Standing at the Threshold of Greater Activity
“THERE was no competitive spirit. Everyone wanted everyone else to succeed,” said Richard and Lusia, describing their fellow students of the 105th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. “We are all very different, but to us, each student is precious.” A classmate, Lowell, agreed, adding: “Our differences have drawn us to one another.”
The class, which graduated on September 12, 1998, was truly diverse. Some of the students had pioneered in areas where there is a great need for Kingdom publishers; others had faithfully served closer to home. A few, like Mats and Rose-Marie, had to work long and hard to improve their English before they came to school. Many of the students had been thinking about missionary service since childhood. One couple applied 12 times; how happy they were to receive an invitation to the 105th class!
The 20 weeks of intensive training passed by all too quickly. Before the students knew it, they had turned in their last written exercise, had delivered their last oral report, and graduation day had arrived.
The chairman of the program, Albert Schroeder, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, reminded the class that they were “standing at the threshold of greater activity in the field of Bible education,” following more than 7,000 others who had preceded them to Gilead. He noted that during the summer, the students had enjoyed the unique opportunity of associating with longtime missionaries when these visited the world headquarters in conjunction with the international conventions.
Brother Schroeder then introduced Max Larson of the Bethel Operations Committee. He developed the theme “Education That Leads to Everlasting Life.” Brother Larson quoted Proverbs 1:5, which states: “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction, and a man of understanding is the one who acquires skillful direction.” Skill is required to be an effective missionary. Skillful men stand before kings. (Proverbs 22:29) After having been instructed for five months, the students were well equipped to represent the greatest Kings, Jehovah God and Christ Jesus.
David Olson of the Service Department spoke next on the subject “Help Make Jehovah’s Heart Rejoice.” He asked: “What can imperfect humans do to make God’s heart rejoice?” The answer? They can serve him faithfully, loyally, and with joy. Jehovah wants his people to enjoy their service to him. When we do God’s will with joy, we gladden his heart. (Proverbs 27:11) Brother Olson read a letter from a missionary couple who graduated from Gilead in the 104th class. Are they enjoying their new assignment? “We have about 140 publishers,” they wrote regarding their congregation, “with an average meeting attendance of 250 to 300. Field service is the best part. We each have four studies, and some are coming to the meetings already.”
Lyman Swingle, of the Governing Body, spoke on the topic “A Time to Pause and Count Your Blessings.” Gilead training had brought many blessings. It had helped the students increase in knowledge, grow in appreciation of Jehovah’s organization, and cultivate vital qualities, such as humility. “It is a humbling experience to come here and spend time listening to instruction,” Brother Swingle said, adding: “You go away from here much better equipped to magnify Jehovah.”
“How Great Your Joy—So Why Worry?” was the title of a talk by Daniel Sydlik, also of the Governing Body. When problems arise, seek guidance from the Scriptures, he urged. Using selected verses from the 6th chapter of Matthew, Brother Sydlik illustrated how this can be done. Lack of faith can cause us to worry about mundane things, such as food and clothing. However, Jehovah knows what we need. (Matthew 6:25, 30) Worrying will only add to the troubles that each day brings. (Matthew 6:34) On the other hand, some planning is necessary. (Compare Luke 14:28.) “What Jesus forbids is, not wise thought for the future, but unwise worrying about it,” explained Brother Sydlik. “Action is one of the best cures for anxiety. When we get anxious, it is good for us to start talking about the truth.”
Parting Counsel From the Instructors
Talks by three members of the Gilead faculty followed. Karl Adams spoke first, on the subject “What Will You Repay to Jehovah?” His talk was based on the 116th Psalm, which Jesus may have sung on the night before his death. (Matthew 26:30, footnote) What went through Jesus’ mind as he sang the words: “What shall I repay to Jehovah for all his benefits to me”? (Psalm 116:12) He may have been reflecting on the perfect body that Jehovah had prepared for him. (Hebrews 10:5) The following day, he would offer that body in sacrifice, proving the depth of his love. The students of the 105th class had tasted Jehovah’s goodness for the past five months. Now they would show their love for God by working hard in their missionary assignments.
Mark Noumair, the second Gilead instructor to speak, advised the students to “Continue to Do What Is Right.” Joseph, after he was sold as a slave in Egypt, endured 13 years of unjust treatment. Did he allow the wrongs of others to paralyze him? No, he continued to do what was right. Then, at God’s appointed time, Joseph was delivered from his trials. Suddenly, he went from living in a prison to living in a palace. (Genesis, chapters 37-50) The instructor asked his students: “If your expectations are not met in your missionary assignment, will you quit? Will you give in to despair? Or will you endure, as did Joseph?”
Finally, the registrar of Gilead School, Wallace Liverance, moderated a lively discussion with class members on the theme “Advertise the King and the Kingdom.” Some of the students related experiences they had while preaching from house to house, from store to store, and on the streets. Others told how they went about witnessing to people who speak another language. Still others showed how to preach to people of different religious backgrounds. All the graduates were eager to have a full share in the ministry in the missionary field.
Happy Longtime Missionaries
The following part, entitled “The Joyful Results That Come From Missionary Service,” was presented by Robert Wallen and consisted of interviews with four brothers on the headquarters staff who had recently had upbuilding association with experienced missionaries. Those missionaries had been quick to admit that it was not easy for them to learn a new language, to adjust to another culture, or to adapt to a different climate. Then there were the pangs of homesickness to cope with. At times, health problems came up. But through it all, the missionaries maintained a positive attitude, and their perseverance was blessed. Some had brought scores of people to a knowledge of Jehovah. Others had contributed in various ways to the overall increase of the Kingdom work in their lands.
The last to speak was Carey Barber, a member of the Governing Body. He reviewed highlights of the “God’s Way of Life” convention program. “What effect did the convention program have on your relationship with Jehovah?” he asked his audience. The speaker contrasted the blessed results of following God’s way with the disastrous end for those who follow the way of the world. Referring to Moses’ transgression at Meribah, he warned: “Even after a person serves faithfully for many years, Jehovah does not take lightly even a minor infraction of His just laws.” (Numbers 20:2-13) May all of God’s servants everywhere keep a tight grip on their precious privileges of service!
The time had come for the students to receive their diplomas. Then, a class representative read a letter of appreciation for the training the students had received. After a concluding song and a heartfelt prayer, the graduation program was over. But, for the 105th class, this was only the beginning, for the new missionaries were “standing at the threshold of greater activity.”
[Box on page 23]
Number of countries represented: 9
Number of countries assigned to: 17
Number of students: 48
Number of married couples: 24
Average age: 33
Average years in truth: 16
Average years in full-time ministry: 12
[Box on page 24]
They Chose Full-Time Service
“When I was younger, I had no plans to pioneer,” says Ben, a graduate of the 105th class. “I thought that only those with special abilities and ideal circumstances could pioneer,” he adds. “But I did learn to love the field service. Then one day it occurred to me that being a pioneer simply means having a greater share in the ministry. It was then that I realized that I could pioneer.”
“Full-time servants were always highly regarded in our home,” relates Lusia. She recalls the wave of excitement that swept through her congregation each time the missionaries came for a visit. “When I was growing up,” she says, “it was understood that full-time service would be in my plans.”
Theodis’ mother died when he was 15 years old. “At that time, the congregation was really there for me,” he says, “so I asked myself, ‘What can I do to show my appreciation?’” This led him to enter full-time service and now missionary work.
[Picture on page 25]
105th 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) Sampson, M.; Brown, I.; Heggli, G.; Abuyen, E.; Desbois, M.; Pourthié, P. (2) Kassam, G.; Lindberg, R.; Dapuzzo, A.; Taylor, C.; LeFevre, K.; Walker, S. (3) Baker, L.; Pellas, M.; Woggon, E.; Böhne, C.; Asplund, J.; Haile, J. (4) Pourthié, T.; Whittaker, J.; Palmer, L.; Norton, S.; Gering, M.; Haile, W. (5) Walker, J.; Böhne, A.; Groenveld, C.; Washington, M.; Whittaker, D.; Abuyen, J. (6) Gering, W.; Washington, K.; Pellas, M.; Desbois, R.; Heggli, T.; Asplund, Å. (7) Woggon, B.; LeFevre, R.; Taylor, L.; Brown, T.; Groenveld, R.; Palmer, R. (8) Norton, P.; Sampson, T.; Baker, C.; Lindberg, M.; Kassam, M.; Dapuzzo, M.