Gideons spread the word to the world

Wendell McClinton, former international director of the Gideons, tells Clovis-area pastors how their contributions for Bible distribution are used in foreign countries. CNJ staff photo: Darrell Todd Maurina.

By Darrell Todd Maurina

Pastors don’t always have an easy time relating their local ministries to what happens overseas, so local members of the Gideons organization sponsored a pastor’s appreciation banquet to let Clovis-area pastors hear firsthand from a former international director of the Gideons how their money is being used abroad.
Speaking Jan. 23 at the Clovis Holiday Inn, Wendell McClinton told his audience of about a hundred pastors and their wives that the ministry of the local church is essential to effective foreign missions work and Bible distribution. McClinton said he also appreciates the work done even in the United States by pastors who make great sacrifices to serve rural areas.
“I praise the Lord for pastors,” McClinton said. “I grew up in a sparsely-populated part of the country that had a community church building, and once a month a Baptist pastor came, on two Sundays a Methodist came, and on the fourth Sunday they had some sort of prayer meeting. I just want to encourage you pastors, we serve a Lord who is alive and well, he is not even sick.”
McClinton said that while America is closing its doors to Christian witness, other countries are sometimes opening doors as widely as possible. McClinton described his recent experience in the African nation of Lesotho where the Gideons gave Bibles to every student at a local high school, and he was puzzled to see a teacher crying.
“As I went to leave that classroom, that precious African teacher told me, ‘You don’t understand. This year, we received a directive from the government that every school would have a class in New Testament, and we have hired the teachers and you have just provided the textbooks.’”
McClinton cited other examples, including the president of a university in Hong Kong who helped the Gideons distribute Bibles on campus to students.
In a separate speech, Julia Klimenko of the Ukraine described her experience receiving a Gideon Bible in one of the nations of the former Soviet Union, and then coming to the United States as an exchange student but having trouble finding an American willing to discuss the Bible with her.
Klimenko held up the Gideon-distributed Bible she received as a teenager.
“After years of opposition, the church still existed though it was very small in number,” Klimenko said. “I remember growing up, we had an old family Bible but it was in very old language and very hard to understand. When my friend gave me this book I was so happy that I had a book that I finally could read and understand.”
McClinton said the Gideons have distributed 50 million Bibles in the former Soviet Union, which for decades was closed to foreign missionary work and had a massive shortage of Bibles for its Christian population.
McClinton warned his audience that something is wrong if Gideons find it easier to distribute Bibles in former Communist countries than in the United States.
“This country, in my opinion, was raised up to propagate the gospel, and the majority of Christian missionaries have come from our shores,” McClinton said. “But as we spiritually decline that is becoming less and less, and one of these days the Lord will write ‘Ichabod’ on our doors and we will be no more.”
“We praise the Lord that you are here tonight and we want you to keep on keeping on,” McClinton said.

Local Gideon Statistics
Clovis Gideons report thay distributed 3,900 Bibles and Scripture portions in the past fiscal year. Among them are:
> 450 to area hotel and motel rooms.
> 200 to hospital waiting rooms.
> 500 to college students.
> 1,600 youth testaments to junior high and 5th grade students in Clovis, Grady, Ranchvale and Texico.
> 200 to jail and prison inmates.