Gilead Missionaries—Devoted to One Purpose
“LAST week you were students, next week you will be missionaries!” Those words marked well the sentiments of the 23 graduating students of the 81st class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. For them, as well as the 4,262 others attending, the graduation exercises held in the Jersey City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, September 7, 1986, will be a day long remembered.
Martin Poetzinger opened with prayer and then Carey Barber, chairman of the graduation exercises, introduced the program by noting that over the years thousands of these evangelizers have gone through their Gilead training devoted to one purpose: to be sent to the ends of the earth as true missionaries preaching the Kingdom hope. How glad we are that these new missionaries, in the spirit of the name “Gilead,” will become part of a ‘heap of witness’!
Leading off the program, Milton Henschel explained that these graduates, like the apostles of Jesus’ day, have been prepared for a great work. The missionary worker Paul well expressed his sentiments toward this work when he said: “For, though I am free from all persons, I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons.”—1 Corinthians 9:19.
What do these words of Paul show? That these new missionaries must be interested in people. It should be their desire to help all kinds of people with the lifesaving message of truth—even those who may be intimately associated with another religious organization.
The next speaker, Theodore Jaracz, reminded the new missionaries that, unlike tourists who go places to sightsee, they were being sent forth into many different cities of the world to preach the good news. He encouraged them to remember the example of Jesus and the early disciples as well as that of the modern-day missionaries, many of whom continue to serve faithfully in their respective assignments. “Be single-minded,” he explained. “Don’t allow materialistic pursuits to distract you. If you have a ‘simple’ eye, then you are single-minded.” (Luke 11:34) “As Gilead missionaries,” he added, “you are devoted to one purpose—to search out deserving ones and preach the good news.”
Timely counsel was given by Max Larson of the Factory Committee on what steps to take when problems arise in one’s missionary assignment. “Don’t give up and quit,” he explained. “Work your problems out.” How? “By getting God’s mind on matters.” (1 Corinthians 2:11-16) Larson stressed the importance of praying to Jehovah for his help and stressed the need for missionaries regularly to evaluate their relationship with God.
Lon Schilling of the Watchtower Farms Committee stressed the value of developing and maintaining the right mental attitude. “How will your minds function when faced with a challenge or circumstance that calls for an adjustment?” he asked. “As free moral agents, we are individually responsible for the way things turn out.” He noted that God “does not control us by some celestial remote-control system.” Thus, missionaries should not expect more from God than what is reasonable. Those who show a willingness to be guided by Jehovah God through his Word, his spirit, and his organization will be able to maintain a right mental attitude.
“How keen is your sense of values?” That question was posed by Ulysses Glass, one of the Gilead School instructors. Through a series of illustrations, this longtime instructor showed that “a balanced, discerning, unwavering sense of values will always enable [missionaries] to keep the Kingdom interests in focus.” Holding up a postage stamp for all to see, he said that, though small in value, the usefulness of a postage stamp consists of its ability to stick to one thing until it gets there. “Make yourself like that postage stamp,” he said, “and stick to one thing—your commission to preach—until you safely reach your destination, the other side of the great tribulation.”
Jack Redford, Gilead School instructor and himself a former missionary, discussed in his final address some of the challenges the new missionaries would face. He stressed that by having complete trust in Jehovah they can overcome any obstacle, whether it is learning a new language, homesickness, living with other people, adapting to a different culture, or resolving personality conflicts. The point he made was: “Don’t try to do it on your own strength. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says, ‘We are God’s fellow workers.’” He assured them: “Do your part and you may be sure Jehovah will do his part.”
“The Watchtower Bible School of Gilead is a gift of God!” With those words Frederick W. Franz, the Society’s president, opened the final address of the morning. Gilead School, he said, “was to provide persons who would serve as witnesses, a living testimony to the fact that the Kingdom of God by Jesus Christ was now in operation.” He then reminded the 81st class that their being devoted to this one purpose places upon them a great responsibility “because you are going into the field of witnessing at the most critical time in the history of mankind. Jehovah has therefore laid upon us the responsibility to advertise the good news of that Kingdom and to point out to all mankind in the far corners of the earth God’s way of escape.”
The joy and gratitude for the privilege of having attended Gilead School was apparent as the graduating students received their diplomas. With their purpose as missionaries clear, the 81st class of Gilead, in a letter to the Governing Body and the Bethel family, resolved to serve loyally the interests of Jehovah God and ‘make melody to his name’ among the nations. (2 Samuel 22:50) In the afternoon, following the presentation of witnessing scenes in past assignments, in New York and in the missionary field, and also a stirring modern-day drama, the Gilead program was concluded with prayer by Lyman Swingle.
The 23 graduating students keenly anticipate the great joy of missionary service. Why? As one graduate explained:
“Jesus said, ‘Sell your belongings, come be my follower, . . . and declare abroad the kingdom of God.’ [Matthew 19:21; Luke 9:60] The goal of missionary service was prompted by our desire to help as many as we can spiritually, wherever we were needed and could be used the most.”—Fredrick Steiner, assigned to Guatemala.
Could you expand your service to God and make it more productive? If so, then apply yourself, as these graduating students did so that they might qualify for the missionary field. Their greatest joy, and yours also, is to be found in a full life of dedicated service to Jehovah.—Malachi 3:10.
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“Brother Larson’s talk really impressed upon me the need to be willing to make adjustments. To fulfill my role as a missionary, I must avoid a ‘fleshly frame of mind’ and seek, instead, the mind of Jehovah and that of his Son, Jesus.”—Alain Saint-Jean, assigned to New Caledonia.
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“Brother Glass’ talk helped me see the importance of having the right sense of values. We must not be sidetracked by insignificant things. We must be balanced.”—Humphrey Hermanus, assigned to Suriname.
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“Listening to Brother Redford, I felt a sense of security knowing that the problems we will encounter are not new ones. Others have succeeded in overcoming them, and so can we if we rely on Jehovah’s strength and not on our own.”—Veronica Lipham, assigned to Papua New Guinea.
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Number of countries represented: 7
Number of countries assigned to: 12
Average age: 30.3
Average years in the truth: 13.4
Average years in full-time ministry: 9.3
[Pictures on page 23]
COSTA, Alan and Betty United States
GANSLMEIER, Anton and Rita Germany
GONZALES, John and Cynthia United States
GRAULICH, Uwe and Katherine Germany
HERMANUS, Humphrey and Ludmila Netherlands Antilles
JOHANSEN, Bård and Ester Norway
KLOOSTERMAN, Otto and Yvonne Netherlands
LARSON, Gary and Annette Canada
LIPHAM, Mark and G. Veronica United States
SAINT-JEAN, Alain France
STEINER, Fredrick and Helen United States
SZYMANSKI, Cynthia United States
WILKE, David United States