The Gideon Bible in room 312
I was in Petersburg, Va., making final preparations for a service of ordination that was to take place in just a couple of hours. I had driven to the hotel from my home in Georgia and was a bit weary as I was going through my sermon notes to make sure I had a decent, but not overly long, sermon.
I reached for my Bible and ... it wasn’t in my bag. I searched through the rest of my luggage and even went through the car. I had left it in Georgia.
A minister without a Bible is like a carpenter without a hammer. Then I had a thought. I walked over to the night stand in the hotel room, slid open the drawer, and there it was ... a Gideon Bible.
In the autumn of 1898, John H. Nicholson came to the Central Hotel at Boscobel, Wis., 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, Wis. 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, Wis., where they determined to band Christian commercial travelers together for mutual recognition, personal evangelism, and united service for God. They decided to call a meeting in Janesville, Wis., on July 1, 1899, in the YMCA.
Only three men were present at that meeting. 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, Will Knights rose from his knees and said, “We shall be called Gideons,” after a passage in the Book of Judges. It was later determined, as the initial mission, “... that Gideon Bibles be placed in all local hotels and that the Union be responsible for the funds.”
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 and have around 300,000 members. Bibles and New Testaments are printed for distribution by The Gideons in more than 90 languages and more than 1.7 billion Bibles and New Testaments have been placed by The Gideons.
Which is how it came to be that I took a Gideon Bible with me and preached the sermon as a man was ordained into the priesthood.
When I later arrived back in Georgia, I unpacked the suitcase and there was the Gideon Bible. I had treated it as my own and unthinkingly brought it home. A few days later, I wrote a note to the hotel manager, placed it in a box with the Bible and mailed it back to the hotel, requesting that it be re-placed in Room 312.
The same day that I mailed the Bible back to the hotel, I received a card from the Coweta East Gideons informing me that, at their last Saturday meeting, they had prayed for me and my church. Such a note comes every few months and it is always appreciated.
In my travels, it has been a rare occasion to not find a Gideon Bible placed in my hotel room. I hope the one I used finds its way back into Room 312.
Somewhere, and at some time, some other weary traveler may come across it and find his or her own needs met.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about The Gideons, refer to www.gideons.org.]