Be Joyful With the Kingdom Hope!
IT WAS a joyful occasion that brought together the audience of 5,784 assembled on March 10, 2001, at the three complexes in New York State used by the large Bethel family. The occasion was the graduation of the 110th class of the Gilead missionary school.
Carey Barber, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, welcomed all and opened the program, stating: “It makes us glad to know that 110 classes of Gilead students have now been trained as missionaries and assigned to territories all around the globe.”
How to Remain Joyful
Following Brother Barber’s opening remarks, Don Adams addressed the audience, including the 48 graduating students, on the subject “The Blessing of Jehovah Makes Us Rich.” Basing his talk on Proverbs 10:22, he reminded the audience that Jehovah sustains and blesses his servants when they put Kingdom interests first in their lives. He encouraged the students to accept their new assignments with the same willing spirit that the apostle Paul displayed when he was invited to “step over into Macedonia and help.” (Acts 16:9) Although there were difficulties to overcome, Paul’s willingness to preach where he was directed resulted in many joyful blessings.
The members of the graduating class had finished their five-month study of the Bible and training in preparation for missionary work. Still, Daniel Sydlik, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, encouraged them to continue to be learners. Speaking on the theme “Be True Disciples,” he remarked: “Discipleship means constantly obeying the words of Jesus. It involves our willingness always to listen to his words, to his message, to his teaching.” He pointed out that disciples of Christ do not make decisions without listening to the voice of the Master; the wisdom of God is bound up in the life of Christ. (Colossians 2:3) None of us can hear the words of Jesus once and then conclude that we know all about him, so Brother Sydlik encouraged the graduates to continue learning, applying, and teaching Christian truth, which results in freedom.—John 8:31, 32.
To remain joyful in God’s service, one must be willing to accept discipline and correction. “Will Your Kidneys Correct You?” was the question posed by Gilead instructor Lawrence Bowen. He showed that in the Bible the figurative kidneys are associated with one’s deepest thoughts and emotions. They can serve to correct one if inspired advice from God’s Word has penetrated the innermost aspects of one’s personality. (Psalm 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10) One’s faithful course can even touch Jehovah in a profound way. After reading Proverbs 23:15, 16, the speaker asked: “Will your kidneys correct you?” He added: “We pray that they do, and thus you will cause Jehovah to experience the deepest pleasure within himself. You will stir his deepest emotions. Yes, you will make God’s kidneys exult as you loyally stick to your assignments.”
The final talk on this part of the program was delivered by Mark Noumair, who served as a missionary in Kenya before becoming a Gilead instructor. His talk entitled “Better Is the Seeing by the Eyes” highlighted the importance of cultivating contentment. In harmony with Ecclesiastes 6:9, Brother Noumair recommended: “Face reality. That’s ‘seeing by the eyes.’ Instead of fantasizing about something you want to do but are not doing, concentrate on making the most of your present circumstances. Living in a dream world, having unreasonable expectations, or dwelling on the negative factors of your assignment will only make you dissatisfied and discontent.” Yes, no matter where we may be or whatever the circumstances, cultivating godly contentment in our own circumstances makes for a joyful spirit in serving our Grand Creator.
Joyful Experiences in Kingdom Service and at Gilead
After such practical counsel from those discourses, the students recounted some experiences they had enjoyed while engaging in the public ministry during their five-month course. Under the direction of Wallace Liverance, Gilead School registrar, the graduating students told how they had recommended themselves as God’s ministers. (2 Corinthians 4:2) They had been able to appeal to the God-given conscience of some. The students’ experiences showed how Bible studies were started with sincere individuals they met on the street, in the house-to-house ministry, and in other settings. On different occasions, interested people said that the Bible-based publications of Jehovah’s organization had the ring of truth. One householder responded very positively to a particular Bible verse. She is now studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Next, Joel Adams interviewed Gilead graduates from years gone by. His theme was “Never Stop Learning, Never Stop Serving Jehovah.” Those interviewed had timely advice for the new missionaries. Recalling his days as a member of the 26th class of Gilead, Harry Johnson said: “We were taught that Jehovah has always led his people and will lead his people. That confidence has been an encouragement throughout the years.” William Nonkes, a member of the 53rd class of Gilead, advised the graduates: “Above all, keep in mind Bible principles, and apply them to all the decisions you have to make in life now and forever. As a result, you will be able to stick to your assignment, and Jehovah’s rich blessing will be with you.”
“Fortified to Carry Out Jehovah’s Will” was the theme Richard Rian had chosen for his part on the program. One of those he interviewed was John Kurtz, a graduate of the 30th class, who spent over 41 years in Spain as a missionary. When asked about the Gilead curriculum, Brother Kurtz stated: “The main textbook is the Bible. And then we have Bible study aids to help us understand the Bible. Those are available to all. There is no secret information dispensed at Gilead. I never cease to emphasize this because all have right at their fingertips the information that is provided at Gilead.”
Brother Gerrit Lösch, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, rounded out the spiritual program by speaking on the subject “On and Under Jehovah’s Wings.” He explained how God’s protection and support of his faithful servants are illustrated Biblically by the wings of the eagle. (Deuteronomy 32:11, 12; Psalm 91:4) The adult eagle sometimes spreads out its wings for hours in order to shield its offspring. At times, a mother eagle may even wrap her wings around her offspring to protect them from cold winds. In a similar way and in harmony with his purpose, Jehovah can come to the aid of his faithful servants, particularly when they face spiritual trials. Jehovah does not allow his servants to be tempted beyond what they can bear but makes the way out for them to be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Brother Lösch concluded by saying: “In order to remain spiritually protected, we must remain under the wings of Jehovah. This means that we must not develop a spirit of independence. Let us always stay close to Jehovah and his motherlike organization, not separating ourselves from their direction and loving counsel.”
The chairman read telegrams and greetings from well-wishers around the globe. Then came the presentation of the diplomas. When Gilead School was established, it was with a view to having only a limited number of classes over a five-year period. But for 58 years Jehovah God has kept the school operating. As Brother Barber said in his opening remarks: “What a truly wonderful record the Gilead graduates have built up since 1943, when Gilead was inaugurated! Their combined efforts have resulted in adding literally hundreds of thousands of meek ones of the earth to Jehovah’s glorious organization.” Yes, this missionary school has contributed to millions’ being joyful with the Kingdom hope.
[Box on page 24]
Number of countries represented: 8
Number of countries assigned to: 18
Total number of students: 48
Average age: 34
Average years in truth: 18
Average years in full-time ministry: 13
[Picture on page 25]
110th 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) Vacek, E.; Madelin, L.; Evans, G.; Watanabe, K. (2) Trafford, P.; Turfa, J.; Wilson, P.; Williams, R.; Weber, A. (3) Johnson, T.; Hanau, K.; Mourlhou, F.; Charpentier, F.; Peckham, R.; Androsoff, P. (4) Seegers, T.; Seegers, D.; Bailey, P.; Bailey, M.; Madelin, K.; Lippold, E.; Lippold, T. (5) Evans, N.; Gold, R.; Bollmann, I.; Vacek, R.; Oundjian, J.; Wilson, N. (6) Turfa, J.; Zuidema, L.; Zuidema, R.; Bengtsson, C.; Bengtsson, J.; Galano, M.; Galano, L. (7) Peckham, T.; Mourlhou, J.; Charpentier, C.; Gold, M.; Bollmann, R.; Oundjian, F. (8) Weber, R.; Johnson, B.; Hanau, D.; Watanabe, Y.; Williams, R.; Trafford, G.; Androsoff, T.