A Happy Occasion—The Graduation of the 104th Class of Gilead
“THIS is a happy day, and we are all rejoicing.” With those words Carey Barber, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, opened the graduation festivities of the 104th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead on March 14, 1998. The audience of 4,945 was invited to begin the occasion by singing Kingdom song number 208, entitled “A Song of Rejoicing.”
Practical Counsel to Remain Happy
The opening portion of the program, a series of five short Bible-based discourses, provided some practical counsel on how to maintain the joyful spirit that permeated graduation day.
The first talk was delivered by Joseph Eames of the Writing Department. He spoke on the theme “Imitate the Spirit of Loyal Ones,” based on the Bible account at 2 Samuel chapters 15 and 17, where Absalom, David’s son, conspired to take away his father’s God-given kingdom by inciting a revolt. However, there were those who remained loyal to Jehovah’s anointed, King David. What lesson could the new missionaries take away from this? “Wherever you go in your missionary assignment, loyally promote the spirit of cooperation and respect for theocratic authority. Help others to do the same,” concluded Brother Eames.
Next on the program was David Sinclair, who outlined ten requirements, mentioned in Psalm 15, for being guests in ‘Jehovah’s tent.’ His talk, entitled “Continue as Guests in Your Missionary Tent,” encouraged the graduating students to apply this psalm to their missionary assignments, where they would be guests. Brother Sinclair highlighted the importance of living by godly standards at all times. The result? Psalm 15:5 states: “He that is doing these things will never be made to totter.”
John Barr, a member of the Governing Body, followed and called attention to the invigorating effect that singing at Christian meetings has. But what is the most joyful song being sung around the earth today? It is the good news of God’s Messianic Kingdom. What is resulting from all this singing, or preaching about the Kingdom? The second stanza of song number 208 succinctly puts it: “Thru Kingdom preaching and Christian teaching, many are drawn to Jehovah’s side. These, too, are voicing songs of rejoicing, sounding them out, O so far and wide!” Yes, each day about 1,000 new disciples are being baptized. Brother Barr concluded: “Isn’t it wonderful to think, brothers, that you are being sent to territories to meet the kind of people who will just be waiting to hear your song of praise?”
“Listen to the Voices of Experience” was the title of the discourse that James Mantz of the Writing Department next delivered. He pointed out that some things can only be learned by personal experience. (Hebrews 5:8) Nevertheless, Proverbs 22:17 encourages us to ‘incline our ear and hear the words of the wise ones,’ or those who have gained experience. The graduating students can learn much from those who have gone before them. “They know how to bargain with the local shopkeepers. They know which areas of the city to avoid because of physical or moral dangers. They know the sensitivities of the local people. The longtime missionaries know what you need to be happy and successful in your assignment,” said Brother Mantz.
Speaking on the theme “Appreciate Your Theocratic Assignment,” Wallace Liverance, Gilead School registrar, explained that while some missionaries, such as the apostle Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas, received their assignments from God through the holy spirit or some miraculous manifestation, Gilead-trained missionaries are assigned a place in the worldwide field by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) He compared the missionaries’ assignments to the places Gideon assigned his men who were to battle the Midianites. (Judges 7:16-21) “Appreciate your theocratic missionary assignment. Just as Gideon’s soldiers ‘kept standing each one in his place,’ view your assignment as your place to be. Have faith that Jehovah can use you just as he used Gideon’s three hundred,” urged Brother Liverance.
Being People-Oriented Results in Happiness
The Watchtower once commented: “Rather than build our interests and lives around manufactured items and gadgets of this present order, things that have no certainty of continuance, how much better and wiser to make people our real interest and learn to find genuine joy in doing things for others.” In harmony with that, Brother Mark Noumair, one of the Gilead School instructors, discussed with a group of students their field service experiences and commented: “Showing personal interest in others is what is going to make you good missionaries.”
Keys to Happiness in the Foreign Field
What are some keys to success and happiness in the missionary work? Brothers Charles Woody of the Service Department and Harold Jackson, a former missionary in Latin America and an assistant to the Teaching Committee, interviewed members of different Branch Committees who were attending the ninth class of the school for branch personnel. Here is a sample of the advice these had to offer:
Albert Musonda from Zambia observed: “When the missionary takes the initiative to go and greet the brothers, it engenders a very good spirit because the brothers will draw close to the missionary, and the missionary will draw close to them.”
Rolando Morales of Guatemala suggested that when new missionaries are offered something to drink by friendly people, they can kindly and tactfully reply: “I’m new in the country. I wish I could take it, but my body does not have the natural defenses that your body has. I hope some day I can accept it, and I’ll be glad to do so.” What are the benefits of that kind of reply? “People will not get offended, and the missionaries will have been kind to others.”
What can help missionaries endure in their assignments? Brother Paul Crudass, a graduate of the 79th class of Gilead, who has been serving in Liberia for the past 12 years, made this observation: “I know it’s true that parents miss their children. But there are times when the missionary is trying to get used to the country, the environment, the culture, the people. He may feel like leaving. If he gets a letter from home saying, ‘We miss you so much; we don’t know what we’ll do without you,’ that might be all he needs to pack his bags and go home. It’s very important for the relatives who are here today to remember that.”
After the interviews, the final talk on the program was presented by Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body. His theme: “Keep the Kingdom Foremost in Your Life.” How can the missionaries stay focused and not get distracted from their work? He encouraged them to have a schedule for personal Bible study, which will help them to keep Kingdom interests foremost in life. And there was this timely reminder: “Some missionaries have neglected personal study because they became wrapped up with electronic gadgets, E-mail, and the computer. We should have the good sense to be balanced in the use of any tool and not spend an inordinate amount of time on something that could encroach on our personal study of God’s Word.”
Following Brother Jaracz’s discourse came the presentation of the diplomas and the reading of a letter of appreciation from the class. The class representative expressed the feelings of everyone this way: “We saw tangible evidence of the love that Jesus said would characterize his disciples, and this has reassured us that no matter where we are, there is a warm, loving, motherlike organization supporting us. With such backing, we are ready to go to the ends of the earth.” It was a moving conclusion to a happy graduation day for the 104th class of Gilead.
[Box on page 24]
Number of countries represented: 9
Number of countries assigned to: 16
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 25]
104th 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) Romero, M.; Howarth, J.; Blackburne-Kane, D.; Hohengasser, E.; West, S.; Thom, S. (2) Colon, W.; Glancy, J.; Kono, Y.; Drews, P.; Tam, S.; Kono, T. (3) Tam, D.; Zechmeister, S.; Gerdel, S.; Elwell, J.; Dunec, P.; Tibaudo, H. (4) Taylor, E.; Hildred, L.; Sanches, M.; Anderson, C.; Bucknor, T.; Hohengasser, E. (5) Howarth, D.; Ward, C.; Hinch, P.; McDonald, Y.; Sanches, T.; Thom, O. (6) Drews, T.; Tibaudo, E.; Elwell, D.; Dunec, W.; Blackburne-Kane, D.; Ward, W. (7) Anderson, M.; Zechmeister, R.; McDonald, R.; Bucknor, R.; Glancy, S.; Gerdel, G. (8) Romero, D.; Hinch, R.; Hildred, S.; Taylor, J.; Colon, A.; West, W.
[Picture on page 26]
Brothers who shared in instructing the 104th class: (from left) W. Liverance, U. Glass, K. Adams, M. Noumair