Gilead Training in the Most Holy Faith
“OUR students have been well trained in the most holy faith.” These were the opening remarks at the graduation program of the 95th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, held on Sunday, September 12, 1993. On that morning the 4,614 invited guests and members of the Bethel family who were gathered at the Jersey City Assembly Hall were led in an opening prayer by George Gangas. Brother Gangas has been a member of the Bethel family for 65 years and at 97 is the oldest member of the Governing Body.
Albert Schroeder, also of the Governing Body and chairman of the program, stated: “For five months the Gilead course has been based on the most holy faith.” But what is the “most holy faith”? He explained that this “most holy faith,” mentioned at Jude 20, is the whole range of Bible truth. So the Gilead course is based on Jehovah’s Word, the Bible, which is its principal textbook.
Students Receive More Instruction
The first speaker was John Stuefloten of the Watchtower Farms Committee, who spoke on the theme “Benefiting From the Influence of Wise Persons.” The Bible says that those who are “walking with wise persons will become wise.” (Proverbs 13:20) During the Gilead course, the students spent over 900 hours studying the Bible. Brother Stuefloten asked the students: “How will Jehovah’s influence affect you in the future? You are going to 18 countries with a combined population of some 170 million people. So how will you influence those people?” By reflecting the wisdom of Jehovah, the new missionaries will be able to help others to become worshipers of Jehovah, the Source of boundless wisdom.
“Becoming All Things to All Men” was the theme of the following talk, developed by Lloyd Barry of the Governing Body. (1 Corinthians 9:22, King James Version) Some 45 years ago, Brother Barry himself was a student in the 11th class of Gilead. Now the 95th class appreciated receiving practical counsel from a former missionary with years of experience in a foreign land. He encouraged the students to identify quickly with the people in their new foreign territory by getting to know the local culture and learning the vernacular language. He said that this can best be done by mingling and working with the local people as well as by learning their customs and adopting them whenever appropriate.
Next, Dean Songer of the Factory Committee spoke on the intriguing theme “Set Free From Duty.” After more than 35 years of full-time service, Brother Songer understands what it means to live a focused, simple life, concentrating on the work at hand, free from material concerns. And that was the essence of his counsel to the students. The singers at Jehovah’s temple were set free from duties common to other Levites in order to devote themselves fully to their special assignment. (1 Chronicles 9:33) Similarly, Gilead missionaries have been set free from such ordinary matters as secular work so that they can concentrate on their special service. Brother Songer concluded with this admonition: “Keep your outlook focused and your life simple. Your responsibility as those set free from duty is to be in the work by day and by night, praising Jehovah.”
Governing Body member Daniel Sydlik followed with the theme “Teaching Others How to Get the Best Out Of Life.” He encouraged the students “not only to teach doctrine but to be bold enough to show the people what they must do to bring their lives into harmony with the will of God.” Good teachers must inspire and motivate. “Be conscious of building Christian values rather than merely teaching rules and regulations,” he said and added in conclusion: “Above all things, dear brothers, teach yourselves and teach others how to love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Colossians 3:14.
After months of training, the students grew especially fond of their two Gilead instructors. Jack Redford, a former missionary himself, spoke first, on the subject “You Have Made the Right Choice.” In the ancient Jewish world, before becoming a Christian apostle, Paul had position, prestige, influence, and financial security. But at Philippians 3:8, Paul described all of this as “a lot of refuse,” or “garbage,” according to the Phillips translation. His heart was in the ministry, and he made the right choice. In contrast, the majority of mankind today show by their choices in life that they consider their material possessions to be of greater value than everlasting life. Gilead missionaries have made the right choice. Jack Redford concluded by saying: “There is nothing that the Devil’s world can offer you that compares with missionary service. Take care of that inestimable privilege, and let the world take care of its garbage!”
For the past 32 years, Ulysses Glass has been a Gilead instructor. He gave the students some parting counsel with the theme “Only God Can Make a Tree,” basing his talk on Psalm 1:3. Modern technology has never been able to rival the construction of a tree, designed by God. In a sense, true Christians are like trees, planted and irrigated by Jehovah. Brother Glass noted that for five months, the students had been “regularly irrigated from the fountain of life-giving waters in God’s Word,” like trees in a spiritual grove or paradise. Yet, as missionaries, they must guard their “spiritual root system against any damage.” They were exhorted to ‘continue drinking the water of life from Jehovah because only God can make a tree.’
The final talk was given by Carey Barber, a member of the Governing Body. After 70 years of full-time service, Brother Barber could confidently speak on the subject “Give Jehovah Exclusive Devotion.” The vast majority of mankind have not given Jehovah exclusive devotion. (Deuteronomy 5:9) However, as Brother Barber indicated, in spite of our imperfection, “it is quite possible to be wholly devoted to God.” He added: “No one can really say: ‘The Devil made me do it.’” But the Devil can defeat us if we fail to oppose him. (James 4:7) Keeping busy in Jehovah’s work is the foremost way to oppose Satan and his world and give Jehovah exclusive devotion.
Appointed as Missionaries
The morning program concluded with the official appointment of all 46 students as missionaries. The 23 couples received diplomas stating in part that the graduates are “specially qualified to engage in educational work, promoting goodwill and working in behalf of permanent peace and the law of perfect order and righteousness among all peoples.” The 95th class of Gilead will surely endeavor to accomplish this lofty mission in the 18 countries to which they have been assigned. The assignments span the world and include countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
In the afternoon, after an abbreviated Watchtower Study conducted by Charles Woody of the Service Department Committee, the new Gilead graduates presented their student program, with the theme “Gilead Has Prepared Us to Teach as Missionaries.” The session concluded with the drama “The Choices Facing Us.”
After this stimulating program, the new missionaries were now ready to be sent to the four corners of the earth to share with others the “most holy faith.”
[Box on page 26]
Number of countries represented: 7
Number of countries assigned to: 18
Number of students: 46
Number of married couples: 23
Average age: 30.06
Average years in truth: 12.92
Average years in full-time ministry: 9.4
[Picture on page 26]
95th 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) Buelow, D.; Donzé, V.; Innes, S.; Fulk, N.; Billingsby, M.; Hoddinott, L.; Nygren, B.; Eriksson, L. (2) Boker, J.; Thomas, M.; Stedman, S.; Billingsby, D.; Waugh, I.; Purves, M.; Luttrell, M. (3) Jacobsen, T.; Boker, J.; Martínez, L.; Nilsson, E.; Purves, P.; Holt, L.; Larsen, M.; Jones, L. (4) Numminen, P.; Numminen, H.; Buelow, M.; Olson, W.; Holt, S.; Donzé, G.; DesJardins, C.; DesJardins, D. (5) Larsen, K.; Martínez, D.; Nygren, P.; Waugh, P.; Jones, D.; Hoddinott, J.; Thomas, G. (6) Innes, B.; Fulk, R.; Eriksson, A.; Nilsson, S.; Stedman, J.; Olson, K.; Jacobsen, F.; Luttrell, J.