we want you to share in that love of helping them. Our best wishes go with you.
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY
N. H. Knorr, president.”
February 10, 1952
Until that morning the students did not know where they would be sent. Imagine, then, the excitement as Brother Knorr called them forward according to missionary assignment groups and announced where each was going! Ninety-five of the ninety-nine graduates received diplomas of scholastic merit and all received assignments which will carry them to twenty-five countries. This class will assist in setting free spiritual captives in the United States, Quebec, Bahamas, Central and South America, parts of Europe and the Near East, India and Africa.
Just before dismissal, a member of the class presented a resolution in which the students acknowledged their new responsibilities and vowed to live up to them to the best of their abilities. This produced response from the large audience. A closing prayer concluded the formal exercises and unleashed the eager throng’s pent-up enthusiasm. Future prospects occupied the conversation the remainder of the day. It is a long way from Gilead’s peaceful campus to the site of their coming new activities. However, the eighteenth class starts forward well equipped for its task of bidding willing listeners of many lands, “Go forth.”