From Successful Students to Successful Missionaries
“I STILL can’t believe we have had this privilege!” exclaimed Will, referring to the training that he and his wife, Patsy, had just completed as students of the 103rd class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Zahid and Jeni agreed. “We feel honored to be here,” they said. All the students had done good work at the school. Now they were eager to begin their career as missionaries. But first, at the graduation program on September 6, 1997, they received loving counsel that would help them succeed in their missionary assignments.
The chairman of the program was Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body. He pointed out that—along with the Bethel family and representatives of 48 of the Watch Tower Society’s branches—friends and relatives from Canada, Europe, Puerto Rico, and the United States were present to assure the students of their support and their love. Brother Jaracz observed that missionaries sent out by Christendom’s churches have often become distracted from missionary work and have begun pursuing scholarly endeavors or have even got entangled in politics. In contrast, graduates of Gilead do what they have been trained to do. They teach people the Bible.
Robert Butler from the Society’s Brooklyn office then spoke on the theme “Make Your Way Successful.” He explained that while men measure success in terms of financial or other personal gain, what really matters is how God measures success. Jesus’ ministry was successful, not because he made large numbers of converts, but because he was faithful in his assignment. Jesus brought glory to Jehovah, and he remained uncontaminated by the world. (John 16:33; 17:4) These are things that every Christian can do.
“Be Slaves to All Persons,” advised Robert Pevy, formerly a missionary in the Orient. The apostle Paul was a successful missionary. What was his secret? He made himself a slave to all. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) The speaker explained: “A Gilead graduate with that attitude will not view the missionary service as a kind of career move, a stepping-stone to more important positions in the organization. A missionary goes to his assignment with just one motive—to serve, for that is what slaves do.”
Basing his counsel mainly on 2 Corinthians chapters 3 and 4, Gerrit Lösch of the Governing Body exhorted the students to “Reflect Like Mirrors the Glory of Jehovah.” He reminded them that the knowledge of God is like a light that illuminates a Christian when he opens his heart to receive it. We reflect that light by preaching the good news and by maintaining fine conduct. “At times you may feel inadequate,” he acknowledged. “When such feelings arise, rely on Jehovah, ‘that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s.’” (2 Corinthians 4:7) Echoing Paul’s words recorded at 2 Corinthians 4:1, Brother Lösch appealed to the students: “Do not give up your missionary assignment. Keep your mirror polished!”
Karl Adams, a member of the Gilead faculty, spoke on the intriguing theme “Where Is Jehovah?” The question refers, not to God’s location in the universe, but to the need to consider Jehovah’s viewpoint and indications of his direction. “Under stress,” he said, “even a person who has a long record in Jehovah’s service may lose sight of that.” (Job 35:10) What of our modern day? In 1942, God’s people were in need of guidance. Was the preaching work winding up, or was there more work to be done? What was Jehovah’s will for his people? As they studied God’s Word, the answer became clear. “Before the calendar year was out,” Brother Adams declared, “plans had been laid for the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.” Jehovah has certainly blessed the work of missionaries sent out by that school.
Mark Noumair was the second instructor to speak. In his talk, entitled “How Will You Use Your Talent?,” he encouraged the students to apply the training they had received at Gilead as soon as they arrived in their new assignments. “Reach out to others,” he said. “Get involved. Be anxious to learn the customs, the history, the humor of the country. The sooner you learn the language, the better off you will be.”
Zealous Students Find Joy in the Ministry
In addition to applying themselves to their studies while at Gilead, the students were assigned to 11 local congregations. On weekends, they shared zealously in the preaching activity. Wallace Liverance of the Gilead faculty invited several of them to share some of their experiences with the audience. Their joy was evident as they related experiences they had had when witnessing at shopping malls, in parking lots, in business territory, on the street, and from house to house. Some of them looked for ways of reaching foreign-speaking people who lived and worked in their congregation’s territory. At least ten home Bible studies were started and conducted by members of the 103rd class during the five months of their training.
Longtime Missionaries Share Secrets of Success
Following this enjoyable part of the program, Patrick Lafranca and William Van de Wall invited seven Branch Committee members to outline the lessons they had learned in their missionary careers for the benefit of the class. They admonished the graduates to consider their missionary assignment as coming from Jehovah and to be determined to stick to the assignment. They spoke of the positive effects Gilead-trained missionaries have had on the work in other lands.
What helped these Branch Committee members to serve for decades as happy, productive missionaries? They worked closely with the local brothers and learned from them. They applied themselves to learning the language as soon as they arrived in their assignments. They learned to be flexible and to adapt to local customs. Charles Eisenhower, a graduate of the first class of Gilead and a missionary for 54 years, shared five “secrets” that successful missionaries have learned: (1) Study the Bible regularly, (2) study the language, (3) be active in the ministry, (4) work for peace in the missionary home, and (5) pray regularly to Jehovah. The students were impressed not only by the practical advice they received but by the obvious joy these seasoned missionaries have in Jehovah’s service. As Armando and Lupe put it, “they are happy when they are talking about their lives.”
After the interviews, one discourse remained. Albert Schroeder, a member of the Governing Body, chose as his theme “Faithful Stewardship of God’s Word Reveals Precious Gems of Truth.” Since the Bible is the principal textbook of Gilead School, the students were interested in what he had to say. Brother Schroeder pointed out that when work on the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures began 50 years ago, the anointed members of the New World Bible Translation Committee did not look for the approval of men but relied upon the guidance of holy spirit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8) Recently, though, some authorities have recognized the high standard set by the New World Translation. In a letter to the Society, one scholar wrote: “I know a quality publication when I see one, and your ‘New World Bible Translation Committee’ has done its job well.”
After this talk, the students received their diplomas, and their assignments were announced to the audience. It was a touching moment for the members of the class. As a class representative read a letter of appreciation, many had a lump in their throat and tears in their eyes. Some of the students had been preparing for missionary work for years. Realizing that the Gilead course would be conducted in English, a few had moved to English-speaking congregations to improve their command of the language. Others had moved where there was a greater need for pioneers, either in their own country or abroad. Still others had prepared by reading experiences, doing research, or viewing the Society’s videocassette To the Ends of the Earth over and over again.
Will and Patsy, mentioned at the outset, were overwhelmed by the personal interest the students were shown. “People who didn’t even know us were hugging us and taking our picture. A member of the Governing Body shook our hand and said, ‘We’re proud of you!’” There is no doubt about it, the students of the 103rd class are dearly loved. They have been well trained. The schooling they have received at Gilead will allow them to make the transition from successful students to successful missionaries.
[Box on page 22]
Number of countries represented: 9
Number of countries assigned to: 18
Number of students: 48
Number of married couples: 24
Average age: 33
Average years in truth: 16
Average years in full-time ministry: 12
[Picture on page 23]
103rd 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) Bunn, A.; Dahlstedt, M.; Campaña, Z.; Boyacioglu, R.; Ogando, G.; Nikonchuk, T.; Melvin, S. (2) May, M.; Mapula, M.; Lwin, J.; Hietamaa, D.; Hernandez, C.; Boyacioglu, N.; Sturm, A.; Melvin, K. (3) Thom, J.; Mapula, E.; Nault, M.; Teasdale, P.; Wright, P.; Pérez, L.; Shenefelt, M.; Pak, H. (4) Murphy, M.; Campaña, J.; Stewart, S.; Cereda, M.; Reed, M.; Pérez, A.; Teasdale, W.; Pak, J. (5) Stewart, D.; Wright, A.; Cereda, P.; Nikonchuk, F.; Reed, J.; Hietamaa, K.; Ogando, C.; Shenefelt, R. (6) Murphy, T.; Hernandez, J.; Nault, M.; Bunn, B.; Thom, R.; Dahlstedt, T.; Lwin, Z.; May, R.; Sturm, A.
[Picture on page 24]
Where are we going?