Gladly Accepting Jehovah’s Direction
AS TOLD BY ULYSSES V. GLASS
It was an extraordinary occasion. There were just 127 students in the graduating class, but in attendance was an enthusiastic audience of 126,387, who had come from scores of nations. It was the graduation of the 21st class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, held in New York City’s Yankee Stadium on July 19, 1953. Why was that such a significant event in my life? Let me provide a little background.
I WAS born in Vincennes, Indiana, U.S.A., on February 17, 1912, about two years before the birth of the Messianic Kingdom, as described at Revelation 12:1-5. The preceding year my parents had begun studying the Bible along with the volumes of Studies in the Scriptures. Every Sunday morning, Dad read to the family from one of those books, and then we talked about it.
Mother used what she was learning to help shape the thinking of her children. She was a very nice person—so kind, so willing to help. There came to be four of us children, but Mother’s love reached out to include other children from the neighborhood. She spent time with us. She enjoyed telling us Bible stories and singing with us.
She also invited to our home various ones who were serving full-time in the ministry. They stayed for just a day or two, often holding meetings and giving talks in our home. We especially liked those who used illustrations and told us stories. On one occasion in 1919, about a year after the first world war had ended, the visiting brother directed his comments especially to us children. He discussed consecration—what we now more accurately refer to as dedication—and helped us to understand how it affected our lives. Later that evening when I went to bed, I prayed to my heavenly Father and told him that I wanted to serve him always.
However, after 1922 other concerns in life tended to push that resolve into the background. We moved from one place to another and had no association with a congregation of Jehovah’s people. Father was away because of his work with the railroad. Our study of the Bible was irregular. I took school courses with a view to becoming a commercial artist and was making plans to go to an outstanding university.
Adjusting My Focus in Life
During the mid-1930’s, the world again began to move toward global war. We were living in Cleveland, Ohio, when one of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at our door. We began to think more seriously about what we had learned as children. My older brother, Russell, was especially serious-minded, and he was first to get baptized. I was a bit more of a stray horse, but on February 3, 1936, I too got baptized. My appreciation of what dedication to Jehovah involves was growing, and I was learning to accept Jehovah’s direction. That same year my two sisters, Kathryn and Gertrude, also got baptized. All of us took up full-time service as pioneers.
That, however, did not mean that we never thought about anything else. My ears pricked right up when my sister-in-law told me about a very pretty girl named Ann who was “just flying” since she had heard about the truth and who was going to come to meetings at our house. At that time Ann was working as a secretary in a legal office, and within a year she got baptized. I had not planned to get married, but it was evident that Ann was 100 percent for the truth. She wanted to be fully involved in Jehovah’s service. She was never one to say, “Can I do it?” Instead, she would ask, “What is the best way for me to go about doing it?” And she was determined to follow through. That positive outlook appealed to me. Besides that, she was very pretty, and she still is. She became my wife, and soon she became my partner in the pioneer service.
Valuable Training as Pioneers
As pioneers we learned the secret of how to be content both when we were low on provisions and when we had an abundance. (Philippians 4:11-13) It was getting toward evening one day, and we had had nothing to eat. We had only five cents between us. We went into a butcher shop, and I asked, “Could you give us five cents’ worth of bologna?” He looked at us and then cut four slices. I am sure that it was more than five cents’ worth, and it gave us some nourishment.
It was not unusual to encounter severe opposition as we carried out our ministry. In a town near Syracuse, New York, we were on the street distributing handbills and wearing placards to draw attention to a special public meeting. Two burly fellows grabbed me and got a bit rough. One was a police officer, but he was not wearing his uniform, and he ignored my request to see his badge. Just then, Grant Suiter from Brooklyn Bethel came along and said that we would go to the police station to work things out. Then he phoned the Society’s office in Brooklyn, and two of us were instructed to go out again on that same day with placards and handbills to provide the basis for a test case. As expected, we were arrested. However, when we told the police that they were going to be sued for false arrest, they let us go.
The next day a bunch of rowdy teenagers invaded our assembly place at the instigation of a priest, and the police were nowhere to be seen. The hoodlums banged baseball bats on the wooden floor, threw some of the audience down from the bleachers, and got up on the platform, where they held up an American flag and shouted, “Salute it! Salute it!” Then they started singing the “Beer Barrel Polka.” They completely broke up the meeting. We were getting firsthand experience in what Jesus meant when he said: “Because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”—John 15:19.
The public talk was actually a transcription of a discourse by J. F. Rutherford, who was then president of the Watch Tower Society. Ann and I stayed in that town for a few days and called on people to offer them the opportunity to hear the talk in their homes. A few accepted that offer.
Volunteering for Foreign Service
In time, new avenues of service opened up. My brother, Russell, and his wife, Dorothy, were invited as a couple to attend the first class of Gilead School, in 1943, and then were sent as missionaries to Cuba. My sister Kathryn was in the fourth class. She too was assigned to Cuba. She was later reassigned to the Dominican Republic and then to Puerto Rico. What about Ann and me?
When we heard about Gilead School and the fact that the Society wanted to send missionaries to other lands, we felt that we would like to make ourselves available for foreign service. At first, we considered going on our own, perhaps to Mexico. But then we decided that it would probably be better to wait and let the Society assign us after we had attended Gilead School. We realized that this was an arrangement that Jehovah was using.
We were invited to the fourth class of Gilead School. But shortly before the class was to begin, N. H. Knorr, who was president of the Watch Tower Society at that time, became more keenly aware of the limitations that Ann had because of childhood polio. He spoke to me about it and decided that it would not be wise to send us to serve in another country.
About two years later, when I was doing preconvention work, Brother Knorr saw me again and asked whether we were still interested in attending Gilead. He told me that we would not be going to a foreign assignment; he had something else in mind. So when the ninth class registered on February 26, 1947, we were included in the student body.
Those days at Gilead were ones never to be forgotten. The courses were spiritually rich. Lifelong friendships were made. But my involvement with the school extended far beyond that.
Between Washington and Gilead
Gilead School was still relatively new. The United States government was not sufficiently acquainted with the objectives of the school, so many questions were being raised. The Society wanted to have a representative in Washington, D.C. That was where we were sent a few months after graduating from Gilead. I was to assist in obtaining visas for those who were invited to come to Gilead from other countries and in obtaining legal papers so that the graduates could be sent abroad for missionary work. Some officials were very fair-minded and helpful. Others had strong anti-Witness feelings. A few who had strong political views asserted that we had connections with elements that they considered to be undesirable.
One man to whose office I went strongly criticized us because we do not salute the flag or go to war. After he had ranted about that for some time, I finally said: “I want you to know, and you do know, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not involved in a war with anybody in the world. We’re not involved in the affairs of the world. We’re not involved in their wars, their politics. We are totally neutral. We have already conquered the problems that you’re facing; we have unity in our organization. . . . Now, what do you want us to do? Do you want us to go back to your way of doing things and drop ours?” He did not say anything after that.
Two full days a week were set aside for the work with government offices. In addition to that, we were serving as special pioneers. Back then, this involved spending 175 hours in the field ministry each month (later it was changed to 140 hours), so we were often out in the service till late in the evening. We had a good time. We conducted many fine studies with entire families, and they made good progress. Ann and I had decided not to have children, but spiritually speaking, we have had not only children but also grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What a joy they are to our hearts!
Late in 1948, I received a further assignment. Brother Knorr explained that Brother Schroeder, the registrar and one of the instructors at Gilead School, was going to be busy with other important work, so I was asked to teach Gilead classes when necessary. With my heart in my mouth, I arrived back at Gilead, in South Lansing, New York, with Ann on December 18. At first, we were at Gilead for just a few weeks at a time, and then we would go back to Washington. Eventually, however, I was spending more time at Gilead than I was in Washington.
It was during this period, as I mentioned earlier, that the 21st class of Gilead graduated at Yankee Stadium in New York. So as one of the instructors, I was privileged to share in that graduation program.
Service at the World Headquarters
On February 12, 1955, another service assignment began for us. We became members of the Bethel family at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s visible organization. But what would it involve? Basically, being willing to do whatever was assigned to us, sharing in projects that required cooperation with others. Of course, we had done that before, but now we would be part of a much larger group—the headquarters Bethel family. We gladly accepted this new assignment as an evidence of Jehovah’s direction.
A major part of my work involved matters in connection with news service. Because of the desire for sensational stories and because of getting information from prejudiced sources, the press had written some nasty things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. We endeavored to improve that situation.
Brother Knorr wanted to be sure that we all had plenty to do, so there were other assignments too. Some of these drew on my training as a commercial artist. Others involved the Society’s radio station, WBBR. There was work to do in connection with motion pictures produced by the Society. Theocratic history was, of course, part of the Gilead course, but now various projects were undertaken to acquaint more of Jehovah’s people with details of that history of the modern-day theocratic organization and to make this available to the public too. Another aspect of Gilead training involved public speaking, and work needed to be done to make more of the basics of public speaking available to the brothers in the congregations. So there was plenty to do.
Gilead on a Regular Basis
In 1961, with training of traveling overseers and branch personnel in the offing, Gilead School was moved to Brooklyn, where the Watch Tower Society has its principal offices. Again I was back in the classroom—this time not as a substitute instructor but as a regular member of the faculty. What a privilege! I am firmly convinced that Gilead School is a gift from Jehovah, a gift that has benefited his entire visible organization.
In Brooklyn the Gilead classes had opportunities unknown to students in previous classes. There were more guest lecturers and there was close association with the Governing Body and extensive fellowship with the headquarters Bethel family. It was also possible for the students to get training in office procedures, in Bethel home operations, and in various aspects of factory work.
Over the years the number of students varied, and so did the number of instructors. The location of the school changed several times too. Now it is in lovely surroundings in Patterson, New York.
Working With the Students
It has been such a joy to teach these classes! Here are young people who are not interested in doing things in the old system. They leave behind their family, their friends, their home, and people who speak their language. The climate, the food—everything is going to be different. They do not even know what country they will be going to, but their goal is to be missionaries. You do not have to motivate people of that sort.
When I went into the classroom, it was always my aim to make the students feel at ease. No one learns well when he is tense and worried. True, I was the instructor, but I knew what it was like to be a student. I sat in those seats once. Of course, they studied hard and learned a lot at Gilead, but I also wanted them to have a good time.
I knew that when they went to their assignments, there would be certain things that they needed in order to succeed. They needed strong faith. They needed humility—lots of it. They needed to learn to get along with other people, to accept situations, to forgive freely. They needed to keep on cultivating the fruitage of the spirit. They also needed to love people and to love the work that they had been sent to do. Those are the things that I constantly tried to keep before the students while they were at Gilead.
I really do not know how many students I have taught. But I know how I feel about them. After spending five months with them in the classroom, I could not help getting attached to them. Then when I watched them walk across the platform and receive their diplomas on graduation day, I knew that they had successfully completed the course and that soon they would be leaving. It was like having part of my family go. How could you keep yourself from loving people who were willing to give of themselves and do the work that these young folk would be doing?
Years later, when they come back to visit, I hear them tell of their joys in the service, and I know that they are still in their assignments, doing what they were trained to do. How does that make me feel? I tell you, it is a good feeling.
Looking to the Future
My eyes have grown dim now, and I experience the frustrations that this brings. No longer am I able to teach in the Gilead classroom. At first, that was a hard adjustment to make, but throughout my life I have learned to accept situations and live with them. I often think of the apostle Paul and his “thorn in the flesh.” Three times Paul prayed for relief from that affliction, but the Lord told him: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you; for my power is being made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Paul continued to live with it. If he could do it, I ought to try. Though I no longer handle class sessions, I am grateful that I can still see the students come and go each day. Sometimes I am able to talk with them, and it brings joy to my heart to think of the fine spirit that they show.
What the future holds is wonderful to contemplate. A foundation is being laid now. Gilead has had a prominent part in it. Beyond the great tribulation, when the scrolls referred to at Revelation 20:12 are opened, there will be a thousand years of further intensive education in Jehovah’s ways. (Isaiah 11:9) But even that is not the end. It really is only a beginning. Throughout eternity, there will be more to learn about Jehovah and more to do as we see his purposes unfold. I am fully confident that Jehovah will fulfill all the grand promises that he has made, and I want to be there to share in accepting Jehovah’s directions for us then.
[Picture on page 26]
Gilead graduation in New York’s Yankee Stadium in 1953
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Gertrude, me, Kathryn, and Russell
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Working with N. H. Knorr (far left) and M. G. Henschel in convention organization
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In the WBBR broadcasting studio
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In the Gilead classroom
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With Ann, not too long ago