Gilead School—50 Years Old and Going Strong!
“THERE are many places where the witness concerning the Kingdom has not been given to a great extent,” stated N. H. Knorr to the first class of Gilead on February 1, 1943, the opening day of the school. He added: “There must be hundreds and thousands more that could be reached if there were more laborers in the field. By the Lord’s grace, there will be more.”
And there have been more laborers—millions more! The ranks of Kingdom publishers have swelled from 129,070 in 54 lands in 1943 to 4,472,787 in 229 lands in 1992! Gilead School has greatly contributed to the witness that resulted in that increase. After 50 years it continues to play a key role in training missionary laborers to serve wherever they are needed in the world field.
On March 7, 1993, there were 4,798 invited guests and members of the U.S. Bethel family who gathered at the Jersey City Assembly Hall, in New Jersey, for the graduation of the 94th class. This truly special occasion also provided an opportunity to look back on 50 years of Gilead School. Would you like to know a little about the program?
After an opening song, George D. Gangas of the Governing Body offered a fervent prayer. Then, after introductory remarks by the chairman, Carey W. Barber, the graduates—and all in attendance—listened carefully to a series of short talks.
Robert W. Wallen spoke first, on the theme “You Are Never Alone.” In a warm tone, he said: ‘In the days ahead, occasions are going to arise in your life when you will feel O so alone, so very far away from family and friends.’ How, then, can it be said, “You are never alone?” He explained: ‘Because available to every one of you will be the possibility of instantaneous communication with Jehovah God.’ He urged the graduates to cherish the privilege of prayer and to use it daily. Then, like Jesus, they will be able to say, “I am not alone.” (John 16:32) How encouraging those words were to the graduates!
Developing the theme “Hold Fast to Your Hope” (based on the daily text of March 7), Lyman A. Swingle of the Governing Body spoke next on the need for two qualities—endurance and hope. ‘Reproach, hostility, hatred, imprisonment, even death, are reasons why endurance on the part of Christians is needed,’ he said. ‘There is no limit to the strength beyond what is normal upon which faithful Witnesses of Jehovah can draw in times of need. This is certainly reassuring, especially for you graduates.’ What about hope? ‘Hope is indispensable,’ he explained. ‘As a helmet protects the head of the wearer, so the hope of salvation guards and protects the mental powers of the Christian, enabling him to maintain integrity.’—1 Thessalonians 5:8.
The next speaker, Ralph E. Walls, selected an intriguing theme, “How Can We Escape to the Security of a ‘Roomy Place’?” What is this “roomy place”? (Psalm 18:19) “A state of deliverance that brings peace of mind and security of heart,” the speaker explained. What do we need deliverance from? ‘Yourself—your own shortcomings.’ He added: ‘Also, external circumstances fueled by Satan.’ (Psalm 118:5) How can we escape to the security of a roomy place? ‘By searching for Jehovah’s orders in all we do and by supplicating Jehovah in faith with all our concerns.’
“What Lies Ahead?” was the theme chosen by Don A. Adams. And what did lie ahead for the new missionaries? A period of adjustment, he explained. “There are also many blessings before you.” As an example, he told of two new missionaries who after getting settled in their assignment wrote: “Think of the best day you have ever had in service, and that is what every day is like. We cannot carry enough literature with us, and people keep asking us for studies.” The speaker directed some comments to the family and friends of the graduates: ‘There is no need for you to be anxious about these graduates. You can help them by writing words of encouragement to them.’—Proverbs 25:25.
The school’s instructors spoke next. Jack D. Redford chose the theme “Do Not Expect Anything From Anybody.” One of the challenges the graduates will face is getting along with people, he explained. What can help? “Overlook their faults. Do not expect too much of other people. Do not always expect the full measure of what you consider your due. Make allowances for imperfection in other people, and this kindness will help you to get along. Your ability to get along with other people will be a measure of your maturity.” (Proverbs 17:9) Surely, applying this wise counsel will help the graduates to make a successful adjustment to being missionaries in a foreign land!
“We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” says 2 Corinthians 4:7. Ulysses V. Glass, the registrar of Gilead School, commented on this text as he developed the theme “Trust Your Proved, Faithful Brothers.” What are the “earthen vessels”? “These must refer to us as imperfect humans,” he noted. What is the “treasure”? “It is our Christian ministry,” he explained. (2 Corinthians 4:1) And what should be done with this treasure? “The treasure that Jehovah has entrusted to us is not to be hoarded. So, you dear prospective missionaries, distribute that treasure wherever you go, and teach many others how to distribute it.”
It was a nostalgic moment when Albert D. Schroeder took the stage, for he was the registrar of Gilead School when it began. “Half a Century of Theocratic Training” was his theme. “Jehovah knows how to offer effective training, and this he has done,” he stated. How? Brother Schroeder referred to the training received through two schools established 50 years ago—the Theocratic Ministry School and Gilead School. He pointed out that a valuable tool in providing accurate knowledge has been the New World Translation. He assured the graduates: “You can go to your foreign assignments with great confidence that the Society will keep you well supplied with accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes.”
Milton G. Henschel, president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, spoke on the theme “More Than Conquerors.” Brother Henschel drew his theme from the yeartext for 1943: “More than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37, King James Version) It was an appropriate yeartext, he explained, because in the midst of World War II, our brothers in many countries were experiencing much persecution. Brother Henschel read some excerpts from the Watchtower issue that discussed that yeartext and then explained: “This Watchtower article [January 15, 1943] was studied in the month of February by the first Gilead class, and it prepared them for what lay ahead.” Many of the graduates over the last 50 years have already proved themselves conquerors, he explained. What about the 94th class? “Stay close to Jehovah, stay close to his love, and your victory is ensured.”
Following the morning’s talks, the chairman shared some greetings received from various lands. Then the moment arrived that the 24 married couples had been keenly awaiting—the distribution of diplomas. Why, the Gilead students were now officially Gilead graduates! They had come from 5 countries, but their assignments were taking them to 17 lands, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mozambique, and parts of Eastern Europe.
After an intermission, the afternoon program got under way with an abbreviated Watchtower Study, conducted by Robert L. Butler. Then the graduates reenacted some of the outstanding experiences they had enjoyed while witnessing near Wallkill, New York. The program reflected one of the things that no doubt brought them to Gilead—their deep love for the field ministry.
Following the student program, many in the audience were wondering whether the program would feature something special to commemorate 50 years of Gilead School. They were not disappointed! —See the accompanying box, “Reviewing 50 Years of Gilead School.”
Fifty years ago, Brother Knorr demonstrated that he was a man of faith and vision. His conviction that Gilead School would succeed was expressed in his opening address to the first class, when he stated: “We believe that, true to its name, a ‘heap of witness’ will go forth from this place to all parts of the world and that such witness will stand as a monument to the glory of God that can never be destroyed. You as ordained ministers will put your full trust in the Most High, knowing that he will guide and direct you in every time of need, and you will know too that he is also the God of blessing.”*
Fifty years later, Gilead School is still going strong! The graduates of the 94th class now have the privilege of following the more than 6,500 graduates who have preceded them. May they put their full trust in the Most High as they do their part in piling up a “heap of witness” that will stand as a monument to the glory of Jehovah God.
In Hebrew the term “Gilead” means “Witness Heap.”—Genesis 31:47, 48.
[Box on page 25]
Total number of students: 48
Number of countries represented: 5
Number of countries assigned to: 17
Average age: 32
Average years in truth: 15.3
Average years in full-time ministry: 9.6
[Box on page 26, 27]
REVIEWING 50 YEARS OF GILEAD SCHOOL
What better way to look back on Gilead’s history than through the experiences of those who lived it—the early graduates, the instructors, and others who helped to organize it? The audience was delighted as they listened to the part “Reviewing 50 Years of Gilead School,” conducted by Theodore Jaracz.
What were the circumstances that led up to the establishment of the school? Brother Schroeder explained that he and two other instructors were given just four months to get the school organized. “But by Monday, February 1, 1943, we were ready for the dedication.”
What was it like for the first missionaries who were sent out? Brother Henschel recalled: “We had the Society’s shipping department crate up all the possessions they wanted to take with them. When the crates arrived, they carefully opened them and took out their belongings. But then they used the crates to make furniture.” Eventually, he noted, the Society arranged for modestly equipped missionary homes.
Next on the program, some graduates of Gilead’s early classes who are now members of the U.S. Bethel family shared their memories, their feelings, and their experiences. Their comments truly touched the hearts of all in attendance.
“After I received the invitation to attend the first class, I learned that my mother had cancer. But since she had pioneered from the age of 16 onward, she strongly advised me to accept the invitation. So with mixed emotions and trust in Jehovah, I traveled to South Lansing. I completely enjoyed and deeply appreciated the Gilead training. My mother finished her earthly course some time after my graduation.”—Charlotte Schroeder, served in Mexico and El Salvador.
“Since Jehovah had already taken care of me in the part of the earth I was in, I figured that anywhere I went was still his earth, and he would care for me. So I was quite happy to accept the invitation to the first class.”—Julia Wildman, served in Mexico and El Salvador.
“It was wonderful! We could talk at every door. In the first month, I placed 107 books and conducted 19 Bible studies. The second month I had 28 Bible studies. Of course, there were some things we had to get used to—heat, humidity, bugs. But it was a wonderful privilege to be there. It is something I will always cherish.”—Mary Adams, second class, regarding her assignment in Cuba.
“Weather was one of the big obstacles we had to contend with in Alaska. In the north it was very, very cold, with temperatures dropping to 60 degrees below zero Fahrenheit [-50° C.] and colder. The Indian villages and small isolated places in southeastern Alaska were reached either by boat or by airplane.”—John Errichetti, third class.
“To me Gilead was an invitation from Jehovah through his earthly organization to strengthen us spiritually and show us a wonderful way of life.”—Mildred Barr, 11th class, served in Ireland.
More delightful interviews followed—Lucille Henschel (14th class, served in Venezuela), Margareta Klein (20th class, served in Bolivia), Lucille Coultrup (24th class, served in Peru), Lorraine Wallen (27th class, served in Brazil), William and Sandra Malenfant (34th class, served in Morocco), Gerrit Lösch (41st class, served in Austria), and David Splane (42nd class, served in Senegal).
What about the brothers who served as instructors? A number of them were also interviewed—Russell Kurzen, Karl Adams, Harold Jackson, Fred Rusk, Harry Peloyan, Jack Redford, and Ulysses Glass. They reflected on their privilege, expressing how it has affected them to this day.
Thrilling testimony to the effectiveness of the Gilead-trained missionaries was offered by Lloyd Barry, who served in Japan. In 1949, when 15 missionaries were sent there, there were fewer than 10 publishers in all of Japan. But 44 years later, there are upwards of 175,000 Kingdom proclaimers in that land! Robert Wallen then told of the outstanding success that some missionaries have had in helping people into the truth, including one missionary sister who has been in Panama for over 45 years and who has helped 125 persons to the point of dedication and baptism.
The climax of the entire program was reached when all in the audience who were Gilead graduates were invited to come up on the stage. It was truly a touching moment. A steady stream of brothers and sisters—89 in the Bethel family in addition to visiting graduates—filed down the aisles and up the stairs to the stage. They were joined by the brothers who have served as instructors over the years, and then by the 94th class—about 160 in all!
“Has the work of Gilead School in training missionaries for foreign lands had certain success?” asked Brother Jaracz. “The evidence of the past 50 years is a thundering yes!”
[Picture on page 25]
94th 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) De La Garza, C.; Borg, E.; Arriaga, E.; Chooh, E.; Purves, D.; Fosberry, A.; Delgado, A.; Drescher, L. (2) Scott, V.; Fridlund, L.; Kettula, S.; Copeland, D.; Arriaga, J.; Thidé, J.; Olsson, E.; Widegren, S. (3) Delgado, F.; Keegan, S.; Leinonen, A.; Finnigan, E.; Fosberry, F.; Halbrook, J.; Berglund, A.; Jones, P. (4) Watson, B.; Frias, C.; Chooh, B.; Halbrook, J.; Purves, J.; Finnigan, S.; Jones, A.; Cuccia, M. (5) Scott, G.; Copeland, D.; Drescher, B.; De La Garza, R.; Leinonen, I.; Keegan, D.; Watson, T.; Kettula, M. (6) Widegren, J.; Borg, S.; Cuccia, L.; Berglund, A.; Olsson, B.; Frias, J.; Fridlund, T.; Thidé, P.