A Worldwide focus. Changing Lives for more than 100 Years.
The Gideons International started distributing the Word of God in the USA in 1908. Today, we have more than 300,000 members—and an untold number of supporters—in more than 190 countries across the globe. These dedicated individuals give their time and money to make it possible for others to learn about the love of God by giving them access to His Word.
For information and statistics on distributions in all the countries in which Gideons operate, view our County Facts Sheet.
A lasting Vision. The Gideons International, founded in 1899, serves as an extended missionary arm of the church. Here are some highlights from our long history of service:
In the autumn of the year 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.
On May 31, 1899, the two men met again at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, where they concluded to band Christian commercial travellers 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.
Only three men were present at that meeting: John H. Nicholson, Samuel E. Hill, and Will J. Knights. They organised 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.
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 by the convention at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1908.
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 Frank Garlick was asked if he could address the ministers on the work of The Gideons. 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.
The Gideons International have since become a very well-known and appreciated service in almost 200 countries.
Today, churches across the world continue to provide ongoing support for the cost of Bibles placed in hotels and other areas of need.