A New School to Open!
This article contains the substance of the chairman’s concluding remarks at the graduation of the 82nd class of Gilead.
SINCE its beginning in February 1943, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead has trained more than 6,000 dedicated ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses for missionary work. During the more than 40 years that these missionaries have been sent forth, scores of lands have been opened up to receive a thorough witness concerning the Kingdom. In looking back on what Jehovah has accomplished, God’s people surely rejoice to see the fulfillment of a remarkable prophecy.
At Isaiah chapter 49, verses 9-12, the prophet foretold the release of righteously disposed people held as religious prisoners in “Babylon the Great.” Through his anointed servant class on earth, Jehovah’s commanding call has gone forth: “Say to the prisoners, ‘Come out!’ to those who are in the darkness, ‘Reveal yourselves!’ By the ways they will pasture . . . They will not go hungry, neither will they go thirsty, nor will parching heat or sun strike them. For the One who is having pity upon them will lead them, and by the springs of water he will conduct them . . . Look! These will come even from far away.” Has there been a response? Indeed there has! Honesthearted ones by the hundreds of thousands have come, from all directions, revealing themselves to be hungering for truth, desiring to be fed and enlightened by God’s Word, seeking to be liberated spiritually from “Babylon the Great.” (Revelation 17:5) Now they are within the earthly realm of his Kingdom organization, feeding on an abundance of spiritual food.
In the mid-1940’s, lands in Latin America and the Caribbean area were among the first to benefit from Gilead missionaries. There were very few publishers in these places, which posed a real challenge to the giving of a thorough Kingdom witness. For example, Puerto Rico had only 25 publishers in 1944. Costa Rica had 181. Mexico had 2,431 publishers in 1944 when the first Gilead graduates arrived. But as truth-hungry individuals came out of religious darkness and revealed themselves to be seekers of God’s Kingdom, they zealously preached, and some enrolled in the pioneer service. Men reached out for responsibility. The results? Today, Puerto Rico has reported 21,943 active ministers, four times as many as were active in the 12 lands reporting in the Caribbean area in 1947. Costa Rica has more publishers now than there were in all of Central America 40 years ago. In January of this year, Mexico reported a new peak of more than 206,000 publishers, which is about as many publishers as were preaching in the entire world 40 years ago.
In South America it has been similar. When missionaries were first sent to Argentina in 1947, there were 790 publishers. Today there are 63,613 active ministers, 26 times the number preaching in the 12 different countries in South America 40 years ago. And what about Brazil? When the first missionaries were sent there in 1945, only 394 publishers were carrying on the witness work. But they persevered, and Brazil has now surpassed 200,000 publishers. That is more than 80 times the number who were active in all of South America in 1947. Other countries on that continent have also recorded outstanding increases.
Turning to the Far East, we again see marvelous evidence of Jehovah’s blessing as the liberating message of Kingdom truth enabled thousands to come out of darkness. When the first missionaries were assigned to Japan in 1949, a handful of eight publishers were reporting. In the eight Asiatic lands reporting activity 40 years ago, there was a total of 475 active ministers. Today, there are 116,272 in Japan alone.
In the South Pacific there were only two branches up until 1959. With the help of publishers from Australia who moved to serve where the need was greater, and the efforts of other congregation publishers and a few missionaries, thousands of people have been reached with the good news in various island territories. There are now six additional branches in that part of the field.
The history of Africa’s development is also an exciting one. The 17 countries reporting in 1947 had a total of 24,896 publishers. But with missionaries helping to spread the good news rapidly, hundreds of thousands soon revealed themselves to be seeking Jehovah and his righteousness. Today, in Nigeria alone, about 130,000 Witnesses are zealously proclaiming the Kingdom message.
There is no question that Jehovah’s liberating Word of truth is accomplishing that in which he delights. It is having certain success in that for which he has sent it. (Isaiah 55:10, 11) Now that such a great harvest is being gathered, that same Word assures us that Jehovah will raise up more trained shepherds. (Compare Jeremiah 23:4.) The Governing Body is keenly aware of the growing need for qualified men to care for responsibilities in the field as well as in the various branches of the Society. Steps have been taken to help meet this need.
The Ministerial Training School
You graduates of the 82nd class of Gilead, as well as all who have been present for this most upbuilding occasion, will be glad to know that in the fall of 1987 a new school will be opened. This Ministerial Training School, as it will be called, will be a part of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, thus enabling brothers from some other lands to attend. The first class is expected to commence around October 1 of this year in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., the initial center of the Society’s early development. Following the completion of the first class, other classes will be conducted at regular intervals in different parts of the United States.
Definite Scriptural requirements must be met by those to be enrolled. Training will be given initially to single elders and single ministerial servants who are in good health. If some are pioneers, so much the better. Those invited to the school must be willing to serve, following their training, wherever there is a need in the worldwide field. This will call for the spirit of Isaiah, who offered himself willingly, saying: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) You graduates of this 82nd class, along with missionaries already serving in over a hundred lands, can look forward in due time to having other trained brothers working shoulder to shoulder with you.
An entirely new curriculum has been prepared for the Ministerial Training School. The school has been established for the purpose of training qualified brothers who have had some organizational experience as elders or ministerial servants in the congregation.
The Need for Progress
Following the festival day of Pentecost in 33 C.E., the Christian congregation was very active in spreading the good news in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and then, later, to the more distant parts of the earth. (Acts 1:8) About the year 60 C.E. the apostle Paul, who had spearheaded evangelizing activities among the nations, wrote to the Colossians, saying: “This hope you heard of before by the telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world.” Then, he added that those fellow believers ‘should not be shifted away from the hope of that good news which they heard, and which was preached in all creation that is under heaven.’—Colossians 1:5, 6, 23.
In a relatively short time, early Christians had spread the good news far and wide. Jehovah had given the increase, with the number of disciples multiplying very much. This called for more qualified men to teach in the congregation and to shepherd the flock. One of the young overseers charged with such responsibility was Timothy. What did the apostle Paul exhort Timothy to do? There was to be no letup in his training: “By giving these advices to the brothers you will be a fine minister of Christ Jesus, one nourished with the words of the faith and of the fine teaching which you have followed . . . Be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim.” (1 Timothy 4:6-8) This would be far more important than concentrating on some personal interest or pursuit, including even bodily exercises and training. To accomplish his ministry fully, Timothy had to pay attention to himself and to his teaching.
You graduates of this class of Gilead have received training for your missionary activity. Fine spiritual gifts have been imparted to you by overseers qualified to teach. Now there is in store a further fine teaching program for qualified men with some experience in caring for congregational responsibility. They will be trained with godly devotion in view, which will help them maintain the right perspective and equip them to focus on what Paul further wrote to Timothy: “Let no man ever look down on your youth. On the contrary, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness. . . . Continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.”—1 Timothy 4:12, 13, 15.
As in the case of Timothy, those brothers appointed to congregational responsibility today, including younger men, should realize that this is an appropriate and urgent time for them to make their advancement manifest. By doing so, they will give evidence in a heartfelt way of measuring up to divine standards and of having a genuine disposition to care for spiritual interests, thus being qualified for further privileges of service.—Philippians 2:20, 21.
In view of the need that exists at this stage in the outworking of the divine purpose, it is a privilege to be used by Jehovah anywhere within his organization. How grateful we are to him as our Great Shepherd and to the Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ, for this new, timely organizational provision, the Ministerial Training School!