Rejoice in Jehovah and Be Joyful
THE successful completion of any worthwhile project is always a time for rejoicing. The graduation exercises held on March 13, 1999, at the Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York, was certainly such an occasion for the 48 students of the 106th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.
The opening remarks by Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body, graduate of the seventh class of Gilead, and chairman of the graduation program, highlighted the words of Psalm 32:11: “Rejoice in Jehovah and be joyful, you righteous ones.” Explaining why it was appropriate for all to rejoice on this occasion, he said: “It is because of what Jehovah is accomplishing with those who are upright in heart, including our Gilead students, that we rejoice on occasions like this.” While the students had made plans to come to Gilead School and had exerted themselves diligently to qualify for missionary service, Jehovah is the one who made it possible for everything to come to a successful finish. (Proverbs 21:5; 27:1) That, Brother Jaracz emphasized, is the reason for ‘rejoicing in Jehovah.’
Among those in the Patterson auditorium were the family members and guests of the students who had come from 12 countries to witness this joyous event. As the 5,198 in attendance—including members of the Bethel family in Brooklyn, Patterson, and Wallkill, tied in by audio and video—anticipated the program that was to follow, it was evident that a joyful spirit prevailed.
Exhorted to Maintain a Joyful Spirit
As Brother Jaracz concluded his opening remarks, he introduced the first of five speakers, who had prepared encouraging Scriptural admonition not only for the Gilead graduates but for all in attendance.
First to speak was William Malenfant, a graduate of the 34th class of Gilead, now serving as a helper to the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body. In connection with his theme “‘Everything’ Is Not Vanity!” based on Ecclesiastes 1:2, he raised the question: “Did Solomon really mean that everything, in the absolute sense of the word, is vanity?” The answer: “No. He was pointing out that human undertakings that ignore what the divine will is, pursuits that are apart from what the divine will is—all those things are vanity.” In contrast, worshiping the true God, Jehovah, is not vanity; neither is studying God’s Word, the Bible, and teaching it to others. God does not forget such endeavors by his servants. (Hebrews 6:10) In fact, even if calamity should come the way of those who have found favor with God, they will “prove to be wrapped up in the bag of life with Jehovah.” (1 Samuel 25:29) What a heartwarming thought! Remembering these points can help all of Jehovah’s worshipers to maintain a joyful spirit.
John Barr, a member of the Governing Body, encouraged the graduating class with his talk “Find Delight in Your Missionary Assignment.” He showed that missionary service is something that has always been very close to the heart of Jehovah God. “It was something that was intrinsically bound up with Jehovah’s expression of love for the world. He sent his only-begotten Son to this earth. Jesus was the greatest missionary, the ultimate missionary.” While the graduates could contemplate the changes Jesus had to make to be successful in his assignment on earth, the benefits of Jesus’ missionary service are still available to all who will take advantage of them. This is because, as Brother Barr pointed out, Jesus delighted in doing God’s work, and he also loved the sons of mankind. (Proverbs 8:30, 31) Brother Barr urged the graduates to stick to their assignments, not simply as a matter of endurance, but because they delight in doing so. “Rely on Jehovah; he will not let you down,” he entreated the class.—Psalm 55:22.
“Walking in the Name of Jehovah Forever” was the theme chosen by the next speaker, Lloyd Barry, another member of the Governing Body. Having served as a missionary for over 25 years in Japan after completing the 11th class of Gilead, Brother Barry related some of the experiences of early missionaries and described the challenges they had to face. What practical advice did he have for the graduating class? “Above all, maintain your spirituality. Also, learn the language and the culture. Keep your sense of humor. And stick to the work; do not get tired or give out.” Brother Barry told the graduates that in their foreign assignments, they will meet many people who walk in the name of various gods and deities, and he reminded them of Micah’s words: “All the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god; but we, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.” (Micah 4:5) The example of former missionaries is surely a powerful motivation for all God’s servants to go on walking in Jehovah’s name and serving him faithfully.
Next on the program was Gilead instructor Lawrence Bowen. The theme of his presentation raised the question, “What Will You Prove to Be?” He showed that success in God’s service depends on faith and trust in Jehovah. Complete reliance on Jehovah brought King Asa a resounding victory over an enemy army of one million men. Yet he was reminded by the prophet Azariah of the need to continue relying on God: “Jehovah is with you as long as you prove to be with him.” (2 Chronicles 14:9-12; 15:1, 2) Since God’s name, Jehovah, conveys the thought that he proves to be whatever is needed to fulfill his purpose—whether that means being a Provider, a Protector, or even an Executioner—missionaries who rely on Jehovah and who work in harmony with his purpose will prove to be successful in their assignments. (Exodus 3:14) “Never forget,” concluded Brother Bowen, “that as long as you make Jehovah’s purpose your purpose, he will cause you to become whatever is needed to fulfill your assignment.”
The final speaker on this portion of the program was Wallace Liverance, former missionary and now the school registrar. His discourse, entitled “Keep God’s Word Alive and at Work in You,” called attention to the unfailing message, or promise, of God that is always moving forward to completion. (Hebrews 4:12) It influences the lives of those who allow it to do so. (1 Thessalonians 2:13) How can that word be kept alive and at work in our lives? Through diligent Bible study. Brother Liverance reminded the graduates of the methods of Bible study learned at Gilead that included a reading and exposition of the sense and application of God’s Word. He quoted the words of Albert Schroeder, a member of the Governing Body who served as chairman of the committee that established Gilead School over 50 years ago: “By using the context, one is able to obtain the full, accurate, spiritual force made available by God in his Word.” This approach to Bible study keeps God’s Word alive and at work.
Joyful Experiences and Interviews
Following the talks, the audience was treated to some joyful experiences from the students. Under the direction of Mark Noumair, former missionary and current Gilead instructor, a group of students related and demonstrated how they endeavored to give a witness in a variety of situations. Some were able to start and conduct Bible studies with people in the territory by being observant of their circumstances and expressions and by showing personal interest. Thus the students were ‘paying constant attention to themselves and to their teaching’ and were truly interested in helping others to gain salvation.—1 Timothy 4:16.
Many practical suggestions were offered, and the joy of missionary service was also made evident by a number of experienced brothers who were receiving training in the school for branch committee members conducted at the Watchtower Educational Center. Brothers Samuel Herd and Robert Johnson of the headquarters staff conducted lively interviews with representatives from the Society’s branch offices in Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Central African Republic, Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, and Cameroon.
Following the experiences and interviews, Gerrit Lösch, a graduate of the 41st class of Gilead and now a member of the Governing Body, gave the final talk on the thought-provoking theme “Are You a ‘Desirable Person’?” Brother Lösch first reminded the graduates that Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was not considered desirable by the people, but “he was despised and was avoided by men.” (Isaiah 53:3) So it is not surprising that today in many parts of the world, the missionaries are viewed as persona non grata, personally unacceptable or unwelcome. On the other hand, during Daniel’s long years of service in Babylon, through an angel the Creator three times called Daniel “very desirable.” (Daniel 9:23; 10:11, 19) What made Daniel that way? He never compromised Bible principles when adjusting to the culture in Babylon; he was honest in every way, never using his position for personal advantage; and he was a zealous student of God’s Word. (Daniel 1:8, 9; 6:4; 9:2) He also prayed regularly to Jehovah and was quick to give God the glory for his accomplishments. (Daniel 2:20) By following Daniel’s example, God’s servants can prove to be desirable, not necessarily to the world, but to Jehovah God.
To conclude the spiritually uplifting program, the chairman read a sample of the telegrams and messages that had come from around the world. Then, each of the 24 couples received their diplomas, and the country to which they were assigned was announced. Finally, a class representative read a letter addressed to the Governing Body and the Bethel family, expressing the appreciation the class felt for the training and preparation they had received in the past five months.
As the program came to its end, “a rejoicing even with thanksgivings” could be heard among the departing crowd.—Nehemiah 12:27.
[Box on page 27]
Number of countries represented: 10
Number of countries assigned to: 19
Number of students: 48
Number of married couples: 24
Average age: 33
Average years in truth: 16
Average years in full-time ministry: 13
[Picture on page 25]
106th 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) Deakin, D.; Puopolo, M.; Laguna, M.; Davault, S.; Dominguez, E.; Burke, J. (2) Gauter, S.; Vazquez, W.; Seabrook, A.; Mosca, A.; Helly, L.; Breward, L. (3) Brandon, T.; Olivares, N.; Coleman, D.; Scott, V.; Petersen, L.; McLeod, K. (4) McLeod, J.; Thompson, J.; Luberisse, F.; Speta, B.; Lehtimäki, M.; Laguna, J. (5) Gauter, U.; Dominguez, R.; Helly, F.; Smith, M.; Beyer, D.; Mosca, A. (6) Scott, K.; Seabrook, V.; Speta, R.; Coleman, R.; Breward, L.; Davault, W. (7) Smith, D.; Lehtimäki, T.; Petersen, P.; Thompson, G.; Vazquez, R.; Beyer, A. (8) Luberisse, M.; Deakin, C.; Brandon, D.; Puopolo, D.; Olivares, O.; Burke, S.