In September, Gideons in New York City welcomed Gideons and Auxiliary from 17 other states as they came together to participate in the 2015 New York City Scripture Blitz.
During this one week of concentrated effort, Gideons and Auxiliary placed Scriptures in the hands of firefighters, medical staff, college students, high school students, prisoners, homeless shelter guests, and many others.
There are over 130 language groups in New York City, so it was important to have Scriptures available in a variety of languages. Gideons and Auxiliary distributed copies of God’s Word in a number of languages including English, French, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Creole, Portuguese, Japanese, Polish, Hungarian, and Russian.
Tor Torkelsen, a Gideon in New York City, served as the blitz team leader, as he has faithfully done for many years now. He was very enthusiastic about what he saw happening during the week, praising God for the outcome.
“People were much more receptive to receiving Scriptures this year. There was a greater spiritual hunger,” he says.
Torkelsen was also greatly encouraged to see 248 Gideons and Auxiliary participate in the blitz, many making great personal sacrifices to travel there. “I’m amazed at what God does in the hearts of people who come for the blitz. We had a tremendous team.”
Bruce Fairris, a Gideon from Franklin, TN was one of the team members distributing Scriptures at fire stations and police precincts in Manhattan. “At each location, we were very well received,” he said. He recalled one precinct in which the commanding officer welcomed the Gideons, telling them, “The Word of God is always welcome in this place.”
While Fairris and others were distributing Scriptures at a hospital, a chaplain approached Fairris and said, “Praise the Lord. I received a New Testament in college from the Gideons and placed my faith in the Lord after reading it.” There were many stories of running into people impacted by God Word’s through the simple act of distributing Scripture.
The Gideons were able to visit many colleges in the New York City area including City College and Columbia University in Manhattan, Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, St. John’s University in Queens, and Fordham University in the Bronx.
The Auxiliary Share Christ
The Auxiliary, or wives of the Gideons, were placing Bibles at a nursing and rehab center in the Bronx, when one of the female residents asked, “Do you believe in God?”
“Yes Ma’am, I sure do!” said one of the Auxiliary. The resident, an elderly lady, said she didn’t know God, and didn’t even know how to pray. The Auxiliary responded by sharing Scripture and walking her through the plan of salvation.
Margie Nichol from upstate New York also served in the blitz. She saw a young lady working in the security booth at one of the distribution locations. “I was drawn to give her a Scripture,” says Margie. However, the elevator was loaded with Scriptures and everyone was waiting for Margie, so she left.
When Margie returned to the first floor, the young lady wasn’t there. A male security attendant was now sitting in the booth. He gladly received a Scripture from Margie.
Then, Margie saw the young lady walking to the door. She hurried over to her. “I’ve been waiting to give you this New Testament,” Margie said. The young lady’s name was Diamond. “Diamond never owned or read the Bible, however a co-worker had been reading some scriptures to her and she was hoping to have her own copy.”
Margie then shared with Diamond how she could continue her spiritual journey by reading the Gospel of John. “Then I asked her if she wanted to pray to receive Jesus as her Savior. And she said, ‘Yes!’”
“It is exciting to see how the Lord is blessing this ministry and to see the joy in our members’ faces as they report on the open doors and hearts they encounter in these distributions,” says Torkelsen.
Not A Coincidence
Reza Rasti, a Gideon from Nashville, TN was distributing Scriptures to staff and patients at a major hospital in Brooklyn. “We randomly brought a case of Polish Bibles,” says Rasti.
During the distribution, a woman who was a relations specialist for the Polish community saw the Gideons carrying Bibles and approached them.
“Do you happen to have any Bibles in the Polish language?” she asked.
When Rasti showed her the box of Scriptures in the Polish language, the lady literally jumped for joy, exclaiming, “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to have these!”
“There are no coincidences, as we serve the Lord,” says Reza.
God Blesses Personal Witnessing
In a city like New York, there are endless opportunities to lead the lost to Christ.
“It’s a life changing event the first time you lead someone to the Lord, because it changes you.” says Torkelsen. “There’s nothing more life-changing than knowing the God of the universe has used you to change someone for eternity.”
Torkelsen himself would have opportunities to witness during this blitz. Over the years, he and other Gideons have developed friendships with the staff at the hotel which hosts Gideons and Auxiliary from out of town. One of those hotel staff members is Gerard.
“I’ve known Gerard for 14 years,” says Torkelsen. “He is approaching retirement in a few months, and this would be the last time I might see him.” So Tor asked Gerard if he had given much thought to what he would do after he retired. And he then asked, “Gerard, do you know for sure you’re going to heaven when you die?”
Gerard thought a moment and answered, “No.”
Tor then retrieved a Scripture and led Gerard through the plan of salvation printed in the back. Then he led Gerard through a prayer to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
“It was a very special moment,” says Tor, who has prayed for Gerard for years. “My friend is now also my brother in Christ. He already knew from our witnessing to him over the years that we love him.”
There were many encounters like this. Early one morning Lloyd Crum and another Gideon were inside a donut shop picking up their order. Just as they were about to exit, they asked the manager if he had received his free gift. “No,” he told them. So after retrieving a New Testament from their car, the Gideons walked the manager through the plan of salvation. In response, the manager prayed to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. “What a blessing,” says Crum. “God has a plan.”
The Gideons have been conducting blitzes in New York City since 1977. One of the key locations has been Rikers Island jail complex, which manages an average daily population of 14,000 inmates.
Gideons were allowed to speak at a chapel service for inmates and shared the plan of salvation. As they led a prayer for those who wished to receive Christ, 11 inmates responded to the invitation to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. One of the attending officials for the jail took the opportunity to pray to receive Christ, as well.
As the Gideons returned to the main gates at Rikers Island to await their ride, they shared Scriptures with others there, including a 17-year old girl named Yula. Although the Gideons were in a hurry, they took the time to share their hope with Yula and she prayed to receive Christ.
By the end of the one-week blitz, Gideons and Auxiliary had placed over 243,000 Scriptures in New York City.
“I am truly amazed at how the Lord brings it all together,” says Torkelsen. “Truly, He wants us to know it is all Him and not us.”
Tor also expressed thanks for the many people who donated above and beyond to help provide for the blitz, including providing for Scriptures and transportation.
Please continue to pray for all who received Scriptures during this blitz. Pray they will read and obey the message of the Gospel, and share its message of hope and salvation with others.