They don’t seek publicity. They never advertise. In fact, they prefer to work quietly. But their impact is profoundly known around the world. The Gideons International is responsible for distributing Bibles in 190 countries. Last year they distributed 84 million Bibles and New Testaments around the world.
Jeff Audrain, a church ministry specialist with the organization’s Nashville headquarters, likes to remind supporters, “…every time your heart beats, two Bibles are distributed by a Gideon somewhere in the world.”
You may know them best for their placement of Bibles in hotel rooms. But hotel distribution makes up only 8 percent of their work. Gideon Bibles are in hospitals, convalescent homes, medical offices, prisons, jails and domestic violence shelters. They also give scriptures to students in the 5th grade and above, prisoners, police officers, firefighters, medical professionals and military personnel.
The Gideons will supply, free of charge, a New Testament to every member of the U.S. Armed Forces and to patients at U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals.
Bibles are available to chaplains for placement in day rooms, libraries, and guardhouses on military bases and military chapels. Hospital Testaments with Psalms are available for the bedside in base hospitals or in U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals.
This outstanding organization is driven by lay leadership. Only men in evangelical churches who are endorsed by their pastor can become a Gideon.
They believe all of the Bible, but underscore the verses which accentuate it’s effectiveness such as Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…”
Recently the Gideons of N.C. held their annual convention in Raleigh. They invited me to teach two Bible study sessions and join them for the pastor’s banquet.
I’ve been a guest at more Gideon events than I can count. They always have thrilling stories, great music and solid Bible teaching. The Raleigh convention did not depart from the norm.
One testimony came from Mary Kay Beard, a self-described over-achiever who graduated from high school at 15 and nursing school at 18, but became a robber and found herself at the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list when she was 28.
In her solitary confinement cell of a federal prison, she read a Gideon Bible and trusted Christ as her Savior. Now she is the founder of “Angel Tree,” promoted by Prison Fellowship. Mary Kay and her husband, Don, founded Encourager Ministries in Birmingham, Ala. Her story is indescribably captivating.
Another testimony was Chamila Pannila’s. She met Christ as a college student after a Gideon gave her a New Testament on her college campus.
Born in Sri Lanka, her family moved to Houston, Texas when she was an infant. She did not question her very traditional Buddhist family’s religious traditions until she entered college.
Camilla’s spiritual search took her through the pages of the Gideons’ gift. She read about Jesus for the first time and followed Christ, in spite of rejection by some in her family. Today she spreads contagious enthusiasm for Jesus.
As a pastor, I have always been supportive of the Gideons. They were instrumental in my salvation. They believe in the strength of the local church. They neither conflict with nor compete with the local church. They support their pastor. Pastors should support them.
It has been my practice to lead the church to support the Gideons. When I left the pastorate to become editor of the Biblical Recorder, my last Sunday as a pastor was a Gideon Sunday complete with videos, testimonies and a Gideon speaker. I love the Gideons and thank God for them.
How effective are their labors? According to their website, Gideons.org, each Bible placed in a hotel room has the potential to reach up to 2,300 people in its estimated six-year life span. Research from the hotel industry says that approximately 25 percent of travelers read the Bibles in their hotel rooms. Many lives have been transformed and redirected because they read that Bible.
The Gideons International began in 1908. Today more than 300,000 members, the ministry’s women’s Auxiliary, and an untold number of supporters across the globe are making an eternal impact. They give their time and money to make it possible for others to have access to God’s Word and experience the love of God through Jesus Christ.
The Gideons are not the only ministry that distributes Bibles. It is commendable that the North American Mission Board is sending cases of Bibles to Baptist churches.
The Muslim Bible Day project places copies of scriptures in the hands of searching Muslims. There are other Bible distribution ministries.
If we are “people of the Book” as we claim, we must remember that God uses His Word. When doors are closed to missionaries, God speaks through His Word behind closed doors. While most of us own a dozen Bibles, many have never seen one.
As you hear so much bad news around the world, know that there is unreported good news. Quietly, diligently, the men and women who invest their lives in the ministry of the Gideons are distributing more than two copies of God’s Word per second, totaling one million Bibles and New Testaments every 4.5 days. The seed of the Word is being sown and lives are changing. Join them and celebrate with them.
“So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” Isaiah 55:11.
Visit Gideons.org to hear personal testimonies, learn how you can become a Gideon and to give a contribution for Bible distribution. Call (615) 564-5000 or email [email protected]. Mail: The Gideons International, P.O. Box 140800, Nashville, TN 37214.