A Willing Spirit Brings People to Gilead
THE Watchtower Bible School of Gilead exists to train dedicated men and women for foreign missionary service. Who come to Gilead? Those who have a willing spirit. (Psalm 110:3) That certainly was evident on September 8, 2001, when the 111th class graduated.
Some students of that class had already willingly left family, friends, and home country to serve where the need is greater. In doing so, they tested themselves as to whether they could make adjustments to live in a somewhat different environment. For example, Richer and Nathalie arranged their affairs to move to Bolivia, Todd and Michelle to Dominican Republic, and David and Monique to a country in Asia to spread the good news of God’s Kingdom. Other students had already served in Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Albania.
Christy was encouraged to study the Spanish language in high school, helping to prepare her to spend two years in Ecuador before getting married. Others joined foreign-language congregations in their home countries. Facing a different challenge, Saul and Priscilla displayed a willing spirit by working hard to improve their English before they came to the school.
The 20 weeks of missionary training passed quickly. Graduation day arrived, and the students found themselves with friends and family, listening to wise counsel and parting words of encouragement.
The chairman of the program was Theodore Jaracz, a graduate of the seventh class of Gilead School, who now serves as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. His opening remarks highlighted the fact that as an organization, we have never lost sight of the objective of training students at Gilead, namely to preach the good news of the Kingdom in all the inhabited earth. (Mark 13:10) Gilead equips qualified students to carry on this preaching activity on a much larger scale than they had in the past and in areas of the world where trained missionaries are particularly needed. Brother Jaracz admonished the students to make good use of their Gilead training as they now join the missionaries who are presently serving in the 19 countries to which the graduates were assigned.
Timely Advice for Those Graduating
A series of talks followed. William Van De Wall, a member of the United States Branch Committee, spoke on the subject “Missionary Zeal—A Mark of True Christians.” He focused attention on the commission to “make disciples,” recorded at Matthew 28:19, 20, and he exhorted the students: “Imitate Jesus, who carried out his missionary assignment with zeal and enthusiasm.” To assist the future missionaries to keep their zeal for missionary work, he encouraged them: “Hold to a practical schedule; maintain good personal study habits, staying up-to-date in theocratic matters; and always keep in focus the reasons why you are in your assignment.”
Next on the program was Guy Pierce, a member of the Governing Body. He developed the theme “Continue Cultivating ‘Your Power of Reason.’” (Romans 12:1) He gave practical advice to the graduating class, encouraging them to use their God-given ability to think and reason. “Continue to think deeply about what Jehovah is saying to you through his Word. This will safeguard you,” he stated. (Proverbs 2:11) Brother Pierce also admonished the class not to be dogmatic in their views so that they would not hinder their “power of reason.” Certainly, these timely reminders will prove helpful as the graduates serve as missionaries.
The chairman next introduced one of the Gilead instructors, Lawrence Bowen, who spoke on the theme “Decide Not to Know Anything.” He pointed out that in connection with his missionary work in Corinth, the apostle Paul had “decided not to know anything . . . except Jesus Christ, and him impaled.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) Paul knew that the greatest force in the universe, the holy spirit, backs the message reflected throughout the entire Bible: the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty by means of the promised Seed. (Genesis 3:15) The 48 graduating students were urged to be like Paul and Timothy and to find success as missionaries, sticking to “the pattern of healthful words.”—2 Timothy 1:13.
“Appreciate Your Privilege, a Gift From God” was the theme of the last of the series of opening talks. Wallace Liverance, Gilead School registrar, helped the graduates to appreciate that service privileges are expressions of God’s undeserved kindness, not something they were entitled to or had earned. Drawing on the example of the apostle Paul, Brother Liverance pointed out: “Jehovah’s choice of Paul to be his apostle to the nations was not determined by works, so that it might appear that Paul had earned the right to that assignment or that it was owed to him. It was not dependent on seniority or experience. From a human standpoint, it might have appeared that Barnabas would have been the logical choice. It was not based on personal ability; Apollos apparently was more eloquent than Paul. It was an expression of God’s undeserved kindness.” (Ephesians 3:7, 8) Brother Liverance encouraged the graduates to use their gift, or service privilege, to help others become friends of God and recipients of “the gift God gives . . . , everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 6:23.
Following this, Mark Noumair, another Gilead instructor, conducted a lively discussion with a number of students on the theme “Preparation Leads to Good Results.” (Proverbs 21:5) The experiences illustrated that when a minister prepares well for the ministry, especially by preparing his heart, he will have genuine interest in people. He will never be lost for words. Rather, he will say and do things to help them spiritually. “This is the key to being a successful missionary,” Brother Noumair pointed out, drawing on his own experience as a missionary in Africa.
Missionary Service—A Satisfying Career
Ralph Walls and Charles Woody interviewed some experienced missionaries, who were also at the Patterson Educational Center for special training. The interviews emphasized that it is love of people that brings joy in the missionary service. It was reassuring for the students and for those of their families and friends who were in the audience to listen to these experienced missionaries as they explained firsthand why missionary service is a satisfying career.
John E. Barr, who serves on the Governing Body, gave the principal talk of the day, entitled “Sing to Jehovah a New Song.” (Isaiah 42:10) Brother Barr pointed out that the expression “a new song” appears in the Bible nine times. He asked the question, “What is this new song all about?” Then he answered: “The context reveals that a new song is sung because of new developments in the exercise of Jehovah’s sovereignty.” He urged the students to continue joining their voices in singing the praises of God’s triumphant Kingdom in the hands of the Messianic King, Christ Jesus. Brother Barr mentioned that the training they had received at Gilead had helped them to understand more deeply than ever before the various aspects of this “new song.” “The school has emphasized the need for you to ‘sing’ Jehovah’s praises in harmony with your brothers and sisters wherever you go; always cultivate unity with others in your assignments.”
After the students were given their diplomas, a spokesman for the class read a letter of sincere appreciation for the training that they had received at Gilead.
Could you expand your service to God and make it more productive? If so, apply yourself as these graduating students have. This is what has helped to qualify them for the missionary field. Great joy is found when one cheerfully offers oneself willingly in God’s service.—Isaiah 6:8.
[Box on page 25]
Number of countries represented: 10
Number of countries assigned to: 19
Number of students: 48
Average age: 33.2
Average years in truth: 16.8
Average years in full-time ministry: 12.6
[Picture on page 26]
111th 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) Yeomans, C.; Toukkari, A.; Nuñez, S.; Phillips, J.; Dawkin, M.; Silvestri, P. (2) Morin, N.; Biney, J.; López, M.; Van Hout, M.; Cantú, A.; Szilvassy, F. (3) Williams, M.; Itoh, M.; Van Coillie, S.; Levering, D.; Fuzel, F.; Geissler, S. (4) Yeomans, J.; Moss, M.; Hodgins, M.; Dudding, S.; Briseño, J.; Phillips, M. (5) López, J.; Itoh, T.; Sommerud, S.; Kozza, C.; Fuzel, G.; Moss, D. (6) Williams, D.; Dudding, R.; Geissler, M.; Morin, R.; Biney, S.; Cantú, L. (7) Dawkin, M.; Hodgins, T.; Levering, M.; Silvestri, S.; Van Hout, D.; Briseño, A. (8) Van Coillie, M.; Nuñez, A.; Kozza, B.; Sommerud, J.; Toukkari, S.; Szilvassy, P.