Gilead Graduates Accept the Gift of Missionary Service
ON MARCH 1, 1992, the 22 members of the 92nd graduating class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead accepted a gift—the gift of missionary service. When addressing the class, Lloyd Barry of the Governing Body stated: “May you receive that wonderful gift with great joy, and may you use it in bringing joy to others.”
Some 4,662 invited guests and members of the Bethel family gathered at the Jersey City Assembly Hall, in New Jersey, for the graduation program. Another 970 at the New York facilities of the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn, Wallkill, and Patterson were tied in by telephone line. All listened carefully as the graduates were given some parting counsel that would help them to value highly the gift of missionary service and to use it wisely.
The program had opened with enthusiastic singing of song number 155, “‘Welcome One Another’!” Afterward, all were moved as Frederick W. Franz, the 98-year-old president of Gilead School, offered a heartfelt prayer. Then, the chairman, Carey Barber of the Governing Body, welcomed all to the graduation program and said: “There has never been a greater need for Gilead missionaries than today.” Following his remarks, he introduced a series of short, helpful talks.
Curtis Johnson of the Bethel Home Committee spoke first, developing the theme “Take Good Care of Your Garden.” Brother Johnson noted that when these new missionaries get to their assignments, each of them will have a spiritual garden to cultivate. (1 Corinthians 3:9) Jehovah’s people worldwide are a spiritual garden sprouting righteousness and praise before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11) ‘How you care for your spiritual garden in the future,’ the speaker emphasized, ‘will vitally affect your success in your missionary assignment.’ What will help them to take good care of their spiritual garden? ‘Jehovah can be a wall of protection around your spiritual garden. If you are determined to cultivate right works, keep close to him in prayer, and then work in harmony with your prayers.’
Next, Lloyd Barry spoke on the theme “Always Rejoice in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:4) With over 25 years of missionary experience in Japan to draw on, he had some practical suggestions to help the graduates to enjoy the gift of missionary service. He observed: ‘You are going to find that the joy you have in God’s service helps you to overcome many of the stresses and perhaps some of the physical problems that you meet up with.’ (Proverbs 17:22) He reminded the graduates that they may encounter conditions and situations that are quite different from what they have been used to. They may have to learn a new language. ‘You will have to work hard at learning the language. But when you are able to communicate freely with the people in their own language, this too will add to your joy.’
Developing the theme “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” Eldor Timm of the Factory Committee spoke next. What is the prize? Everlasting life! To gain it we must keep our eyes focused on it. The speaker discussed some of the similarities and differences between Christians in the race for life and runners in athletic competitions of the first century. Like the runners, Christians must train vigorously, observe the rules, and strip themselves of cumbersome weights. But unlike literal runners, Christians are in a lifelong race and seek a prize that is everlasting. Instead of there being one winner, all who run the race for life to the finish will receive the prize. Brother Timm concluded: ‘To gain the prize of life, we must be at peace with Jehovah, the Giver of the prize. And to be at peace with Jehovah, we have to be at peace with our brothers.’
Milton Henschel of the Governing Body spoke next on the theme “Through the Comfort From the Scriptures, We Have Hope.” (Romans 15:4) ‘For the last five months,’ the speaker began, ‘you have been busy with the Bible. A great closeness has been built up. You have strong hope. As you go out to your assignments, please remember why your hope is so strong. It is because you have stayed close to the Scriptures.’ To show an example of a Bible account that inspires hope, the speaker referred to Judges chapters 6 to 8, which recount how Gideon was commissioned to deliver Israel from Midianite oppression. After discussing the account and its significance for our day, he noted: ‘When you have the opportunity to get close to the Scriptures and think about these things, it refreshes you. You get courage.’
All were anxious to hear what parting counsel the school’s two principal instructors would have for the students. Jack Redford spoke first on the theme “Do the Right Thing.” He reminded the graduates: ‘At Gilead you were thoroughly trained in what is right according to the Scriptures. Now you go out to challenging missionary assignments. And we know that you will probably find difficult problems along the way. Despite this, and despite your own feelings, we know that you can do the right thing.’ What will help? For one thing, having the right view of others. The speaker said: ‘Do not expect perfection from imperfection.’ Having the right view of trialsome situations can also help. ‘We all have our ups and downs in life,’ he noted. ‘Anybody can handle the ups. It is how you handle the downs that will determine whether you endure in the missionary service.’—James 1:2-4.
The registrar of the school, Ulysses Glass, selected the theme “What Hope for the Future?” In a fatherly tone, he encouraged the graduates to keep their hope burning brightly. (Proverbs 13:12) ‘The start of the loss of hope may hardly be noticeable,’ he explained. ‘Circumstances may cause us to become preoccupied with ourselves instead of our relationship with God. We might get sick or feel mistreated by others. Some may have more material things than we have or may get better results in the ministry, and we may become somewhat jealous. If we ever allow such things gradually to overtake us, soon the reality of the Kingdom hope will fade in our heart and mind, and we may even stop enduring in the race for life.’ What can be done? ‘Positive action must be taken if we are to revive our hope. We must fill our minds and hearts with the sure promises of God and turn our full attention to the reality of God’s Kingdom. And we must restore our communication with Jehovah, for this will surely lead to joy.’
Karl Klein of the Governing Body delivered the graduation address. His theme was “Why Be Humble?” And what is the answer to that question? ‘Because it is the right and just thing to do, the wise and loving thing to do,’ he explained in his opening words. The audience was intrigued as he discussed four examples of humility that we do well to imitate: (1) Jehovah God, who certainly was humble when dealing with Abraham and Moses (Genesis 18:22-33; Numbers 14:11-21; Ephesians 5:1); (2) Jesus Christ, who ‘humbled himself and became obedient as far as death on a torture stake’ (Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Peter 2:21); (3) the apostle Paul, who ‘slaved for the Lord with the greatest lowliness of mind’ (Acts 20:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 11:1); and (4) ‘those taking the lead among us,’ such as the first president of the Society, Brother Russell, who once wrote: “The work in which the Lord has been pleased to use our humble talents has been less a work of origination than of reconstruction, adjustment, harmonization.” (Hebrews 13:7) Brother Klein outlined further powerful reasons for being humble. Surely, heeding the counsel to be humble will help the graduates to make wise use of the gift of missionary service!
Following those remarks, the chairman shared the greetings received from various parts of the earth. The time had now arrived for the graduates to receive their diplomas. They had come from seven countries—Canada, Finland, France, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States. But their missionary assignments take them to 11 countries—Bolivia, Estonia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Mauritius, Peru, Togo, Turkey, and Venezuela.
After an intermission, the afternoon program began with an abbreviated Watchtower Study conducted by Joel Adams of the Service Department Committee. After that, the graduates enacted some of the field-service experiences they had enjoyed during the school term. Finally, the drama Why Respect Theocratic Order? was presented for the edification of the entire audience, including the graduates.
Truly, these graduates left for their foreign assignments with counsel and encouragement that will help them to use the gift of missionary service to bring joy not only to themselves but to others as well.
[Chart on page 22]
Number of countries represented: 7
Number of countries assigned to: 11
Total number of students: 22
Average age: 33.4
Average years in truth: 16.7
Average years in full-time ministry: 11.8
[Picture on page 23]
92nd 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) Chan Chin Wah, M.; Bouancheaux, N.; Chapman, B.; Östberg, A.; Cole, L.; Jackson, K.; Meerwijk, A. (2) Smith, J.; Wollin, K.; Chapman, R.; Gabour, N.; Chan Chin Wah, J.; Smith, C.; Edvik, L. (3) Bouancheaux, E.; Östberg, S.; Cole, K.; Jackson, R.; Gabour, S.; Edvik, V.; Meerwijk, R.; Wollin, G.