Gilead Graduates Encouraged to Speak “Magnificent Things”
A FINE crowd of 6,635 from 52 lands was present at the graduation program of the 115th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead on September 13, 2003.
They heard Bible-based encouragement given to the 48 students of the class for them to take “the magnificent things of God” to people of 17 lands. (Acts 2:11) That is where the graduates would now be carrying on their missionary work.
In his opening remarks, Stephen Lett, who is a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and who served as chairman for the graduation, reminded the students: “When you leave for your assignments, no matter where you go or what circumstances you find yourself in, more are with you than are against you.” Drawing on chapter 6 of Second Kings, Brother Lett reminded the students that they can count on the backing of Jehovah God and myriads of angels as they make known “the magnificent things of God.” (2 Kings 6:15, 16) First-century Christians faced opposition and apathy in their preaching and teaching work, and Christian missionaries today face similar circumstances. However, they can rely on support from heaven as well as from Jehovah’s earthly organization.—Psalm 34:7; Matthew 24:45.
Speak “the Magnificent Things of God”
Following the chairman’s opening comments, Harold Corkern of the United States Branch Committee spoke on the theme “Realistic Expectations—Key to Joyful and Successful Service.” Brother Corkern pointed out that unfulfilled hopes can lead to disappointment, as Proverbs 13:12 shows. However, disappointment often comes from having unrealistic expectations that are not fulfilled. The graduates need to have a balanced, realistic view of themselves and others. They should expect to make some mistakes, but these ought not to make them overly sad as they strive to help others appreciate “the magnificent things of God.” Brother Corkern encouraged the new missionaries to rely on Jehovah, “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Hebrews 11:6.
Next on the program was Daniel Sydlik, a member of the Governing Body, who spoke on the theme “The Christian Hope—What Is It?” He stated: “Hope is a Christian virtue. It is a standard of right that brings one into a proper relationship with God. For a non-Christian to hope as we do is an impossibility.” Brother Sydlik went on to describe different aspects of the Christian hope that help one remain optimistic in the face of life’s difficulties. “With hope we can face life with renewed diligence and a triumphant spirit.” A Christian’s hope helps him to see Jehovah as a God of purpose and to rejoice in serving him.—Romans 12:12.
Wallace Liverance, registrar of Gilead School, encouraged the students to “Keep Walking by Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16) He showed how Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, almost drifted away from walking by spirit. At one point, Baruch grew weary and began pursuing great things for himself. (Jeremiah 45:3, 5) Brother Liverance then pointed out that some left off following Jesus and rejected spiritual truth, which is necessary for salvation. That was because they did not comprehend what he was teaching, and they were disappointed at not having their fleshly expectations fulfilled at that time. (John 6:26, 27, 51, 66) What can missionaries, whose work is to direct attention to the Creator and his purpose, learn from these accounts? The students were encouraged not to be concerned about occupying a position, receiving recognition from men, or using a theocratic assignment for personal gain.
“Will You Be a Giver or a Taker?” was the question Gilead instructor Mark Noumair raised. He based his comments on Judges 5:2, where individual Israelites were lauded for unselfishly volunteering to serve in Barak’s army. The Gilead students were commended for their spirit in responding to the call of the Greater Barak, Jesus Christ, to get more involved in spiritual warfare. Soldiers of Christ should be interested in gaining the approval of the one who enrolled them. Brother Noumair reminded the students: “When we begin to concentrate on pleasing ourselves, we stop fighting the enemy. . . . Missionary service is not about you. It’s about Jehovah, his sovereignty, and his will being accomplished. We don’t serve as missionaries because we want Jehovah to make us happy, we serve him because we love him.”—2 Timothy 2:4.
Gilead instructor Lawrence Bowen next served as the moderator of the part “Sanctify Them by Means of the Truth.” (John 17:17) He noted that the students of the 115th class are sanctified ministers of God. While in school, they also shared in the field ministry, seeking out honesthearted lovers of truth. Like Jesus and his early disciples, the students did not speak out of their “own impulse.” (John 12:49, 50) They zealously presented the inspired, life-giving word of truth. The reenactments and experiences of the students demonstrated the powerful effect that the Bible had on those whom they contacted.
Advice and Experience Provide Encouragement
Anthony Pérez and Anthony Griffin, members of the Service Department of the United States branch, conducted interviews with Branch Committee members from around the world. These men discussed challenges that new missionaries face and provided practical counsel based on personal experience. Some of the challenges include cultural differences, a tropical climate all year round, or a religious and political climate different from what the students have been accustomed to. What can help new missionaries cope with their new surroundings? Love for Jehovah, love for the people, not looking back, and not acting rashly. One branch committee member said: “People in our assignment had lived there for centuries and centuries before us. Surely we could live there and adapt. Every time we encountered difficulties, we looked upon them as character builders. You rely on prayer and on Jehovah’s spirit, and you experience the truthfulness of Jesus’ words, ‘I am with you.’”—Matthew 28:20.
Samuel Herd, a member of the Governing Body, brought the program to a high point with his talk, “Keep Speaking About the Magnificent Things of God.” The outpouring of holy spirit on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. energized Jesus’ disciples to speak about “the magnificent things of God.” What can help new missionaries today to speak with similar zeal about God’s Kingdom? The same holy spirit. Brother Herd encouraged the graduating students to “be aglow with the spirit,” to get excited about their assignments, never forgetting the training that has been invested in them. (Romans 12:11) “The Bible is a magnificent thing of God,” said Brother Herd. “Never underestimate its worth. Its message is alive. It cuts right to the heart of matters. Use it to set things straight in your lives. Let it change the way you think. Guard your thinking ability by studying, reading, and meditating on the Scriptures . . . Make it your aim and determination to use your Gilead training to keep speaking ‘the magnificent things of God.’”
Following the reading of greetings from around the globe and the presentation of diplomas, one graduate read a letter from the class expressing appreciation for the training received. Brother Lett then brought the joyous occasion to a fitting end by referring to 2 Chronicles 32:7 and Deuteronomy 20:1, 4. Tying in his final comments with his opening remarks, he concluded: “So dear graduates, remember as you go forth, as you march into spiritual battle in your new assignments, that Jehovah will be marching with you. Never lose sight of the fact that more are with you than are against you.”
[Box on page 25]
Number of countries represented: 7
Number of countries assigned to: 17
Number of students: 48
Average age: 33.7
Average years in truth: 17.8
Average years in full-time ministry: 13.5
[Picture on page 26]
115th 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) Brown, T.; Goller, C.; Hoffman, A.; Bruzzese, J.; Trahan, S. (2) Smart, N.; Cashman, F.; Garcia, K.; Lojan, M.; Seyfert, S.; Gray, K. (3) Beckett, M.; Nichols, S.; Smith, K.; Gugliara, A.; Rappenecker, A. (4) Gray, S.; Vacek, K.; Fleming, M.; Bethel, L.; Hermansson, T.; Hermansson, P. (5) Rappenecker, G.; Lojan, D.; Dickey, S.; Kim, C.; Trahan, A.; Washington, A.; Smart, S. (6) Goller, L.; Burghoffer, T.; Gugliara, D.; Nichols, R.; Washington, S.; Kim, J. (7) Beckett, M.; Dickey, J.; Smith, R.; Garcia, R.; Hoffman, A.; Seyfert, R.; Brown, H. (8) Fleming, S.; Bruzzese, P.; Burghoffer, W.; Bethel, T.; Cashman, J.; Vacek, K.