After five months of intensive study, 48 students graduated from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead at the educational center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patterson, New York. The graduation program was enjoyed by 9,694 family members, friends, and well-wishers.
Since 1943, more than 8,000 experienced ministers have been trained for missionary service. Using the Bible as its primary textbook, the course strengthens the faith of the students and helps them develop the spiritual qualities needed to meet the challenges of various forms of missionary work.
“Carefully Consider Lovable Things.” Anthony Morris, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and chairman of the program, based his introductory comments on Philippians 4:8: “Whatever things are lovable, . . . continue considering these things.”
Brother Morris pointed out that considering things that are lovable can help us keep a positive frame of mind in an unlovable world. “Be on the lookout for lovable things,” he said, “and be lovable.”
For example, our heavenly Father sets an appealing example by not focusing on our errors. (Psalm 130:3) “Don’t focus on the errors of your brothers and sisters,” urged Brother Morris, “and stay lovable.”
“Acquire Knowledge—But Do Not Become Excessively Wise.” Harold Corkern, a member of the United States Branch Committee, developed his theme based on Ecclesiastes 7:16. God wants us to use knowledge in the right way and not allow our knowledge to “go to our head.”
Brother Corkern also showed the need to be loving when giving advice or correction. We should not expect more of others than God does. “Use your wisdom, knowledge, and understanding well,” urged Brother Corkern, “and your brothers will love being with you.”
“Do Not Forget the Practices of God.” (Psalm 78:7) Guy Pierce of the Governing Body began his talk by explaining that a child’s behavior—good or bad—reflects on his parents. (Proverbs 20:11) Similarly, our behavior reflects on our heavenly Father. “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God.”—1 John 3:10.
Brother Pierce said that the students had been invited to attend Gilead School because of their good Christian qualities, including humility. He reminded them to remain humble. Their education did not make them superior to others. Rather, they are now in a better position to contribute to the unity of their worldwide brotherhood and to set an example in humility. (Psalm 133:1) “You now have a platform for more learning,” said Brother Pierce, “and for continuing to grow in knowledge and understanding of Jehovah God.”
“What We Have Done Is What We Ought to Have Done.” William Samuelson, overseer of the Theocratic Schools Department, asked: “How should we respond when our personal desires, will, and feelings conflict with an assignment we have been given?” We can learn from the statement found at Luke 17:7-10: “When you have done all the things assigned to you, say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’” Compared to our Master, Jehovah, we certainly are “good-for-nothing.”
The students spent weeks studying in a classroom. Some may have found that a challenge. “But, you did what you ought to have done,” said Brother Samuelson, “and now you can see how it benefited you, increasing your faith.” Brother Samuelson concluded: “As trusted stewards, may you always cherish the privilege to serve the Master of the universe.”
“Remember Jehovah’s Assurance When Facing Challenges.” Sam Roberson, assistant overseer of the Theocratic Schools Department, warned the students that at times they will face discouragement. Therefore, he recommended that the students recount the many Biblical examples of God’s reassurance. For example, Moses assured Joshua: “Jehovah . . . will neither desert you nor leave you entirely.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) At the end of his life, Joshua could say: “Not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed.”—Joshua 23:14.
Jehovah God promises his servants: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) He assures us that he will live up to the meaning of his personal name, Jehovah (“He Causes to Become”), and become whatever it takes to care for his servants. “Never give up,” urged Brother Roberson. “Never give out. Never give in. Remember, he will never, never, never let you down.”
“Into All the Earth Their Sound Went Out.” (Romans 10:18) Aided by Gilead instructor Mark Noumair, students from various lands related or reenacted experiences that they had enjoyed in the ministry in the Patterson area. For example, a couple from South Africa were delighted to meet three women from their home country and to speak with them in Zulu and Xhosa. A husband and wife from Sri Lanka met an Indian man whose wife and daughter live in Sri Lanka. The man had never seen a Bible, so the couple gladly gave him one of theirs.
“Equipped for Every Good Work.” Gene Smalley, helper to the Writing Committee, interviewed two of the graduating couples. The two from Sierra Leone recounted how they had to haul water to their home every day. But such challenges paled in comparison to the joy of conducting 50 Bible studies with interested ones. All four graduates expressed appreciation for the way the course has equipped them for every good work in their future assignments.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
“Endure to the End—And Beyond.” Gerrit Lösch, a member of the Governing Body, began the principal talk by explaining how runners in a long-distance race pace themselves to be sure that they will complete the race successfully. Whereas in sports racing there is only one winner, in the Christian race, all who endure to the end are winners.
Endurance denotes serving God continually, not losing hope in the face of obstacles, persecutions, trials, or disappointments. Jesus said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) How reassuring it is to know that Jehovah and Jesus take note of our endurance! Brother Lösch then presented a number of points that can help us to endure despite difficulties. Among them were the following:
Be determined not to compromise, having the conviction that “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.”—1 Corinthians 10:13.
Do not lose sight of your Christian hope. “For the joy that was set before [Jesus] he endured a torture stake.”—Hebrews 12:2.
Brother Lösch emphasized that now, so close to the finish line, is no time to give up. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—Hebrews 12:1.
One of the graduates brought the delightful program to a close by reading a letter on behalf of his fellow graduates expressing gratitude for the practical training they had received. The letter noted that the in-depth, chronological study of the Bible not only deepened their understanding of God’s purposes but also strengthened their faith immensely. “It is our determination,” the letter said, “to put the good things we learned into actions.”