132nd Gilead Graduation

Champions of the Truth

MARCH 10, 2012, was a special day at the educational center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patterson, New York. Thousands of well-dressed people, including visitors from foreign lands, were coming together to attend the graduation of the 132nd class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Many filed into the auditorium at Patterson; others gathered to watch the program on video monitors at satellite locations. In all, 9,042 attended.

Anticipation was high. Unlike those who attended previous classes of the missionary school, all of the graduating students had already been in some form of special full-time service​—having served as Bethelites, special pioneers, traveling overseers, or missionaries—​although not having previously attended Gilead. What would be said to these experienced students?

The audience did not have to wait long to find out. Gerrit Lösch, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was chairman for the program and delivered the opening talk. He asked a thought-provoking question, “Are You a Champion?” He explained that Christians are champions of the truth, defending the entire body of Christian teachings. Upholding the truth involves not only teaching people the truth but also helping people to love the truth.

“How do we know we have the truth?” asked Brother Lösch. He noted that the proof is not found in the numbers of people who accept it. Though there are millions today who have accepted pure worship, there were only a few at Pentecost 33 C.E. He listed five ways by which we know we have the truth: (1) We remain in Jesus’ teaching, (2) we love one another, (3) we adhere to God’s high moral standards, (4) we remain neutral in the controversies of this world, and (5) we are God’s name people.

“Follow Through and Obey Direction”

Those in the audience wondered what was coming next when Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body strolled to the lectern carrying a suitcase! The title of his talk was “Follow Through and Obey Direction,” based on Isaiah 50:5. Speaking prophetically of Jesus Christ, that verse says: “I, for my part, was not rebellious. I did not turn in the opposite direction.”

Brother Jackson urged the students to be sensitive to the direction Jehovah gives through his holy spirit, the Bible, and his organization. In the parable of the talents, recorded at Matthew 25:14-30, each slave got the same amount, in a sense, because what the slaves received was according to their ability. They were expected to do their best. Two slaves were commended and were called “good and faithful” slaves. Faithfulness does not necessarily depend on results but on following through and obeying direction.

The third slave was called “wicked and sluggish” and “good-for-nothing.” What was his problem? He buried his talent. A talent was, not a coin, but a unit of weight the equivalent of 6,000 denarii, which would weigh 45 pounds (20 kg). That is about the weight a person is allowed in a suitcase when traveling internationally. It would have taken  effort to bury anything the size of a suitcase. So the slave did something​—he buried the talent—​but that was not what he was directed to do. Similarly, a missionary may be busy​—but busy doing what? Writing newsletters, surfing the Internet, socializing, or engaging in business? Such a person could be totally exhausted at the end of the day after engaging in such activities, but he did not do what he was directed to do. Brother Jackson concluded: “Always follow direction!”

“Rid Your Mind of Doubts”

That was the theme of the talk given by Anthony Morris of the Governing Body. “The Bible never links faith and doubt as belonging together,” he said. “Faith repels doubt.” Satan succeeded in planting doubts in the mind of a perfect woman, Eve, so he can plant doubts in our mind. “Feed your faith, and doubts will starve to death,” Brother Morris said. He drew attention to the account of Peter, who “walked over the waters” but then, on “looking at the windstorm,” got afraid and started to sink. After catching hold of him, Jesus asked him: “Why did you give way to doubt?” (Matthew 14:29-31) “As busy as you missionaries will be in full-time service, others may be impressed at all that you do, as though you were walking on water, but when storms hit, do not give way to doubt.”

Brother Morris continued, observing that while going through stormy times can be difficult, eventually the winds die down. As to hard times, he exhorted the students to consider what Paul and Silas did when jailed in Philippi. Acts 16:25 relates: “About the middle of the night Paul and Silas were praying and praising God with song; yes, the prisoners were hearing them.” Note this detail: They did not just pray, they sang. Their singing was loud enough for other prisoners to hear. Most of us, Brother Morris commented, do not have trained voices, but we should not shy away from singing, especially when going through a crisis. Brother Morris concluded by reading the words of “Enduring to the End,” Song number 135 in the songbook Sing to Jehovah.

Other Talks of Encouragement

“Will You Love Enough Days?” was the title of the talk given by Robert Luccioni, of the Purchasing Department. The theme was drawn from King David’s words recorded at Psalm 34:12. Brother Luccioni’s talk considered how to handle difficult times and still maintain a good relationship with Jehovah. Much may be learned from the account at 1 Samuel chapter 30. While David, his men, and their families were on the run from King Saul, they lived in exile in Ziklag. When their families were taken captive by Amalekite raiders, the men blamed David and wanted to stone him. David’s reaction? He did not give in to discouragement but “took to strengthening himself by Jehovah his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6) He inquired of Jehovah, acted in harmony with God’s direction, and rescued the captives. The speaker assured the students that if they show similar trust in Jehovah and obey his direction, they will love enough days to see good. They will have a delightful life in the precious privilege they have been given.

“Keep Your Eyes Ahead of the Night Watches” was the theme of the talk delivered by Michael Burnett, one of the Gilead School instructors. The Israelites divided the night from sundown to sunrise into three watches of four hours each. The final one, from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., was the darkest and coldest and was the time it was most difficult to stay awake. The psalmist occupied his mind with Jehovah’s sayings so that during the final watch of the night, he would  not drift off to sleep. (Psalm 119:148) “You will need to be watchful,” Brother Burnett told the students. “You will have some dark discouraging days and will see the effects of the cold, loveless world. You need a plan of action.” He then reminded them that they should tackle challenging study projects in order to keep themselves spiritually watchful. Brother Burnett illustrated his point: “Each day, you pray to Jehovah because you want him to be your friend. So, let Jehovah, as your friend, talk to you every day through the pages of the Bible. The night is well along, so plan how you will use your days ahead, and in that way you will keep your eyes ahead of the night watches.”

“Trained for the Work Ahead,” based on 1 Peter 5:10, was the theme chosen by Mark Noumair, another Gilead instructor. He posed this question to the students: “Since you are experienced ministers, why were you invited to the Watchtower Educational Center?” The answer: “Because you are professionals in your field. Many professionals take time off from work to attend classes to sharpen their skills. During the past five months, Jehovah has been making you ‘firm’ and ‘strong’ by a thorough study of his Word and organization so that you can carry the weighty responsibilities that come your way. Timbers that are firm do not warp, twist, or pull apart under pressure. The results of your training will be revealed as you work with your fellow brothers and sisters. Will the pressure cause you to pull away from godly principles, or will you hold firm, straight in line with what you learned from God’s Word? Something that is strong can carry a load. The strength of timbers lies in a tightly woven grain. Your strength is determined by the innermost fibers of who you are. Jehovah brought you here to make you strong, reliable, and trustworthy for the work ahead. God has done his part, so our prayer is that you do your part and allow your ‘Grand Instructor’ to finish your training.”

Experiences and Interviews

It is always refreshing at Gilead graduations to hear from the students themselves, and this time was no exception. During one portion of the program, the students reenacted some of their recent witnessing activity. One French couple, for example, had a six-hour wait at an airport on their way to Gilead School. At the airport restaurant, they struck up a conversation with two men who were also waiting for flights. When one of the men said that he was from Malawi, they spoke to him in Chichewa. Surprised, he asked them how they knew his language. They explained that they were missionaries in Malawi. When the other man said he was from Cameroon, they switched to French, to his surprise. Both men thought highly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the missionaries witnessed to them.

Two student couples were interviewed by Nicholas Ahladis, of Translation Services. One couple had moved from Australia to take up a missionary assignment in war-torn East Timor. The other couple had left Korea to serve in Hong Kong. Both couples were eager to return to their foreign assignments to apply what they learned at the school.

After diplomas were handed out to the graduates, a student representing the class read a letter of appreciation for the instruction they had received. Then, Brother Lösch, in his concluding remarks, employed some beautiful figures of speech, saying that truth is like a rainbow for beauty, like an oasis in the desert, and like an anchor in a stormy sea. “What a blessing it is to know the truth,” he said. “Be a champion of the truth, and help others to be champions as well.”

 [Chart/​Map on page 31]

CLASS STATISTICS

12 countries represented

36 average age

20 average years baptized

15 average years in full-time service

[Map]

(For fully formatted text, see publication)

Class assigned to the countries shown below:

CLASS ASSIGNMENTS

BELIZE

BENIN

CAMBODIA

CAMEROON

CAPE VERDE

CÔTE D’IVOIRE

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

EAST TIMOR

ECUADOR

GABON

GEORGIA

GUINEA

HONG KONG

LIBERIA

MADAGASCAR

MALAWI

PERU

SAMOA

SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

ZIMBABWE

[Picture on page 31]

132nd 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) Iap, R.; Iap, J.; Ng, T.; Ng, P.; Laurino, F.; Laurino, B.; Won, S.; Won, S.

(2) Morales, N.; Morales, M.; Zanutto, J.; Zanutto, M.; Rumph, I.; Rumph, J.; Germain, D.; Germain, N.

(3) Atchadé, Y.; Atchadé, Y.; Thomas, C.; Thomas, E.; Estigène, C.; Estigène, P.

(4) Ehrman, D.; Ehrman, A.; Bray, J.; Bray, A.; Amorim, M.; Amorim, D.; Seo, Y.; Seo, Y.

(5) Simon, J.; Simon, C.; Seale, C.; Seale, D.; Erickson, J.; Erickson, R.

(6) McCluskey, D.; McCluskey, T.; Brown, A.; Brown, V.; Mariano, D.; Mariano, C.; Loyola, Y.; Loyola, C.

(7) Rutgers, P.; Rutgers, N.; Foucault, P.; Foucault, C.; Wunjah, J.; Wunjah, E.