If you've stayed in a hotel or motel in North America, no doubt you have opened the top drawer of your bedside nightstand and found a Gideon Bible or New Testament. It usually is a black, brown or red-covered hardback book with the Gideon symbol, a two-handled pitcher and torch, on the front. Gideon Bibles were standard issue in motels long before TV and wireless Internet service came along. The organization providing them is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary of Bible distribution! An Associated Press article by Rose French on January 2, 2009 released this inspiring story that was published in many newspapers across the country.
Can you imagine the figure of 1.5 billion? We are bombarded with large number estimates in this day of bail-outs and stimulus packages. Numbers that large are a blur to our limited minds. But about 1.5 billion is the number of Bibles that Gideon's International has distributed since 1908. Nearly 76.9 million copies were given out in about 85 languages in 187 countries just last year.
Gideon's International, which is the oldest professing Christian business and professional men's association in the USA, is a nondenominational evangelical organization. It was founded in 1899 by traveling salesmen who spent much time away from home. Bibles they supplied for hotel bedrooms were intended to provide fellow travelers a spiritual resource in those lonely and reflective moments after work hours. The name Gideon was suggested by one of its founders after he read chapters 6 and 7 from the Biblical Book of Judges about the ancient hero, Gideon. You may read more about their history from the Gideon's web site: www.gideons.org
This organization placed its first Bible in a hotel room in Montana in 1908. Not only does it dispense Bibles in motels but also in hospitals, schools, prisons and for the military. Today they are organized in more than 180 countries around the world. Gideons are adapting to changing interests and concerns such as those for the environment by providing Bibles made of 30 % recycled paper.
Many people trace their spiritual life transformation to the time they found a Gideon Bible in their motel room when experiencing a dark moment of despair. Their reading of God's Word gave them hope and encouragement and motivated them to drastically change their behavior, following a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, this has led some to become clergy who, in turn, take up the torch of providing Bibles for others who need them as they once did – and still do.
Most people have little idea of the price paid to provide us an English Bible. Numerous intrepid translators like William Tyndale and bands of Bible "smugglers" gave their lives to provide Bibles in countries where doing so was forbidden by the established church or government. Even today, several countries penalize visitors who try to import Bibles across their borders. In the West, we take the easy availability of Bibles for granted. As a result, we often pay the Book of Books little attention.
Perhaps you have recently been moved to read the Bible more. One of the best ways is to find a Bible-reading plan that apportions a certain number of chapters or verses for reading each day, so that a person completes the reading of the entire Bible in one year. You can find such reading plans at several web sites on the Internet. Just do a web search for "Bible reading plan." Some of them begin their reading on January 1; others are flexible, allowing one to begin his or her reading on any day of the year.
Let me encourage you to begin reading the Holy Bible – both Old and New Testaments. Come to know the Word of God that endures forever (1 Peter 1:25)!
And request our free booklet The Bible: Fact or Fiction.