Gilead Graduates Dearly Loved—Why?
“WHY have you become dear to us?” the speaker asked the 64th graduating class of Gilead School. “It’s not because you are so good-looking . . . or because you are such brilliant Bible scholars,” he explained. “No, more particularly, it’s because of the spirit you show toward the Lord’s work.”
The speaker, D. Parsons, was the first of eight members of the headquarters staff of Jehovah’s Witnesses to give parting admonition and encouragement to the 24 graduates. Altogether, 1,944 persons assembled for the graduation exercises at the Long Island City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York, on Sunday, March 5, 1978.
The program began at 10 a.m., with C. W. Barber, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, serving as chairman. After an opening song and prayer, Barber observed that the Gilead School has been instrumental in spreading Bible truth to the ends of the earth.
In the 35 years of the School’s operation, 5,633 graduates have been sent to far-flung parts of the earth to preach. These graduates have manifested an unselfish willingness to serve, even in the face of adversities. Some in the graduating class already had spent more than 10 years in the full-time preaching work in the five countries from which they came. But, when coming to the five-month Gilead course, they volunteered to go anywhere on earth where people have a particular need of their help. Do you not also hold persons with such an unselfish Christian spirit dear?
The second speaker, T. Jaracz, noted that the graduates “are willing to leave father and mother and brothers and sisters and homes and other possessions and go into a new land, and face problems and persecutions.” But he asked: “What is the reason you are willing to do all of this?” Properly, he emphasized, it should be “for [Christ’s] sake and for the sake of the good news.” (Mark 10:29, 30) May you never forget that reason, Jaracz concluded.
Eighty-seven-year-old M. G. Friend, who was an instructor for the first 34 classes of Gilead, then made a moving appeal to the class. ‘You dear Gilead students,’ he said, ‘continue to demonstrate your joyous and harmonious cooperation with God’s organization.’ L. K. Greenlees followed with parting admonition based on Proverbs 8:33: “Listen to discipline and become wise.” He posed various situations the graduates may face in missionary life in which the exercise of godly wisdom would prove vital.
Then L. Weaver spoke to the class about their grand “privilege” of attending Gilead. “The question is,” he said, “will you continue to appreciate this privilege, and continue putting the right value on it?” Weaver pointed to Mary as an example to imitate. She treasured her privilege to bear God’s Son Jesus despite the risk to her own life; for, as an engaged woman, he explained, she could mistakenly have been stoned as an adulteress.
The two Gilead instructors next offered parting words. K. A. Adams pointed out fine lessons from the account about the first missionary mentioned in the Bible, Jonah, and also from the life of the most widely traveled missionary, the apostle Paul. U. V. Glass highlighted the quality of loyalty, observing that he admired this quality in the class. He then drew attention to the priest Abiathar who, after practically a whole life of loyal service, became disloyal by supporting King David’s son Adonijah in his attempt to seize the kingship. So there is need to exercise loyalty, Glass emphasized.
The concluding speaker, F. W. Franz, discussed at length Isaiah chapter 61, showing how the Gilead graduates have the privilege to make their contribution to the Lord’s work alongside the anointed remnant. Franz pointed to Isa 61 verse 5, explaining how the Lord’s “other sheep,” of which all these Gilead graduates profess to be, are the “strangers” and “foreigners” who serve as helpers to the priestly anointed class. Yet he told them: “You, too, are servants of Jehovah God in a sacred sense.”
Later in the day, after a break for lunch and after a discussion of The Watchtower, conducted by R. Walls, the students put on a short musical program. Finally, the program concluded at about 4:45 p.m., after the students had presented two fine Bible dramas: “The Need of the Fatherless Boy—Can You Help Him?” and “What Are You Choosing?”, which highlighted the early life of Moses.