Gideons bear witness to their Christian faith

Published 10:09 am Thursday, April 23, 2009

PROCTORVILLE — Say the word Gideons and most people immediately recall those burgundy colored Bibles they’ve seen in the desks of hotel rooms everywhere.

But just who are the people who make those Bibles so ubiquitous?

The Gideons is an international organization of professional and businessmen who are dedicated to bringing others to Jesus Christ. Two such members come from the eastern end of Lawrence County.

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Ron Eastham of Eastham & Associates, a Chesapeake-based surveying firm, has been a Gideon for the past three years since he was invited by other members.

“It was a calling. God called me into the ministry. I was at a time in my life I could feel God was wanting me to do something other than what I was doing,” Eastham said.

Then in a three-week period four members of the Gideons crossed his path and Eastham took that as his sign. Now he is both a qualified church speaker and participates in the jail ministry.

All Gideons profess certain beliefs, according to the organization’s Web site. They believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and that Jesus is the eternal Son of God.

Just as importantly, they have been born again, are members in good standing in their Protestant church and have the recommendation of their pastor.

As a qualified speaker Eastham will go out to churches in the area talking about this particular ministry and its history.

“It was set up in 1899 with three men up in Wisconsin. They were at a hotel studying God’s word and thought it would be good to have a professional organization,” he said.

When they thought about what to call themselves they found their name in the sixth and seventh chapters of Judges.

Every Saturday two members from the Gideons will join two local pastors and visit the Lawrence County Jail.

There they will reach out to those needing a new direction in their lives.

“There are people who after they get over the shock of being incarcerated for the first time, say they got a DUI and have to spend a weekend there, they are just glad to have somebody to talk to,” Eastham said. “It’s ‘Man, I know I made a mistake. I am not going to do this anymore.’ In our own way it is to help the community, if we can be of assistance, if we can get these people to concentrate on spiritual issues. … I was privileged to lead five women (to the Lord) in April of last year.”

One of the Gideons who helped recruit Eastham was Mike Allen, a veteran sixth grade history teacher and coach at Fairland Middle School. Allen has been a Gideon for the past 24 years.

Allen recalls when he heard first a Gideon speak, he said he felt “convicted” to get involved in the work.

However, he was hesitant because of his numerous commitments with coaching three sports, working with the youth at his church and teaching Sunday school.

“He came back the next year and I felt an overwhelming need, a conviction. I need to be participating in this work,” Allen said. “God wanted me to be doing this.”

Allen is also a qualified speaker who has spoken all over Lawrence County — “all denominations of faith from the northern end of the county to the river.”

And among the points about the Gideons Allen tells his audiences is the breadth of evangelism of the organization. Or as Allen describes it, a Gideon Bible “could end up in King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, end up on a cruise ship or in a school in Russia.”