Watchtower Educational Center Sends Out Missionaries
THE Watchtower Bible School of Gilead has held classes in a variety of locations. Between 1943 and 1960, in facilities at South Lansing, New York, U.S.A., 35 classes, made up of students from 95 lands, received special training. Then the school moved to the world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, where it operated for nearly 28 years. From 1988 until early 1995, Gilead School held classes at Wallkill, New York.
During these years the school widened out its scope of operations. Under its direction a ten-week course of instruction was provided to three classes in Mexico; five of such classes were convened in Germany; two in India. Since 1987 a subsidiary school known as the Ministerial Training School has held classes in 34 lands, providing a special eight-week course of training for young men who qualify. The instruction given to the 99th class of Gilead, at the newly constructed Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York, however, was a 20-week course, one that included a comprehensive study of the entire Bible, a discussion of the modern-day history and organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as extensive counsel on foreign missionary work.
On September 2, that 99th class graduated. The three-hour graduation program was held in the new auditorium at the Watchtower Educational Center. It was filled to capacity. Additional audiences at the Bethel facilities in Patterson, Wallkill, and Brooklyn were tied in electronically. This was an exciting day not only for the graduating class along with their relatives and close friends but also for hundreds who had shared as volunteers in building the fine new school facilities.
In his opening remarks, Carey Barber of the Governing Body focused attention on the significance of what was taking place. He said: “This is to be the hub of the greatest divine education activity that has ever been carried forward on this earth.” He explained that we are approaching the climax of the warfare between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. (Genesis 3:15) The only ones who will survive the awesome confrontation during the coming great tribulation, he showed, will be those who have accurate knowledge of God’s Word and are obedient to it.
“Our current educational program,” he declared, “is designed to bring all of Jehovah’s people everywhere into the fine condition of maturity described at Proverbs 1:1-4—that of knowing wisdom and discipline, being able to discern understanding, receiving the discipline that gives insight, righteousness, judgment, uprightness, and thinking ability.” What a safeguard it is to have such spiritual resources!
Counsel to the Graduating Class
Those introductory comments were followed by a series of five brief discourses directed to the graduating class. Harold Jackson, formerly a Gilead instructor and now a member of the headquarters staff in Brooklyn, urged the class, “Hold Fast to Your Godly Contentment.” Lloyd Barry, a longtime missionary and now a member of the Governing Body, spoke on “Serving Jehovah With Humility.” He explained that this quality would be important to the graduates in their adjusting to new situations as well as in their relations with fellow missionaries, with the congregations in which they would serve, and with the local people.
Karl Adams, currently serving on the Gilead faculty, reasoned with the class on the question “What Will Faith Lead You to Do?” He encouraged them not to be like those Israelites who complained about conditions in the wilderness and longed to be back in Egypt but, rather, to be like Abraham, who looked to God’s Kingdom instead of a return to Ur of the Chaldeans as the solution to problems. (Exodus 16:2, 3; Hebrews 11:10, 15, 16) Ulysses Glass, the school registrar, drew on the experience of Asaph as recorded in Psalm 73 to admonish the graduating class, “Recount Your Blessings.” And Albert Schroeder, a member of the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body, spoke on the theme “Jehovah Provides.” As evidence of such provision, he pointed to Gilead School itself and its role in accomplishing the great work of preaching and disciple making.
Later the audience listened with keen interest when Milton Henschel, the president of the Watch Tower Society, spoke about “Members Belonging to One Another.” He read and commented extensively on Romans chapter 12. Among other things, he said: “We have to take into consideration that we have a very close relationship with our fellow servants in the congregation.” He added: “It is good for us always to think of one another as Jehovah’s property, and rather than being critical, rather than finding fault, let us always be helpful. We are helping ourselves when we maintain the spiritual unity of the Christian congregation.” He showed how such helpfulness could be manifested in food preparation in missionary homes, making allowance for the fact that everyone may not be able to eat the same thing. He also encouraged helpfulness rather than criticism when sharing in the field service with fellow Christians who have very little materially. If we truly are helpful, upbuilding, and encouraging to one another, Brother Henschel pointed out, “Jehovah will love us for this.” What excellent admonition for missionaries who would be serving in lands that are quite different from those they were leaving behind!
Getting to Know the Class Better
The 48 students of the 99th class were, on an average, 32 years of age and had already devoted more than 11 years to the full-time ministry.
Interviews that were part of the graduation program gave the audience opportunity to get to know a few of them. Nikki Liebl, from the United States, and Simon Bolton, from England, related incidents that had tested their faith that Jehovah would provide for their physical needs. They experienced Jehovah’s care as they kept the full-time ministry in first place.
Isabelle Kazan, whose native tongue is French, said that she had learned Arabic in order to witness to Arabic-speaking people in her home country. When she began in 1987, the one small group in Paris consisted of just four Arabic-speaking brothers, in addition to herself and another sister who were learning the language. (It was not easy. They would spend eight hours in preparing their Watchtower lesson each week in order to be able to comment.) Was the effort worthwhile? Well, today there are Arabic-speaking Witnesses organized into five circuits throughout France. Another student, Miko Puro, told how the French that he had learned in school enabled him to preach to African refugees in his native Finland, and it will also be of value in his missionary assignment in Benin. Bonny Bowes recounted her struggle to speak French fluently so that she could serve effectively in Quebec, Canada. And Bjarki Rasmussen, from Denmark, related experiences that he and his wife had already had during years of service in the Faeroe Islands. Yes, these new missionaries are seasoned full-time ministers.
The graduates were assigned to 19 lands—in Africa, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and the Orient. Graduates of earlier classes have already served in more than 200 lands. Many of those graduates are still busy in their assignments. These new missionaries are now joining them in further expanding the Kingdom witness to the ends of the earth.—Acts 1:8.
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Classroom scenes at Watchtower Educational Center
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99th 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) Heffey, S.; Riley, E.; Mortensen, D.; Honable, A.; Bolton, J.; Poole, J.; Siimes, G.; Sousa, L. (2) Pashnitski, B.; Shepherd, D.; Pashnitski, W.; Järvinen, J.; Paulsen, K.; Rasmussen, E.; Schewe, C.; Olsson, L. (3) Paulsen, E.; Samsel, T.; Bowes, B.; Harris, E.; Kazan, I.; Liebl, N.; Sousa, P.; Puro, J. (4) Lager, K.; Lager, V.; Golden, K.; Bolton, S.; Johnson, M.; Johnson, S.; Liebl, A.; Rasmussen, B. (5) Harris, D.; Samsel, W.; Schewe, O.; Heffey, R.; Kazan, L.; Riley, T.; Järvinen, O.; Puro, M. (6) Mortensen, D.; Golden, R.; Honable, L.; Shepherd, M.; Bowes, R.; Siimes, T.; Poole, E.; Olsson, J.
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Still in their assignments: (left) Charles Leathco with his wife, Fern, in Brazil, graduates of the first and sixth classes of Gilead; (below) Martha Hess, in Japan, graduate of the seventh class of Gilead