Rejoicing With Gilead’s 82nd Class
“WE ARE not fair-weather Christians. We are just happy to be here.” With these words the chairman opened a special all-day meeting at the Jersey City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Sunday, the first day of March. Outside, it was raining heavily. Inside, it was graduation day for 24 students of the 82nd class of Gilead. Looking at the students’ happy faces, chairman Theodore Jaracz of the Governing Body went on to say: “It’s evident that they are eager and joyful about their prospects. Since the Bible says ‘rejoice with people who rejoice,’ I am sure all of us feel the same way!” The applause that greeted this comment evidenced that all 4,557 in attendance agreed.
The first speaker on the program was John Barr, also a member of the Governing Body. Quoting extensively from Psalm 104, he showed that Jehovah not only created everything, animate and inanimate, but also created a place for each creation to occupy. He went on to say: “Now, as you go to your assignment, think: ‘Jehovah has placed me here.’ Never forget that.”
Next to speak was a member of the Watchtower Farms Committee, John Stuefloten. He reminded the students: “The proverb tells us: ‘Give to a wise person and he will become still wiser.’” (Proverbs 9:9) For five months the students had been given rich spiritual nourishment. Doubtless, on this graduation day they felt spiritually full. “But,” said the speaker, “you have just barely started!” He encouraged the students to keep growing in wisdom and mercy so as to be better able to help others.—Proverbs 3:27.
George Gangas of the Governing Body followed with some well-chosen words about happiness. He reminded the graduates that they serve the “happy God” and declared: “You will find happiness in your foreign assignments.” Why? “Because Jehovah is sending you out to deliver people from bondage.”
George Couch of the Brooklyn Bethel Committee spoke about anxiety. He recognized that the students were not strangers to anxiety. The challenges of coming to Gilead, living in Brooklyn Bethel, and preaching in New York City all caused some anxiety. Now the students were anxious about their missionary assignments. But reasonable anxiety is not an enemy. “Anxiety can help to spur us on to do our best,” he explained, and he encouraged the students to trust in Jehovah and do their best in their assignments.
School instructor Jack Redford next came to the podium. He warned against unjustified criticism. Citing Biblical examples of hasty judgments that caused problems later, he quoted Jesus’ words: “Stop judging that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) The 82nd class represented a God of love. The students were being sent to their assignments to empathize, not to criticize.
Gilead instructor Ulysses Glass quoted the Bible proverb: “The swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) The result of a matter does not always depend on our natural abilities. In missionary work, it is more often a matter of faith and willingness to accept a challenge. The speaker commended the 82nd class for being steady, dependable, and consistent. Such qualities would stand them in good stead.
The final speaker for the morning, Watch Tower Society president Frederick Franz, declared that the graduation of the 82nd class vindicated the faith of those who began the school back in the dark days of World War II. He spoke about the name Gilead, explaining that it is a Bible word meaning “Heap of Witness.” (Compare Genesis 31:43-53.) Gilead missionaries who remain faithfully in their assignments serve as a heap of witness. They are a living testimony to the truth.
The students then received their diplomas, and the morning concluded with the reading of a letter of thanks from the 82nd class. The students noted that ‘the blessing of Jehovah is what makes one rich.’ In view of that, they said, “Jehovah has made us feel like the 24 richest people on earth!”—Proverbs 10:22.
In the afternoon, following an abbreviated Watchtower Study, the students presented a delightful program. It concluded with words of heartfelt appreciation to their parents, whose unselfishness and support allowed their children to go off and become missionaries.
The student program was followed by the presentation of a timely drama, after which the chairman, Theodore Jaracz, gave some final comments. And what a surprise the Society had stored up for these closing moments! The speaker announced that soon the Society will open a new school, the Ministerial Training School, for the training initially of single elders and ministerial servants. All took special note when the chairman announced one of the requirements for attending the new school: a willingness “to serve wherever there is a need in the worldwide field.”
Enthusiastic applause greeted the news about this new school. (More details of this are given in the following article.) The program then concluded with song and a prayer of thanks to Jehovah. Everybody then went out into the cloudy New Jersey evening. There was still a little rain in the air, but few cared about it. All hearts were still rejoicing with the 82nd graduating class of Gilead.
[Picture on page 26]
Graduates of the 82nd Class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead
In the list below, rows are numbered from front to back, and names are listed from left to right in each row.
(1) Gish, L.; Evans, E.; Dean, S.; Hanson, R.; Suomalainen, A.; DuBose, D.
(2) Wallenberg, P.; Wallenberg, M.; Bauer, O.; Suomalainen, H.; Taylor, B.; DiStefano, G.
(3) Scott, K.; Evans, M.; Taylor, A., Jr.; Lindby, J.; Hanson, C.; Holmkvist, M.
(4) Sampson, T.; Gish, T.; Ball, D.; DuBose, J.; Dean, T.; Scott, D.