Graduation of the 83rd Gilead Class Truly a Festive Occasion
“GIVE thanks to Jehovah, O you people, for he is good: for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.” (Psalm 136:1) That was the heartfelt sentiment of all 4,391 who attended the graduation exercises of the 83rd class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead this fall. The talks, the experiences, and the Bible drama presented during the exercises caused all to leave in high spirits. The graduation took place September 6, 1987, at the beautiful Jersey City Assembly Hall, formerly known as the Stanley Theater.
After the opening song, and prayer by John Booth of the Governing Body, the chairman, Albert Schroeder, another member of the Governing Body, welcomed one and all to this festive occasion. The 24 students had come from five countries, and they were now being sent to eight different lands. Brother Schroeder highlighted the confidence Jehovah’s people have because their faith is based on absolutes. They know, for example, that Jehovah is the Universal Sovereign and that his Word, the Holy Bible, is absolute truth. This is in striking contrast with human philosophies based on uncertainties and speculations.
The first speaker was Martin Poetzinger, also a member of the Governing Body, who spent nine years in Nazi concentration camps. His theme was “In Whom Do You Trust?” based on Proverbs 3:5, 6. He stressed to the students the need of trusting fully in Jehovah and his visible organization, as well as individually proving trustworthy. The students’ Gilead training was only a foundation; now they had to build on it by following Paul’s advice at Ephesians 5:15, 16. ‘Do not stand still,’ urged the speaker. ‘You will have your problems in your missionary assignment as to language, climate, food, and so forth; but by trusting in Jehovah, you can solve all those problems. Love for people is your key to success. Every encouragement is from God; every discouragement is from Satan.’
The next speaker was Eldor Timm, a member of the Factory Committee, who based his remarks on 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith.” The students were finished with written tests, he said, but they will keep facing many other tests in their missionary assignments. How they meet those tests will determine their success as missionaries. They need to guard against overconfidence by heeding the counsel: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) They will keep making improvements if they keep a good mental attitude.
A member of the Service Department Committee, Joel Adams, followed. He spoke on the subject: “Think Like Jesus, Show a Personal Interest in Others.” What a fine example Jesus set in this regard! His example of unselfishness and humility is highlighted for us at Philippians 2:3-5. If some are a trial to us by reason of their shortcomings or lack of tact, let us go out of our way to show kindness to them. During the Gilead School course, many showed an interest in the students; now it was up to them to do the same toward others. The most successful missionaries are those who show an interest in others’ customs, language, needs, and so forth.
Next, the students were encouraged by one who had been a missionary for many years, Lloyd Barry, also a member of the Governing Body. He spoke on the theme “Sing to Jehovah,” based on Psalm 96:1. Jehovah’s people enjoy singing. Singing goes with joy, and so he encouraged the students never to lose the joy of bringing the truth to others. ‘If you have to learn a new language,’ he urged, ‘put your heart into it from the start. The Devil will try to discourage you, make you homesick, cause disunity in your ranks. Never allow him one inch!’ Brother Barry referred to the “dean of missionaries,” Edwin Skinner, who has been in his foreign assignment in India for 60 years, and who now at the age of 93 still does a full day’s work. According to Brother Skinner, the key to success as a missionary consists of four words: “Humility is the keynote!”
Following these remarks, the chairman read a number of telegrams congratulating the students and extending a welcome to them. Messages were received from Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador, Honduras, Spain, Sweden, and Trinidad.
Jack Redford, one of the instructors of the Gilead School, spoke on the subject “Continue to Be Jehovah’s Friend.” He began by noting that there are many commercial institutions that offer training on achieving success in business by winning friends and influencing people. The students, as future missionaries, have also been taught how to win friends and influence people, not for selfish gain, however, but so that such people can become friends of God. ‘Yours is a life of self-sacrifice,’ said the speaker. ‘You received free, give free. There is no satisfaction or joy greater than succeeding in helping people to become friends of God. Friendship with God is the greatest honor any creature can have. James 2:23 tells that Abraham became Jehovah’s friend because of exercising faith in God. He went to a foreign land and did not look back; neither should you missionaries look back, but, instead, look forward to the blessings in God’s new world.’
Ulysses Glass, a Gilead instructor and registrar of the school, now spoke on the subject “The Final Lesson.” He noted that the students had learned how far-reaching and exacting Jehovah’s laws really are. By way of example, he pointed to the many details associated with sacrifices offered on the Day of Atonement and the many animals that were involved. (Leviticus, chapter 16) He commended the students for their manifest deephearted appreciation and said that Psalm 145:7 well describes their mental attitude: “With the mention of the abundance of your goodness they will bubble over, and because of your righteousness they will cry out joyfully.” In his conclusion, he also quoted Proverbs 3:5-7, stressing their need to ‘trust in Jehovah with all their heart.’
Brother F. W. Franz, the 94-year-old president of Gilead School as well as president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, gave the concluding talk of the morning. In it he recounted the history of the Society from the time of the first president, C. T. Russell, until the establishing of the Gilead School. His vigorous and enthusiastic presentation was greatly appreciated by all. After his talk, the 24 students received their diplomas together with some gifts, and then one of the students read a fine letter expressing the students’ appreciation for all the help they had received from the Governing Body and also from the Bethel family.
After an intermission of approximately two hours, Phil Wilcox, a member of the Watchtower Farms Committee, conducted an abbreviated study of the current Watchtower lesson in which the study questions were answered by the students. That was followed by the students’ program in which they reenacted experiences they had enjoyed while witnessing during Wednesday afternoons in New York City. This was part of their Gilead training. They also vividly demonstrated the various problems they could expect to meet up with when they reached their foreign assignments.
As a fitting conclusion to the whole program, the students presented a costumed Bible drama in two parts, highlighting the seriousness of the times we are living in. The drama did this by comparing our days with past judgment periods. At 4:15 p.m., with the singing of the song “Theocracy’s Increase” and a prayer by Governing Body member Milton Henschel, the most delightful program came to an end.
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83rd Graduating 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) Melin, D.; Goode, M.; Ramos, M.; Chan, N.; Hermanson, A.; Dagostini, D. (2) David, E.; DiPaolo, A.; Neiman, D.; Shephard, J.; Foster, M.; Ramos, R. (3) Foster, W.; Melin, D.; Fristad, D.; Fristad, R.; White, L.; Dagostini, F. (4) Neiman, D.; Ness, S.; Shephard, D.; Goode, J.; White, K.; Hermanson, L.