Missionaries Urged to ‘Work Together with God’
THE apostle Paul’s words about ‘working together with God,’ recorded in the Bible at 2 Corinthians 6:1, set the theme for Gilead missionary school’s fifty-seventh graduation exercises, held on September 8, 1974. Though the class of twenty-five students was Gilead’s smallest to date (not because of any lack of applicants but because the housing facilities were needed for workers to print Bibles and Bible-study aids), relatives and friends from the United States, Canada, Hawaii and Europe packed out Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall in the borough of Queens, New York, for the occasion. The graduating students had come from four countries and were assigned to thirteen lands.
The morning session was highlighted by N. H. Knorr, the school’s president, who encouraged the graduates to manifest long-suffering, along with the other fruits of God’s spirit, in their evangelizing work. In this way, he said, they would be cooperating with God, who actually ‘makes the seed of the word of the Kingdom to grow.’—1 Cor. 3:6.
Prior to Knorr’s talk, the instructors and overseers in the School and the Watchtower Society’s headquarters gave brief counsel. Then F. W. Franz spoke on the urgency of the evangelizing work, with a view to saving as many lives as possible from destruction at the “great tribulation,” which is now, according to all evidences, very near at hand.—Matt. 24:21.
The afternoon program belonged to the students. After an entertaining session of musical novelties from their countries of origin, they presented two dramas. The first was a brief portrayal, in ancient and modern scenes, of the way women can apply counsel given them by the apostles Paul and Peter. (Titus 2:2-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6) The program concluded with a dramatic historical review of events during the rule of Israel by wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, and the role played during that period by God’s prophet Elijah.
STRENGTHENING OF FAITH THE SCHOOL’S PURPOSE
Gilead School training gives the missionaries, above all things, a strengthening of faith. The School stresses the overall view of God’s purposes, not just a few doctrinal points. The object is to convey to the students the “pattern of healthful words” that the entire Bible gives. This provides a bulwark against “the sin that easily entangles us,” namely, lack of faith. (2 Tim. 1:13; Heb. 12:1) For missionary work puts one’s faith to a real test. Furthermore, real missionaries of Jesus Christ must be able to build that strong, unbreakable kind of faith in others.
This test of faith often comes because of the great difference in environment the missionary finds himself in when he goes to another land. Usually there are concepts of God and of the Bible and ways of daily living that are new to the missionary. Then, in the early stages of missionary life, learning the language is a problem—striving to be able to express thoughts in a way that people will understand, reaching their hearts.
Said a missionary who has spent twenty years in that field: “While Gilead School training proved to be a fine help to all of us, I found that the missionaries who held firm in their assignments were those who developed a real love for the people and a desire to help them. They had a deep interest in others. For one to be a successful missionary this is the basic requirement. Of course, this is no amazing thing, for Jesus Christ had that attitude. He came to earth as a perfect man. He lived every day with people full of imperfections. Yet of him it is said: ‘On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.’”—Matt. 9:36.
“That’s true,” the missionary’s wife said. “At first the strange surroundings and customs, and particularly the language, occupied most of my thoughts, and sometimes I felt like I’d never learn. But the people kindly helped me with the language, and by the time I had learned enough of the language to express myself, I found so many lovable persons. They appreciated and responded so readily to the spiritual help I was able to give them that the assignment became my real home, and I would never have wanted to leave it for what I formerly called ‘home.’”
A tremendous increase in the number of active witnesses of Jehovah has been experienced world wide since the Gilead School was opened in 1943. However, this increase is by no means limited to those whom the missionaries have been able to help. Most of these new Witnesses have joined the ranks because of the fine work of fellow countrymen who perhaps heard the good news first through the missionaries, but who have zealously carried on and have also set a fine example of living, of working, of raising their families in harmony with God’s Word. They have carried the message of good news into places harder to reach and have helped scores of thousands to take their stand for the truth alongside them. Gilead missionaries have been happy to see this.
Through all of this, Jehovah’s wisdom has been manifested, and all thanks for spiritual prosperity and increase go to him. As expressed by the apostle Paul, who did much missionary work: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow.”—1 Cor. 3:6.