They Are Making Themselves Available
“YOUR people will offer themselves willingly.” (Psalm 110:3) Those words have special meaning for the 46 students of the 118th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. How did they prepare themselves to attend this school, which trains prospective missionaries to serve the spiritual needs of people in foreign lands? Mike and Stacie, members of the 118th class, explained: “Our decision to live a simple life helped us to minimize distractions and to keep our spiritual focus. We were determined not to allow our success in the business world to push aside spiritual goals.” Like Mike and Stacie, the other students of this class willingly made themselves available and now serve as Kingdom proclaimers on four different continents.
On Saturday, March 12, 2005, an audience of 6,843 listened with obvious delight to the graduation program. Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, served as chairman. After giving a warm welcome to the guests, present from 28 different lands, he focused attention on the value of Bible education. Quoting William Lyon Phelps, an American educator, the speaker declared: “Everyone who has a thorough knowledge of the Bible may truly be called educated.” As useful as secular education may be, Bible education is superior. It helps people to take in knowledge of God, which leads to everlasting life. (John 17:3) Brother Jaracz commended the graduates for their willingness to have a greater share in the global Bible educational program that is carried out in over 98,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
Timely Encouragement for the Graduates
After the chairman’s opening remarks, William Samuelson spoke on the subject “How You Can Be Like a Luxuriant Olive Tree in God’s House,” based on Psalm 52:8. He pointed out that the olive tree is figuratively used in the Bible as a symbol of fruitfulness, beauty, and dignity. (Jeremiah 11:16) Comparing the students to olive trees, the speaker said: “Jehovah will credit you with beauty and dignity as you faithfully carry out your work of Kingdom preaching in your missionary assignments.” Just as the olive tree needs extensive roots to survive a period of drought, the students need to fortify their spiritual roots in order to endure indifference, opposition, or other trials that they may encounter in their foreign service.—Matthew 13:21; Colossians 2:6, 7.
John E. Barr, one of the three members of the Governing Body who shared in the program, spoke on the theme “You Are the Salt of the Earth.” (Matthew 5:13) He pointed out that just as literal salt preserves food from decay, so the missionaries’ preaching about God’s Kingdom will have a lifesaving effect on those who listen, protecting them from moral and spiritual decay. Then in a fatherly tone, Brother Barr urged the graduates to “keep peace” with others. (Mark 9:50) “Cultivate the fruitage of the spirit, and make sure that your conduct and speech are always gracious and considerate,” admonished the speaker.
“Stay on Board in Deep Waters” was the theme highlighted by Wallace Liverance, one of the Gilead instructors. Just as a ship sailing in deep waters can move in the right direction, so an understanding of “the deep things of God”—truths concerning God’s purpose and how it will be carried out—can help one to make spiritual progress. (1 Corinthians 2:10) Simply staying in shallow spiritual waters by being content with “the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God” hinders our advancement and may even invite “shipwreck concerning [our] faith.” (Hebrews 5:12, 13; 1 Timothy 1:19) “Let ‘the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge’ sustain you in your missionary assignments,” concluded Brother Liverance.—Romans 11:33.
Mark Noumair, another Gilead instructor, spoke on the subject “Will You Live Up to Your Heritage?” For over 60 years, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead has acquired credibility and a sterling reputation because of the ‘heap of good witness’ given by the school’s graduates. (Genesis 31:48) This Gilead heritage has been passed on to the students of the 118th class. Brother Noumair encouraged the students to imitate the ancient Tekoites of Nehemiah’s day and humbly cooperate with the local congregation and fellow missionaries. They were admonished to avoid the attitude of the proud “majestic ones” spoken of by Nehemiah and instead be willing to work quietly in the background.—Nehemiah 3:5.
Instructive Experiences and Interviews
The next part on the program was entitled “The Word of God Went On Growing.” (Acts 6:7) Under the direction of Gilead instructor Lawrence Bowen, the students reenacted experiences that they had enjoyed in the field ministry while attending school. The experiences demonstrated that the students had proclaimed God’s Word with zeal and that Jehovah had richly blessed their efforts.
Richard Ashe conducted interviews with Bethel family members who work closely with the school. Their comments gave insight into the support the Bethel family gives to help Gilead students to get the most out of their schooling. Then, Geoffrey Jackson spoke with some past graduates of Gilead. They highlighted the numerous opportunities that missionary life offers to bring praise and honor to Jehovah. One commented: “People observe everything you do as a missionary. They listen, they watch, and they remember.” Hence, the students were encouraged to be conscious of setting a good example at all times. This sound advice will no doubt prove invaluable in the days to come.
Stephen Lett, a member of the Governing Body, gave the concluding talk, entitled “Go Forth as Bearers of ‘Living Water.’” (John 7:38) He noted that for the past five months, the students benefited immeasurably by drinking deeply from God’s Word of truth. But what will the new missionaries do with the information they have taken in? Brother Lett urged the graduates to share these spiritual waters unselfishly so that others will come to have within themselves “a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” (John 4:14) The speaker added: “Never forget to give Jehovah, ‘the source of living water,’ the honor and glory that he deserves. Be patient when teaching those who have come out of drought-stricken Babylon the Great.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Brother Lett concluded by encouraging the graduates to imitate enthusiastically the spirit and the bride and keep on saying: “‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.”—Revelation 22:17.
Brother Jaracz concluded the program by sharing greetings received from various lands. This was followed by the reading of a letter of gratitude by a member of the graduating class.
Can you make yourself available to serve where the need is greater? If so, then pursue spiritual goals, as these graduating students have done. Reap the joy and satisfaction that are found when a person cheerfully offers himself willingly in God’s service—whether as a missionary in a foreign country or as a minister closer to home.
[Box on page 13]
Number of countries represented: 8
Number of countries assigned to: 19
Number of students: 46
Average age: 33.0
Average years in truth: 16.5
Average years in full-time ministry: 12.9
[Picture on page 15]
118th 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) Brockmeyer, A.; Moloney, S.; Symonds, N.; Lopez, Y.; Howard, C. (2) Jastrzebski, T.; Brown, D.; Hernandez, H.; Malagón, I.; Jones, A.; Connell, L. (3) Howard, J.; Lareau, E.; Shams, B.; Hayes, S.; Brown, O. (4) Burrell, J.; Hammer, M.; Mayer, A.; Kim, K.; Stanley, R.; Rainey, R. (5) Jastrzebski, P.; Zilavetz, K.; Ferris, S.; Torres, B.; Torres, F. (6) Connell, J.; Hernandez, R.; Moloney, M.; Malagón, J.; Shams, R.; Hayes, J. (7) Ferris, A.; Hammer, J.; Stanley, G.; Kim, C.; Symonds, S.; Lopez, D.; Burrell, D. (8) Brockmeyer, D.; Mayer, J.; Rainey, S.; Zilavetz, S.; Jones, R.; Lareau, J.