Gilead Sends Missionaries “to the Most Distant Part of the Earth”
FOR over half a century now, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead has been sending out missionaries. On September 11, 1999, Gilead’s 107th class graduated. It consisted of 48 students from 11 countries, and these were assigned to serve in 24 different lands. They will join thousands of other missionaries, who have played a significant role in fulfilling Jesus’ last words before ascending to heaven. He foretold that his disciples would “be witnesses of [him] . . . to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
The graduation program, originating at the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, New York, proved to be a grand occasion in beautiful surroundings. The graduating students were very happy to have relatives, close friends, and guests in attendance. Including those who listened and observed by audio and video connections to the Brooklyn and Wallkill complexes, the total attendance was 4,992.
Serve Jehovah and Neighbor Faithfully
“Who Is on Jehovah’s Side?” That was the theme of the opening remarks by Carey Barber, a member of the Governing Body and chairman of the graduation program. He explained that this was the issue facing the Israelites in Moses’ day. Graduating students and those in attendance were reminded that many of the Israelites lost their lives in the wilderness because they did not loyally remain on Jehovah’s side. After falling victim to idolatry, they “sat down to eat and drink. Then they got up to have a good time.” (Exodus 32:1-29) Jesus warned Christians of the same danger: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you.”—Luke 21:34-36.
The next speaker, Gene Smalley, of the Writing Department, asked the graduating students: “Will You Prove to Be a Paregoric?” He explained that the Greek word pa·re·go·riʹa was adopted into English as the name for a medicinal mixture that alleviates discomfort. However, the apostle Paul used this expressive Greek word at Colossians 4:11 to describe his fellow workers. In the New World Translation, this word is translated “a strengthening aid.”
In their assignments the graduating missionaries can be modern-day paregorics in a very down-to-earth way by humbly becoming a strengthening aid to the local brothers and sisters and by reflecting a cooperative and loving spirit in association with fellow missionaries.
Daniel Sydlik, a member of the Governing Body, spoke next on the subject “The Golden Rule to Live By.” He explained that the exalted principle set forth by Jesus at Matthew 7:12, “all things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them,” involves doing positive things for others, not simply refraining from doing harm.
To do this successfully, three things are required: a seeing eye, a sympathetic heart, and a helping hand. Summing up, he said: “If we feel a desire to help, we should help at once. We have to go out of the way to do for others what we would like them to do for us.” Especially would this be true of missionaries going to other lands to help people practice true Christianity.
Instructors Give Warm Reminders
Gilead instructor Karl Adams encouraged the graduating missionaries to “Keep On Growing.” In what respects? First, in knowledge and in the ability to use it well. At Gilead, the students had learned how to do research to get the background and setting for Bible accounts. They had been encouraged to consider how each account should affect their lives. They were urged to keep on doing this.
“Second, keep on growing in love. Love is something that, when nourished, grows. When neglected, it can die,” Brother Adams said. (Philippians 1:9) Now, as missionaries, they would need to grow in love under different circumstances. And third: “Go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) “This is the marvelous kindness that Jehovah has shown through his Son,” the speaker said. “As we grow in appreciation for that undeserved kindness, our pleasure grows in doing God’s will and in carrying out what he has assigned us to do.”
Another Gilead instructor, Mark Noumair, spoke on the theme “Take It With Love, and You Can Take It.” He admonished: “Learn to take challenging situations in missionary life with love, and you will be able to take it. Jehovah only disciplines those whom he loves. Even if you feel that certain counsel is ill-advised, being picky, or unfair, love for Jehovah and your relationship with him will help you to take it.”
Brother Noumair pointed out that missionary service includes many duties. “But duty without love will make you discontented. Without love, your home duties—such as cooking, shopping, scrubbing the fruit, boiling the water—can become very dreary. You must stop and ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing these?’ Well, if you say to yourself, ‘My efforts are contributing to the health and happiness of my fellow missionaries,’ then it will not be hard to take.” In summary, he exhorted: “Whether it comes to accepting discipline, fulfilling your missionary commitments, or handling misunderstandings, taking it with love will enable you to endure in your assignment. ‘Love never fails.’”—1 Corinthians 13:8.
Gilead instructor Wallace Liverance next moderated the reenactment of a number of delightful experiences the students enjoyed while working with local congregations. In addition to going from house to house, they used their missionary training in searching out people at truck stops, laundromats, train stations, and other locations.
Seasoned Missionaries Give Assurances
When new missionaries go to a foreign country, is there need for anxious concern? Can they meet the challenges of a foreign assignment? What is done by branch offices to help these new arrivals to be successful? To answer these and other questions, Steven Lett, of the Service Department, and David Splane, of the Writing Department, interviewed brothers who were then attending the branch school at the Watchtower Educational Center. The brothers interviewed serve on branch committees in Spain, Hong Kong, Liberia, Benin, Madagascar, Brazil, and Japan.
These experienced servants of Jehovah, many of whom have served as missionaries for decades, reassured the graduating students as well as their parents and relatives in attendance. Based on their own personal experience and that of fellow missionaries, they showed that problems and concerns can be dealt with successfully. The problem they face may be big, “but it can be solved, and the Society helps us,” commented Raimo Kuokkanen, a missionary in Madagascar. “We did not choose the assignment, we received it,” said Östen Gustavsson, now serving in Brazil. “So we decided to do our best to stick to it.” James Linton, who serves in Japan, said that what helped him was “the presence of brothers who had already been serving in a missionary assignment.” Missionary service is a happy and fulfilling way of serving Jehovah and caring for his sheep.
Avoiding the Plague That Kills Spirituality
Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body, who himself graduated with Gilead’s seventh class in 1946, gave the concluding talk, on the theme “The Challenge to Keeping Spiritually Alive.” Acknowledging first the terrible atrocities occurring in various parts of the world, he pointed out that actually, worse calamities are happening to mankind.
Referring to Psalm 91, Brother Jaracz identified the “pestilence” and “destruction” that have spiritually sickened and killed millions all around us. The Devil and his wicked system have used pestilencelike propaganda, based on intellectualism and materialism, to weaken and kill spirituality, but Jehovah assures us that this plague will not come near “anyone dwelling in the secret place of the Most High.”—Psalm 91:1-7.
“The challenge,” Brother Jaracz said, “is to keep healthy in the faith, to remain in the place of security. We cannot be like the ridiculers ‘not having spirituality.’ Now this is a problem today. It is one that faces all of us in the organization. It can also face you in your missionary assignment.” (Jude 18, 19) But the graduating missionaries were told that they could successfully maintain spirituality in their assignments. They were urged to consider, for example, how our brothers are enduring in Russia, in Asia, and in African lands—despite bans, intense opposition, ridicule, atheistic propaganda, and false charges. And, in many cases, physical problems are added, brought on by ethnic conflicts and shortages of necessities.
When there is an ebb in spirituality, “it is necessary to address the cause of the problem and then work on it, using the counsel of God’s Word.” Biblical examples were given. Joshua was encouraged to read his copy of the Law in an undertone every day. (Joshua 1:8) When the book of the Law was found in Josiah’s day, Jehovah blessed the faithful application of its instructions. (2 Kings 23:2, 3) Timothy knew the holy writings from his infancy. (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) The Beroeans were more than good listeners; they were considered to be “noble-minded” because they examined the Scriptures daily. (Acts 17:10, 11) And Jesus Christ is the foremost example of one who knew and used God’s Word.—Matthew 4:1-11.
In closing, Brother Jaracz warmly admonished the new missionaries: “Now you are prepared to carry out your missionary assignment. And you are going to go abroad, in a very literal sense, to many different parts of the earth. If we meet the challenge to keep spiritually alive, then we are not going to let anything distract us from carrying out what we have resolved to do. You are going to preach with zeal, inspire others to imitate your faith, and we will pray along with you that those whom you teach, Jehovah will make alive as he has us. And thus many more are yet going to escape the spiritual calamity now raging worldwide. They will join us in increasing numbers to do Jehovah’s will. And may Jehovah bless you to that end.”
After the chairman read greetings from various countries around the world, the time came for giving the graduating students their diplomas. Then followed the reading of a warm letter of appreciation composed by the students. How grateful to Jehovah and his organization they were for the special training they had received and for their respective assignments as missionaries going “to the most distant part of the earth”!—Acts 1:8.
[Box on page 29]
Number of countries represented: 11
Number of countries assigned to: 24
Number of students: 48
Number of married couples: 24
Average age: 34
Average years in truth: 17
Average years in full-time ministry: 12
[Picture on page 26]
107th 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. Peralta, C.; Hollenbeck, B.; Shaw, R.; Hassan, N.; Martin, D.; Hutchinson, A. 2. Edwards, L.; Vezer, T.; Ceruti, Q.; Entzminger, G.; D’Aloise, L.; Baglieri, L. 3. Knight, P.; Krause, A.; Kasuske, D.; Rose, M.; Friedl, K.; Nieto, R. 4. Rose, E.; Backus, T.; Talley, S.; Humbert, D.; Bernhardt, A.; Peralta, M. 5. D’Aloise, A.; Humbert, D.; Dunn, H.; Gatling, G.; Shaw, J.; Ceruti, M. 6. Baglieri, S.; Krause, J.; Hollenbeck, T.; Martin, M.; Bernhardt, J.; Hutchinson, M. 7. Backus, A.; Dunn, O.; Gatling, T.; Vezer, R.; Knight, P.; Hassan, O. 8. Nieto, C.; Talley, M.; Friedl, D.; Kasuske, A.; Edwards, J.; Entzminger, M.