Gilead Graduates Embark on a Rewarding Way of Life
“WHAT a happy occasion this is, the graduation of the 90th class of Gilead!” With those words, the chairman, Karl F. Klein of the Governing Body, introduced the graduation program. Recalling when the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead began, he added: “Who would have thought, back in 1943, when the first class of Gilead graduated that 48 years later we would still be coming together for the graduation of yet another class—the 90th?”
Yet, on March 3, 1991, an unseasonably warm day in New Jersey, over 4,000 invited guests and members of the Bethel family gathered at the Jersey City Assembly Hall, just across the river from New York City, for the graduation of these new missionaries. Before embarking on missionary life, the graduates would receive some parting counsel on this their graduation day.
The program had opened with a song. Afterward, all in attendance were deeply touched when Frederick W. Franz, the 97-year-old president of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, offered the opening prayer. Then, after the introductory remarks by the chairman, the graduates—and all in attendance—listened with interest to a series of short, practical talks.
Max H. Larson of the Factory Committee spoke first, on the theme “Fellow Workers With Jehovah.” After drawing attention to the ark of preservation that Noah and his family built, he said: ‘Today Jehovah is gathering a worldwide family of millions, and he purposes to take this large family through the great tribulation.’ How? Why, by means of the modern-day ark—the spiritual paradise! ‘You,’ he reminded the graduates, ‘will be going to various parts of the earth, where you will be fellow workers with Jehovah in building the modern-day ark.’ Preparing them for what lay ahead, he said: ‘It is going to take work on your part. It is going to take patience. You are going to encounter obstacles. Here is where you will need the skills your training has given you.’
Daniel Sydlik, a member of the Governing Body, had recently visited with longtime missionaries in Japan and Costa Rica. Developing the theme “Yours Is a Rewarding Way of Life,” he shared some of the helpful suggestions he had gleaned from these successful missionaries. One sister, he explained, passed along some advice her mother had given her: ‘Love the field service. Make friends with people. Share your life with others, and it will mean happiness for you.’ Another sister said: ‘Over the years, we have come to appreciate that if we do not expect too much from others, we will not easily be disappointed. Any act of kindness and thoughtfulness that comes our way means that much more to us.’ Applying such practical advice will no doubt help the graduates to become successful missionaries themselves.
“Be long-suffering toward all,” says 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Leon Weaver of the Service Department Committee commented on this text as he spoke on the theme “Be Patient in All Your Activities.” Who are included in the “all” toward whom we must exercise patience? The speaker answered: ‘Those you will meet in the field service. The brothers and sisters in your new congregation. Your fellow missionaries. Those in the branch. Your mate. Yourself.’ Why be patient in all our activities? ‘Brothers and sisters,’ the speaker explained, ‘patience reduces stress and anxiety. Patience makes for peace. Patience keeps hope alive. Patience helps us maintain our joy in serving.’
Albert D. Schroeder, a member of the Governing Body and the original registrar of Gilead School, spoke next. Speaking on the theme “Keep Following Your Model—Jesus Christ,” he based his comments on Philippians chapter 2. “Keep this mental attitude [“This be you minding,” footnote] in you that was also in Christ Jesus,” says Php 2 verse 5. ‘This indicates,’ explained the speaker, ‘that we need to have balanced thinking, even as Jesus himself had balanced thinking.’ Starting with Php 2 verse 6, he next made an interesting analysis, showing that Paul first gives evidences that Jesus had balanced thinking (Php 2 verses 6-8) and then outlines the ways in which Jehovah rewarded him for his obedient course (Php 2 verses 9-11). ‘This is part of your privilege,’ he concluded, ‘to be preaching the Lord Jesus Christ, helping others to have the same mental attitude that he had.’
What parting words would the school’s instructors have for their students? Jack D. Redford spoke on the theme “Thinking Ability Will Keep Guard Over You.” (Proverbs 2:10, 11) ‘As you go out now,’ he explained, ‘your happiness is not going to depend on who you are or what you have or even the fact that you are a Gilead graduate. Your happiness will depend on how you think. If you exercise your thinking ability and apply your knowledge, you will be happy.’ Showing the importance of thinking ability, he explained: ‘The difference between right action and wrong action is thought. What you think determines what you do.’ J. D. Redford concluded with these words of encouragement to the students: ‘There are many very intelligent people in the world who are poor thinkers, and there are many people of average intelligence who have become skilled thinkers. So acquire that skill. Be determined to use your mind. Use your knowledge. Cope with problems. Get along with people. Accept authority. Be productive in your work. Endure in your assignment.’
Ulysses V. Glass, the registrar of the school, chose the theme “Jehovah Is Supporting Our Hand,” based on Psalm 37:23, 24. ‘I must commend this class,’ he observed, ‘on their interest in learning.’ He reminded them of some of the helps that Jehovah provided in their support—God’s Word, the faithful and discreet slave under the direction of Jesus to give meaning and understanding to the Scriptures, various publications, meetings, and conventions. ‘The helps that you have used in your studies,’ he continued, ‘are like a spiritual staff and rod. We need them for our spiritual support, and they also enable us to speak with authority in transmitting God’s Word to others.’ In conclusion he had these words of advice for the students: ‘If your heart is filled with love for people, honest hearts will respond. You will be successful in your ministry, and you will know that Jehovah is supporting your hand.’
The final speaker on the morning program was Carey W. Barber of the Governing Body, who chose the theme “Go Through the Narrow Door.” Commenting on Luke 13:23, 24, he noted: ‘Many want the blessings of life, but very few are willing to exert themselves vigorously enough to obtain them.’ What about us? ‘It is good for us to ask ourselves, “What does this picture of the narrow door mean to me personally?”’ Those who fail to go through the narrow door fail, not because it is impossible, but because they are unwilling to exert themselves. ‘Jehovah is not asking too much of us,’ the speaker explained. ‘With Jehovah’s help,’ he concluded, ‘may all of us joyfully exert sufficient vigor to squeeze through the narrow door into the new world of everlasting life, peace, joy, and happiness, to Jehovah’s eternal glory!’
Following these remarks, the chairman conveyed the greetings received from various parts of the earth. The time had now arrived for the graduates to receive their diplomas. The students had come from six countries—Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, and the United States. Their assignments, though, will take them to such lands as Argentina, Benin, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Peru, St. Lucia, and Taiwan. And how did the graduates feel on their graduation day? In a touching letter addressed to the Governing Body and the Bethel family, they said in part: “We are confident of the backing of the Governing Body, the Bethel family, and Jehovah’s entire organization. As we face trials ahead, that backing is something we will treasure. For this we are indeed grateful.”
After an intermission, the afternoon program began with an abbreviated Watchtower Study, conducted by Karl A. Adams. After that, the students enacted true-life experiences of aiming for the heart in teaching God’s Word. Finally, all in attendance, including the graduates of the 90th class, enjoyed a timely drama entitled Avoid Life’s Anxieties, presented by local publishers.
The chairman, Karl Klein, spoke for all when he said in his concluding remarks: “Truly it has been good for us to have been here on this third day of March 1991!” The delightful program then ended with a closing song, followed by a prayer by Harold J. Dies.
[Box on page 27]
Number of countries represented: 6
Number of countries assigned to: 10
Total number of students: 24
Average age: 31.2
Average years in truth: 15
Average years in full-time ministry: 11
[Picture on page 26]
90th 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) Miller, M.; Helenius, S.; Marsh, L.; Kleeman, A.; Loosli, Y.; Nizan, H. (2) Skogen, R.; Nutter, D.; Noack, E.; Diehl, L.; Hair, J. (3) Marsh, C.; Helenius, H.; Loosli, M.; Danio, A.; Danio, A.; Nizan, D. (4) Miller, L.; Noack, J.; Hair, L.; Kleeman, W.; Skogen, D.; Diehl, S.; Nutter, W.