126th Gilead Graduation
How to Be a Successful Missionary
AN EXCITED crowd gathered at the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, New York, for a special occasion. Saturday, March 14, 2009, was graduation day for the 126th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Its graduates were about to be sent to 22 countries to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom.—Matthew 24:14.
The students had just completed an intensive, five-month course of Bible study designed to help them become successful Christian missionaries. Graduation day gave them one last opportunity as a class to listen to wise counsel on how to achieve that end.
Gilead School began training missionaries in 1943, recalled Anthony Morris, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who acted as chairman of the program. Since then, graduates have had a tremendous impact on the worldwide preaching work.
Even though the scribes and Pharisees looked down on Jesus’ apostles as “unlearned and ignorant,” the speaker noted, those opposers had to recognize that the apostles’ outspokenness resulted from their having been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13, King James Version) The training the students received enables them to be outspoken.
“Do Not Be a Taker of Faces” was the theme developed by Robert Ciranko, a helper to the Writing Committee of the Governing Body. He pointed out that the students will soon be meeting people of very different cultures and customs. Yet, preaching to them will be no problem if the students adopt Jehovah’s attitude. According to a literal rendering of Acts 10:34, “God is not a taker of faces,” that is, he does not favor one face over another. “God is not partial.” (Acts 10:35) “By adopting God’s attitude and viewing everyone in your assignment as being potentially acceptable to God, you will certainly succeed as his missionaries,” said Brother Ciranko.
“You Have Got What It Takes”
“Some consider the camel ugly,” began Samuel Herd, a member of the Governing Body, “yet it is perfectly suited to life in the desert.” Similarly, the new missionaries have what it takes to succeed in their assigned territories. Five things will help them.
1. Love for Jehovah. (Matthew 22:37, 38) The students have already shown their determination to serve Jehovah.
2. Stored knowledge of God’s Word. A camel stores food in the fat of its hump. Yet, it will not stop eating and rely on that emergency store. Missionaries, likewise, should not rely solely on the information learned during Gilead School but should go on nourishing themselves spiritually.
3. Love for people. (Matthew 22:39) The students have compassion for people.
5. Youthful vigor. Just as a camel carries a rider across a desert, a missionary may have to “carry” a fellow Christian who is in spiritual difficulty. That requires much energy, but the missionaries have youthful vigor.
Other Features of the Program
Almonds were among the fine products that Jacob sent as a gift to an Egyptian ruler, noted Michael Burnett, a Gilead instructor. (Genesis 43:11) Almonds pack much nutrition in a tiny bundle. The students have chewed many spiritual almonds during their course. Among the lessons they should take with them are the importance of being content with Jehovah’s provisions and of learning to love their new environment.
Mark Noumair, also a Gilead instructor, explained that God’s Word is like “a bagful of wisdom.” (Job 28:18) We need to open this bag and use its contents. If missionary service does not turn out to be what the students expected, they might think of the apostle Paul. Jesus’ disciples sent him to his hometown for nine years. Instead of reasoning that as “a chosen vessel” he should be serving elsewhere, Paul worked hard wherever he was. (Acts 9:15, 28-30) Respecting Jehovah’s choices may present a challenge. Another who did so was Jonathan. Recognizing that David was Jehovah’s chosen king, Jonathan was content to support him.
In the part “God’s Servants Speak With Boldness,” the students reenacted experiences that they enjoyed in the preaching work during their course. Many of them started Bible studies. The next presentation, “Prepared by Jehovah’s Organization,” featured interviews with three long-time missionaries. Each explained how he had been trained to cooperate with God’s organization.
“Be a Happy Missionary”
Gerrit Lösch, another member of the Governing Body, then presented the principal part of the program, “Be a Happy Missionary.” Many activities considered “fun” bring no real happiness, he noted. (Proverbs 14:13; Ecclesiastes 2:10, 11) Lasting happiness comes from doing God’s will, even though this is not always easy. The Gilead course was hard work but brought great satisfaction.
Several things contribute to making true Christians happy. They worship the happy God. (Psalm 33:12; 1 Timothy 1:11) They live in a spiritual paradise, and the Bible promises that soon the earth will be a physical paradise. They have found the purpose of life—to serve Jehovah and praise him. Moreover, they are loved by Jehovah and Jesus.
“You will be a happy missionary,” added the speaker, “if you learn to be content.” Loving others and being loved by them is another ingredient of happiness. So cover over the errors of others instead of highlighting them. Do good to others, assist the weak, share good experiences. (Psalm 41:1, 2; Acts 20:35) Happiness is found in expending oneself in the preaching work.—Luke 11:28.
“Go forth as a happy missionary,” concluded Brother Lösch, “having a moderate amount of fun but concentrating on praising our happy God, Jehovah, and on making many others happy as well.”
After conveying greetings from a number of lands, Anthony Morris presented the students with their diplomas. Thereafter, a representative of the 126th class read a letter addressed to the Governing Body. In it the students expressed their appreciation for attending Gilead School.
In his conclusion, the chairman remarked that the “joints and ligaments” uniting a body resemble the means and arrangements that “the faithful and discreet slave” uses to supply Jehovah’s people with nourishment and direction. (Colossians 2:18, 19; Matthew 24:45) If the Gilead graduates fully cooperate with God’s appointed representatives, they will succeed in fully accomplishing their ministry.—2 Timothy 4:5.
[Box on page 30]
Number of countries represented: 6
Number of countries assigned to: 22
Number of students: 56
Number of married couples: 28
Average age: 32.8
Average years in truth: 17.9
Average years in full-time ministry: 13.5
The graduates were assigned to Benin, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, and Uganda.
[Picture on page 31]
126th Graduating Class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead
Rows are numbered from front to back, and names are listed from left to right in each row.
(1) Kirchhoff, K.; Nichols, C.; Guzmán, Y.; Coil, H.; Becker, O.; De Simone, A. (2) Manzanares, A.; Bouvier, E.; Peddle, J.; Mason, H.; Braz, J. (3) Lee, J.; Forte, A.; Boucher, T.; Marsh, A.; Leighton, S.; Glover, M. (4) Kambach, H.; Jones, T.; Ferreira, A.; Morales, J.; Chicas, S.; Davis, B.; Dormanen, E. (5) Dormanen, B.; Nichols, J.; Pacho, T.; Titmas, L.; Bouvier, E.; Kirchhoff, A. (6) Leighton, G.; Pacho, A.; Van Campen, B.; Manzanares, A.; Rivard, A.; Lee, Y.; Titmas, L. (7) Boucher, M.; Coil, K.; Marsh, C.; Guzmán, J.; Jones, W.; Kambach, J. (8) Glover, A.; Ferreira, G.; Mason, E.; Forte, D.; Davis, N.; Chicas, O.; Rivard, Y. (9) Braz, D.; Van Campen, D.; Morales, A.; De Simone, M.; Becker, M.; Peddle, D.