Gilead Graduates—“Real Missionaries!”
“WHAT is a missionary?” That question was posed by a newspaper editorial nearly four decades ago. The writer argued that true missionaries were instruments of social and economic reform. However, on Sunday, March 5, 1995, at the Jersey City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, an answer of a very different sort was emphatically given. The occasion? The graduation of the 98th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead—a school that has sent out missionaries all over the world!
After the opening song and prayer, Albert D. Schroeder of the Governing Body warmly welcomed all 6,430 who were in attendance. In his introductory comments, Brother Schroeder made it clear why Gilead graduates are different from others who have called themselves missionaries. He said: “The Bible is the main textbook for Gilead.” Graduates of Gilead are trained to be, not social workers, but teachers of God’s Word. They are thus uniquely qualified to care for the spiritual needs of people in foreign fields.
Subsequent speakers touched on a number of other areas in which Gilead graduates give proof of being “real” missionaries. Charles Molohan spoke to them on the subject “Continue to Bear Fine Fruit as Missionaries.” Drawing on the apostle Paul’s words at Colossians 1:9, 10, Brother Molohan reminded the graduates that their past five months at Gilead had helped them increase “in the accurate knowledge of God.” This would help them to produce fruitage in two ways: by manifesting the fruitage of God’s spirit and by sharing Bible truths with others.
Daniel Sydlik of the Governing Body followed with the sobering theme “Do Not Bargain With Your Life.” He mentioned Jesus’ question: “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Brother Sydlik observed: “Men have traded their souls for an easier, softer way of life.” However, those with a living faith cannot compromise in the face of trials and tests. Jesus’ words indicate that one must be willing to “give,” that is, sacrifice, in order to gain one’s soul, or life. The new missionaries were exhorted to give Jehovah their all, their very best, in his service!
Next, William Van de Wall of the Service Department Committee spoke on the subject “The Apostle Paul—An Example Worthy of Imitation.” Brother Van de Wall explained: “Paul spearheaded the missionary work in the first century.” Appropriately, then, four areas were highlighted in which the apostle Paul set a good example for missionaries today: (1) Paul’s genuine concern and love for people, (2) his effectiveness in the ministry, (3) his modest refusal to promote himself, (4) his unquestioning trust in Jehovah.
“Let Jehovah Search You Through in Your New Assignment” was the subject discussed by Lyman A. Swingle of the Governing Body. Using the day’s text, Psalm 139:16, Brother Swingle acknowledged that, as new missionaries, they would encounter problems in their assignments and that Jehovah knows the solutions. “Go to him,” he exhorted, “talk to him when you have a problem. Seek out what his will is.”
John E. Barr of the Governing Body then spoke on the subject “Your Faith Is Growing Exceedingly.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3) At Luke 17:1, we read that Jesus said: “It is unavoidable that causes for stumbling should come.” Some have stumbled over the personalities of fellow missionaries. But Brother Barr encouraged the missionaries to have the faith needed to be forgiving. Indeed, it was in this context that Jesus’ disciples begged: “Give us more faith.” (Luke 17:2-5) The faith of the missionaries may also be tested by various organizational adjustments. “Have we got the faith to accept these,” asked Brother Barr, “or will they become mountainlike obstacles?”
Next came some admonition by two Gilead instructors. Jack Redford urged the graduates to maintain a positive attitude. He told of a missionary who left her assignment in reaction to some teasing by fellow missionaries. The Scriptures, however, warn us against taking needless offense. (Ecclesiastes 7:9) “Have the right attitude,” he exhorted. “Be forgiving of the mistakes and imperfections of others around you.”
U. V. Glass, Gilead registrar, then asked: “Are you prepared to cope with ‘time and unforeseen occurrence’”? (Ecclesiastes 9:11) “Our life pattern is always subject to changes,” noted Brother Glass, “and some can be quite traumatic.” Certain missionaries have been unexpectedly faced with failing health, disease, and family problems, forcing some to leave their assignments. “No matter what the unforeseen occurrence may be,” said Brother Glass, “we know that Jehovah is aware of it and is concerned. If we put our reliance on him, we know we will come off victorious!”
A lecture entitled “Set Apart for Missionary Service” capped off the morning series of lectures. Theodore Jaracz of the Governing Body addressed the question raised at the outset, namely, “What is a missionary?” In answer, he discussed Acts chapters 13 and 14 about the missionary work of Paul and Barnabas. Clearly, that work focused, not on curing social ills, but on ‘declaring the good news.’ (Acts 13:32) Brother Jaracz asked: “Don’t you agree that Paul and Barnabas demonstrated what a real missionary should be like?” Veteran missionary Robert Tracy of Mexico was then called upon to share some of his own heartwarming experiences as an evangelizer.
The morning program reached its climax as Brother Schroeder distributed diplomas to the 48 graduates. The audience was thrilled to hear the names of the 21 lands to which the missionaries had been assigned: Barbados, Benin, Bolivia, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Latvia, Leeward Islands, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Taiwan, and Venezuela.
After a break for lunch, the audience reconvened and enjoyed a lively study of The Watchtower, conducted by Robert P. Johnson of the Service Department. Members of the 98th class answered the questions. This was followed by a delightful series of interviews conducted by Gilead staff members. The audience was greatly encouraged as the graduates shared their experiences in the field and expressed their feelings about their foreign assignments.
For six and a half years, Gilead was located at the Watchtower Society’s facilities in Wallkill, New York. In April 1995, however, the school was moved to the new Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, New York. How did the Bethel family at Wallkill feel about this change? At this graduation a number from Wallkill were interviewed. Their touching expressions made it plain that Gilead students have left a lasting impression with them. Clearly, these willing men and women are real missionaries—humble, self-sacrificing, deeply concerned about helping others.
As the graduation drew to a close, all in attendance were confident that Gilead School will continue successfully doing what it has done for over 50 years—produce real missionaries!
[Box on page 18]
Number of countries represented: 8
Number of countries assigned to: 21
Number of students: 48
Average age: 32.72
Average years in truth: 15.48
Average years in full-time ministry: 10.91
[Picture on page 18]
98th 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) Eszlinger, A.; Mann, T.; Rivera, G.; Baruero, M.; Vaz, M.; Durga, K.; Silweryx H.; Alvarado, D. (2) Toth, B.; Segarra, S.; Hart, R.; Rooryck, I.; Escobar, P.; Ejstrup, J.; Sligh, L.; Rivera, E. (3) Archard, D.; Snaith, S.; Marciel, P.; Koljonen, D.; Waddell, S.; Blackburn, L.; Escobar, M.; Archard, K. (4) Hart, M.; Toth, S.; Koljonen, J.; Bergman, H.; Mann, D.; Blackburn, J.; Park, D.; Vaz, F. (5) Segarra, S.; Sligh, L.; Leslie, L.; Bergman, B.; Baruero, W.; Alvarado, J.; Leslie, D.; Park, D. (6) Silweryx, K.; Eszlinger, R.; Waddell, J.; Snaith, K.; Durga, A.; Rooryck, F.; Ejstrup, C.; Marciel, D.