Motivated to Serve
WHAT would move 24 married couples in the prime of life to leave their families, friends, and familiar surroundings to take up missionary work in foreign lands? Why would they be delighted to go to such places as Papua New Guinea and Taiwan, as well as African and Latin-American countries? Could it be love of adventure? No. Rather, they are motivated by a genuine love of God and neighbor.—Matthew 22:37-39.
Who are these people? They are the graduates of the 109th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. On Saturday, September 9, 2000, a total of 5,198 gathered at the Watchtower Educational Center—located at Patterson, New York—and at satellite locations to listen to loving counsel that could help the graduates to be successful missionaries.
The chairman of the program was Stephen Lett, a member of the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He built his opening remarks on Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth.” Brother Lett explained that Jesus’ words certainly apply to the graduating students. For instance, salt has the property of making things palatable. So, too, by their effective preaching work, missionaries are like salt in a figurative way.
Brother Lett then introduced some longtime servants of Jehovah who gave short but potent Scriptural talks. The first was John Wischuk, who serves in the Writing Department. His theme, “The Shortest Psalm Promotes the Missionary Spirit,” was based on Psalm 117. Today, there is a worldwide need for giving a witness to the “nations” and “clans” concerning Jehovah and his Kingdom. The students were encouraged to fulfill what Psalm 117 says by urging others to “Praise Jah.”
The chairman next introduced Guy Pierce of the Governing Body. He spoke on the subject “Be Flexible, yet Firm.” God’s Word is solid. Jehovah God is called the Rock at Deuteronomy 32:4, yet his Word allows for flexibility in that it was written for all language groups and cultures—yes, for all mankind. The students were admonished to preach God’s Word, allowing its message to touch the heart and conscience of people. (2 Corinthians 4:2) “Be firm for right principles, but be flexible. Do not look down on those in your assignment because their culture is different,” Brother Pierce exhorted.
Karl Adams, one of the Gilead instructors, who has been serving at the world headquarters for close to 53 years, spoke on the thought-provoking theme “Where Will You Go From Here?” True, the 24 couples received missionary assignments in 20 different countries around the world, but the question was raised, Once you are there and you have seen it, then what? We live in a world that has a restless spirit. People want to go to new places and to do new things in an effort to please themselves. On the other hand, the students received an assignment from Jehovah to the place where he wants them to be to care unselfishly for his “sheep.” They should not be like those in ancient Israel who because of selfishness missed out on the opportunity to be used by Jehovah to bless all mankind. Rather, they should imitate Jesus Christ, who always did his Father’s will unselfishly and who was obedient in every circumstance he faced.—John 8:29; 10:16.
“Treasure the Deep Things of God” was the theme of Wallace Liverance, the registrar of Gilead School. Repeatedly, the Scriptures speak of God’s Word in terms of riches, valuable gems, precious metals, and things that are highly prized and sought after. Proverbs 2:1-5 shows that to find “the very knowledge of God,” we must search for it as for “hid treasures.” The speaker encouraged the students to keep digging into the deep things of God as they serve in their new assignments. Brother Liverance reasoned: “This is practical, for it builds faith and confidence in Jehovah and will fortify your determination to stick to your assignment. It will help you to speak with conviction and to be a more effective teacher as you explain God’s purposes to others.”
By way of a classroom setting, another instructor of Gilead School reviewed how Jehovah blessed the students’ field service activity over the past five months. Lawrence Bowen pointed out the apostle Paul’s words at Acts 20:20 regarding his public ministry in Ephesus, highlighting that Paul took advantage of all opportunities to give a witness. The students’ experiences illustrated that, like the apostle Paul, those impelled by love for God and neighbor in our time never hold back from speaking the truth and letting the power of God’s Word work in others. This results in Jehovah’s rich blessing.
Voices of Experience Speak
During their school term, students in this Gilead class were especially benefited by being able to associate with Branch Committee members from 23 lands, who were also at the Patterson Educational Center for special training. Leon Weaver and Merton Campbell of the Service Department conducted interviews with various Branch Committee members, some of whom were Gilead graduates themselves. It was reassuring for the students and their families and friends to hear from these seasoned missionaries.
The advice to the graduating class to help them adjust to their foreign assignments included such remarks as these: “Be positive. If you experience something that is very strange to you or that you can’t understand, don’t give up. Rely on Jehovah”; “learn to be happy with what is available, and trust that Jehovah will supply you with life’s necessities.” Other comments focused on helping the students maintain joy in their assignment. A few expressions were: “Don’t compare the assignment you have with the place you came from”; “learn the local language and speak it properly so that you can communicate with people”; “learn the customs and culture of the people, for this will help you to stick to your assignment.” These comments were of great encouragement to the new missionaries.
Following the interviews, David Splane, a former missionary and a graduate of the 42nd class of Gilead who is now serving as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, developed the principal talk around the attention-arousing theme “Students or Graduates—Which?” He asked the graduating class: “How are you going to view yourselves as you go to your missionary assignment? As graduates who know everything about missionary work or as students who still have a lot to learn?” Brother Splane pointed out that the wise graduate views himself as a student. The missionaries should take the view that everyone they meet in their missionary assignment has the potential for teaching them something. (Philippians 2:3) The students were encouraged to cooperate closely with their fellow missionaries, the branch office, and the local congregation. “You have passed your final exams, but you have not stopped being students. Make it clear to everyone that you are there to learn,” urged Brother Splane.
After this talk, the students received their diplomas, and their assignments were announced to the audience. It was a touching moment for the graduating students as a class representative next read a resolution that spoke of the graduates’ determination to allow what they have learned from God’s Word to impel them to greater acts of sacred service.
All in attendance would agree that the counsel received fortified the graduates’ resolve to show love of God and neighbor. It also made them more determined than ever to help people spiritually in their missionary assignment.
[Box on page 25]
Number of countries represented: 10
Number of countries assigned to: 20
Number of students: 48
Average age: 33.7
Average years in truth: 16.2
Average years in full-time ministry: 12.5
[Picture on page 26]
109th 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) Collins, E.; Miles, L.; Alvarado, A.; Lake, J. (2) Van Dusen, L.; Biharie, A.; Heikkinen, H.; Koós, S.; Smith, H. (3) Ashford, J.; Ashford, C.; Boor, C.; Richard, L.; Wilburn, D.; Lake, J. (4) Chichii, K.; Chichii, H.; Ramirez, M.; Baumann, D.; Becker, G.; Biharie, S.; Ramirez, A. (5) Van Dusen, W.; Lemâtre, H.; Pisko, J.; Cutts, L.; Russell, H.; Johnson, R. (6) Becker, F.; Baumann, D.; Johnson, K.; Pifer, A.; Madsen, C.; Lemâtre, J.; Heikkinen, P. (7) Smith, R.; Russell, J.; Collins, A.; Pisko, D.; Wilburn, R.; Koós, G. (8) Cutts, B.; Boor, J.; Madsen, N.; Pifer, S.; Richard, E.; Miles, B.; Alvarado, R.