The Gideons International


The Gideons International in the British Isles is part of the world wide Association called The Gideons International.

Click HERE to visit our International Headquarters Site.

Click HERE to visit our International Blog.

The Gideons International has one simple and clearly defined aim: to win men, women and young people for the Lord Jesus Christ. It has three basic and clearly defined methods in pursuit of this objective:

  1. The association of Christian business and professional men and their wives for service.
  2. Personal testimony and personal work by all members.
  3. Placing and presenting Bibles and Testaments - God's Holy Word - in the main streams of life.
The history of The Gideons goes back to the late 1800s.

When John H Nicholson was thirteen years old, during a special service in the town of West Monroe, Wisconsin, his mother, noticing John's anxiety, put her arm around him and led him to the front of the church where he opened his heart to the Lord Jesus and became a Christian. Not long after, John's mother went to be with the Lord. During her final hours she talked to John about the future and asked him to promise to read his Bible every day, a practice that he maintained throughout his life.

On 14 September 1898 John Nicholson came to the Central House Hotel, Boscobel, Wisconsin, to stay the night. Whilst he was there he met with Samuel E Hill of Beloit, Wisconsin.

As it was John's custom to read the Bible each evening, the two men discovered that they were both Christians. They had their evening devotions together and read from John 15. They talked and prayed long into the night and shared thoughts, which developed into a plan to form an association for promoting fellowship among Christian commercial travellers when away from home on business. Consequently, on 1 July 1899, a meeting was called in the YMCA, Janesville, Wisconsin. Although only three men were present - John H Nicholson, Samuel E Hill and Will J Knights - they went ahead with the project. One of them said, "If God is in this thing, He will give us a name; let's pray about it." It was Will Knights who, after prayer, rose to his feet and said, "I have it - we'll be called Gideons." He read Judges 6 and 7, which showed several reasons for adopting this name.

Gideon was willing to do exactly what God wanted him to do, irrespective of his own judgement as to plans or results. Humility, faith and obedience were the great elements in his character. This is the standard which the Gideon Association seeks to establish in all its members, each being willing to do God's will at any time, in any place and in any way that the Holy Spirit leads. Thus the Gideon Association was born and 600 men joined in the first year.

In view of the fact that almost all the early Gideons were commercial travellers, the question quite naturally arose as to how they might be more effective witnesses in the hotels where they spent so much of their time. The first suggestion of a Gideon Bible ministry seems to have arisen in 1903 after a Chicago Gideon, Fred Woodcock, visited Britain. His attention was drawn to the fact that the Commercial Travellers' Christian Association had placed Bibles in the rooms of British hotels. His visit to Britain also appears to have been significant for another reason, for at that time a Scotsman, named MacInnes, was enrolled and became the first Gideon outside the USA. This was the first connection between The Gideons International and the British Isles.

On his return to America, Fred Woodcock reported on the work of the Commercial Travellers' Christian Association: "They are doing a great work by putting Bibles in all the rooms of the hotels where they stay and I think we should do the same." No immediate action was taken, however, but the suggestion was eventually discussed at a Cabinet Meeting in Chicago on 19 November 1907. The proposal that Gideons should provide a Bible for every hotel room was adopted by the Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1908.

In September, immediately following the Convention, the National Secretary, Mr F A Garlick, attended a meeting of the Ministerial Union of Cedar Rapids. He told the pastors about the work of The Gideons and of their plan to place Bibles in hotel bedrooms. There and then Dr E R Burkhalter, a Presbyterian minister, moved: "That Gideon Bibles be placed in all the local hotels and that the Ministerial Union be responsible for the funds." This was agreed unanimously.

And so the idea of the Gideon ministry being an extended arm of the church came into being, and the church took an initial stand to give financial support to the Scripture placement policy, a commitment which has been followed through the years with tremendous results and blessings to all concerned.

The first Gideon placement was in November 1908 when twenty-five Bibles were placed in the Superior Hotel, Iron Mountain, Montana.

Over the years Gideon work has been established in many countries outside the USA and the Bible ministry has been expanded progressively to include many other areas of distribution.