The 134th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead graduated on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at the educational center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patterson, New York. This school trains experienced ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be more productive in their ministry. Friends, family members, and other guests joined the graduating students to make up the 9,912 who attended the program.
Mark Sanderson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, served as chairman of the program. He reminded the audience of the inauguration of Gilead School, which took place 70 years earlier on February 1, 1943. On that occasion, the president of the school, Nathan Knorr, indicated its purpose with these words: “There must be hundreds and thousands more that could be reached [with the good news of God’s Kingdom] if there were more laborers in the field. By the Lord’s grace, there will be more.” Was Brother Knorr’s faith misplaced?
Consider an example. Shortly after the school began, Brother Knorr visited Mexico looking for areas where the Gilead-trained missionaries could be assigned. During his visit, all the congregations within 240 kilometers (150 mi) of Mexico City were invited to a meeting, and 400 people attended. Now, almost seven decades since the first Gilead graduates arrived in Mexico, more than 200,000 would be expected if the same area was invited to a meeting today!
“What Is in Your Hand?” Anthony Griffin, a member of the United States Branch Committee, developed that theme, which was based on Exodus 4:2. In that account, God asked Moses: “What is that in your hand?” Moses’ answer was: “A rod.” Jehovah used that rod as a symbol of the authority and the commission he gave to Moses. (Exodus 4:5) Moses did well when he used his authority for God’s glory, but he displeased God when he used it to glorify himself and to berate his brothers, as he did at “Meribah.”
Brother Griffin compared the rod of Moses to the spiritual training that the Gilead students have received, urging the students not to use it to assert authority over others. Instead, he advised them: “Use what you have been given to bring praise and honor to Jehovah, and you will continue to be a blessing to those whom you serve.”
“Remember the Manna.” Stephen Lett of the Governing Body highlighted the following four lessons that we can learn from the manna that God miraculously gave to the Israelites in the wilderness.
Never murmur against Jehovah’s provisions. (Numbers 11:
5, 6) The Israelites grumbled about the manna, but God took their murmurings personally. Like the manna, the spiritual food we receive is not always exciting, but it is always nourishing. We should be ever grateful for each of Jehovah’s provisions.
Fully trust that Jehovah will provide for you. God provided the manna reliably day by day, including a double portion on the day before the Sabbath. (Exodus 16:22-
26) Likewise, we trust that God will provide for our needs. —Matthew 6: 11.
Disobedience never results in a blessing. (Exodus 16:19, 20, 25-
28) Israelites who tried to collect manna on the Sabbath got nothing except Jehovah’s displeasure, and those who on the other five days of the week saved manna for the next day found that it had bred maggots and developed an offensive odor.
Brother Lett then exhorted the students to remember the lessons we learn from the manna, for then Jehovah will “open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.”
“Be Ready for Life in the New World.” William Samuelson, who oversees the Theocratic Schools Department, explained that although we are understandably ready, or eager, for life in the new world, it is even more important that we be ready in the sense of being prepared. This requires us to “be sound in mind.”
We show soundness of mind by the way we deal with our own imperfections. We should not blame Satan or the world under his control for all of our flaws, perhaps thinking that we will correct our defects in the new world after God removes those bad influences. Right now, we can fight negative traits, such as selfishness, by working to “put on the new personality.”
“Put Your Pen Down.” Mark Noumair, a Gilead instructor, used the illustration of a pen to represent “the urge to write your own script in life.” We ‘put our pen down’ by allowing Jehovah to write the script.
King Saul serves as a warning example in this regard. He began his kingship as an unassuming, humble, modest man. (1 Samuel 10:22, 27; 11:13) Soon, though, he was “writing his own script,” doing what he thought was right and glorifying himself. God rejected him for his disobedience.
Even though the students have been faithful until now, Brother Noumair reminded them that they need to continue to do God’s work in God’s way. He admonished the students: “Be careful not to equate being used by God with having divine favor.” For example, Moses failed to follow God’s instructions when he miraculously produced water from a rock. He got results, but not Jehovah’s blessing.
“Echoing the Loud Voice of the Angel Flying in Midheaven.” Gilead instructor Sam Roberson based his remarks on Revelation 14:
“You Have Fooled Me . . . so That I Was Fooled.” (Jeremiah 20:7) Allen Shuster, a member of the United States Branch Committee, interviewed two couples from the class. The students felt that they had been “fooled” by Jehovah. In what way? They initially doubted that they would be able to cope with the demands of the course. Once their schooling was under way, though, they were overwhelmed by the help they received, which enabled them to succeed. Sister Marianne Aronsson expressed appreciation for her Gilead training this way: “I will never have a problem knowing what to study
“Imitate Their Faith.” David Splane of the Governing Body delivered the principal talk of the program, basing his theme on Hebrews 13:7, which says: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.” How did those “taking the lead” in the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses 70 years ago demonstrate faith?
On September 24, 1942, Nathan Knorr convened a joint meeting of the directors of two corporations used by Jehovah’s Witnesses and proposed that a new school
Graduates of the early classes of Gilead also showed faith worthy of imitation. They cultivated contentment and avoided the love of money. (Hebrews 13:
After relating details of some who served in challenging foreign assignments even before attending Gilead, Brother Splane told the students: “You fine young men and women are really carrying on the proud tradition of 70 years of men and women who have attended Gilead School. . . . Be happy to serve Jehovah anywhere.”
Brother Splane ended his part with a video presentation of pictures of the 77 Gilead graduates who now serve at the United States branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including two graduates of the first class in 1943. The pictures were accompanied by vocal renditions of songs used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their worship during the past 70 years.
After the students received their diplomas, one of the graduates read a letter of appreciation from the class. Brother Sanderson then concluded the program by emphasizing that although 70 years have passed, the comments of Brother Knorr to the first class of Gilead are still full of meaning: “No matter where you are sent, remember that you are . . . a publisher for the Kingdom; and it is the greatest privilege ever extended to any creature on the earth to be a publisher singing praises now, prior to Armageddon. . . . As long as you have the privilege of preaching, then preach.”
On February 1, 1943, the first class of a very special school began in upstate New York. It has trained thousands of ministers to teach others about God.