Graduation of the 85th Gilead Class—A Joyful Occasion
FOLLOWING the inauguration of the temple some 3,000 years ago, Solomon “sent the people away to their homes, joyful and feeling good at heart.” (2 Chronicles 7:10) Those words well describe the feelings of over 4,000 people as they were leaving the Jersey City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on September 11, 1988. The occasion? The graduation of the 85th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.
After a song, the program opened with a heartfelt prayer by W. L. Barry, a member of the Governing Body. T. Jaracz, also of the Governing Body, acted as chairman for the day. ‘For this occasion to be truly spiritually refreshing and upbuilding,’ said Jaracz, ‘Jehovah’s spirit and his blessings are needed.’ Indeed, such were evident as the program unfolded.
Following these welcoming remarks, the graduates received parting counsel in a series of short, practical talks. R. L. Rains of the Bethel Committee spoke first. Basing his comments on Genesis 12:1, 2, Rains admonished the students: ‘Prove to be a blessing in your missionary assignment.’ And how can they do so? ‘It is by your life course once you get there,’ he stressed. He next highlighted two factors that will greatly help: (1) They should realize that they will need to make some changes in order to adjust to their new assignments; and (2) they should maintain peaceful relations with others.
In a warm, encouraging manner, J. E. Barr of the Governing Body talked next, addressing the graduates on the theme “Give Us More Faith,” based on Luke 17:5. ‘Do remember daily,’ Barr exhorted, ‘to ask Jehovah to give you more faith.’ They must always keep in mind the real reason why Jehovah has sent them to their assignments. ‘Sense the power of God’s invisible as well as his visible organization backing you up always, day and night,’ urged Barr. ‘You can never ask too often in your prayers, “Jehovah, please give me more faith.”’
Curiosity was aroused when the chairman announced the theme of the next speaker, F. D. Songer of the Factory Committee: “A Unique Trust and a Special Key.” Songer drew his comments from 1 Chronicles 9:26, 27 and what is said there about the Levite gatekeepers. ‘Their office was one of unique trust,’ explained Songer. They had the key—the implement expressing the very power of control over entrance to the holy areas of the temple. They were reliable, opening the gates dependably each morning. In conclusion, Songer told the graduates: ‘You have been given a unique trust and a special key, as it were, with which to open up, morning by morning, to those seeking entrance to the courtyards of true worship. Guard that trust well and use that key dependably.’
Next, M. G. Henschel of the Governing Body spoke on the theme “Keep Holding the Pattern of Healthful Words.” Referring to 2 Timothy 1:13, 14, Brother Henschel explained that Paul’s parting counsel to Timothy was: ‘Use this pattern of healthful words that you have received from me, and guard this like a treasure, a trust.’ The graduates, too, have received a treasure. For the previous five months, they had studied the Bible and matters concerning the ministry. ‘This instruction, this pattern of healthful words,’ explained Henschel, ‘is something God has put in your hands to use, not just for yourself, no, but for others.’
What parting counsel would the school’s two instructors have for their students? J. D. Redford spoke first on the theme “Admit Your Mistakes.” Redford noted that although we know that “we all stumble many times,” if we are charged with making a mistake, we are prone to justify ourselves. (James 3:2) ‘Refusing to admit our mistakes is like claiming infallibility,’ said Redford. Admitting our mistakes is the course of wisdom. How so? The speaker explained: ‘No one can maintain the respect of others if he insists that he is right even when confronted with an obvious mistake. How can anyone have confidence in a person who he knows from experience will even sacrifice the truth just to give the appearance that he is right? Admitting a mistake builds in us strength, self-respect. But a failure to do so is cowardly, and it serves to weaken us morally.’ Applying such practical counsel will no doubt help the graduates to get along well with others.
U. V. Glass, the other instructor and the registrar of the school, based his final admonition on the Bible account of Gideon, whom Jehovah used to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Midianites. (Judges, chapters 6–8) Gideon demonstrated that Jehovah’s confidence in him was not misplaced, for when the people wanted to make him a king, he refused, saying: “Jehovah is the one who will rule over you.” (Judges 8:23) ‘You too,’ said Glass, ‘do not want to get lifted up. You have proved yourselves. But this does not mean that you are the ones who are doing the fighting. It is Jehovah who is backing you up.’
The final speaker of the morning was A. D. Schroeder of the Governing Body, and it was evident as he spoke that Gilead School is close to his heart. And for good reason—he was the registrar when the school was established in 1943. Brother Schroeder developed the theme “Be Found Faithful,” based on 1 Corinthians 4:2. What does being faithful involve? ‘It describes one’s being full of faith in the declarations and precious promises of Jehovah God,’ explained Schroeder. ‘It also means that one is true, constant, loyal to Jehovah.’ Are there any examples of those who have already been found faithful? There were the pre-Christian men and women mentioned at Hebrews chapter 11; Jesus Christ; and the apostles and other anointed disciples of the first century C.E. After calling attention to some modern-day examples, Brother Schroeder asked: ‘What about us?’ He added: ‘Either you are faithful or you are not faithful. Whether we are of the anointed or of the great crowd, all of us, both classes, must be equally faithful to our calling.’
Following Brother Schroeder’s remarks, the chairman conveyed the greetings received from various countries. The moment now arrived for the students to receive their diplomas. The 22 students came from six countries—Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, and the United States. Their assignments, though, will take them to 11 different lands—Belize, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Hong Kong, Lesotho, Pakistan, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Senegal, and Taiwan. And what did the graduates have to say on their graduation day? One of the students read a letter addressed to the Governing Body and the Bethel family, which said in part: “We thank you all once again for making these five months the most memorable of our entire lives.”
After an intermission, W. L. Van De Wall of the Service Department Committee began the afternoon program by conducting an abbreviated Watchtower Study. Following this, the students put on a brief program, reenacting a few of the interesting—and sometimes humorous—experiences they had had while witnessing in New York City. Then, all in attendance, including the 85th class, enjoyed a special program entitled “Getting Better Acquainted With Our Zealous Missionaries.” By means of slides and recordings, the audience was able to see—and hear—some longtime missionaries.
As a fitting conclusion, the students put on a costumed Bible drama emphasizing the need to do God’s will with zeal. After a final song, one and all were deeply touched as F. W. Franz, the Watchtower Society’s 95-year-old president, offered a fervent closing prayer. Following this, all went “away to their homes, joyful and feeling good at heart.”
Established in 1943, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead trains and sends out missionaries to all parts of the earth. For the first 35 classes, the school was located at the Watchtower Society’s Kingdom Farm, near South Lansing, New York. With the 36th class, starting February 6, 1961, the school was moved to the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, where it has operated until now. However, with the commencement of the 86th class on October 17, 1988, the school is being moved to Watchtower Farms, near Pine Bush, New York.
[Box on page 21]
Average age: 29.1
Average years in the truth: 13.4
Average years in full-time ministry: 9.1
Number of single brothers: 2
Number of married couples: 10
[Picture on page 23]
85th 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) Johnston, Y.; Kuismin, S.; Ugarte, Z.; Williams, Z.; Grischkewitz, G. (2) Powers, E.; D’Angelo, L.; Honsberger, J.; Williams, J.; James, J. (3) Kuismin, V.; Grischkewitz, U.; Ugarte, R.; Rogerson, A.; Lantunen, K.; James, D. (4) Rogerson, M.; Johnston, R.; D’Angelo, T.; Honsberger, T.; Powers, T.; Danielson, M.