This past May, over 100 Christian business men and their wives, known as Gideons and Auxiliary, were in final preparations for the 2018 Ecuador International Scripture Blitz (ISB) in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil. The international team joining them included 22 Gideons from Germany, Finland, Australia, and the USA.
The international team leader for this event was Dennis Donnelly, a Gideon from Kansas, who owns and operates an insurance agency in Shawnee. He joined The Gideons in 1983, and he has served in several International Scripture Blitzes including blitzes in Madagascar, Hong Kong, and Thailand. His wife, Janet, serves as an Auxiliary.
Extensive preparation and planning by Gideon leadership is critical to the success of any ISB. Dennis says the two local teams from Quito and Guayaquil did outstanding work in planning for the outreach event, following Gideon policy in all of the details. It was a reminder of the effectiveness of our members’ prayers as they lift up the local committees involved with upcoming ISBs.
The committee in Quito was chaired by Juan Felipe Vasquez of the Los Chillos Valley Camp. Guayaquil’s committee was chaired by Jose Xavier Valencia who serves in the Guayaquil N-10 Camp. “It was a personal blessing and joy for me to work with both of these dear brothers in Christ, each of whom exhibited a love for the Lord and a burden to reach people in their cities and country,” says Dennis.
Prior to the event, earthquakes had been occurring in Ecuador, resulting in several aftershocks. Additionally, several volcanoes were active, and there were reports of terrorist bombings happening in Quito. In light of these circumstances, members of The Gideons went to their knees in prayer—they knew the Lord was in control.
Each team was assigned a car, a driver, an interpreter, one to three local Gideons, and multiple schools or other distribution locations each day. The teams worked in great unison throughout the event. In the evenings, participants gathered for team meetings where they shared testimonies of the day’s events and ways they had seen God bless their faithful efforts.
Simple Conversation Leads to Everlasting Life
One Sunday during the event, Dennis was enjoying a cup of coffee between morning services at a church where he was scheduled to speak to the congregation about the ministry of The Gideons. His interpreter was Cristina. She is also the daughter-in-law of Colonel Fernando Vega, a local Gideon from Quito. As they talked during the break, Cristina revealed she felt that neither she nor anyone else was truly good enough to be a Christian.
Dennis knew what he had to do next. He opened his New Testament and began to share the verses from God’s plan of salvation printed inside the back cover. “I told her Jesus loved her and died for her sins. It was one of the most natural conversations I have had with anyone,” he says. After sharing the Gospel, Dennis asked her, “Would you like to settle eternity right now and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?” With tears in her eyes, Cristina nodded and prayed the salvation prayer printed in the back of the New Testament, then signed and dated the inside page, indicating her decision to follow Jesus.
“It was so easy, I couldn’t believe it,” says Dennis of that witnessing moment. “I don’t think I have ever experienced anything like it.”
Colonel Vega, his wife, their son, and Cristina’s mother had been witnessing to her for a long time. “It appears that it just took someone outside of the family to speak to her. The Lord put me in that place,” says Dennis.
Experiences from Members
Tim DuPont, Delaware
Tim DuPont is a 70-year-old retiree who spent his career in manufacturing. Today, he is a Gideon in Delaware.
During the event, Tim was partnered with Fernando Arcos, whose wife, Viviana, serves as an Auxiliary. One day, they stopped at Fernando’s house to pick up more Scriptures for their distributions. Upon entering the kitchen, Tim was introduced to Tomas, Viviana’s father. They began talking and Tim discovered that although Tomas attended church on occasion, he had never received Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Surprised by this fact, Tim asked Tomas, “What’s stopping you from accepting Jesus?” Tomas replied that he was just waiting for the right time. “I have some great news,” said Tim. “This is the right time. God has sent me all the way from the United States to be here in this kitchen, on this day, at this time, to tell you that He loves you so much He wants to spend eternity with you.”
Tim then led Tomas through the plan of salvation printed inside the New Testament’s back cover. Next, he asked Tomas if he would like to pray the sinner’s prayer. “Together, with tears in all of our eyes, we prayed as Tomas gave his life to Jesus Christ,” says Tim. “Praise the Lord.”
Shawn Flinn, Virginia
Shawn Flinn, from Virgina, is a chief human resources officer with the U.S. Government. He joined the Gideons in 2007. Over the years, Shawn has heard testimonies from other Gideons who have served in these events.
He accepted the invitation to serve in Ecuador as soon as he was given the opportunity. “I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity and a huge blessing to be able to distribute God’s Word with an international team, overseas,” he says.
Early on, Shawn had concerns about the language barriers. However, as the event continued, he became much more comfortable approaching individuals to share the Gospel. “God enabled those language barriers to come down, both through the Spanish that I learned and through the wonderful interpreters who assisted our teams.”
“I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity and a huge blessing to be able to distribute God’s Word with an international team, overseas,”
One of the highlights for Shawn was sharing God’s Word in a park with a group of Venezuelan refugees. After receiving their Scriptures, Shawn says they all bowed their heads and prayed together.
“Serving in an ISB is an experience that will have a lasting impact on you and your camp,” says the 52-year old. “The opportunity to serve with fellow Gideons from around the world was a tremendous blessing. Not only sharing this experience with them but gathering some great ideas on how to better serve with my local Gideons was an added blessing.” Shawn encourages other Gideons who have thought about serving to take the next step and participate.
Ronnie Forester, North Carolina
Ronnie Forester lives in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, and managed a school photography organization for 36 years before retiring. He has served with his church in Africa and has long wanted to serve with other Gideons internationally.
“It was great meeting other Gideons from the USA and other countries. Our love for the Lord and for our overseas neighbors was a driving force.”
“We knew our God would show up, and He certainly did. Our group was as cohesive as a troop of soldiers,” he says. “Oh wait, we are soldiers for our God and Savior Jesus Christ,” he adds.
Ronnie says he was thrilled at the opportunities he and the other Gideons had to go into the classrooms in Ecuador, share the Gospel with students, and give them an opportunity to receive Jesus Christ. School officials were grateful and eagerly wanted the children to have Bibles of their own. Even as Gideons made unplanned calls on schools, school administrators warmly welcomed them. Ronnie says he is also grateful for the Auxiliary and their role in this event. “There was a large group of Auxiliary praying at all times during the day,” he says.
The prayers were answered. Ronnie says, “The Holy Spirit showed up in a powerful way, and it was exciting to think about the harvest of souls that God added to the Kingdom as a result of sharing His Word in Ecuador.”
Ronnie encourages other Gideons to get involved, so they can experience similar blessings. “Get your name on the list and leave everything in God’s hands. We know that Jesus tells us to pray the Lord of the harvest for laborers, and for the Gospel to go to all people, and we have a wonderful promise of Isaiah 55:11. The victory has already been won by our great God and Savior!”
Charles Epps, Missouri
Charles Epps is a 63-year-old retired middle school math teacher who lives in Chillicothe, Missouri.
He says he was inspired by the dedication and hospitality of the local Gideons. While there, he enjoyed bonding with fellow Gideons from throughout the world.
“The first evening in Quito, our first distribution city, a team member asked for prayer for his wayward daughter. After our prayer, I hugged and reassured him that God would work it out.”
“We had a great time getting acquainted, praising God, and serving together.”
As God would have it, Charles and the Gideon were teamed to distribute in Guayaquil, the second distribution city. “We had a great time getting acquainted, praising God, and serving together.”
Andreas Klapproth, Germany
Andreas Klapproth is a Gideon from Germany. The 54-year-old insurance manager has served in a number of Scripture events, in Argentina and Chile, Lithuania, and Malaysia.
During the blitzes, Andreas had a speaking assignment at a church. Afterward, a young lady approached him after the service. She shared that back when she was a student, she contemplated suicide. But then Gideons came to her school and gave Scriptures to the students, including her. Upon reading her New Testament, she placed her faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Her hopelessness was replaced by joy in the Lord. After sharing her story with Andreas, she then presented him with an offering for The Gideons.
“Time is short. Christ is returning and there are many souls to be saved,” says Andreas. “Let’s gather our forces to bring the saving Gospel to the lost.”
Paul McMahan, Tennessee
Paul McMahan is a Gideon who lives in Bulls Gap, Tennessee. Paul’s professional background is in mechanical engineering and training. He signed up for the ISB to get a better understanding of the ministry of The Gideons. “I also wanted to prepare myself for any future roles where the Lord might want me to serve,” he says. Paul gives glory to the Lord for the health of the entire team during the event. “It was so amazing that no one on the team got sick, needed to visit a clinic, or even missed one day due to fatigue or injury,” he says.
“I also wanted to prepare myself for any future roles where the Lord might want me to serve,”
At one faith-based school, a teacher told Paul that God had sent the Gideons there because students had just started reading Scripture in their class studies. Sadly, they only had one copy of God’s Word. But with the visit from the Gideons, all students and staff now had their own personal copy.
During the blitz, Paul offered a Scripture to a woman who passed by him. When she realized what he had given her, she stopped and talked with Paul and one of the local Gideons. She said she was on her way to a hospital where her father was dying from cancer, and she was looking for anything she could hold on to in search of peace and hope. With God’s Word in her hands, she had access to the Gospel – the best thing we can hold onto through any life circumstances. The local Gideon talked to her and prayed with her.
Ken Stenfors, Wisconsin
Prior to departing for Ecuador, Ken Stenfors was praying for the safety of the team and for openness among the people of Ecuador to receiving God’s Word. He saw his prayers answered, “The Lord kept our team safe and the people of Ecuador were very receptive to the Gospel.”
Two of those in Ecuador who were receptive to the Gospel were Nancy and Marco, whom Ken met as he was distributing Scriptures at the campus of a technical college. After giving each of them a copy of God’s Word, Ken was able to lead them through the plan of salvation with the help of his interpreter. Moments later, they both accepted the invitation to pray and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Moments like that are what motivates Ken to participate in ISBs, and he encourages other Gideons to consider taking the step of faith to sign up and serve as well. “It inspires you to see more people come to Christ as you gain a sense of urgency for reaching the lost.”
God’s Sovereign Hand at Work
There were times during the event when things did not go as planned. Gideons reminded each other that interruptions were opportunities to listen closer for the Lord’s leading. One day when Gideons returned to their vehicle, they discovered someone had let the air out of one of the tires. While one of the Gideons attended to the tire, the others began witnessing to those around the scene. As a result, a young family is now saved after Gideons shared the Gospel and led them in prayers to receive Jesus Christ.
“It was such a blessing to see God draw this team together and to see the grace and generosity that flowed,” said one participant.
By the end of the ISB, Gideons distributed over 400,000 copies of God’s Word at more than 400 schools and university campuses alone. Scripture placements and distributions also took place at hotels, hospitals, jails, military installations, and police offices.
“On behalf of myself and the other team members, we praise the Lord for being allowed to participate in this outreach event,” says Dennis. “Only eternity will reveal the true results, but we can pray thousands of men, women, boys, and girls, will come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”