On March 14, 2015, the 138th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead graduated at the educational center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patterson, New York. An audience of over 14,000 viewed the program as it happened, including those in several locations that were tied in by video. The program began with a musical interlude consisting of four new Kingdom songs, which were later sung by all in attendance. *
Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, served as chairman of the program. In his opening remarks, he encouraged the students not to hoard their knowledge but to use the training they had received to benefit others.
Brother Jackson discussed the example set by Moses. For a time, Moses’ personal tent was, in effect, the center of worship for the nation of Israel. However, when the tabernacle was completed, that became the center of true worship. It appears that Moses was not allowed to enter the Most Holy portion of the tabernacle; that privilege was reserved for the high priest. Yet, there is no indication that Moses complained about this adjustment. Instead, he loyally supported Aaron in his new assignment as high priest. (Exodus 33:
“Will You Be Frightened by the Sound of a Leaf?” That was the theme of the talk delivered by Kenneth Flodin, a helper to the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body. He acknowledged that the students may face situations that seem intimidating, such as persecution or challenging assignments. Using an expression from Leviticus 26:36, he exhorted the students to view such situations, not as something impossible to deal with, but merely as a dried-up leaf. Brother Flodin then highlighted the example of the apostle Paul, who was able to endure many challenges because he trusted in Jehovah.
“What Are You Looking For?” Mark Sanderson, a member of the Governing Body, gave the next talk on the program. He discussed the principle recorded at Proverbs 13:12, which says: “Expectation postponed makes the heart sick.” Sadly, many go through their whole life feeling disappointed because they set their heart on goals they may never achieve, such as wealth or fame.
In Jesus’ day, some had wrong expectations about John the Baptizer. (Luke 7:
Applying the lesson, Brother Sanderson urged the students to look for the right thing. Instead of pursuing prominence or expecting special treatment in their assignment, they should focus on using their training to benefit others. They can do this by sharing the things they have learned at Gilead, by strengthening the faith of their brothers and sisters, and by loving them. “Look to be the humble servant of your brothers and sisters and do your best to accomplish Jehovah’s will,” said Brother Sanderson, “and you will never be disappointed.”
“Feed the Hungry.” That was the theme developed by James Cauthon, an instructor in the Theocratic Schools Department. Brother Cauthon pointed out that everyone hungers for love, appreciation, and recognition. Even Jesus had such a need, and Jehovah filled it by speaking warm words at Jesus’ baptism.
Jehovah has given us the power to encourage and strengthen others with our words, and he expects us to use that power. (Proverbs 3:
“Good to the Last Drop.” Mark Noumair, a helper to the Teaching Committee, gave the next talk on the program. Using the example of the apostle Paul, Brother Noumair encouraged the students not to be satisfied with doing only the minimum required. Rather, like Paul, they will find true joy if they pour themselves out for others.
Even in the face of difficulties, Paul did not give up. Because he continued to exert himself right down to the time of his death, Paul spent himself to the last drop, as it were. He could truthfully say: “I have run the race to the finish.” (2 Timothy 4:
Experiences. Michael Burnett, another Gilead instructor, hosted the next part on the program, in which some of the students reenacted field service experiences they had enjoyed during their stay in Patterson.
Time and again, the students had good results by being alert to opportunities to give a witness and by endeavoring to share the truth in “the language of the heart”
Interviews. Next, William Turner, Jr., a helper to the Service Committee of the Governing Body, interviewed four students about their experiences prior to arriving at Gilead as well as the training they had received from the school.
The students related points from the curriculum that they found encouraging. For example, one student related what he learned from the account recorded in Luke chapter 10. The 70 disciples sent out by Jesus rejoiced when they had good results in their ministry. Although Jesus also rejoiced, he taught the disciples to base their joy not solely on results but primarily on knowing that Jehovah was pleased with their efforts. This reminds us that true joy depends, not on our circumstances, but on having Jehovah’s favor.
Brother Turner applied the words of Philippians 1:6 to the students, assuring them that Jehovah had “started a good work” in them and that Jehovah would continue to be with them.
“Keep Your Eyes on Jehovah.” Samuel Herd, a member of the Governing Body, delivered the principal talk of the program. He acknowledged that we cannot literally see Jehovah. How, then, is it possible to keep our eyes on him?
One way we can see Jehovah is by examining the things he has created, which teach us about him. Moreover, Jehovah “has enlightened the eyes of [our] heart.” (Ephesians 1:
We especially want to pay close attention to the Gospels, for they give us a clear picture of Jehovah as seen in the words and actions of his Son. Jesus so closely reflected Jehovah’s personality that he could say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also.”
Brother Herd encouraged the audience not only to see Jehovah through the example of Jesus but also to imitate what they see. For example, just as Jesus exerted himself to feed others, we want to work hard to share the spiritual food we have received.
What is the result of keeping our eyes on Jehovah? We can have the same confidence as did the psalmist who wrote: “I keep Jehovah before me constantly. Because he is at my right hand, I will never be shaken.”
Conclusion. After the students received their diplomas, one of the graduates read a heartfelt letter of appreciation from the class. Then Brother Jackson concluded by telling the graduates that they do not need to feel as if everything they teach must be new or profound. For the most part, they will be reminding their brothers and sisters of things that they already know. Brother Jackson also stressed the need for humility. Rather than drawing attention to themselves or to their Gilead training, the graduates will want to direct attention to the Bible and to our Bible-based publications. Thus, instead of discouraging those who may never have the opportunity to attend Gilead school, the graduates will encourage their fellow believers by helping them to benefit from the spiritual provisions that they do have access to. All in attendance left the program feeling upbuilt and determined to serve their brothers and sisters.