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:
“The Fruitage of the Spirit Is . . . Patience.” (Galatians 5:
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.
“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.
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-
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:
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:
The graduates will imitate Jehovah if they continue to show loyal love in that way. (Psalm 113:
“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 jw.org, 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:
“Observe Intently the Birds of Heaven.” (Matthew 6:
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:
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:
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.”