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Jehovah’s Witnesses


Graduation of the 137th Class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead

On September 13, 2014, the 137th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead graduated at the educational center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patterson, New York. This school trains ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses who already have extensive experience to be even more effective in building up the congregations and branch offices where they are assigned. An audience of 12,333 watched the program live, either in person at Patterson or via video tie-in at locations in Canada, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

Samuel Herd, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, served as chairman of the program. In his opening remarks, he focused on how much higher Jehovah’s thoughts are than ours. (Isaiah 55:8, 9) He said that even after five months of filling their minds with God’s thinking, the Gilead students have only scratched the surface, getting to know merely “the fringes of [God’s] ways.” (Job 26:14) Brother Herd also said that each time we meet to discuss God’s thoughts we benefit and that this graduation program would be no different.

“The Fruitage of the Spirit Is . . . Patience.” (Galatians 5:22) John Larson, a member of the United States Branch Committee, highlighted two ways in which we can demonstrate patience, an aspect of the fruitage of God’s spirit. First, we need to be patient with Jehovah as he trains us and helps us to be firmly grounded in the faith. (1 Peter 5:10) Abraham was one who set a fine example of patience as Jehovah trained him and ultimately fulfilled His promise to him.Hebrews 6:15.

Second, we need to be patient with ourselves. After receiving their Gilead training, the students might expect too much of themselves. If things do not go well immediately after they reach their assignments, they could wonder, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ Based on his personal experience, Brother Larson assured them that they can overcome challenges by being patient with themselves and remaining industrious as God finishes their training.Hebrews 6:11, 12.

“May Your Hearts Remain Humble and Live Forever!” Anthony Morris of the Governing Body based his theme on Psalm 22:26, the latter part of which could be literally rendered “may your heart live forever.” To receive this blessing, we must be humble. Brother Morris stressed that we lose our usefulness to Jehovah if we are not humble. Any of us, even longtime Christians, could lose sight of how important it is for us to be like Christ Jesus.2 Peter 1:9.

The Scriptures provide examples of those who showed humility and those who did not. Herod Agrippa arrogantly accepted the flattery of people who gave him glory that belonged only to God, and he was struck by God’s angel and “was eaten up with worms.” (Acts 12:21-23) In contrast, Peter, after being rebuked by Jesus for thinking “not God’s thoughts, but those of men,” apparently did not sulk or get angry. (Matthew 16:21-23) He accepted the discipline and became an example of humility.1 Peter 5:5.

Some of the students will take up Bethel service at one of the branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Brother Morris warned that without humility, they will be miserable in the assignment. However, a lack of humility can be hard to detect in oneself. To drive home the point, he said that many years ago when an elder was counseled for failing to show humility, he wrote to the branch office, saying, “I am the humblest man I know.” Brother Morris encouraged the students to avoid such an attitude. They will remain humble if they avoid an inflated view of their own authority and instead recognize that the real authority lies with Jehovah God and Christ Jesus.

“He ‘Does Not Give the Spirit Sparingly.’” (John 3:34) Michael Burnett, a Gilead instructor, reminded the students that holy spirit will help them to overcome the difficulties or doubts that they will face in their assignments. God’s spirit enabled Bezalel to meet the challenges of his assignment to build the tabernacle. (Exodus 35:30-35) Holy spirit not only heightened Bezalel’s natural abilities as an artisan but also enabled him to teach others. Holy spirit can do the same for the Gilead graduates, especially as they follow the pattern of teaching from the Scriptures, which they studied in class.

In Bezalel’s time, Israelite women also played a key role in constructing the tabernacle. (Exodus 35:25, 26) Likewise, the sisters in the class have proved to be “skilled women” as they support their husbands. Brother Burnett concluded by advising the students: “Temper your natural abilities with humility and an obedient spirit. If you do, Jehovah will give you his spirit fully.”

“Will You Dance With Me?” Mark Noumair, a helper to the Teaching Committee, developed his theme using the example of King David when he had the ark of the covenant brought to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6:12-14) David humbly danced with joy alongside “the slave girls of his servants” as the Ark was brought up. (2 Samuel 6:20-22) Those slave girls would never forget the day that King David danced with them. Brother Noumair then called on the students to ‘dance with the slave girls.’ He asked them: “Will you be known as one who is helpful to those with little or no responsibility? . . . Will you value others because of their spiritual qualities?”

The graduates will imitate Jehovah if they continue to show loyal love in that way. (Psalm 113:6, 7) Even if some around them fail to be humble, the students should not allow such imperfections of others to affect them. “View yourself as a nobody,” Brother Noumair said, adding: “Treat Jehovah’s sheep the way He would.”

“Witnessing on Every Appropriate Occasion.” William Samuelson, who oversees the Theocratic Schools Department, cited the apostle Paul as one who took advantage of every opportunity to preach the good news. (Acts 17:17) Brother Samuelson then guided the students through reenactments of experiences they had enjoyed in the ministry while at Gilead. For example, one couple met a female clerk in a food market. They waited until business slowed down and then showed her the video Why Study the Bible? They also directed her to, where she could find information in Laotian, her native language. The couple were able to return and cultivate the woman’s interest.

“Continue Available for Kingdom Service.” William Nonkes, who works in the Service Department in the United States branch, interviewed four of the graduating students. In the spirit of Isaiah 6:8, they had already made themselves available for Kingdom service, but the school prepared them to do so even further. Sister Snolia Maseko explained that Gilead revealed areas where she could improve, especially in the wise use of time even after a full day of service. She said, “The training has pushed my limits far beyond what I thought I could do.” Brother Dennis Nielsen learned how the thought at Zephaniah 3:17 could help him to avoid discouragement in his ministry. “If I’m in service and the results aren’t great, I should remember that Jehovah is shouting with joy,” Brother Nielsen said, “and I should do the same.”

“Observe Intently the Birds of Heaven.” (Matthew 6:26) Stephen Lett of the Governing Body delivered the principal talk of the program. Based on Jesus’ teaching that we should “observe intently,” or scrutinize carefully, the birds, Brother Lett identified several lessons that they can teach us.Job 12:7.

For example, just as Jehovah feeds the birds, he will provide for us. We are members of “God’s household,” and he assures us that he will “provide for those who are his own.” (1 Timothy 3:15; 5:8) Of course, we must do our part. Just as the birds must seek the food that God provides, we must keep “seeking first the Kingdom” to gain his blessing.Matthew 6:33.

Brother Lett also pointed out that many birds sound a warning when they sense danger. Similarly, we warn others when appropriate, for example, when a brother “takes a false step before he is aware of it.” (Galatians 6:1) And by means of our preaching, we warn people of the fast-approaching “day of Jehovah.” (Zephaniah 1:14) In another example, Brother Lett explained that just as migrating birds fly over high mountains, we overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles with Jehovah’s help.Matthew 17:20.

Conclusion. The students received their diplomas, after which one of the graduates read a letter of appreciation from the class. In his concluding remarks, Brother Herd compared the process of getting Jehovah’s thoughts into our heart to the work of driving spikes into railroad ties. It takes several hammer blows to set a spike securely. Similarly, the graduates should continue to think about the things they learned at Gilead. “Take the time to spike them down deep into your heart,” said Brother Herd. Then he added, “Follow God’s thoughts, and you will be a blessing.”