MORE THAN JUST BI­BLES

Gideons have ar­ray of lit­er­a­ture

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - WEEKEND - DAR­LENE POLACHIC

In 1908, three Chris­tian sales­men in the U.S. formed an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to plac­ing Bi­bles in ho­tel rooms. They called it The Gideons. In 1911, the or­ga­ni­za­tion branched into Canada and other coun­tries soon fol­lowed.

The Gideons quickly ex­panded their scope of min­istry to plac­ing Bi­bles in hospi­tals, pris­ons and schools. In­ter­est­ingly, the first New Tes­ta­ment was placed in a Cana­dian school in Pense, Sask., in 1946.

The over­ar­ch­ing body, Gideons In­ter­na­tional, is head­quar­tered in Nashville, Tenn., but each coun­try de­ter­mines how its own min­istry is car­ried out, says Ron Basky, who rep­re­sents Saskatchewan on the Na­tional Board of Gideons In­ter­na­tional in Canada.

In 2008, Cana­dian Gideons voted to leave the in­ter­na­tional body. One of the rea­sons was to com­ply with Canada Revenue Agency’s reg­u­la­tions con­cern­ing do­na­tions re­ceived from donors to char­i­ties that op­er­ate out­side of Canada.

As well, there was a de­sire on the part of Cana­dian Gideons to broaden the base of who could be­come a Gideon.

Ini­tially, Gideon mem­ber­ship was lim­ited to busi­ness and pro­fes­sional men. Women were only al­lowed to play a sup­port­ive role. But Cana­dian Gideons wanted equal in­clu­sion of men and women in its mem­ber­ship, and a broad­en­ing of qual­i­fy­ing oc­cu­pa­tions.

“We also wanted to do more than just Bi­ble dis­tri­bu­tion,” says Clair Zi­olkowski, pres­i­dent of the Saska­toon Gideons chap­ter and dis­trict leader for North­ern Saskatchewan. “We wanted to have a com­po­nent for ex­plain­ing the Gospel.”

In be­com­ing au­ton­o­mous, Gideons In­ter­na­tional in Canada had the free­dom to dis­trib­ute the Bi­ble in a ver­sion other than King James. “We chose the New Liv­ing Trans­la­tion be­cause it’s easy to read and suits the new gen­er­a­tion to a T,” Zi­olkowski says.

An­other change for Gideons In­ter­na­tional in Canada was de­vel­op­ing a three-stream min­istry ini­tia­tive.

“We think of our­selves and our min­istry as in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple,” Zi­olkowski says. “We are chan­nels that pro­vide ac­cess points for peo­ple to hear and share the Gospel.”

He says, “Gideons In­ter­na­tional in Canada shares the Gospel of Je­sus Christ through free copies of God’s Word so peo­ple have the op­por­tu­nity to ac­cept God’s gift of sal­va­tion. De­spite chang­ing val­ues in so­ci­ety, there is still a high rate of Bi­ble place­ment in ho­tels (about 90 per cent). In hospi­tals and pris­ons, we make Bi­bles and scrip­ture mag­a­zines avail­able to chap­lains.”

The mag­a­zines are vis­ually ap­peal­ing and beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated, with scrip­ture verses aimed at spe­cific au­di­ences.

Re­demp­tion, for in­stance, is geared to­ward prison min­istry. There are sep­a­rate editions for women and men.

New this year are Spark mag­a­zines aimed at tweens.

“Their pur­pose is to help kids un­der­stand what they read in God’s Word,” Zi­olkowski says.

“We dis­trib­ute them free to sum­mer camps, Sun­day School classes, and in­for­mally, as well. They are il­lus­trated and con­tain the Gospel of John, plus scrip­ture verses on spe­cific top­ics. One Sparks mag­a­zine is de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for Indige­nous youth in Canada,” he adds.

An­other new in­no­va­tion is the free, down-load­able NewLife Bi­ble App which is prov­ing ex­tremely pop­u­lar. It is avail­able in 138 coun­tries of the world.

Be­sides scrip­ture, it in­cludes a Q&A page, a handy sec­tion on where in the Bi­ble to go for help on cer­tain top­ics, and a di­rec­tory of churches near the user’s lo­ca­tion.

An­other pil­lar of Gideons In­ter­na­tional in Canada is mo­bi­liz­ing peo­ple through train­ing pro­grams and pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to do min­istry outreach in Canada or over­seas on Gospel Outreach Teams or GO-Teams on which Gideon mem­bers pay their own way.

The most re­cent Go-Team went to Kenya; an­other just got back from Chile.

Basky says Go-Team par­tic­i­pants dis­trib­ute Bi­bles in schools, hospi­tals and jails, en­gage in per­sonal con­ver­sa­tions about faith, and par­tic­i­pate in chapel ser­vices. Youth Go-Teams, gen­er­ally com­prised of chil­dren and grand­chil­dren of Gideons, do VBS work, al­ways in part­ner­ship with lo­cal churches.

The third stream of Cana­dian Gideons min­istry in­volves lo­cal and global part­ner­ships.

“We don’t want to rein­vent the wheel,” Zi­olkowski says. “We seek to work with ex­ist­ing Chris­tian or­ga­ni­za­tions like Mis­sion Eura­sia and EduDeo Min­istries.”

Other Gideons ju­ris­dic­tions around the world are look­ing at the Cana­dian model with much in­ter­est, es­pe­cially the part that com­bines shar­ing the Gospel with Bi­ble dis­tri­bu­tion.

Each year, Cana­dian Gideons dis­trib­ute more than two mil­lion scrip­tures.

“We are only able to do that be­cause of the do­na­tions we re­ceive from like-minded peo­ple who sup­port the min­istry by giv­ing and pray­ing,” Basky says. “We want to ac­knowl­edge the broad width of sup­port we re­ceive from non- Gideon mem­bers. With­out it, the min­istry could not con­tinue.”

To learn more about Gideons In­ter­na­tional in Canada and read sto­ries of lives changed through the min­istry, visit www.gideons.ca. The web­site also gives in­for­ma­tion on be­com­ing a mem­ber, some­thing that can now be done on­line.

The Saska­toon Gideons Chap­ter meets ev­ery Wed­nes­day morn­ing at 7:30 a.m. at Grain­fields on 8th Street. Ev­ery­one is wel­come.

DAR­LENE POLACHIC

Ron Basky and Clair Zi­olkowski dis­play some of the ma­te­ri­als dis­trib­uted by Gideons In­ter­na­tional in Canada.

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