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A Spiritual battle

I was raised in Southern California with two older sisters. Our grandmother introduced us to witchcraft at a young age. She gave us incantation books and taught us how to cast spells. We would do seances with our friends down the street, and we thought this was normal. As I grew older, my dad had taken it a step further. Not only was he involved in the occult, but he got involved in satanism. My dad introduced me to drugs for the very first time when I was only nine years old. By the time I was 11, I was addicted to these drugs, and I was a willing participant in the occult activity.

By the time I turned 17 years old, I had decided to run away from home. I dropped out of school thinking there had to be a better way. I didn’t know what I was searching for exactly, but I knew that I had a desire in my heart for someone to love me. Living in California at the time, and in pursuit of this longing, I ran to Washington State. Still addicted to drugs, I did whatever I could to get the drugs without having to turn back to my dad. He always seemed to catch up with me and had people watching to keep tabs on me.

“I had a desire in my heart for someone to love me.”

I ended up getting married and having a son. I thought that changing my identity would keep my family from finding me. I was still an addict; I was prostituting myself at night and being a mother to my son during the day. I tried to keep custody of my son because he was the only person who loved me unconditionally. That lasted for about a year and a half, and my husband filed for divorce.

“It’s Time”

I lived in the front seat of my car and had a part-time job trying to cover up my lifestyle. The authorities caught up with me within two weeks, and I lost total custody of my son without visitation. Part of my heart left that day when they took my son. I began prostituting myself again. I ended up in Texas, met someone else, and tried to continue to change my identity. I got together with him and had a little girl. My dad showed up at my front door about three weeks after I had moved to Texas. And once again, that vicious cycle just continued. I was pretty much convinced at the time that there was no way out of this lifestyle. My husband and I ended up divorcing, and shortly after, I received custody of my little girl. I moved in with my sister, who had just gotten out of the psychiatric hospital.

One night, as I lay in my bed, I felt something nudge the bottom of my bed. I sat up and saw about an eight-foot-tall, hooded figure standing at the edge of my bed. He pointed to me and said, “It’s time.” I did not understand what that meant. After all my involvement in the occult, I had never encountered an entity like this before. I knew that this was something significant. He continued, “It’s time now for you to teach your daughter what your grandmother taught you.” Little did I know that my grandmother had passed away three weeks prior. I knew at this moment a continued cycle was supposed to go from my grandmother to myself to my children. 

An Unexpected Find

I knew this was a supernatural fight, and I had to do something to protect my daughter. The only way I knew to save her was to take my life. My daughter would then be adopted by a normal family who could show her a way of life that I never could.

I remember going out to a remote area in a field and sitting in the front seat of my car. As I sat there, I was sobbing and leaned my seat back. I had a razor blade in one hand, and my other hand fell to the side in between my seat and my console. I felt something. I picked it up, and it was a Testament from The Gideons.

I had gotten my car from a drug dealer. I knew he wasn’t a Christian, and I had never seen this Testament in the several years I had been driving the car. I started thumbing through the Testament, and I put the razor blade down. I got to the back pages and saw a sample prayer. I read the prayer aloud, and I gave my life to Jesus Christ that day—I have never been the same!

All the way home to pick up my daughter, I was reciting this prayer—I must have said it 25 times. It’s the only prayer I knew, but I kept saying it over and over because it brought me such comfort. The love that I had searched for all my life was just one prayer away. At that moment, I felt a passion in my heart that I had never experienced. I knew that God was close. I went home and grabbed my little girl with so much excitement.

The next day, I called my former father-in-law. He was the only person I knew who was remotely connected to Christianity. He knew I was in a spiritual battle; this was not a physical battle that I could fight. He said, “Please come to Texas; I want you to be part of our fellowship. You are going to need a family of God to support you and teach you how to fight this war.” The next day, he paid for our ticket to Texas. We stayed with him and his wife for about three years. I was like a sponge absorbing God’s Word.

Redeemed by His Grace


Sandy Boyd

I left everything behind. My family had excommunicated me because I was serving Jesus. I knew I had to sacrifice everything—my car, apartment, and all that I owned. I was fearful because I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I did not want to return to my old lifestyle. I had the Holy Spirit living in me, my daughter in my arms, and I was ready to sacrifice everything I needed for Jesus. From this point on, God was working behind the scenes the whole time. He was preparing a godly man for me, one familiar with helping people coming out of occult backgrounds. He and I ended up getting married in 2005. We now pastor a church in Garland, Texas, ministering to people who have similar backgrounds as myself.

My daughter is now almost 31 years old, and she has never cast a spell in her life. She is our worship leader; her husband is our youth pastor. I am a first-generation Christian. My daughter is the second generation, and her children are just going to carry that on until the end of time. We no longer live under those generational curses because God has redeemed us. If it were not for God using The Gideons International, I would not be here—it is only by His grace.

If it were not for God using The Gideons International, I would not be here—it is only by His grace.

Wisdom to Live and Give well

A famous adage teaches that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. George Newfield’s parents instilled biblical principles into his life from a very young age that still influence the way he lives today. He draws inspiration and focus from Psalm 1 (ESV), which begins with the words, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord.”

Foundational Principles

George was born into a Christian home in the Republic of Georgia (under the Soviet Union). He came from many generations of believers, with some of his family members facing persecution because of their faith. In 1989, when communism was losing its grip, his family left as refugees and finally arrived in America. George was almost four, and his younger sister was just eighteen months old.

The family embarked on their new reality with only four suitcases of children’s clothes and $500 in their pockets. They did not know the language and culture and had no job waiting for them. “We had each other and God, and that was about it,” remembers George. When they settled in Rhode Island, George’s father began painting and remodeling homes. Within a couple of years, he started his own company. His mother worked odd jobs before starting a housekeeping business of her own. Amid all this, the family never lost faith. George says, “God and the Bible were always at the center of my family. We always knew what we stood for, and that God would provide all we needed.” He was beginning to learn the rewards of doing the right thing and working hard to make a living.

New Life and Purpose

Besides work, the Newfields also knew the greater importance of finding a new church congregation to call home. Being engaged in church helped George memorize Scripture, and he regularly attended Sunday school, camps, and retreats. Yet, there was still this pull from the world that Psalm 1 also describes as “chaff that the wind drives away.” “From the age of 15-19, the world had a grip on me,” he recalls.

The winds would change on March 10, 2006; George remembers it like it was yesterday. “I liked to live fast and drive fast. I crashed my car on the last day of spring break during my sophomore year. The police dropped me off at my house. God had spared me and slowed me down.” His mother lovingly reminded him things like that happen for a reason. After an intentional life evaluation, George accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. In the following weeks and months, he traded almost all his friends for a newfound life and identity in Christ. He then joined the Christian club at his university, and in that same semester achieved straight A’s and continued to focus on faith and finance.

George graduated from college in 2008 with a degree in finance and economics. While working in Providence, Rhode Island, he and fellow believers would take the opportunity to share their faith with local college students. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he was doing the work of a Gideon before he even knew about The Gideons. Then, in 2009, a man named Bob saw George’s passion for evangelism, and he asked him if he would like to share God’s Word while witnessing to others. “Is this a trick question? Yes!” he replied. Bob was a fellow church member and a Gideon and invited George to attend a new member event. Bob was George’s first exposure to the Association, and he left a lasting impression. George felt led to join and became a Gideon that evening.

Wisdom to live and give well

Single at the time, George continued to serve God in his local church and camp. Not long after, he got reacquainted with a young lady from his childhood, Elena, who also came from a Christian family that migrated to America from Russia. The couple began courting, and George invited her to learn more about The Gideons International. They married in 2011. Today, they have two young boys, and you can find their family serving in various capacities.

George continued working in the finance and investments industry. Then, about three years ago, God placed it on his heart to start his own practice. “As I progressed in my career, I grew in confidence and wanted to help people with my core convictions in mind; but I didn’t know what that would look like,” says George.

During that time, George and a business partner, Kevin, learned about a group called the Kingdom Advisors Organization. “God worked on me, then on Kevin, and then on us together.” Between the two, their desire to provide Bible-based financial kingdom principles for the people in the greater New England area was growing amid COVID-19. So, on March 1, 2021, George and Kevin left their corporation and became partners at Cornerstone Financial Management LLC with senior business partner Ted Yoos. Their firm is headquartered outside Boston, with an office in Rhode Island. Cornerstone’s slogan is “Wisdom to Live and Give Well.” They know God’s Word delivers that wisdom.


George Newfield and family

God has used the business world to strengthen George’s faith in many ways. He knows Who he ultimately represents, even when it means making the hard decisions and practicing integrity when it’s not the popular thing to do. He knows the biblical principles he was taught as a child will play out in the end. He is also driven by principles that are core to him as a Gideon. He strives to be a Man of God, a Man of Faith, and a Man of Action in the workplace, which helps him be a better growing follower of Jesus. “You do the right thing, honor God, and He will lead and work things out for His glory,” says George.

A verse that has meant a great deal to him is 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV), which reads, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” As a Christian businessman, he has seen this countless times. “The opportunities to compromise are always there. You can comprise, or you can have a long-term perspective and stay on the path that glorifies God.”

Excellent relationships in The Gideons have grown him as a man, husband, and a professional. “The mentoring culture of The Gideons has meant the world to me. There is so much wisdom available for a younger professional like myself, and these relationships are one of the biggest assets in my life. I see it as a Paul-Timothy-type relationship. I need the wisdom of men who are further down the road than me—men who have led with integrity in the secular business world,” George says.

Relying on the foundation of God’s Word, honest family values, and a mission greater than himself, George finds he is still growing and maturing into the man God desires him to be. Mentors and leaders in his camp help him in this journey of faithfulness all driven by the reality that “the Lord knows the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6a ESV).”

The mentoring culture of The Gideons has meant the world to me. There is so much wisdom available for a younger professional like myself, and these relationships are one of the biggest assets in my life.”

God’s Work Continues in India and Australia

According to the Joshua Project, more than 40% of the population is unevangelized, and the harvest field is ripe for believers. Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 3:14 rings truer today than ever before—to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Gideons and Auxiliary in India and Australia have taken this command seriously and have found unique ways to share Jesus with others in spite of circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

Prayer and Personal Witnessing in India

 

It is estimated that fewer than 3% of people in India claim to be evangelical Christians according to Operation World. This reality inspires members of The Gideons in India to press on with reaching people for Christ. However, India is going through one of its worst crises. The pandemic is in its second wave, and the virus has infected over 30 million people.

Amid the disease, the deaths, and the unfortunate events, God is using Gideons and Auxiliary as faithful warriors striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel. It all started last year when the pandemic first hit. In March 2020, the country went into a nationwide lockdown, which brought almost every activity to a halt. There was a ban on all public gatherings—even churches. Leadership met on a virtual platform for the first time and urged the members to pray and offer whatever support they could to the pastors and elders of the rural churches who were in need.

 An Auxiliary in India distributes Scriptures to medical personnel 

While the educational institutions remained closed, members explored what could be done, reaching out to medical personnel and educators to express their appreciation. The Lord blessed these efforts, and they distributed 11 million Scriptures last year.

Entering 2021, there was an expectancy to return to some semblance of normal—only to be caught by the sudden surge of the second COVID-19 wave. While regular distribution channels are closed now, personal witnessing is on the rise. The Witness Pledge initiative, recently launched in India, helps members stay focused on our single objective as an Association. Each officer throughout all the state associations in India is leading members by example. By taking a pledge to share 100 Personal Workers Testaments over the course of a year, these officers are modeling what it means to be Men of Faith.

Members started a 24/7 online prayer helpline to support urgent prayer requests and volunteered their time to keep this going daily. “The pandemic couldn’t stop the work of God. The Lord has enabled us to continue to strive side by side with each other, the Auxiliary, local congregations, and Friends of Gideons,” shared Sam, a Gideon in India.

The pandemic couldn’t stop the work of God. The Lord has enabled us to continue to strive side by side with each other, the Auxiliary, local congregations, and Friends of Gideons.” —Sam, a Gideon in India

Quarantined with God’s Word in Australia

Gideons and Auxiliary in Australia continue to press on, as well. The lockdowns stopped members from physically meeting, going to churches, and visiting distribution areas, but God was not locked down. To the leadership’s knowledge, every hotel used for quarantine of returning Australians and other incoming travelers was Bibled in advance, and guests had 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine to contemplate God’s Word. Gideon leadership in Australia received many emails from guests blessed by having God’s Word available to them. Many of the members prayed and reach out to aged care homes who had borne the brunt of the COVID cases and tightest lockdowns. There was an openness to receiving Scriptures and a gratefulness not seen before, or at least not for a very long time. Ken, a Gideon in Australia, thanks the Lord for the following success he and fellow members experienced:

We started calling our local nursing homes and had wonderful responses from CEOs, nursing directors, nurses, and receptionists. As of July 2021, we’ve given out 520 large print, over 200 white, and a number of soft cover full Bibles. We’re also telling staff about the Gideon Bible App for those who have residents from another country who would like to listen in their own language. We’ve really seen God moving in this way and several responses saying that it’s very timely.


Australian Gideons and Auxiliary

Personal Witnessing in Everyday Encounters

God continues bringing people across member’s path, and our personal witnessing has never stopped. Lauren, an Auxiliary in Australia, is a stay-at-home mom homeschooling her four children. “My children are always me,” she says, “I’m not particularly brave or great at starting conversations. Often, I’m sleep deprived, and I stumble over my words. I usually have a child on my hip or wrapped around my ankles, sometimes both.”

“Before joining The Gideons, I can’t remember too many situations where I brought the Gospel into a conversation with an unbeliever, especially one that I didn’t know well,” says Lauren. Being an Auxiliary keeps witnessing on her radar. She now keeps Testaments next to the front door, in her bag, and in her car. She and her husband pray together for families to cross their path who need to hear the Good News. “As a Gideon family, my kids see Mom and Dad taking God’s Word seriously by reading and praying for opportunities to give it to those who need to know Jesus. Sometimes it’s my kids who prompt me. They’ll say, ‘Ask them if they want a Bible.’”

Lauren doesn’t even need to leave her house to be a witness. “Anyone who knocks on our door – tradesmen, salespeople, fundraisers – may all be offered a Testament. Online shopping can bring a harvest field of delivery workers to my doorstep. If a major appliance breaks down or we need some work done to the house, it’s not just an expense or an inconvenience; it’s a Gospel opportunity and a Testament is offered,” she says. When Lauren goes out with her children, she stays on mission often offering a Testament to acknowledge great service or simply sharing because someone has crossed her path.

“As a Gideon family, my kids see Mom and Dad taking God’s Word seriously by reading and praying for opportunities to give it to those who need to know Jesus. Sometimes it’s my kids who prompt me. They’ll say, ‘Ask them if they want a Bible.” —Laura, an Auxiliary in Australia

“I’m grateful that God would use me and my weaknesses to serve Him,” Lauren continues. “I am grateful that I can serve together with my family and I’m grateful that being an Auxiliary provides me with resources, training, role models, and encouragement to actively share Jesus as I live out my day-to-day life.”

God’s Work Continues

Gideons and Auxiliary like Sam and Laura are genuinely taking the apostle Paul’s encouragement to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” to heart. While you may never go to India and Australia, you, too, can impact your friends, neighbors, and circle of influence with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Over 40% of the world is unevangelized. God’s work continues…how can you press on?

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 3:14 (ESV)

The Gift that keeps on giving

The Gift that keeps on giving

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and The Gideons International loves to partner with and support local church pastors! This post celebrates Pastor Gary Linton from Florida, who was given a gift at school as a child that would change his life in ways he could have never imagined. Watch his story below, and consider ways you can show your appreciation for the pastors and ministry leaders in your life.

The Gideons in the UK

13th October 2021

Dear Church Leader

You may have received a letter recently from “Good News for Everyone“. Some of their members were formerly part of the UK Gideon ministry. UK. The letter has caused some confusion which this article seeks to address.

For many years a small, but vocal, group within the Gideon Ministry in the UK had been pressing the leadership to change the membership criteria. They believed that a “men only” ministry was outdated and that admitting women as members would make them more attractive to churches and supporters and would reverse the declining membership. A 2014 survey of members’ opinion revealed that 79% were in favour of such a change. That small militant group took this as a vindication of their opinion and expected immediate change.

When that did not happen, a certain member sought to force the action by writing to the Charity Commission accusing the Gideon Ministry of being in contravention of the Equality Act.

The UK Gideons’ constitution required the permission of the international governing body (TGI) before such a change could be made. Permission was refused on the grounds that The Gideons International is a fellowship of professional and business men for mutual support in their Christian walk and in the placing of Scripture. The 300,000 or so men in over 200 countries adhere to exactly the same foundational values and constitution.

The UK leadership knew that by changing the constitution against the wishes of TGI that they would be expelled from the Gideon Ministry and would not be able to use the Gideon name which is protected as an international trademark. They signed an agreement in 1974. The relevant section is shown below.

The right and license [sic] herein granted may be cancelled and terminated on one year’s notice in writing given by either party hereto to the other party, provided, however, that such cancellation shall not release the party giving notice from fulfilment [sic] of any outstanding obligations existing as of the date of such notice, and provided further party of the second part hereby agrees to cease and desist from using the designation GIDEON and Design or any term or design confusingly similar thereto in any way, either as a designation for publications or services, or as a part of a corporate or firm name after one year from the date of such notice.”

It is true that, if challenged, a certain aspect of the membership criteria might be deemed to be in contravention of the Act although in the preceding five years no one, including the Charity Commission, had questioned it. None of the legal advice received categorically stated that the only option was to open membership to women and the Act itself makes it very clear that single gender associations are permitted. TGI were more than willing to allow adjustments to the constitution to comply with the law and had offered to underwrite any legal costs involved. The letter suggests that concerns about the Equality Act and the Charity Commission led to the decision to change the membership criteria. That is not true.

At the 2018 AGM a vote was passed to change the constitution in the full knowledge of the consequences. They failed to honour the above agreement, attempted to register the name GideonsUK with the UK Intellectual Property Office without informing the TGI of their intentions. They lost the inevitable legal case in November 2019 , received severe opprobrium from the judge and were required to pay substantial damages and costs. The UK association had dishonestly attempted to benefit from another’s reputation. Following that the name was changed to “Good News for Everyone”

In spite of the fact that their own actions have resulted the bulk of UK Gideons leaving the ministry they nevertheless attempted, as the letter makes clear, to prevent the Gideons International from continuing the ministry in the UK. Had they been successful the UK might have been be the only country in the free world without a Gideon Bible in a hotel room.

Not all Gideons accepted the 2018 AGM vote and were able to continue their Gideon membership directly with TGI. By God’s grace there are now Gideons in most parts of the UK and Northern Ireland and you may see some parallels with the story in the book of Judges. .

Whatever our personal views about membership we believe that we must accept the authority under which we placed ourselves and that schism and division amongst Christian men is certainly not the Lord’s will. If at some point in the future the worldwide ministry chooses to change its foundational values then we will accept that and in the meantime the Gideon Ministry in the UK continues.

John Coldwell
National Field Coordinator

Who Are Gideons: Men of Action

Who Are Gideons: Men of Action

Today’s video is the final in a three-part series in which we are exploring answers to the question, “Who are Gideons?”

 

In this video, you’ll see members of The Gideons International discuss how membership helps them grow as Men of Action along with other Christian business and professional men. Learn how Gideons impact God’s Kingdom as they build relationships with pastors, and as they share God’s Word in their communities and beyond.

 

To see how membership in The Gideons helps men grow as Men of God, click here. And to see how they grow as Men of Faith, click here.

Who Are Gideons: Men of Faith

Today’s video is the second in a three-part series in which we are exploring answers to the question, “Who are Gideons?” 

In this video, you’ll see Gideons discuss how they grow as Men of Faith by serving alongside other Christian business and professional men in The Gideons International. Learn how Gideons increase their unique influence in their homes and communities as they sharpen their God-given talents to boldly share Christ.

The video can be watched on our international website here:
https://gideons.org/blog/Who_are_Gideons_Men_of_Faith

Who Are Gideons: Men of God

Today’s video is the first in a three-part series in which we are exploring answers to the question, “Who are Gideons?”

In this video, see members of The Gideons International discuss the day-to-day challenges they face as Christian business and professional men. Discover how membership in The Gideons helps men overcome those challenges and grow as Men of God along with other Christ-followers through associating together and practicing spiritual disciplines.

This video can be watched on our international website here:
https://gideons.org/blog/Who_are_Gideons_Men_of_God

From a Purple Heart to a New Heart

Knowledge of God can come from various places. Sometimes it comes from parents who have committed to raise their kids in a Christian home or from a life-long friend who has always been there for us. However, head knowledge does not save us. Transformation by the Gospel of Jesus leading to total surrender saves us and gives us a new heart and identity.

   

Shaken to the Core

 

Brandon Blair was one of those people surrounded by Gospel truths his entire life. His dad was a pastor in Angier, North Carolina, and his childhood was filled with hearing his dad deliver sermon after sermon. Looking back on this time, Brandon admits, “I knew a lot about the Lord, but I was living for the world.”

 

Fast forward to the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001. This event shook Brandon to his core. It moved him so much he couldn’t stand still and decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Brandon had never considered the military before the events of that fateful September day.

 

I knew a lot about the Lord, but I was living for the world.”

It took Brandon a little longer than expected to get into the Marines because other individuals with prior military experience had decided to reenlist. In 2003, Brandon left for boot camp in Paris Island, South Carolina. When he arrived, he was given a gift—a Testament from The Gideons. Brandon did more than pack his new copy of God’s Word. “On many nights, I read the pages of that Scripture when soldiers were given time to read or write letters. The Scriptures brought me a lot of peace,” he remembers.

Out of the Pit

Brandon ended up serving in two full-time combat tours. On his last tour in 2006, as soldiers were getting on the bus, he was again handed a Testament from The Gideons, and he placed it in his left chest pocket.

 

War is brutal in many regards. The environments are often challenging, and one never knows what may take place. In August 2006, Brandon was shot by a sniper. He took it to the chest and didn’t know if he was going to live or die. “I begged the Lord to spare my life,” recalls Brandon. He said this knowing his injury was severe. He eventually arrived at the hospital and, to his surprise, realized he had suffered no internal bleeding from the gunshot wound. It was a miracle. At the time of his injury, he was in a mobile unit with armed vehicles outside the wire. They didn’t have a base to come back to at the end of the day. The only time soldiers would come in was because of injury or if a roadside bomb hit them.

 

Brandon continued to receive medical treatment. A friend from Tennessee came to visit him. Just a week after the visit, the friend, too, was shot by a sniper and passed away. The reality of war had just gotten personal for Brandon. Looking back, he said, “This was an extremely low point for me. My friend was just 19 years old and engaged to be married. I asked the Lord, ‘Why not me, Lord? Why did you take him and not me?’”

After his friend’s death, Brandon was lying in a hospital bed surrounded by four walls. He had no television to watch and no phone to call people back home. Then he remembered the Testament in his left pocket and wondered if it was still there or if someone had removed it. The Testament was still there. Brandon found the book of Psalms and read about a time when David was at a low point in his life. He read the words from Psalm 40:1-3: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Brandon had heard Bible verses his entire life, but this time it was different. God brought Brandon out of his own pit and changed his life in an instant. He asked God to forgive his sins and accepted forgiveness through salvation in Jesus Christ. “I told God I would serve him from that day forward. Before I was shot, spiritually, it was all head knowledge. After I was shot, it was true surrender—I was all in for the Lord,” says Brandon. 

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”
—Psalm 40:1-2   

A new Heart

In 2007, he was honorably discharged from the military. Remembering his promise to the Lord, he felt called to serve in ministry. He enrolled at what is now Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and then went on to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He has been serving in ministry ever since, beginning full-time ministry in 2008.

 

Youth ministry was the first area of service for Brandon. One evening, while speaking at a youth event, Brandon met a photographer named Tristan. They soon began to date and married in 2009. Today, they have three adopted kids.


Pastor Brandon Blair

Brandon served as a youth pastor for 11 years. In 2019, God moved the Blair family to Knoxville, Tennessee, where Brandon is now the senior pastor of Loveland Baptist Church. For 13 years now, he has faithfully taught the Word of God that changed his life while lying in a military hospital bed. “The Word of God changed my life; just the Word was enough. I often say, ‘The military gave me a purple heart, but God gave me a new heart.’” Pastor Brandon also has a great appreciation for the ministry of The Gideons International. “I may never know the Gideon that made the Testament available, but I do know his reward is in Heaven. That Scripture changed my life forever. I love The Gideons and their mission and encourage them to keep pursuing all God has for them.” An accessible copy of God’s Word allowed Brandon to move from head knowledge to heart transformation. This is the power of Scripture and the message of Jesus Christ.   

I may never know the Gideon that made the Testament available, but I do know his reward is in Heaven. That Scripture changed my life forever.”

Why I’m a Gideon: Justo Escobar

When you see someone excel at something, how do you react? At times, we may stand back and think we could never accomplish the same activities at that level. However, we should remember that God’s plans are not always the same as ours. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV) God places us in roles and situations that, at first glance, may cause us to wonder why He would use someone like us. Yet, we must remember that God has given us all that we need to accomplish His purposes.

 

Justo Escobar, a Gideon from Florida, has a lifetime of moments where he thought: Who am I to do this? Through trust and obedience, he has learned that God is always preparing him for the next thing He has in store.

  

Open Eyes and Heart

 

His journey began in the Republic of Cuba. As an eight-year-old child, his family fled the communism of Cuba, seeking a better life. Eventually, in 1961, he and his family ended up in Miami, Florida, after spending some time in Honduras. Justo knew no English as a third-grade student but that quickly changed after building relationships with his new friends.

 

The Escobar family was also raised with Christian beliefs. Justo does not remember when the local church was not a part of his life—a reality he is still grateful for today. He learned about Jesus and His Gospel at their Quaker church through his childhood and into his teen years but, as he says, “knew Jesus wasn’t real to me.” Justo excelled in school, and he had a particular interest in mathematics. When the time came for him to go to college, he decided to pursue his love for math at a college in Saint Petersburg, Florida. It was here God began to open his eyes and heart. 

 

A friend of Justo had a father who was a pastor. This pastor began to ask Justo questions about his direction in life. These words impacted Justo and his journey with Christ. After a couple of years in Saint Petersburg, Justo decided to transfer to Florida Atlantic University to continue his pursuit of mathematics and connect with a local church in Fort Lauderdale. During this season of life, Justo was watching television one evening and came across a Gospel crusade. The preacher’s words gripped him, and for the first time, he realized he needed to be saved from his sins. “God opened my eyes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a Billy Graham crusade,” remembers Justo. He was so excited about his new life in Christ.

New Beginnings

While pursuing his math degree, Justo recalls a special moment in his number theory class. One day before class began, he was looking through a scuba diving magazine when a classmate looked at him and said, “Oh, you scuba drive as well.” The rest was history. Justo and his classmate, Coleen, married in August 1975. In 1978, they welcomed a son named David, and Justo began working in the family furniture and cabinet business after being employed two years as a math teacher. He firmly believes and lives by this principle: It doesn’t matter what profession you are in; you can always serve the Lord. A year later, the family welcomed another son, Jonathan.

 

The same year he started his new career, Justo and his family joined a sister church in Coral Springs, Florida. Over the years, Justo has served in various capacities such as usher, deacon, and elder. This congregation has proved to be instrumental in his life for many reasons. In 1986, he met Lester and Ann Carter, became close friends, and later found out they were members of The Gideons International. This led to Justo and Coleen being invited to a membership dinner and feeling led to join the Association a year later.

 

Serving Well

For the first three years, Justo attended monthly Gideon meetings and did a few Scripture distributions. Then, he was presented with an offer to give Gideon presentations at churches. “When the opportunity came, a friend of mine told me I should serve in this capacity. The problem was I felt extremely unqualified, and by nature, I’m a fairly shy guy,” recalls Justo. Before he knew it, his second church presentation was at their home church back in Fort Lauderdale. He couldn’t believe what was happening. “I’m proof if you stay humble and obedient, God can accomplish much even when we feel inadequate. He has stretched me in so many ways, including public speaking,” says Justo.

I’m proof if you stay humble and obedient, God can accomplish much even when we feel inadequate.

“I’m a Gideon because I answered God’s call on my life. My attitude was ‘Here I am, send me,’” he says. His earnest prayer of seeking what God has planned for him is answered as God continues growing and stretching him to be more like Jesus as he serves in his camp, church, and community. He continues, “I was looking for ways to serve God, and He placed The Gideons International in my life. This has afforded me opportunities beyond my wildest imagination to make an impact for Kingdom as I continue to serve the Lord.” 


Chris and Justo

 

One of these moments was with Chris, a man he met while doing a fair distribution in their town last Christmas. Gideons passed out 900 Testaments to the youth and hundreds of Gideon Bible App cards to the adults who came by their booth. Chris was one of these adults. “Chris came up to me at the booth and was interested in what we were doing. I shared a Gideon Bible App card with him, which led to us having a Gospel conversation. Praise the Lord, Chris received Jesus as his Lord and Savior in the moments that followed,” remembers Justo.  

 

This moment with Chris was just one of many open doors God has placed in Justo’s life since he became a Gideon. Yet, there still lingers the humble “who am I to do this” mindset. He knows through God all things are possible, and it is God who prepares us for what lies next. Psalm 37:4 (ESV) serves as his life verse, which reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Justo knows the key to successful ministry is delighting in the Lord and stewarding what God has given us well.

  

“I’m a Gideon because I answered God’s call on my life…I was looking for ways to serve God, and He placed The Gideons International in my life. This has afforded me opportunities beyond my wildest imagination to make an impact for Kingdom as I continue to serve the Lord with my life.”