Gilead School​—60 Years of Missionary Training

“BECAUSE of our intensive Bible study, we drew closer to Jehovah and learned more about his organization. This prepared us for life in a foreign assignment.” That is how a graduate of the first class described the course of studies she followed at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Since its inauguration 60 years ago, Gilead School has been sending missionaries. On March 8, 2003, the graduation of the 114th class took place at the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, New York. The 6,404 who gathered in the auditorium and at satellite locations listened attentively to the program, which consisted of talks, interviews, and a group discussion.

Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body, was chairman. His opening remarks drew attention to the international character of the audience, which was made up of visitors from Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Europe. Centering his comments on 2 Timothy 4:5, Brother Jaracz highlighted the main work of a Gilead-trained missionary​—to “do the work of an evangelizer.” The missionaries bear witness to the truth by teaching people the Bible.

Students Receive Final Instruction

Leading off a series of short talks, John Larson, a member of the United States Branch Committee, spoke on the faith-strengthening subject “If God Is for Us, Who Will Be Against Us?” (Romans 8:31) The speaker explained the Biblical basis for the students to have absolute confidence in Jehovah’s power to help them overcome any obstacle that they might face in their assignments. Drawing on Romans 8:38, 39, Brother Larson admonished the students: “Stop and reflect on the power that God is using in your behalf, and remember that nothing can break Jehovah’s personal attachment to you.”

Next on the program was Guy Pierce, a member of the Governing Body. He chose the theme “Keep Your Eyes Happy!” (Luke 10:23) He explained that true happiness involves knowing Jehovah and understanding his eternal purpose as well as seeing the fulfillment of Bible prophecies. Wherever they go, the students can maintain real happiness by keeping their eyes happy. Brother Pierce encouraged the graduates to meditate deeply on Jehovah’s goodness and to keep their mind and heart fixed on doing His will. (Psalm 77:12) By maintaining a positive attitude, the graduates can overcome any problems that may come their way.

Then the class received parting words of encouragement from two of the instructors who had been teaching them on a daily basis. “Are You Seeking Glory?” was the question asked by Lawrence Bowen in the title of his talk. Most people think of glory in connection with praise, honor, and distinction for themselves. The  psalmist Asaph, however, came to appreciate real glory​—the priceless treasure of a blessed relationship with Jehovah. (Psalm 73:24, 25) The graduating students were encouraged to maintain an intimate relationship with Jehovah through a continued deep study of the Bible. The angels “are desiring to peer” into the details regarding the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose through Christ. (1 Peter 1:12) They want to learn as much as possible about their Father so as to reflect his glory. Then the speaker urged the students to glorify Jehovah in their missionary assignments by helping others to find the treasure of priceless worth.

The school’s registrar, Wallace Liverance, brought the opening series of talks to a conclusion with the theme “Speak God’s Wisdom in a Sacred Secret.” (1 Corinthians 2:7) What is this godly wisdom about which the apostle Paul spoke during the course of his missionary service? It is Jehovah’s wise and powerful means to bring about universal peace and unity. This wisdom centers on Jesus. Rather than preaching a social gospel, Paul helped people to see how God would undo the consequences of Adam’s sin. (Ephesians 3:8, 9) The speaker exhorted his listeners: “Use your privilege of service as did Paul,  who saw his missionary assignment as an opportunity to help people to see how Jehovah would carry out his purpose.”

Following this, Mark Noumair, another Gilead instructor, presided over an enthusiastic discussion with several students of the class. The theme “Study of God’s Word Produces Zealous Ministers” highlighted Paul’s words at Romans 10:10. The class related numerous field service experiences that they had enjoyed while attending the school. Their experiences demonstrated that when we study and meditate on God’s Word, the good things concerning Jehovah God and his Kingdom will fill our heart and will be found on our lips. During their five-month stay at the Watchtower Educational Center, the students started more than 30 home Bible studies with interested ones in the well-worked territories of the nearby congregations.

Mature Voices Speak Up

During their schooling, the students benefited from association with members of the United States Bethel family. Branch staff members Robert Ciranko and Robert P. Johnson conducted interviews with several longtime faithful servants of Jehovah, including traveling overseers currently receiving special training at the Watchtower Educational Center. All those interviewed were Gilead graduates who had at one time served as missionaries. It was reassuring for the students and their families and friends to hear words of wisdom from these seasoned spiritual men.

Their advice included: “Keep as busy as possible in the ministry and in the congregation.” “Don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep focused on your purpose as a missionary, and make your assignment your home.” Other helpful comments illustrated how Gilead training equips a minister for good work, no matter where he is assigned. Here are some of them: “We learned to cooperate and to work together.” “The school helped us to accept new cultures.” “We were taught to use the Scriptures on a new level.”

John E. Barr, a longtime member of the Governing Body, gave the principal talk of the program. His Scriptural theme was “Into All the Earth Their Sound Went Out.” (Romans 10:18) He posed the question, Have God’s people been able to meet this challenge today? Yes, indeed! As far back as 1881, readers of the Watchtower magazine were asked: “Are you preaching?” Then the speaker reminded all in the audience of the historic call at the 1922 convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A.: “Advertise the King and his Kingdom!” With the passing of time, the zeal of God’s faithful servants moved them to declare the marvelous Kingdom truths to all the nations. By means of the printed page and by word of mouth, the utterances of the good news have reached the extremities of the inhabited earth​—all to Jehovah’s honor and praise. In a stirring conclusion, Brother Barr exhorted the graduates to count their blessings, saying: “Day by day, when you pray to Jehovah out in your assignment, thank him from the bottom of your heart for your part in the fulfillment of the words, ‘Into all the earth their sound went out.’”

After this talk, greetings were read, and the chairman handed a diploma to each graduate. Then, with mixed feelings of joy and sadness at leaving the beloved school, a class representative read a heartfelt resolution addressed to the Governing Body and the Bethel family, expressing the determination of the graduates to bless Jehovah “from now on and to time indefinite.”​—Psalm 115:18.

We pray that these graduates will adjust to their new homes and make fine contributions to the progress of the worldwide preaching work, just as those who went out before them have done for some 60 years.

[Box on page 23]

CLASS STATISTICS

Number of countries represented: 12

Number of countries assigned to: 16

Number of students: 48

Average age: 34.4

Average years in truth: 17.6

Average years in full-time ministry: 13.5

[Picture on page 24]

114th Graduating Class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead

In the list below, rows are numbered from front to back, and names are listed from left to right in each row.

(1) Rosa, D.; Garrigolas, J.; Lindström, R.; Pavanello, P.; Tait, N. (2) Van Hout, M.; Donabauer, C.; Martínez, L.; Millar, D.; Festré, Y.; Nutter, S. (3) Martínez, P.; Clarke, L.; Maughan, B.; Fischer, L.; Romo, G. (4) Romo, R.; Eadie, S.; Tuynman, C.; Campbell, P.; Millar, D.; Rosa, W. (5) Lindström, C.; Garrigolas, J.; Markevich, N.; Lindala, K.; van den Heuvel, J.; Tait, S.; Nutter, P. (6) Maughan, P.; Pavanello, V.; Eadie, N.; West, A.; Clarke, D.; Markevich, J. (7) Fischer, D.; Donabauer, R.; Curry, P.; Curry, Y.; Carfagno, W.; West, M.; Tuynman, A. (8) Van Hout, M.; Campbell, C.; Festré, Y.; Carfagno, C.; van den Heuvel, K.; Lindala, D.