124th Gilead Graduation
Missionaries Are Compared to Locusts
EVERY six months, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead holds a graduation program to which the entire United States Bethel family is invited. On March 8, 2008, guests from more than 30 countries joined the Bethel family for the graduation of the 124th class of Gilead School. All 6,411 in attendance rejoiced with the students on their special day.
The chairman of the program, Stephen Lett of the Governing Body, opened with a talk entitled “Go Forth With Jehovah’s Figurative Locusts.” Revelation 9:1-4 compares the small band of anointed Christians who recovered from spiritual inactivity in 1919 to a swarm of locusts that burst into action. The students were reminded that as members of the “other sheep,” they have joined themselves to this figurative swarm of locusts.
Lon Schilling, a member of the United States Branch Committee, followed with the talk “Be Complementary.” It was based on the Bible example of Aquila and Priscilla (or, Prisca), a first-century Christian married couple. (Rom. 16:3, 4) The Gilead class was composed of 28 married couples. They were reminded that in order to be successful as missionaries, they would need to keep their marriage bond strong. The Bible never refers to Aquila without mentioning his wife, Priscilla. Hence, the apostle Paul and the congregation viewed them as a unit. Likewise, missionary couples today should work together, worship together, and meet the unique challenges of a foreign assignment together, thus complementing one another.
The following talk, entitled “Respond to Jehovah’s Goodness,” was delivered by Guy Pierce of the Governing Body. Brother Pierce explained that being good means more than refraining from doing bad. A good person does good things to benefit others. Jehovah God is good to the superlative degree. (Zech. 9:16, 17) God’s goodness and love can become in us a driving force to do good things for others. Commending the students, Brother Pierce concluded by saying: “You’ve been doing good. We are confident that you will continue to respond to God’s goodness by doing good in whatever future assignments Jehovah God gives you.”
Next, Michael Burnett, a former missionary recently assigned as a Gilead instructor, presented the talk entitled “Wear It as a Frontlet Band Between Your Eyes.” As though they were wearing “a frontlet band” between their eyes, the Israelites were to remember the miraculous deliverance from Egypt that Jehovah performed in their behalf. (Ex. 13:16) The students were admonished to remember the abundant instruction received at Gilead School as if they were wearing it as a frontlet band between their eyes. Brother Burnett emphasized the need to be humble and modest and to apply Bible principles when settling any misunderstanding with fellow missionaries and others.
Mark Noumair, a longtime Gilead instructor, gave the talk “What Song Will Be Sung About You?” In ancient times, it was the custom to celebrate war victories with song. One of such songs exposes the tribes of Reuben, Dan, and Asher as self-sparing, whereas the tribe of Zebulun is praised for its self-sacrificing spirit. (Judg. 5:16-18) Like the lyrics of a song, the actions of every Christian eventually become known to others. A person’s zeal for God’s work and enduring loyalty to theocratic order will build up a fine record with Jehovah and serve as a good example to his brothers. As others in the congregation listen to the figurative song written by our actions, they are moved to imitate that good example.
As part of their Gilead training, the 124th class spent a combined total of some 3,000 hours in the preaching work. Under the theme “Following the Lead of Holy Spirit,” the students related to Sam Roberson of the Theocratic Schools Department several field service experiences, reenacting some of them. These encouraging experiences were followed by interviews, chaired by Patrick LaFranca of the United States Branch Committee, with Gilead graduates now serving in various lands. The students appreciated the practical advice they received from these brothers.
Anthony Morris of the Governing Body gave the final talk, “Remember, the Things Seen Are Temporary.” The Scriptures admonish us to focus on future blessings from Jehovah rather than on any temporary tribulation that we might currently experience. (2 Cor. 4:16-18) Extreme poverty, injustice, oppression, sickness, and death are realities that we all see today. Missionaries may come face-to-face with some of these tragic circumstances. But remembering that these things are temporary will help us to stay spiritually balanced and hopeful.
The program concluded with all the graduates onstage listening to Brother Lett’s final remarks. He encouraged them not to give up and said: “There is no breaking point to our integrity if we have Jehovah on our side.” He urged the new missionaries to be like locusts, pressing on in Jehovah’s service and remaining zealous, loyal, and obedient forever.
[Box on page 30]
Number of countries represented: 7
Number of countries assigned to: 16
Total number of students: 56
Average age: 33.8
Average years in truth: 18.2
Average years in full-time ministry: 13.8
[Picture on page 31]
124th 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) Nicholson, T.; Main, H.; Senge, Y.; Snape, L.; Vanegas, C.; Pou, L. (2) Santana, S.; Oh, K.; Lemaitre, C.; Williams, N.; Alexander, L. (3) Woods, B.; Stainton, L.; Huntley, E.; Alvarez, G.; Cruz, J.; Bennett, J. (4) Williamson, A.; González, N.; Zuroski, J.; Degandt, I.; May, J.; Diemmi, C.; Tavener, L. (5) Lemaitre, W.; Harris, A.; Wells, C.; Rodgers, S.; Durrant, M.; Senge, J. (6) Huntley, T.; Vanegas, A.; Pou, A.; Santana, M.; Bennett, V.; Tavener, D.; Oh, M. (7) Zuroski, M.; Rodgers, G.; Diemmi, D.; Nicholson, L.; Alvarez, C.; Snape, J. (8) Harris, M.; González, P.; Main, S.; Woods, S.; Stainton, B.; Williamson, D.; Durrant, J. (9) Cruz, P.; Degandt, B.; Williams, D.; Wells, S.; Alexander, D.; May, M.
[Picture on page 32]
Gilead School is located at the Watchtower Educational Center