128th Gilead Graduation
Missionaries Sent to “Make Disciples”
“IN ORDER for all the nations to hear the good news, some Christians were going to have to be willing to leave their family and their home to preach the good news in a foreign country.” With those words, David Splane of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses set the tone for an exciting spiritual event.
On March 13, 2010, nearly 8,000 people gathered for the graduation of the 128th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Friends, family members, and guests from 27 different countries attended the program.
“The Disciples Couldn’t Just Stay at Home”
As chairman, Brother Splane opened the program by discussing Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) He emphasized that Jesus sent his disciples to the people. True, at Pentecost 33 C.E., individuals from Mesopotamia, North Africa, and many parts of the Roman Empire came to Jerusalem and heard the good news. Even so, “the disciples couldn’t just stay at home and wait for people from all the nations to come to them,” said the speaker. “They had to go to the most distant part of the earth to find the people.”—Acts 1:8.
“Jesus didn’t just tell his disciples what to do,” said Brother Splane. “He taught them how to do it. He didn’t just tell them to pray; he taught them how to pray. He didn’t tell them to preach; he showed them how to preach. He didn’t just tell them to be good teachers; he demonstrated good, effective teaching methods.”
Addressing the parents of the graduating students, the chairman quoted Jesus’ assurance to his disciples: “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:20) Brother Splane reassured the audience that Jesus would continue to care for the students in their foreign assignments.
“Go Ahead and Boast”
Anthony Morris of the Governing Body encouraged the class to “go ahead and boast.” He said that there are appropriate and inappropriate kinds of boasting. Inappropriate boasting involves bringing glory to ourselves. Appropriate boasting is described at 1 Corinthians 1:31: “He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.” Brother Morris said: “That’s something to brag about—to have insight and knowledge of Jehovah God. In fact, your greatest privilege—and mine—is to bear that holy name, to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—Jeremiah 9:24.
The speaker then emphasized the importance of making Jehovah’s name known by sharing the experience of a missionary in Africa. The missionary, along with his wife, was traveling to give a Bible lecture. At a checkpoint, a young soldier pointed a gun at the brother and asked who he was. His wife, who recalled her Gilead training, leaned over and whispered to him, “Tell him you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and you’re on your way to give a Bible lecture.” He took her advice, and they were allowed to pass through the checkpoint. The next day, the couple heard on the radio that the president had told his soldiers to be on the lookout for assassins who were calling themselves missionaries! By identifying themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses rather than saying they were missionaries, the couple was spared much heartache. Brother Morris concluded his talk, saying: “When you arrive in your assignment, you go ahead and boast. Boast in all that Jehovah is going to accomplish as he uses you to his everlasting glory.”
“Will You Fulfill Your Mission?”
Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body and former missionary, helped the graduating students consider the above question. He asked, “What do we mean when we say that someone is a missionary?” He explained that the word “missionary” comes from a Latin expression that refers to a person or a group that has received a special assignment. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, our mission is to preach the good news and to help others spiritually. We do this work in imitation of Jesus Christ, who always kept his mission on earth clearly in mind. To the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus said: “For this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.”—John 18:37.
The speaker helped the class reflect on the Bible account of the battle of Jericho. For six days the Israelite warriors got up early in the morning, put on armor, and marched around Jericho, only to return home. “From a human viewpoint,” said the speaker, “their mission seemed irrational and strange.” He said that some soldiers may have thought, ‘What a waste of time.’ On the seventh day, though, the Israelites were directed to circle the city seven times, after which they had to shout a great war cry. The result? Jericho’s walls fell flat!—Joshua 6:13-15, 20.
From the account of Jericho, Brother Jackson drew four lessons. (1) Obedience is essential. We should do things Jehovah’s way, not feeling that our way is better. (2) Faith and trust in Jehovah are vital. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down,” not by the use of battering rams. (Hebrews 11:30) (3) We must be patient. In time, Jehovah’s blessing will “overtake you.” (Deuteronomy 28:2) (4) Don’t give up. Never forget your mission. Brother Jackson summed up his discussion, saying, “If you keep those points in mind, you will fulfill your mission to Jehovah’s praise and glory.”
Other Highlights of the Program
“Love the Bible and Its Author.” That was the theme developed by Maxwell Lloyd, a member of the United States Branch Committee. He told the class, “The Bible must be a living book to you.” He then gave them the following encouragement: Never let your love for Jehovah God become dormant. Do not take for granted that everybody understands what you are teaching. Learn to simplify Bible truths in order to get the material into your students’ hearts. Be humble. Do not give the appearance that you have superior knowledge. Teach by example. May your students see in you a deep love of the Bible.
“Mark Well the Ravens.” Michael Burnett, a class instructor and former missionary, delivered the talk with the above title. He said that we are going to have anxious thoughts on occasion. But remember Jesus’ counsel: “Mark well that the ravens neither sow seed nor reap, . . . and yet God feeds them.” (Luke 12:24) According to the Law covenant, ravens were unclean, not fit to be eaten. They were to be considered loathsome. (Leviticus 11:13, 15) In spite of their status, God feeds them. “So if you are confronted with major anxiety in the future,” said Brother Burnett, “think about the raven. If God takes care of an unclean, loathsome bird, how much more so is he going to take care of you who are clean in his eyes.”
“I Do You No Wrong.” Mark Noumair, another Gilead instructor, helped all in attendance to examine the illustration Jesus gave regarding vineyard workers. Some workers toiled all day. Others labored just one hour. Yet, they all received the same wage! Murmuring broke out among those who worked longer. To the complainers, the master of the vineyard said: “I do you no wrong. You agreed with me for a denarius, did you not? Take what is yours and go.” (Matthew 20:13, 14) The lesson? Do not compare yourself with others. “Negative comparisons will only rob you of joy,” said Brother Noumair. “Worse yet, they could cause you to leave your assignment, giving up a precious privilege of service.” The speaker reminded the class that Jesus is directing the spiritual harvest in our day and can do with his followers as he pleases. If Jehovah and Jesus decide to do something extra for others, they do you no wrong. Focus on what is yours, and never allow the “wages” of others to sidetrack you from the work Jehovah has given you to do.
Experiences and Interviews
When not in class or doing homework, Gilead students join local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the public preaching work. Sam Roberson, one of the Gilead instructors, interviewed a number of students regarding their experiences. Sister Alessandra Kirchler, for example, met a woman who was very much concerned about her son’s smoking habit. Alessandra later called back with an Awake! article on the subject. No one was at home, but she left the article anyway. Eventually, Alessandra found the woman at home and was invited in. The lady appreciated the article and said, “I’ve often wondered what God is trying to teach me with all the trials he gives me.” Alessandra showed her from the Bible that God does not cause bad things to happen to us. (James 1:13) Now both the woman and her son are enjoying a Bible study.
Melvin Jones of the Service Department conducted interviews with three former Gilead graduates: Jon Sommerud, who serves in Albania; Mark Anderson, who serves in Kenya; and James Hinderer, who serves in the Theocratic Schools Department. All three agreed that Gilead not only teaches students basic Bible truths but also teaches them how to apply those truths, no matter who the students are or where they serve.
One of the students then read a touching letter of appreciation from the class. John Barr, 96, the oldest member of the Governing Body, concluded the program with a prayer, asking Jehovah to bless the work of the 128th class of Gilead.
[Chart/Map on page 31]
8 countries represented
27 married couples
35.2 average age
19.1 average years since baptism
13.8 average years in the full-time ministry
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Class assigned to the 25 countries shown below:
(ASSIGNMENT UNDER THE AUSTRALIA BRANCH)
[Picture on page 30]
Gilead students reenact one of their preaching experiences
[Picture on page 31]
128th 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) Keller, E.; Ostopowich, I.; Jacobsen, S.; Arias, M.; Dieckmann, Y.; Tanaka, J.; Harada, K.
(2) Camacho, L.; Kirchler, A.; Rodríguez, S.; Ward, B.; Trenalone, K.; Victoria, V.; Oxley, F.; Nguyen, K.
(3) Oxley, O.; De Dios, A.; Lindström, C.; Allen, J.; Meads, T.; Waddington, J.; Victoria, E.
(4) Harada, H.; Lindström, A.; Orsini, E.; Logue, D.; Missud, T.; Bergeron, S.; Camacho, G.; Ward, T.
(5) Kirchler, W.; Nguyen, H.; Kremer, E.; Burgaud, C.; Titmas, N.; De Dios, C.; Rodríguez, A.; Waddington, M.
(6) Dieckmann, J.; Allen, C.; Titmas, R.; Arias, J.; Bergeron, E.; Keller, J.; Ostopowich, F.; Burgaud, F.
(7) Tanaka, K.; Kremer, J.; Jacobsen, R.; Trenalone, J.; Logue, J.; Meads, D.; Missud, D.; Orsini, A.