The inspiring story of the birth, growth, and impact of The Gideons International.
When you think of The Gideons International, what comes to mind? Bibles in hotel rooms? Small pocket Testaments? Men speaking in churches about what God is doing around the world? These images may be iconic, but they are just a small picture of who Gideons are, our enduring purpose, and how God has used us for more than a century to take His Word to the world.
Now you can get a more complete picture of what God has been doing through The Gideons in Witness to History—The Story of The Gideons International. This brand new book is now available at WitnessToHistory.org.
For the most part, the work of The Gideons has been accomplished without much publicity or fanfare. However, Witness to History provides a deep dive into the story of an Association that has endured for over 100 years. Witness to History presents a decade-by-decade account of The Gideons utilizing many never-before-shared photos, ministry records, first-hand accounts, and more. Each chapter covers events how members faithfully met the challenges and opportunities of their times.
“Witness to History provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Gideons adapted, interceded, labored, and triumphed through the decades as they faithfully and diligently accomplished the work God placed before them. The milestones and personal stories are astounding and inspiring.”
So how did The Gideons International—an Association in which hundreds of thousands of men have served around the world—begin? Small. Like so many lasting endeavors, it started with a strongly felt, tightly focused, determined effort to make a difference.
In the late 1800s, the three founders of The Gideons International sought to meet a need among their peers. They wanted to create an Association for Christian traveling men to identify and support each other when away from home. The effort to place Bibles in hotel rooms started a bit later, in 1908. Those Bibles were a great way to help traveling men avoid sin and temptation while away from their families. (Look for the full story in Witness to History starting on page 35.)
It’s fitting, then, that the iconic image of The Gideons may well be Bibles placed in hotels. These Bibles quickly became, and have remained, a comfort to travelers of all sorts. As Gideons check these Bibles for wear, we often find notes and messages left by those who interacted with them. Praise God for how the presence of His Word in a hotel room leads to an encounter with the Holy Spirit—sometimes just in the nick of time. Here is one of the personal stories from Witness to History (page 44):
A man went into a hotel in San Francisco, secured a room with the intention of committing suicide, and laid a vial of poison on the table while making preparations for the final act. When he stepped to the table, he discovered that accidentally he had put the vial upon a Gideon Bible. As he opened it, his eyes fell upon the reference: “If discouraged or in trouble, read Psalm 126 and John 14.” He read these two selections, threw the bottle of poison out of the window, knelt, and then and there gave his heart to God. He is today an active church member and a good citizen.
What will you discover as you read about the history of The Gideons International?
You will see how faithful men of God can listen, follow, and accomplish huge things by first achieving small things well. (Matthew 25:23) Founders of The Gideons did not initially have a powerful worldwide vision, but they did envision a powerful impact. Their vision quickly caught fire in the hearts of members. Former National President Samuel R. Boggs expressed it well:
“A world-wide ministry! What a blessed thought. How it should take us to our knees in humiliation of spirit and we pray God that this may be accomplished.” (Full passage in Witness to History, page 67.)
And that’s key. Read Witness to History, and your vision of how diligent faith can be used by God to result in broader impact is sure to grow, as well.
Witness to History provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Gideons adapted, interceded, labored, and triumphed through the decades as they faithfully accomplished the work God placed before them. The milestones and personal stories are astounding and inspiring. For example, you’ll learn the answers to questions like these:
Who first proposed that churches assist in funding The Gideons efforts to provide God’s Word? (You might be surprised!)
When was the Auxiliary introduced, and how are they an integral part of the Association?
What amazing doors did God open to The Gideons just before the United States entered World War II?
What is the furthest a Gideon-provided Testament has traveled? (Hint: it happened during the space race.)
How quickly did Gideons respond and provide God’s Word to Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall?
What significant milestone did Gideons celebrate on September 10, 2001? When you learn what this was, we predict you’ll be praising God for the spiritual comfort He ensured was available around the world before that fateful day.
And how are the Gideons of today compared to those who came before?
About that last question . . . reading Witness to History will illustrate that the Gideons of today are not so very different from the Gideons of earlier decades. In fact, on page 82, we find leaders who attended the ministry’s 1934 International Convention claiming:
“. . . the entire party seemed to be more of one mind and one spirit to carry out the purpose of Gideons ‘evangelism.’ It seems to me that this convention deepened the conviction that each of us could do more to place God’s Holy Word than we have formerly done.” —C.T Grizzard, Secretary, Georgia
“. . . all of one mind, one body, one hope, one object, one Lord over all.” —W.M. Amderding, Vice President, St. Louis Camp
Today, Gideons still embrace a vision that says: One Spirit, One Mind, One Vision—Striving Side by Side for the Faith of the Gospel. The Gideons of yesteryear would definitely feel akin to the Gideons of today.
Steadfastness may be an enduring trait of members of The Gideons International. However, the most crucial truth shared by Witness to History is not the efforts of Gideons, but how the growth of the Association attests to the constancy of God and His marvelous plan to use His Word to share Jesus with the world. He heard the prayers of three men who dreamed of helping their peers, fulfilled that prayer, and then guided them to begin a ministry that would one day span the globe.
“ . . . the most crucial truth shared by Witness to History is not the efforts of Gideons, but how the growth of the Association attests to the constancy of God and His marvelous plan to use His Word to share Jesus with the world.”
A lesser-known truth about The Gideons International is that while some members travel extensively on behalf of the Association, most members live and serve in their own communities. This is actually one of our strengths. Who better to reach a culture than those from that culture?
Dive into Witness to History, and you’ll come away celebrating the fact that Gideons speak in hundreds of accents and languages. Yet, our voices are the same in ways that are most important—they are prayerful, praise-filled, and boldly sharing Jesus with those around us.
So the next time you’re in a hotel, and you find a Gideon-placed Bible in the drawer, we hope you’ll smile and remember that the prayerful hope of three traveling men more than a century ago put it there to provide comfort and guidance for all those traveling, including you.
Visit WitnessToHistory.org to purchase your copy today.