John, Sam & Will
We are very pleased to have a representative from the Gideons with us today. I have personally benefited from the outreach of this ministry on three different occasions. I thought we should know the history of this ministry. Founded in 1899, The Gideons International serves as an extended missionary arm of the church and is the oldest Association of Christian business and professional men in the United States. Here is a short history.
In 1898, John H. Nicholson of Janesville, WI, arrived at the Central Hotel at Boscobel, WI, for the night. It was crowded, but he was offered a bed in a double room with Samuel E. Hill of Beloit, WI. The two men soon discovered they shared a common belief in Christ, and they decided to have their evening devotions together. During their prayer time, both felt the call to develop an Association. In spring 1899, the men met again at Beaver Dam, WI, where they decided their purpose would be to band Christian commercial travelers together for fellowship, personal evangelism, and united service for the Lord. They called a meeting in Janesville, WI, on July 1, 1899, in the Y.M.C.A. Only three men were present at the meeting in Janesville: John H. Nicholson, Samuel E. Hill, and Will J. Knights. When it came time to decide the name of the Association, the men held a special prayer time to ask that God might lead them to select the proper name. After, Mr. Knights arose from his knees and said simply, “We shall be called Gideons.” He then proceeded to read the story of Gideon from the sixth and seventh chapters of Judges. In light of the fact that nearly all of the Gideons in the early years of the Association were traveling men, the question naturally arose as to how they might be more effective witnesses in hotels. One trustee went so far as to suggest that The Gideons supply a Bible for each bedroom of the hotels in the U.S. He said, “In my opinion, this would not only stimulate the activities of the rank and file of the membership, but would be a gracious act, wholly in keeping with the divine mission of the Gideon Association.” This plan, which they called “The Bible Project” was adopted at Louisville, KY, in 1908. The idea of churches contributing to the support of the Gideon Scripture program originated with a pastor. Soon after, a state convention was held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. National Secretary Frank Garlick and Mr. A.B.T. Moore attended a meeting of the Ministerial Union. After their program, they asked if Garlick could inform these minsters from around the world about the work of the Gideon Association. Garlick delivered a short yet inspired speech advocating for the need of Bible distribution. At the close of his brief address, Mr. Moore’s own pastor, Dr. E.R. Burkhalter, arose and moved, “…that Gideon Bibles be placed in all local hotels and that the Ministerial Union be responsible for the funds.” The motion was unanimously carried and a committee appointed to allocate the cost to the churches, according to their strength. It has been over 100 years since The Gideons International placed the first Bible in a hotel room in Superior, Montana. Through the grace of God and through the loving support of the local church and countless donors, more than 2 billion Bibles and New Testaments have been placed through our Association. The distribution of our first billion Scriptures by Gideon members spanned 93 years (1908 to 2001). Distribution of our second billion, however, was completed in just 13 years (2002-2015). On average, more than two copies of God’s Word are distributed per second and over one million Bibles and New Testaments are distributed every four days.
I still have all 3 of my Bibles given to me by the Gideons and their calling to distribute God’s Word is such a noble cause. Amen!