Introducing the New Executive Director
Please join us in welcoming Dan Heighway and his wife, Karen, as Dan recently assumed the position of executive director of The Gideons International.
Having served in a number of leadership roles since joining The Gideons in 2007, Dan will be the first to tell you this is not a path he ever dreamed the Lord would have chosen for him. However, he will also tell you never to assume you know the Lord’s desire until you seek Him diligently.
Growing up in Indiana, Dan was surrounded by the influence of the ministry of The Gideons International from a very early age. His uncle, Jay Swick, was a Gideon. It was Jay who invited Dan’s parents, Ernie and Sally Heighway, to join, which they did in 1968. On Dan’s fifth birthday, his mother gave him a New Testament bearing the emblem of The Gideons.
“Being in a Gideon family, we went to church regularly, where I heard pastors teach and challenge me to come into a relationship with Jesus,” says Dan. “However, the simplest and easiest way for me to understand the message of the Gospel was found in the back of that little Testament Mom gave me.”
In early 1974, Dan accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and was baptized later that year.
After graduating with a B.A. in Physics from Hanover College in 1986, Dan went to work in the IT department of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Dan’s passion for science and technology, along with his gift of administration and the Lord’s faithfulness, helped open doors for him to continually advance in leadership, serving in supervisory roles in almost every division of the company.
“…all of my energy had been going into people who were already Christians. God wanted to use me to reach those who did not know Him.”
As Dan continued to flourish in his career, he and Karen raised their son, Andrew, and their daughters, Ally and Emily. Dan served in a number of leadership roles at their congregation, Indian Creek Christian Church, yet resisted the opportunity to join The Gideons. While he realized The Gideons was his dad’s calling, Dan didn’t feel personally called to become a member. Around 2005, however, Dan started to feel there was something more the Lord had for him to do. He stepped back from his leadership roles at church and began searching the Lord’s will for his next step in ministry. “It was uncomfortable only being a church attender, knowing I could offer more,” says Dan. “But I didn’t want to move until God showed me where to go.”
After several months of prayer, Dan began to get a clearer vision of what the Lord had waiting for him. “The message I heard from God was simply that all of my energy had been going into people who were already Christians. God wanted to use me to reach those who did not know Him,” he says.
Dan asked his dad to send him some information about The Gideons. As it would happen in God’s timing, the locally organized group of Gideons serving together in the Hancock County Camp near Dan’s home in Greenfield, Indiana, was scheduled to soon host an event for prospective members. Dan attended. Following the presentation, he submitted his membership application. “I didn’t have a reason not to join,” he says.
Catching a Larger Vision for the Ministry
Dan became active in his camp, yet was apprehensive about overly committing as he was convinced there was some other ministry the Lord was preparing for him. But Dan’s leadership skills became increasingly apparent to other camp members, and soon, he was asked to serve as camp president. At first, Dan didn’t think it was the direction the Lord had for him; however, he agreed to pray over the decision. He prayed, and in fact, the Lord revealed it was in His will. Obedient to God’s direction, Dan soon began serving as camp president.
While attending his first state convention, Dan caught a much larger vision for the opportunities to grow God’s kingdom through service in The Gideons. He was inspired to see so many Christian businessmen and their wives united in devotion for winning others to Christ. It became abundantly clear to Dan that Bible distribution was not the singular focus of the ministry of The Gideons, rather the objective of the ministry was to win others to Christ. Finally, Dan saw through serving in The Gideons, he could fulfill the call the Lord revealed to him earlier—to reach those who did not know Jesus. It was a pivotal moment in Dan’s spiritual journey.
He went on to serve in his first international Scripture outreach event with The Gideons. “That experience changed me,” he says of his time in Malaysia, as he served alongside Gideons and their wives serving in the Auxiliary. He saw them take risks every day to tell others about Jesus. In the years to follow, Dan continued to grow as a Gideon by serving in a number of positions at the Association’s state level.
Humbled at How God Blesses Service in The Gideons
Looking back, Dan says he has been greatly surprised and humbled at how the Lord used the ministry of The Gideons to grow his faith. Associating together for service to the Lord with other Christian businessmen has had a huge impact on his walk. The regular fellowship and accountability has inspired Dan to grow deeper in his prayer life and in his time spent studying God’s Word.
“When you see God move, it is so humbling. He uses what little we give to move in the lives of others.”
He has also been greatly inspired and challenged to step out more boldly in faith, as a result of the influence of Gideons and Auxiliary who are so readily willing to share about Christ.
“When you see God move, it is so humbling. He uses what little we give to move in the lives of others,” he says. “Calling a pastor and praying with him can take minutes. Going on a Scripture distribution might only take a few hours. Checking on a fellow Gideon or inviting another man to consider membership—all of these can require little effort, yet I have seen God move in so many ways in response to our obedience.”
Service in The Gideons is spreading through the next generation of the Heighway family. Their son, Andrew, joined The Gideons in 2015. Their daughter, Ally, and son-in-law, Troy, also joined that year and have served as a host couple for the youth program at the International Convention the past two years.
Answering the Call to Full-Time Ministry
In late 2017, Dan’s employer offered several individuals a chance to retire early. Having spent all 31 years of his career with the same company, Dan didn’t initially consider early retirement. However, he turned the decision over to the Lord. “He answered that prayer with surprising clarity—it was time to leave.”
Several weeks later, Dan learned about an open position for executive director at The Gideons International headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. The opportunity intrigued Dan. As he has done with so many decisions, Dan began praying and asked Karen to pray as well. “God only told me to ‘trust Him,’” says Dan. He was certain he would be applying alongside a thousand men who were more qualified. However, feeling led by the Lord, Dan took the step of faith and submitted his application.
Soon after, Dan was contacted by International Headquarters and began the interview process. After passing through some early rounds of the screening process, the reality of leaving their home state of Indiana began to set in with Dan and Karen. They would be leaving behind family, including their adult children who all live in the area. Their son’s wife, Kailey, is expecting a baby, who will be Dan and Karen’s first grandchild. Their youngest daughter, Emily, is enrolled at Indiana Wesleyan University. With so many roots in Indiana, Dan and Karen decided to withdraw from the job selection process.
However, God was still at work.
“We know His ways are not man’s ways, and I pray we will be a team that follows God’s ways.”
During the next week, God moved mightily in my life, literally breaking me and my will. Dan says the Lord continued to confirm His call on their lives through a number of Scriptures. Following much prayer, Dan re-entered the selection process. After approval by the leadership of The Gideons, Dan accepted the position of executive director in February.
Dan is now officially serving at International Headquarters in Nashville, yet he and Karen still have many decisions they will be making during this transition.
“Pray that God leads the way, we follow, and that the transition will go smoothly,” asks Dan. He also requests prayers that the learning curve will be accelerated as he steps into this new role. Please also pray the leadership team at Headquarters will commit to following God in their plans and actions. Says, Dan, “We know His ways are not man’s ways, and I pray we will be a team that follows God’s ways.”