More Missionaries for the Global Harvest
SEPTEMBER is a month of harvest for farmers, but a much more important harvest work drew a large crowd to the Jersey City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, just across the Hudson River from New York City, on September 8, 1991. The 91st class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead was graduating. Some 4,263 members of the Bethel family and invited guests were there, with another 1,151 tied in by telephone lines to the Brooklyn headquarters and the farms at Wallkill and Patterson.
The president of Gilead School, Frederick W. Franz, nearly 98 years old, opened the program with a touching and deeply reverent prayer. Albert D. Schroeder, a member of the Governing Body and former registrar and instructor of the school, served as chairman of the graduation program. He reminded the audience of Psalm 2:1, 2 and other prophecies that foretell this time of shaking and tumult among the nations. This state of disruption has meant the opening of many new fields for the harvest work.
The first talk of the day was delivered by George M. Couch, a member of the Bethel Committee. His theme was “Count Your Blessings.” He reminded the Gilead students that it is never too early to begin this practice. He remarked that the students themselves were certainly blessed but that these blessings had come only after much hard work. Similarly, 97-year-old Jacob wrestled all night long with an angel—all for the sake of receiving a blessing. (Genesis 32:24-32) Brother Couch urged the students not to dwell on negative thoughts but to become a blessing to others by cultivating peace of mind through prayer and determination.
John E. Barr of the Governing Body spoke next on the theme “Have Love Among Yourselves.” Jesus’ followers were willing to die for one another. “Do you feel this kind of love welling up in your hearts?” he asked the students. ‘Without this love,’ he said, ‘we’re nothing. It’s just as simple as that.’ (1 Corinthians 13:3) Brother Barr listed some practical ways to show love. He encouraged the students to treat fellow missionaries with respect, always seeking a tactful way to say things. ‘Forget the small issues,’ he advised them, citing 1 Peter 4:8. He noted that even the missionaries’ cook days were occasions when they could show love by viewing the work as more than a mere perfunctory duty. He reminded the students: “We never stop owing our brothers and sisters love.”—Romans 13:8.
“How Confident Are You?” was the interesting theme developed by David A. Olson of the Service Department Committee. He highlighted two areas of confidence: in Jehovah and his organization, for which we have innumerable reasons (Proverbs 14:6; Jeremiah 17:8); and in self. Missionaries have reason for a measure of self-confidence, such as their background as ministers and the trust that Jehovah and his organization have placed in them. The apostle Paul showed such confidence for similar reasons. (1 Corinthians 16:13; Philippians 4:13) Brother Olson cautioned, though, against the overconfidence that the world promotes, as exemplified by a famous writer who reportedly said: “I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.” However, confidence balanced with humility can inspire confidence in others. This was certainly true in Paul’s case.—Philippians 1:12-14.
Lyman A. Swingle of the Governing Body next exhorted the students: “To the Fields to Be Harvested, You Gilead Graduates!” He said that this was a harvest day for Gilead School and for the worldwide brotherhood, as the graduates would go forth and join the thousands of previous graduates still in the missionary work—some from the first, second, and third classes of the 1940’s! Brother Swingle remarked that back then no one knew that the missionary work would go on for another 50 years, or that Nazism, Fascism, and other governmental barriers to the preaching work would crumble. “If we are awed over what Jehovah has done in the past,” he asked, “what about the future?” He concluded with the rousing call to the students: “To the field!”
The two principal instructors for Gilead School then addressed the 91st class for the last time. Jack D. Redford spoke on the theme “Acquire Wisdom.” Gilead School, he told the students, teaches knowledge and understanding, but they must acquire wisdom, the ability to use their knowledge in the right way. He urged the students to reject the myth that they had learned it all at Gilead. “It’s what you learn after the school that counts.” Among the things they must yet learn: to deal peaceably with people, being able to say “I’m sorry” to a mate, to fellow missionaries, and to local brothers and sisters; to be wary of trusting first impressions and to realize that every problem is complex, requiring a deepened understanding of circumstances before giving wise counsel; and to respect the local brothers for their ability to get by in difficult circumstances.—Proverbs 15:28; 16:23; James 1:19.
Ulysses V. Glass, the registrar of Gilead School, made Philippians 3:16 the theme of his talk. He commended the class for the progress they had made and exhorted them to continue in line with that scripture. While the students should go on acquiring accurate knowledge, he noted, they would never know everything. He illustrated the point with a digital watch. Its owner may know how to make it function without knowing just how it actually works. Similarly, missionaries should not look down on those who, while not matching their depth of knowledge, know what is important—how to fear Jehovah. (Proverbs 1:7) He reminded the class of the importance of keeping a ‘simple eye.’ (Matthew 6:22) The spiritual eye can be hampered just as the physical eye can. Some, for instance, have tunnel vision—being too focused on a few details to see the whole picture—while others, conversely, see only the peripheral issues and are ever distracted from key issues they need to address.
The final talk of the morning was entitled “Identifying and Working With Jehovah’s Organization,” delivered by Theodore Jaracz of the Governing Body. Brother Jaracz remarked that while there are thousands of organizations and societies in the world, only one of all these does not originate with the world. How to identify the one that represents Jehovah? God’s Word provides the identifying marks. The Bible shows that his heavenly creation is highly organized. (Psalm 103:20, 21; Isaiah 40:26) Jehovah’s earthly organization is also identifiable by its orderliness as well as by its separateness from the world, its strict adherence to Bible principles, its high level of moral cleanness, and the love among its members. Brother Jaracz urged the Gilead students to assist as many as possible in their assignments to identify Jehovah’s organization Scripturally. In that connection, he made a thrilling announcement: Gilead School is soon to double in size, to about 50 students in the 93rd class! Also, Gilead Extension School classes in Germany will commence at about the same time. Applause was long and loud!
As the climax of the morning, all 24 Gilead students received diplomas. Soon they would be on their way to 12 different countries around the world. The class presented a heartfelt resolution, thanking the Governing Body and the Bethel family. After lunch, Brother Charles J. Rice of the Watchtower Farms Committee conducted an abbreviated Watchtower Study. Then the graduates put on a lively program, enacting some of the experiences they had in the field service during their five-month course at Wallkill, New York. After that, publishers representing several local congregations presented a drama entitled Youths Who Remember Their Creator Now.
To close the program, Brother George Gangas, a 95-year-old member of the Governing Body, offered a characteristically animated prayer to Jehovah. The audience left in high spirits, each no doubt moved to have an ever greater share in the global harvest work.
[Box on page 22]
Number of countries represented: 6
Number of countries assigned to: 12
Number of students: 24
Number of married couples: 12
Average age: 33.4
Average years in truth: 16.13
Average years in full-time ministry: 11.3
[Picture on page 23]
91st 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) McDowell, A.; Youngquist, L.; Skokan, B.; Wargnier, N.; Miller, Y.; Muñoz, M. (2) Bales, M.; Perez, D.; Attick, E.; Vainikainen, A.; Mostberg, K. (3) DePriest, D.; DePriest, T.; Perez, R.; Wargnier, J.; Muñoz, J.; Miller, J. (4) McDowell, S.; Bales, D.; Skokan, M.; Attick, C.; Youngquist, W.; Vainikainen, J.; Mostberg, S.