Gideons International

A Lasting Vision

The Gideons International, founded in 1899, serves as an extended missionary arm of the church and is the oldest association of Christian businessmen and professional men in the United States of America. Here are some highlights from our long history of service:

The Idea—In the autumn of 1898, John H. Nicholson of Janesville, Wisconsin, came to the Central Hotel at Boscobel, Wisconsin, for the night. The hotel being crowded, it was suggested that he take a bed in a double room with Samuel E. Hill of Beloit, Wisconsin. The two men soon discovered that both were Christians. They had their evening devotions together, and on their knees before God the thoughts were given which later developed into an association.

First Meeting Called —On May 31, 1899, the two men met again at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, where they concluded to band Christian commercial travelers together for mutual recognition, personal evangelism, and united service for the Lord. They decided to call a meeting in Janesville, Wisconsin on July 1, 1899, in the Y.M.C.A.

“We shall be called Gideons.”—Only three men were present at that meeting: John H. Nicholson, Samuel E. Hill, and Will J. Knights. They organized with Hill as president, Knights as vice president, and Nicholson as secretary and treasurer. Much thought was given to what the name of the association should be, and after special prayer that God might lead them to select the proper name, Mr. Knights arose from his knees and said, “We shall be called Gideons.” He read the sixth and seventh chapters of Judges and showed the reason for adopting that name.

Effective Witnesses in Hotels—In view of the fact that almost all of the Gideons in the early years of the association were traveling men, the question quite naturally arose regarding how they might be more effective witnesses in the hotels where they spent so much of their time. One trustee went so far as to suggest that The Gideons furnish a Bible for each bedroom of the hotels in the United States. He commented, “In my opinion, this would not only stimulate the activities of the rank and file of the membership, but would be a gracious act, wholly in keeping with the divine mission of the Gideon Association.” This plan, which they called “The Bible Project” was adopted at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1908.

Church Support—It is interesting to note that the practice of the churches contributing to the support of the Gideon Scripture program originated with a pastor. Just two months after the 1908 Louisville Convention, a state convention convened in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. National Secretary Frank Garlick and Mr. A. B. T. Moore attended a meeting of the Ministerial Union, and after their program they asked if Brother Garlick could address the ministers on the work of the Gideon Association. He spoke of the needed Bible distribution, and at the close of his 10-minute address, Mr. Moore’s own pastor, Dr. E. R. Burkhalter, First Presbyterian Church, arose and moved, “…that Gideon Bibles be placed in all local hotels and that the Union be responsible for the funds.” The motion was unanimously carried and a committee appointed to apportion the cost to the churches, according to their strength.

A Worldwide Effort—It’s been just over 100 years since The Gideons International placed the first Bible in a hotel room in Montana. Today, The Gideons are organized in more than 190 countries around the globe. Bibles and New Testaments are printed for distribution by The Gideons in more than 90 languages. Through God’s grace and to His Glory, more than 1.6 billion Bibles and New Testaments have been placed by The Gideons, and the work continues. . .

“The sower soweth the word.”—Mark 4:14

Gideon Bibles: As common in hotel rooms as pillows and blankets

The year was 1908. At the annual Gideon Convention it was requested that, “…the Gideons direct their energies toward furnishing a Bible for every guest room of hotels in the country.”

The first placement was made by Archie Bailey, a Gideon, who was a regular guest at the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana. He approached the operator of the hotel and asked for permission to place Bibles in rooms. Permission was granted and Mr. Bailey placed an order for 25 copies of God’s Word with The Gideons headquarters on November 9, 1908. He covered the cost of the Scriptures with a personal contribution.

Today, Gideons continue to place copies of God’s Word in hotels. Last fiscal year, Gideons placed 1,977,396 Bibles in hotels and motels throughout the world.

During the “Flood The World With Scriptures” campaign during the months of April and October, Gideon camps are encouraged to check all the hotels and motels in their territories to ensure that like-new, clean copies of God’s Word are available. Bibles that are worn or have “disappeared” from rooms are replaced. Of course, Gideons first get permission from the hotel and motel managers.

Why hotels?

A single copy of God’s Word in a hotel or motel room has the potential to touch up to 2,300 lives during its six-year life span. And hotel industry surveys indicate that 25% of their travelers read the Bibles in their hotel rooms. Multiply that by the approximate 5 million hotel and motel rooms across the U.S., and it’s easy to see the tremendous potential for impact that these Scripture placements offer.

We’ve received many testimonies over the years of how God has used Bibles in hotel and motel rooms to comfort weary, hurting travelers. Often in these moments, people are forced to take an honest look at their lives. And in doing so, they realize there must be something more to life. And it’s then, through a Gideon-placed Bible, that they meet Jesus Christ.

Numerous reports have been received at The Gideons International headquarters about how people in motel rooms were contemplating suicide and then opened a Gideon Bible and met Christ instead. It makes one wonder–“What if those Gideon Bibles were not in those hotel and motel rooms?”

What happens to the used Bibles?

Gideon-placed Bibles in hotels and motels that are more than six-years old, or are dirty, worn or otherwise unacceptable are replaced with new ones. This work is all carried out by Gideons during the “Flood the World With Scriptures” campaigns. The Scriptures are funded by contributions received through church offerings and Gideon Expressions greeting cards as well as personal donations from Gideon and Auxiliary volunteers.

The used Bibles that are removed still have useful life and can continue to have an eternal impact on many lives. Some are repurposed through placements in prisons, jails, rescue missions and civil defense shelters.

A Bible in a motel room saves a life…and a soul

My son used to be employed with Holiday Inn. A cleaning lady found this note and gave it to him.

The note reads: “I’m so glad for you who are responsible for leaving this Bible. I was getting ready to kill myself and I read this and found there is something to life, even though I’ve thrown mine away. Now I feel like I have something to live for.”

May God bless you for placing His Word so that people like this will know that God loves them.


Please pray for our ministry

Please pray that Gideons will continue to place Bibles in hotels and motels. Also, please pray for continued contributions for Scripture purchases so that Gideons can place more copies of God’s Word in more and more hotels and motels throughout the world.

You can help provide Scriptures in hotels and other places throughout the world with your purchase of Gideon Expressions cards. Order today right on this site. Click here to order online or to download  an order form to mail in.

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