Gilead’s Last Graduation at South Lansing
FOR the last time a group of Jehovah’s witnesses assembled at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in upstate New York for the graduation exercises of another missionary class. For seventeen and a half years this school has been turning out approximately a hundred graduates every six months for foreign service and other special work in connection with the advancing New World society. Now on this date, July 24, 1960, some 5,684 persons were on hand to witness the thirty-fifth and last of the missionary classes to be graduated at Kingdom Farm. The serenely beautiful campus coupled with ideal weather conditions made this a very happy occasion for all of the peace-pursuing Witnesses in attendance.
The official graduation program began promptly at 9 a.m., the first speaker being John Markus, the Kingdom Farm servant. He used the illustration of a farmer to make an excellent point. A farmer must adjust his work according to the seasons and the weather each day. When there is sunshine he can do one kind of work, but when there is rain he must adjust and find other suitable work. Missionary work also requires constant adjustments, and good missionaries will always adapt themselves to each new situation. In closing, appreciation was expressed for the daily three-hour work contribution made by the class toward the over-all Kingdom Farm operation throughout their stay.
Next, the four instructors gave their parting words of counsel. Robert Porter explained that the only peace today is found in the New World society under the direction of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. He exhorted each graduate to keep his peace of mind and to take the peace and happy spirit of Gilead to the people in his missionary assignment. Jack Redford then encouraged the graduates to look on the bright side of things and always find happiness in their service. He showed that the truth brings real happiness, and encouraged all to keep up with progressive truth and to respond readily to it. Also, this speaker pointed out that each missionary should be a productive minister, getting positive results, loving his work and working at it with real Christian purpose.
Maxwell Friend, a member of the Gilead faculty since the first class in 1943, then encouraged the graduates to keep looking forward, never backward. “Don’t ever outlive your enthusiasm,” he said, “but retain your vigor of youth for Jehovah’s service.”
Finally the audience was privileged to hear from A. D. Schroeder, Gilead’s registrar and presiding instructor since the opening of the school in February, 1943. He observed that 3,638 from 93 countries had graduated. “Now,” he said, “the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead will be transferred to Brooklyn, where new facilities are being constructed for that purpose. So the Society’s educational program is not being stopped; it is being greatly expanded. As for these school facilities at Kingdom Farm, they will be used for the training of a hundred congregation servants each month, beginning September 19, this year. Already, beginning about a year ago, we have begun this program of training congregation servants in the new Kingdom Ministry School, but we have been limited to twenty-five in each class because of operating the missionary school concurrently. Thus far we have been able to train 275 overseers in this school.” Then in his closing remarks to the graduates he exhorted them to “keep growing in the four attributes of Jehovah.” And in commenting on the quality of love, he urged, “Keep the interests of others foremost. This makes for real success in the ministry.”
Then came the feature graduation address by Milton G. Henschel, a director of the Watch Tower Society. He chose as his theme the words of the apostle Paul recorded at 2 Timothy 4:5: “You, though, keep your balance in all things, suffer evil, do missionary work, thoroughly accomplish your ministry.”
He applied those words of the Bible to the graduates, showing that Paul had known he was coming to the end of his ministry on earth and had wanted to give young Timothy some sound advice concerning his future as a Christian. He stressed each part of the text, but especially dwelt on the last part, “thoroughly accomplish your ministry.” He told the graduating missionaries that they should take this advice of the apostle and be complete and thorough in the teaching of others about the new world of righteousness. “There will be problems and difficulties,” he warned, “but none of you will have it as rough as the apostle Paul did.” In conclusion he exhorted his audience to read the Bible regularly. “Every missionary must set aside time for regular Bible reading and study. Never neglect the Scriptures.”
Many telegrams were received and read at the graduation, such as those from Denmark, Thailand, Peru, Korea, Guam, Australia, Vancouver, Quebec and various parts of the United States.
Receiving greetings from so many loving brothers around the world, hearing such fine talks from the platform, seeing another class of missionaries being sent forth into twenty-eight different countries, and enjoying the wonderful atmosphere of peace, love and hospitality at Gilead, certainly caused the more than 5,000 persons in attendance to go home with happy hearts and increased desire to be faithful and productive in Jehovah’s wonderful Kingdom service.