130th Gilead Graduation
A Day of High Hopes and Happy Expectations
WITHOUT a doubt, the graduation of the 130th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead inspired hopes and expectations. On Saturday, March 12, 2011, an audience of over 8,500 gathered to attend the graduation, including the students along with their families and friends. Anticipation was keen—not only for the day but also for the future of the well-trained missionaries, who were soon to be sent all over the world to teach people the truths of the Bible.
“Happy Are All Those Keeping in Expectation of” Jehovah
That comforting thought, taken from Isaiah 30:18, was the theme of the talk delivered by Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and chairman of the program. With warmth and a touch of humor, he congratulated the students on surviving the rigors of the Gilead course and reassured them of the likelihood of surviving this exciting day. What realistic expectations could the students hold about the future? He developed three practical thoughts from Isaiah 30:18-21.
First, Brother Jackson said, “You can expect that Jehovah will hear your prayers.” He pointed out the assurance found in verse 19: “[God] will without fail show you favor at the sound of your outcry.” Noting that in the original Hebrew, the pronoun “you” in this sentence is singular, not plural, Brother Jackson said that Jehovah treats our prayers individually. “As a Father, Jehovah doesn’t ask, ‘Why can’t you be strong like that other person?’ Instead, he listens attentively to each one. And he answers.”
Second, the speaker acknowledged that we can expect problems. “Jehovah doesn’t promise that life will be easy, but he will help us.” As verse 20 shows, God foretold that when Israel came under siege, distress and oppression would become as familiar as bread and water. Still, Jehovah would always be ready to come to the people’s rescue. The Gilead students too will face problems and challenges, though not necessarily the ones they expect! Brother Jackson added, “But you can expect that Jehovah will be there for you to help you handle each challenge.”
Third, Brother Jackson reminded the students that as verses 20 and 21 show, “you can expect direction—so look for it!” Today, he noted, each Christian needs to listen carefully as Jehovah speaks through the pages of the Bible and through Bible-based publications. The speaker warmly urged the students to keep applying themselves to daily Bible reading, for it means life.
“Let the Dread of Jehovah Be Upon You”
Anthony Morris of the Governing Body explained the meaning of the Scriptural phrase “the dread of Jehovah.” (2 Chronicles 19:7) Those words do not refer to any kind of morbid terror but, rather, to an intense desire to do what is right, a respect so intense and sincere as to be characterized by nervous trembling. “Take that kind of dread with you to your missionary assignment,” Brother Morris exhorted the students. How can they show such reverence for Jehovah? The speaker focused on two practical ways.
First, Brother Morris urged the students to apply the counsel found at James 1:19: “Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking.” He noted that the students had learned a great deal during the five-month course, but they had to be careful not to go to their assignment and show off all that they had learned. “You need to listen first,” he said. “Listen to your local congregation and to those taking the lead in the land where you serve; listen to what they say about the country and its culture. Do not hesitate to say, ‘I don’t know.’ If your education has been effective, then the more you learn, the more you realize how little you really know.”
Second, Brother Morris read Proverbs 27:21: “The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace is for gold; and an individual is according to his praise.” He explained that as gold and silver need to be refined, or purified, we may be refined by praise. How so? Praise can be a test of character. It may lead to pride and a spiritual downfall, or it may move us to acknowledge that we are indebted to Jehovah and to become more determined never to fall short of his standards. Thus, Brother Morris urged the students to take any praise they might receive in the right way—as an opportunity to prove that they have the proper “dread of Jehovah.”
“Cherish Your Mission”
Guy Pierce of the Governing Body gave the main talk of the program. He discussed the above theme, explaining that the word “missionary” means “one who is sent on a mission.” Little wonder, he noted, that there are many different kinds of missionaries with a wide variety of missions. Many focus on physical healing and seek political solutions to the world’s problems. “You’re different,” he said. How so?
In their study of the Bible, the students had learned a great deal about physical healing. When Jesus resurrected a young girl, the parents were “beside themselves with great ecstasy.” (Mark 5:42) Likewise, when blind people were healed miraculously, their joy was intense. One of the reasons for such miracles was to show us today what Christ will accomplish in the coming new world, at which time the “great crowd” of righteous humans, who survive the end of the present wicked system of things, will be healed of any physical ailments. (Revelation 7:9, 14) Their loved ones, whom they will welcome back in the resurrection, will likewise be healthy in a physical sense. Imagine the joy!
However, as Brother Pierce explained, physical healing will never be the most important kind of healing. The sick whom Jesus cured eventually got sick again. The dead he resurrected died again. Even the blind he healed ultimately became blind again, at least at death. Far more important was the spiritual healing that Jesus accomplished. Gilead missionaries also have a mission of spiritual healing. They help people become reconciled to our heavenly Father so that they come to life spiritually. Only those who are spiritually healed will reach the goal of everlasting life. “That spiritual healing,” Brother Pierce stated, “is what praises God. It makes you a success in your ministry.”
Three More Highlights of the Day
“Will This Be a Good Day?” Robert Rains of the United States Branch Committee addressed that timely question. He encouraged the students to make sure that each day in their missionary assignment is a good day by using their time wisely, by looking to God’s Word when facing anxieties, and by relying on Jehovah through prayer.
“Will You Make the Old New?” Gilead instructor Mark Noumair posed that question in his talk. He discussed 1 John 2:7, 8, wherein the apostle John mentioned “an old commandment” that was also “a new commandment.” Both referred to the same commandment—that Christ’s followers love one another unselfishly, with a self-sacrificing spirit. (John 13:34, 35) The command was old in that it had been laid upon Jesus’ followers decades earlier by Christ himself; it was also new, though, in that Christians were facing new challenges and needed to show love in new and fuller ways. Missionaries too face a new set of circumstances and need to learn to show love in new ways. What is the key to doing so?
“Don’t become the thing you hate,” exhorted Brother Noumair. He warned that if we see behavior we hate yet respond in kind, we become what we hate, which is a self-destructive course. On the other hand, if we respond to such challenges by finding new ways to show love, we shine “the true light” and dispel spiritual darkness.
“Tote the Load.” Another Gilead instructor, Michael Burnett, developed this practical theme. He told of people in African lands who tote heavy loads on their heads. They use a kata, a small rolled-up cloth placed atop the head to help provide comfort and balance, leading to a graceful walk. The Gilead missionaries will have a heavy load of responsibilities to carry in their foreign assignments, but they have been given something that can be likened to the kata: extensive Bible-based training. As they apply what they learned, they will be able to balance their load and carry it effectively.
Experiences and Interviews
Gilead School training includes time spent in the ministry with local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. William Samuelson, overseer of the Theocratic Schools Department, reviewed some of the students’ experiences, using as his theme “Do Not Let Your Hand Rest.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6) By means of lively reenactments, the students showed how they had been industrious in the ministry, finding occasions to preach the good news on airplanes, in restaurants, and at gas stations. They witnessed from door to door, in informal conversations, and by letter. They certainly did not let their hands rest, and the results were excellent.
Gilead staff member Kenneth Stovall next interviewed three men with extensive missionary experience—Barry Hill served in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, Eddie Mobley in Côte d’Ivoire, and Tab Honsberger in Senegal, Benin, and Haiti. Together, they beautifully developed the theme “Test Jehovah and Reap Blessings.” (Malachi 3:10) For example, Brother Hill related how he and his wife faced the challenge of adapting to an Ecuadoran climate that ranged from hot and dusty to hot and muddy. For two and a half years, he recalled, they had to take baths using buckets. But they never considered leaving; they felt that their assignment was a blessing from Jehovah. “It was our life,” he said.
At the program’s end, one of the students read a touching letter from the graduating class expressing heartfelt appreciation for the school. “Our faith has been elevated to new heights,” the letter said, “and yet we know we are only a work in progress.” All the students received their diplomas, and the class was assigned to a wide variety of countries. Brother Jackson concluded the program by reassuring the students that they could expect to see Jehovah’s help in their lives ahead, especially when they face challenges. All in attendance left with higher hopes and brighter expectations. Without question, Jehovah will use these new missionaries to accomplish great good.
[Chart/Map on page 31]
9 countries represented
34.0 average age
18.6 average years since baptism
13.1 average years in the full-time ministry
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Class assigned to the countries shown below
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
[Picture on page 31]
130th 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) Molina, Z.; Bassolino, S.; Alatsis, C.; Arroyo, A.; Niño, L.; Merkling, S.; Clark, M.
(2) Little, C.; Tibaudo, S.; Jakobsson, S.; Moreno, J.; Rodriguez, A.; Lee, K.; Cárdenas, H.; Aguilar, L.
(3) Clairbush, A.; Polley, A.; Caldwell, S.; Adame, J.; Hildebrandt, S.; Shoemaker, I.; Grohman, N.; Galvez, G.
(4) Clark, J.; Bassolino, A.; Packham, K.; Adame, J.; Knaus, M.; Niño, M.; Moreno, R.; Galvez, J.
(5) Rodriguez, D.; Geynes, M.; Molina, J.; Aguilar, A.; Alatsis, I.; Manno, A.; Grohman, R.; Packham, J.
(6) Geynes, S.; Cárdenas, M.; Arroyo, C.; Manno, C.; Merkling, J.; Lee, H.; Clairbush, X.; Jakobsson, P.
(7) Little, J.; Hildebrandt, B.; Shoemaker, M.; Knaus, K.; Caldwell, J.; Tibaudo, F.; Polley, C.