Graduating Students of the Word of God
IN IMITATION of first-century Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses are known worldwide for their door-to-door preaching. This work was brought into focus in the opening remarks at the graduation program of the 102nd class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.
On March 1, 1997, Albert Schroeder, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, called attention to a recent article in the French journal Le Point. It noted Roman Catholic plans to begin house-to-house preaching in Italy. “So that [the Vatican missionaries] do not arrive empty-handed as they compete on Jehovah’s Witnesses’ turf,” stated the article, “the Vatican has even gone so far as to have a million copies of Saint Mark’s Gospel printed, as their emissaries face experts [the Witnesses] in the door-to-door ‘placement’ of the good word.”
The 48 graduates are among those who have imitated Jesus’ expert preaching methods in spreading the Word of God. They had come from eight lands to the Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York. During the five months of their schooling, they studied the Bible from cover to cover. Their course also included the history of God’s organization, practical aspects of missionary life, and the fruitage of God’s spirit. All of this was with one goal in mind—to prepare them for foreign missionary service in the 17 lands to which they were being sent. As they were graduating, an international audience of 5,015 shared the joy of the occasion. What final practical counsel did those Gilead students receive?
Timely Encouragement for New Missionaries
After the chairman’s opening remarks, Ralph Walls, a helper of the Personnel Committee of the Governing Body, gave the first short talk with practical advice for the new missionaries. His theme was “Remember to Love.” He pointed out that the Bible, in 2 Timothy chapter 3, foretold that the world would become increasingly loveless. He offered this timely reminder to the new missionaries, in harmony with the description of love found at 1 Corinthians 13:1-7: “You, as missionaries, may exceed your hourly quotas. You may have a wealth of knowledge from your Gilead training. Or we may zealously work extra time at our branch assignments. But all of our efforts and sacrifices amount to nothing if we forget to love.”
Next on the program was Carey Barber, of the Governing Body, who considered the subject “Jehovah Is Leading Us On to Victory.” From their small beginnings following World War I, Jehovah God has led his faithful servants to victory in the proclamation of the good news of his Kingdom, despite persecution. In 1931 the Bible Students, as they were then known, adopted the name Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the chagrin of the clergy of Christendom. “The 102nd class of Gilead-trained missionaries now has the grand privilege of having a large share in the glorious work of giving as many as possible the opportunity to learn that sacred name,” stated Brother Barber. They join a long list of 7,131 missionaries who have been trained at Gilead School and who have helped to extend the preaching of God’s Word from 54 lands in 1943 to 233 lands today.
The next speaker, Lloyd Barry, also of the Governing Body, was a graduate of the 11th class of Gilead and served as a missionary in Japan for over 25 years. He provided encouragement with his theme, “Stay by These Things.” “Much of your joy will be found in enduring,” he told the students. What rewards come from enduring in the missionary work or in any theocratic assignment? “Above all, our endurance makes Jehovah’s heart rejoice . . . There is great satisfaction to be found in keeping integrity under test . . . Make missionary service your life’s vocation . . . Your reward will be a heartwarming ‘well done.’” (Matthew 25:21; Proverbs 27:11) In concluding his presentation, Brother Barry heartily recommended that the new missionaries “stay by these things” by being determined that the missionary field becomes their very life.—1 Timothy 4:16.
“What Will You See?” was the question raised by Karl Adams, who has had a share in instructing many Gilead classes. He pointed out that what the new missionaries would see in their assignments depends not only on their physical eyesight but also on the eyes of their heart. (Ephesians 1:18) This was illustrated by what the Israelite spies saw when they surveyed the Promised Land. All 12 spies saw the same things from a physical standpoint, but only two saw the Promised Land from God’s viewpoint. Missionaries can also view things in different ways. In some lands where they will be serving, they may see poverty, pain, and hopelessness. But they should not react negatively and abandon the land. Brother Adams told of one missionary from a recent class who said: “These experiences made me realize that I have to stay here. These people need a hope for the future. I want to make a difference in their lives.” Brother Adams concluded by encouraging the new missionaries to see the lands to which they are assigned as areas that Jehovah has determined to make part of His global Paradise and to view the people there as prospective members of the new world society.
The final discourse in this part of the program was by Wallace Liverance, who served for a number of years in the missionary field before becoming a Gilead instructor. “Act With Insight Into God’s Wonderful Works” was his theme. Acting with insight involves acting with prudence, discretion, and common sense. That was something that King Saul of Israel failed to do.—1 Samuel 13:9-13; 15:1-22.
One way to act with insight is by accepting the challenges of adjusting to a new way of life, including learning a new language and getting to know the people. The experiences missionaries have in meeting challenges and overcoming obstacles can strengthen them spiritually in the way that Joshua and Caleb were fortified as they conquered the land God had assigned to them.
The following part of the program included a series of interviews. Harold Jackson interviewed Ulysses Glass, registrar and longtime instructor of Gilead School, who is now 85 years old. Many missionaries still in the field remember well his years of faithful teaching and training. Next came Mark Noumair, a Gilead instructor who spent years in foreign service in Africa before joining the Gilead School staff. He interviewed students about their ministry during the five months of their schooling. Their experiences demonstrated clearly that there are people interested in God’s Word in the local territory.
Robert Ciranko and Charles Molohan then spoke with experienced men who were attending another school at the facilities, a school for branch personnel. Their advice to the graduating class included the need to be humble and contribute to the unity of the congregation. They suggested that the graduates should not have preconceived ideas of what will happen in the missionary work but, rather, simply be willing to accept whatever comes their way. Applying this counsel will undoubtedly help the new missionaries fulfill their assignments as teachers of God’s Word.
Finally, Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body, addressed the audience on the subject “What Is Influencing Whom?” He explained that when we as Christians display the fruitage of the spirit, we can be a good influence on other people. “Missionaries that are sent out by Jehovah’s organization have produced a commendable record of influencing people in a wholesome, spiritual way,” he noted. He then cited some comments made by individuals who have been helped to serve God as a result of good examples set by missionaries. “May you maintain the reputation that Jehovah’s people have gained and continue to knock on those doors in your foreign assignment in search of deserving ones . . . Also, by your upright, clean conduct, resist the spirit of this world, and be an influence for good to Jehovah’s praise and honor,” he concluded.
In the wrap-up of the program, the chairman shared greetings from near and far and then presented the diplomas and announced the missionary assignments. After that, one of the graduates read a class resolution expressing thanks for the instruction provided. Clearly, the graduation program of the 102nd class made all in attendance more determined to go forward in publishing the Word of God.
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102nd 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) Duffy, C.; Alexis, D.; Harff, R.; Lee, J.; Corey, V.; Nortum, T.; Mora, N.; Journet, F. (2) Djupvik, L.; Singh, K.; Hart, B.; Kirkoryan, M.; Lee, S.; Rastall, S.; Zoulin, K.; Kollat, K. (3) Singh, D.; Pitteloud, J.; Pitteloud, F.; Bokoch, N.; Torma, C.; Muxlow, A.; Richardson, C.; Nortum, D. (4) Harff, J.; Journet, K.; Barber, A.; Loberto, J.; Loberto, R.; Muxlow, M.; Mora, R.; Hart, M. (5) Torma, S.; Rastall, A.; Diaz, R.; Diaz, H.; Weiser, M.; Weiser, J.; Kirkoryan, G.; Zoulin, A. (6) Alexis, R.; Barber, D.; Djupvik, H.; Duffy, C.; Kollat, T.; Richardson, M.; Bokoch, S.; Corey, G.