Gilead Graduates Receive Instruction That Touches the Heart

ON SEPTEMBER 9, 2006, the graduation of the 121st class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead took place at the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, New York. It was a heartwarming program.

Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, opened the program by welcoming the 56 graduates and the international audience of 6,366. He considered Psalm 86:11, which states: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, about your way. I shall walk in your truth. Unify my heart to fear your name.” Brother Jackson pointed out three things that are emphasized in that verse. He said: “In the first sentence, it is instruction; in the second sentence, application; and in the third, motivation. These three things are especially important for you missionaries as you go to your assignments.” Then he introduced a series of talks and interviews that emphasized all three things.

Heartwarming Words of Instruction

William Malenfant, a member of the headquarters staff, considered the theme “The Best Life Possible.” He drew attention to the example of Mary, the sister of Martha. On one occasion when Jesus visited their home, Mary chose to sit at his feet to listen to him, making that her priority. Jesus told Martha: “Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) “Just think of that,” noted the speaker. “For all eternity Mary will remember that she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened one-on-one to wonderful spiritual truths​—all because she made a good choice.” After commending the graduates for their good spiritual choices, he said: “Your choices have led you to the best possible life.”

Next Anthony Morris, a member of the Governing Body, developed the theme “Put On the Lord Jesus Christ,” based on Romans 13:14. How can we do this? Brother Morris pointed out the footnote on this verse in the Reference Bible, which states: “Imitate the manners of the Lord.” So this means imitating Jesus’ example and disposition. “Jesus put individuals at ease,” said the speaker, “because he had a sincere interest in them, and they could feel it.” Then the speaker considered how the students had acquired much knowledge in their Gilead courses “in order . . . to grasp mentally . . . the breadth and length and height and depth” of the truth, as Ephesians 3:18 says. But he reminded them of verse 19, which goes on to state: “And to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge.” Brother Morris urged the  students: “As you continue doing your personal study, reflect on how you can imitate the loving compassion of Christ and really ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ.’”

Parting Counsel From Gilead Instructors

The next talk was given by Gilead instructor Wallace Liverance, whose theme was based on Proverbs 4:7. He said that while godly wisdom is most important, we must also “acquire understanding,” which involves combining isolated facts and then seeing how they relate to one another so as to grasp the import of a matter. The speaker showed that acquiring understanding brings joy. For example, in Nehemiah’s time, the Levites “were explaining the law” and “giving understanding.” Afterward, the people carried on “a great rejoicing, for they had understood the words that had been made known to them.” (Nehemiah 8:7, 8, 12) Brother Liverance concluded: “Joy is a by-product of  understanding the spirit-inspired Word of God.”

“Who Really Is Your Enemy?” was the theme considered by Mark Noumair, another Gilead instructor. In warfare, quite a number of soldiers are killed by friendly fire, being hit by their own forces. “What about the spiritual warfare we are in?” he asked. “If not careful, we could be confused about who the real enemy is and wound our own troops.” Envy may confuse some. It caused King Saul to try to kill David, his fellow worshipper, when in reality the Philistines were the enemy. (1 Samuel 18:7-9; 23:27, 28) Then the speaker continued: “What if you serve with a missionary who excels in many ways? Will you wound your fellow soldier with critical remarks, or will you make peace with the fact that others will surpass you in a variety of ways? Zeroing in on the imperfections of others may only confuse us as to who the real enemy is. Fight the real enemy, Satan.”

Enjoyable Experiences and Informative Interviews

The next part, “Do the Work of an Evangelizer,” was handled by Gilead instructor Lawrence Bowen and included interviews and experiences. He explained that a footnote on 2 Timothy 4:5 in the Reference Bible says, do the work “of a missionary.” The speaker added: “This is quite appropriate, for the main work of a Gilead-trained missionary is that of spreading the good news, and this class has done so wherever they could find people.” Some delightful experiences were reenacted.

Next on the program were two parts handled by Michael Burnett and Scott Shoffner respectively, both members of the Bethel family. They interviewed Branch Committee members from Australia, Barbados, Korea, and Uganda. The comments of the committee members revealed how much effort is put into caring for the needs of the missionaries, including providing them with adequate housing and health care. The committee members emphasized that successful missionaries are willing to adapt to local circumstances.

A Stimulating and Moving Conclusion

The principal discourse of the program was the talk “Fear God and Give Him Glory,” presented by John E. Barr, a longtime member of the Governing Body. He considered Revelation 14:6, 7, which reads: “I saw another angel flying in midheaven, and he had everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying in a loud voice: ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived.’”

Brother Barr urged the students to take to heart three things regarding that angel. First, he had to declare the everlasting good news that Christ is now ruling with full Kingdom authority. The speaker said: “We are absolutely convinced that his enthronement took place in 1914. So these glad tidings must be proclaimed all over the earth.” Second, the angel stated: “Fear God.” The speaker explained that the graduates need to help their Bible students to develop reverence for God so as not to do anything that displeases him. Third, the angel commanded: ‘Give God glory.’ “Never forget,” the students were urged, “that we serve for God’s glory, not our own.” Then in discussing “the hour of the judgment,” Brother Barr stated: “Time is ticking away to when the final judgment will be pronounced. Many in our territories still need to hear the message of the good news before it is too late.”

With these words ringing in their ears, the 56 graduates were given their diplomas and sent forth to the ends of the earth. The hearts of the graduates and all the others in attendance were deeply touched by the motivating counsel they received on that delightful day.

[Box on page 17]


Number of countries represented: 6

Number of countries assigned to: 25

Number of students: 56

Average age: 35.1

Average years in truth: 18.3

Average years in full-time ministry: 13.9

[Picture on page 18]

121st 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) Fox, Y.; Kunicki, D.; Wilkinson, S.; Kawamoto, S.; Consolandi, G.; Mayen, C. (2) Santiago, N.; Clancy, R.; Fischer, M.; de Abreu, L.; Davis, E. (3) Hwang, J.; Hoffman, D.; Wridgway, L.; Ibrahim, J.; Dabelstein, A.; Bakabak, M. (4) Peters, M.; Jones, C.; Ford, S.; Parra, S.; Rothrock, D.; Tatlot, M.; Perez, E. (5) de Abreu, F.; Kawamoto, S.; Ives, S.; Burdo, J.; Hwang, J.; Wilkinson, D. (6) Fox, A.; Bakabak, J.; Cichowski, P.; Forier, C.; Mayen, S.; Consolandi, E.; Wridgway, W. (7) Parra, B.; Perez, B.; Tatlot, P.; Santiago, M.; Ibrahim, Y.; Kunicki, C. (8) Burdo, C.; Cichowski, B.; Ives, K.; Ford, A.; Rothrock, J.; Hoffman, D.; Davis, M. (9) Peters, C.; Dabelstein, C.; Jones, K.; Clancy, S.; Fischer, J.; Forier, S.