Gilead’s 84th Class—Living Up To Expectations!
PROVERBS 10:28 says: “The expectation of the righteous ones is a rejoicing.” Such was the case on the morning of March 6, 1988. It was obvious to any observer that expectations were running high among the 4,360 gathered at the Jersey City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The fact that virtually the entire Brooklyn and Watchtower Farms Bethel family was able to be together in such a lovely setting was in itself a cause for great joy and excitement! However, those present had come in expectation of more than a large-scale family reunion. Foremost in their minds was what they knew would be a landmark event: the graduation of the 84th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.
Located now at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, Gilead was established in 1943 to advance the God-ordained work of ‘making disciples.’ (Matthew 28:19, 20) After completing a five-month course of Bible education, Gilead graduates are sent, not to lucrative jobs, but into the worldwide field as missionaries. (Matthew 13:38) Understandably, then, anyone having had the privilege of attending Gilead has high expectations.—Compare Luke 12:48.
The graduation program forcefully brought these expectations into clear focus. It opened with a fervent prayer by George Gangas, a member of the Governing Body. C. W. Barber, also of the Governing Body, served as chairman that day. ‘We are engaging in the greatest educational campaign in history,’ said Barber. Drawing from Isaiah chapter 6, he explained that we must often preach under hostile conditions. And as in Isaiah’s day, only a symbolic “tenth,” or “remnant,” may respond to our message. (Isaiah 6:13; Romans 9:27) Never, though, should we feel that our preaching efforts are in vain!
These encouraging remarks raised anticipation for what was to follow: a series of short, but powerful, talks directed to the graduates. Calvin Chyke of the Factory Committee began by asking the question, ‘Will you prove to be a blessing to others?’ They had received many blessings at Gilead. Now they must give blessings, imparting ‘spiritual gifts’ to others. (Romans 1:11, 12) Even when trialsome situations arise, such as being low on funds, the missionaries must continue to “practice giving” spiritually. (Luke 6:38) Then the words of Psalm 84:6 will be fulfilled upon them: “Even with blessings the instructor enwraps himself.”
David Olson of the Service Department Committee next reminded the missionaries of our worldwide brotherhood. For five months they had enjoyed the love and support of fellow classmates—only to be scattered now all over the globe. Olson assured them that they would enjoy the fulfillment of Mark 10:29, 30, which promises them new friends and ‘families.’
Daniel Sydlik of the Governing Body stressed the need for graduates to ‘Cultivate Great and Grand Expectations.’ Jehovah has created us with the capacity for having expectations, hopes, and dreams. Should not, then, missionaries have high expectations for themselves? ‘Set a goal, make demands on yourselves!’ exhorted Sydlik. ‘Master the language of the country you are assigned to. Keep up with issues of The Watchtower and Awake! in your mother tongue so as to retain your spirituality. When teaching others,’ continued Sydlik, ‘set high expectations for them too. Let them know that it is expected that they attend meetings and prepare lessons ahead of time.’
Subsequent speakers continued in this vein. Lyman Swingle, also of the Governing Body, reminded the students: ‘Jesus Christ is the one sending you out. And he himself was one sent forth into a foreign field here on earth.’ Like Jesus, missionaries should take their assignment seriously. However, they must not take themselves too seriously. ‘Have the ability to laugh at yourselves when you do something foolish,’ said Swingle. ‘Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us that there is “a time to laugh.”’
The school’s two primary instructors now had opportunity to give their students some final admonition. Jack Redford’s theme was ‘Never Forget Your Mission!’ Christendom’s clergy has lost its sense of mission, many becoming embroiled in worldly politics. Jesus Christ, however, fulfilled his mission to preach, never getting sidetracked by what Satan’s world had to offer. Missionaries must therefore always remember why they have been sent forth—to feed spiritually starving mankind. (Compare Matthew 9:36.) They must therefore avoid such snares as materialism and immorality. By focusing on their preaching mission, they have the prospect of enjoying many fine experiences in the field!
U. V. Glass followed with an illustration involving a glass of water and a string of pearls. In many lands the purity of a glass of water is questionable. Equally dubious might be the genuineness of a string of pearls. ‘What of your credibility?’ asked Glass. ‘A lack of credibility has been called the “silent destroyer of relationships.”’ How can the graduates establish their credibility? ‘Speak truth,’ said Glass, ‘not coloring or bending it. Integrity is the foundation of credibility.’—Ephesians 4:25.
A highlight of the morning was the concluding talk by the Watch Tower Society’s 94-year-old president, F. W. Franz. In a voice still firm and strong, Franz reviewed the history of Gilead. During the second world war, the Governing Body came to discern that ‘World War II would not lead to Armageddon. It would terminate and a period of peace would follow.’ Gilead was established to take full advantage of this intervening period—and has been going strong ever since! ‘We live in the most favorable of times!’ exclaimed the Society’s president. The audience expressed its appreciation for the admonition by this longtime servant of Jehovah by thunderous applause!
The curtains were now opened, revealing the 24 students of the 84th class of Gilead seated on the platform. Though averaging but 31.6 years of age, they are hardly novice preachers. Why, they average 11.3 years of full-time evangelizing! And quite an international group they are, hailing from the Netherlands, Australia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and the United States. With the assistance of A. D. Schroeder, who was one of the original Gilead instructors, C. W. Barber handed them their diplomas. The audience was thrilled to learn that the graduates would be sent to nine lands: the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Western Samoa, Taiwan, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Guam, and Colombia! Then a fine letter of appreciation was read by one of the students on behalf of the class.
After a brief lunch-break, the audience reconvened for an abbreviated Watchtower Study, conducted by Robert Wallen of the Bethel Committee. Upon the completion of the study, the lights dimmed. The program chairman urged the audience: ‘Relax and enjoy the students’ gift to you, the student program of the 84th class, entitled “Glorifying Our Ministry.”’
Through songs, experiences, and skits, the students now presented an inside look at student and missionary life. It was shown, for example, how New York City’s diverse preaching territory is used as a missionary training ground. One humorous skit, based on the real experiences of Gilead students, showed how students learn to give an effective informal witness on the city’s subways. Also portrayed in an amusing, but authentic, way were scenes of missionaries making the often awkward adjustments to foreign culture and customs.
One graduating missionary summed up the program nicely, saying: ‘What better way to glorify our ministry than to help others to put their complete reliance on Jehovah’s Word?’ No doubt all in attendance were moved to consider how they can have a greater personal share in the preaching work. As a finishing touch, students then presented a modern-day drama that stressed the need for us to subject ourselves to God. Another landmark occasion then came to a conclusion with an appreciative prayer by J. E. Barr of the Governing Body.
Unquestionably, the Gilead graduation program lived up to expectations. What, though, of the graduating class itself? We are confident that, like their predecessors, this latest group of missionary graduates will more than live up to what is expected, yes, demanded, of them by Jehovah—that they glorify their ministry in their foreign assignments!
[Picture on page 24]
84th 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) Norberg, C.; Holmes, T.; Holland, J.; Vehlen, B.; Rector, D.; Thomas, K. (2) Rajalehto, T.; Rajalehto, T.; Hoefnagels, J.; Moonen, A.; Summers, C.; Wahl, H. (3) Holland, J.; Holmes, F.; Hoefnagels, H.; Koivula, V.; Moonen, M.; Thomas, B. (4) Wahl, M.; Rector, W.; Summers, G.; Keighley, P.; Vehlen, P.; Norberg, O.