Gideon member Len Santi hands out a Bible to a student on a bus Tuesday near Gattis Junior High. The Gideons were handing out Bibles at area schools this week. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
Their backgrounds vary and they worship at churches of many denominations. However, the members of Gideons International are united by the primary goal of spreading the word of God through distribution of the New Testament.
Alan Hamilton currently serves as president of the Clovis branch of the organization, which has 51 members.
Several of the members met Tuesday to distribute pocket-sized New Testaments on the streets surrounding Gattis Junior High. According to member Len Santi, the Gideons must remain on public sidewalks when passing out the religious book, because some parents have taken issue. The members don’t mind standing on the street corners or sidewalks though. They proudly don orange vests with blue embroidered stitching on the back, which identify them as Gideons.
Jim Hughes, a 10-year member, was stationed on the corner of 14th Street and Cameo armed with a sincere smile and two handfuls of small, orange Bibles.
“We do this once a year at the high school and junior high schools,” Hughes said. “We always get a really good response.” The self-described Christian businessman approached each passing car, rewarding each outstretched hand with a Bible.
Hughes said the response is overwhelmingly positive.
Andy Boersma encourages each child to get a copy of the New Testament.
“I think everyone has a hunger for the knowledge of God,” Boersma said. “The Bible is the greatest love story ever written.”
There are several versions of the Gideon’s Bible.
The army-green small Bibles are sent to the troops serving overseas. White is designated for medical personnel while college students receive green. The Ladies Auxiliary group of the Gideons use light blue pocket Bibles in their ministry.
Gideons International was started by three businessmen in 1899.
Presently the group raises $8 million annually and has placed more than 63 million scriptures in 180 countries.
“In some poorer countries,” Hughes said. “The Bible we give them is the only book they own.”
Hughes is responsible for ordering and maintaining inventory.
The local Clovis Gideons Camp also extends its Bible distribution ministry to hospitals, jails, hotels and airports. Santi said they also have Spanish versions, large print for senior citizens, and soft-covered Bibles for inmates.
Recently the Christian group distributed 400,000 Bibles to Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
Gideons International said they look forward to working with local churches to continue their Bible ministry.
“We are the outreach arm of the church,” Hughes said.