Church Donation Scheme to Spread the Word of God Worldwide

There can be few travellers who, at the end of a busy day, have not returned to a hotel room far from their hometown and perhaps even from their home country and, upon opening the drawer of a bedside cabinet, have not discovered that one of its contents was a Gideons Bible. Although some may have just closed the drawer again, after first retrieving the TV remote, and then switched to their favourite channel, others have chanced to open its pages and to draw upon the power in their words.

In an age that is now dominated by science and technology, many people tend to dismiss or even ridicule the concept of miracles. Instead, they seek to provide rational explanations that reduce such acts to the status of mass delusion or natural, if unusual, phenomena. Yet, for all their doubts, one cannot dismiss the many thousands of men and women whose lives have undergone a miraculous transformation as the direct result of their chance encounter with the Word of God when alone in a hotel room.

Despite the efforts of the organisation behind the distribution of the Bibles, few are aware of just who they are and that their work is only possible as a result of the generosity of the church and of the many others from all walks of life who are prepared to make a donation. While it may have been only recently that many first became aware of their work, perhaps having discovered one of their Bibles when they were last on holiday, The Gideons have actually been active for more than a century.

The association formally known as The Gideons International was formed in 1899 with the goal of distributing the Word of God, not through sermons and prayer meetings, but in the form of Bibles. The fact that two of its founding fathers were travelling salesmen explains the decision to use this the hotel trade as its initial distribution network. In 1908, the first of their f Bibles appeared in the Superior Hotel in the Montana town of the same name. To date, the total number of copies donated exceeds two billion, made up of full Bibles or New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs, as well as collections of selected texts. No longer confined to guest accommodation, beneficiaries now include hospitals, schools, the military, and prisons, while copies are also offered from pavement pulpits.

Samuel Hill, John Nicholson, and Will Knights were not wealthy men, and so for funding they turned to the church for a donation, entreating with the clergy to call upon their parishioners for their financial support. The initially slow trickle of vital funding was destined to become a torrent that would, in time, carry the written Word into two hundred countries and in a variety of languages and adding more than a million new copies every four days.

Today, amid fears of the increasing violence arising from doctrinal differences and religious extremism, some hotels are no longer willing to be seen as supporting beliefs that could turn them into terrorist targets. In finding new ways to continue their evangelical mission, The Gideons International must intensify the campaign to encourage donation both through the church and through its Gideon and Auxiliary members.