129th Gilead Graduation
“This Is Your Day”
ON September 11, 2010, nearly 8,000 gathered for a special event—the graduation of the 129th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. “This is your day,” Samuel Herd of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses told the students. “We are here to rejoice with you!”
“The Hearing Ear”
Brother Herd began the program by discussing the need for all Christians to make good use of “the hearing ear” by paying attention to God’s Word. (Proverbs 20:12) “You have lent your ears to Jehovah for the past few months,” Brother Herd told the class, “and you will continue to do so into eternity.”
How can new missionaries use their ears wisely? “By tuning in to the Word of God,” Brother Herd stated. He added: “Much will be said during today’s program that will prepare you for your work as missionaries in the years ahead.”
“Trust in Jehovah With Your Whole Heart”
Gerrit Lösch, a member of the Governing Body, spoke to the students on this thought-provoking theme. He recounted numerous occasions on which God’s people, both ancient and modern, have displayed trust in Jehovah.
In a similar way, “missionaries need to show trust regarding their assignments,” Brother Lösch pointed out. “For example,” he said, “you may wonder: ‘Will I be able to learn the new language? Will I be able to adjust to a new culture? Will I be able to combat homesickness?’” The answer? Brother Lösch exhorted the class to “trust in Jehovah.”
Brother Lösch also read Proverbs 14:26, which states: “In the fear of Jehovah there is strong confidence.” Our trust in Jehovah will grow if we reflect on the many ways in which he has blessed us.
The Bible says that the person who trusts in Jehovah “will certainly become like a tree planted by the waters, that sends out its roots right by the watercourse; and he will not see when heat comes, but his foliage will actually prove to be luxuriant.”—Jeremiah 17:7, 8.
The lesson is clear. “No matter what lies ahead,” Brother Lösch said, “your trust needs to be in Jehovah.”
“Imitate the Faithful Angels”
That was the subject of a talk by Governing Body member Stephen Lett. The angels provide a wonderful example for us. “Everything the Bible reveals about them is worthy of imitation,” Brother Lett said. He then identified four traits of the faithful angels that we would do well to imitate—their endurance, their humility, their helpfulness, and their integrity.
The Bible reports that one angel resisted ‘the prince of Persia’—a powerful demon—for 21 days. (Daniel 10:13) That angel displayed endurance. Christians too “have a wrestling . . . against the wicked spirit forces,” Brother Lett pointed out. (Ephesians 6:12) “Fight hard to continue carrying out your assignment,” he told the students.
When Manoah, the father of Samson, asked an angel for his name, the angel refused to give it. That angel displayed humility. (Judges 13:17, 18) Brother Lett told the students: “When someone tries to praise you or rave about your abilities, humbly direct attention away from yourself and toward Jehovah and his organization.”—1 Corinthians 4:7.
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane shortly before his death, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) That angel showed helpfulness. “Prayerfully try to determine what the real needs are in your missionary assignment,” Brother Lett said, “and then with Jehovah’s help, try to fill those needs.”
Since only a minority of angels joined Satan in his rebellion, we can say that the vast majority of these heavenly creatures are marvelous examples of integrity.—Revelation 12:4.
“Like those faithful angels, resist the Devil,” Brother Lett urged the students. “Oppose him, and he will flee.”—James 4:7.
Three Other Program Highlights
“Keep Jehovah as the Rock of Your Heart.” Speaking on that captivating topic, based on Psalm 73:26, Gary Breaux, a member of the United States Branch Committee, helped the students to appreciate the need for relying on Jehovah. In what sense is Jehovah like a rock? “A rock can hold down a piece of paper in a windstorm,” Brother Breaux stated. “In a similar way, Jehovah can be a stabilizing influence that can guard your heart.” Of course, the heart can mislead us when we are faced with tests of endurance. (Jeremiah 17:9) A new climate, new foods, new companions in a missionary home—any of these could cause one to consider quitting. “You will face situations in which you will have to consider options and make decisions,” Brother Breaux stated. “Will you choose a course that Jehovah will be pleased with? If you do, Jehovah will become ‘the rock of your heart.’ He will direct your steps.”
“Do You Have Enough Faith to Get Your Feet Wet?” Gilead instructor Sam Roberson developed that theme, basing it on Joshua chapter 3. How could millions of Israelites cross the Jordan River when it was at flood stage? Jehovah told Joshua to command the priests to “stand still in the Jordan.” God promised: “At the instant that the soles of the feet of the priests . . . rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, . . . and they will stand still as one dam.” (Joshua 3:8, 13) Brother Roberson told the students: “There will be ‘Jordans’ in your life that will separate you from your blessings if you allow them to.” For example, there may be challenges in getting along with fellow missionaries. The solution? “Look at the work; don’t look at the workers.” Brother Roberson exhorted the class: “If you display the faith to get your feet wet, Jehovah will help you cross those ‘Jordans’ of your missionary life.”
“Firmly Establish Your Plans.” That was the subject developed by Gilead instructor William Samuelson. His talk was based on Proverbs 16:3, which states: “Roll your works upon Jehovah himself and your plans will be firmly established.” Brother Samuelson asked the students: “Does this verse mean that you have no part in establishing your plans other than ‘rolling your works’ upon Jehovah?” No, he said, for Proverbs 16:1 states: “To earthling man belong the arrangings of the heart.” Brother Samuelson said: “Jehovah does not miraculously arrange your heart for you. Rather, you need to be sure that you are motivated in the right direction. By study, prayer, and close ties to the local branch office, you will continue to have a heart that will serve you well, and Jehovah himself will firmly establish your plans.”
Experiences and Interviews
As part of their training, Gilead students join local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the public preaching work. Mark Noumair, another of the Gilead instructors, interviewed a number of students regarding their experiences. Especially highlighted in the experiences was the role of prayer in locating honesthearted ones in the territory.
For instance, one couple were at a fast-food restaurant. An employee noticed that they were offering a silent prayer. He approached and asked if they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Upon finding out that they were, the employee explained that he was raised as a Witness but had fallen away from the faith. He had even committed a crime and had been sent to prison. Now this young man felt that he wanted Jehovah back in his life. He also said that before the couple entered the restaurant, he was praying to God, expressing his desire for help to straighten out his life. His prayer was answered!
Using the theme “Taste and See That Jehovah Is Good,” Rudi Hartl of the Writing Correspondence Department conducted interviews with Wayne Wridgway from Mozambique, Jason Reed from Chile, and Kenji Chichii from Nepal. All three are Gilead-trained missionaries. These brothers talked openly about some of the challenges they faced as new missionaries—whether learning a new language, adapting to a new culture, or dealing with homesickness. “One thing that helped us was to make friends in the new congregation as soon as possible,” stated Brother Chichii. “As we got closer to the congregation, we found it easier to cope with homesickness.”
Shortly after all 56 students received their diplomas, one graduate read a touching letter of appreciation from the class. In part, it stated to the Governing Body: “As a class, we have observed firsthand how you have lovingly and tirelessly given of yourselves, providing the curriculum, visiting the class, and giving us fine spiritual instruction. Because of being recipients of your love, we will do our utmost to imitate your fine examples of love, patience, humility, and personal interest when we arrive in our assignments.”
[Blurb on page 28]
“When someone tries to praise you . . . , direct attention away from yourself”
[Blurb on page 29]
“There will be ‘Jordans’ in your life”
[Chart/Map on page 31]
9 countries represented
28 married couples
33.0 average age
17.9 average years since baptism
13.3 average years in the full-time ministry
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Class assigned to the 25 countries shown below
[Picture on page 30]
Gilead students reenact one of their preaching experiences
[Picture on page 31]
129th 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) Munaretto, R.; Olofsson, Y.; Budden, K.; Najdzion, L.; Moya, G.; Treviño, G.; Dion, A.; Fleegle, A.
(2) Smith, J.; Michael Raj, J.; Smith, S.; Paramo, A.; McDonald, J.; Deans, M.; Joyal, S.; Watson, L.
(3) Joyal, C.; Crawley, T.; Hacker, D.; Shynkarenko, J.; Knapp, T.; Ayling, J.; Highley, C.; Olofsson, B.
(4) Fitzpatrick, M.; Najdzion, B.; Skallerud, L.; Harris, A.; Harris, S.; Budden, R.; Paramo, Y.; Skallerud, K.
(5) Crawley, B.; Michael Raj, J.; Lodge, A.; Lodge, R.; Herms, N.; Fitzpatrick, J.; Moya, R.; Munaretto, P.
(6) Watson, S.; Deans, M.; Hacker, J.; McDonald, J.; Treviño, J.; Harris, S.; Herms, C.; Harris, P.
(7) Shynkarenko, V.; Highley, T.; Smith, A.; Dion, J.; Ayling, R.; Smith, B.; Knapp, T.; Fleegle, B.