The Good Guys

It was late. The young man was sitting on the edge of his cheap motor-inn bed, staring at the mildewed wallpaper. He was weeping.

There was a small orange bottle of pills on the nightstand. He kept glancing at them.

His was a long story, one you’ve probably heard a million-and-one times. He simply couldn’t get out of his malicious brain. He could not exit the dark place.

Ultimately, this wasn’t his fault. It never is, you see. That’s the unspoken lie we feed people about their mental health problems. “This is all your fault.” When the truth is, life thrusts itself upon you. Our circumstances are dished out to us like bowlfuls of cold gruel. Eat up.

But he was finished suffering. He was really going to do it this time. No chickening out. There was no point to living. Not anymore. Ergo: the pills.

He flipped on the blaring motel TV for distraction, and casually opened the nightstand drawer. He didn’t know why he was opening the drawer. Probably just stalling.

Then again, maybe he opened the drawer because on some level, he knew it would be there.

Yep. There it was.

A book in the drawer. Harbound. Crimson cover. The gilded symbol of a two-handled pitcher and a torch embossed on the cover.

All at once a memory came back. In his child-mind he could recall a white-haired gentleman visiting his second-grade classroom. The old man was passing out miniature pleather-bound books of the New Testament to students.

The old man had explained that his organization distributed these books to prisons, violence shelters, schools, EMTs, jails, military facilities, nursing homes, hospitals.

And, of course, motels.

The young man began to sob. He wiped his tears, then weighed the cumbersome book in his hand. Loose leaf notebook pages fell onto the floor. Lots of pages.

“What in the…?”

It wasn’t just one page. It wasn’t just two. It was more. Some pages were aged, yellowed with time. Others were new and crisp. Each slip contained messages written in different penmanship.

The first note read something like: “June, 1984; I was having a bad night, but I found this book and realized that I was loved.”

Another note:

“I really wanted a drink today. But I decided to read a chapter from this book before I left for the liquor store. These words saved me.”

And another, written directly on the inside book cover. It went something like this:

“January, 1991; I couldn’t believe so many people have been in this same motel room feeling as hopeless as me. My husband has been abusing me for a long time, but today I left him. I came to this motel with my kids to hide and don’t know where I will go next. Pray for me.”

As the young man thumbed through the pages, wet polka dots appeared on the onion-skin paper. And he actually prayed for that woman.

Then he came across a printed page which read: “If discouraged or in trouble, read Psalm 126 and John 14.”

So he did. Then he read some more. He read that worn book until his eyes went blurry.

And I’ll tell you how that book got there.

The Gideons International was founded in 1899. America was a different place then. The horse and buckboard ruled the streets, and the electric lightbulb was under fire and condemnation from rural pulpits. William McKinley was president, and the “New York Times” had just coined the term “automobile.”

Meantime, in Janesville, Wisconsin, a couple of traveling businessmen got together, probably for breakfast, and had a simple idea for an organization. They started calling themselves Gideons.

Over the years, the organization would welcome into its ranks scores of men, ages 21 and older, lay persons only. No clergy.

They were men who, in their free time, dutifully hit the highways and byways to place simple hardbound books on hotel nightstands, ICU side tables, upon cellblock pillows, and into the pockets of soldiers who would die clutching their miniature books with bloodred hands.

“We pray over each Bible,” a Gideon once told me. “Because this could be the piece of paper that saves someone’s life.”

Currently, the Gideons distribute over 70 million Bibles annually in 200 countries and nations. On average, two Gideon Bibles are distributed every second in this world. In the time it’s taken you to read this far—if you’re still with me—a few hundred Gideon Bibles have already been dispensed.

Last count, it was estimated that the Gideons International has distributed over 2 billion Bibles since their meek beginnings in the sticks of southern Wisconsin.

Back at the motel, the young man retrieved a pen from the complimentary notepad on the nightstand. He wrote on a blank page. It doesn’t matter what the note said. What matters is that this ratty Bible was found decades later by someone I know. The closing words on the young man’s note were:

“Tonight I flushed my pills down the toilet, pray for me.”

57 comments

  1. Allisvant - November 17, 2021 9:49 am

    Tonight, I couldn’t sleep; too much of my favorite dessert & chronic leg pain; the clock on my dresser was moving closer & closer to 4:00am; I picked up my phone to G—le some useless piece of information & unintentionally opened my email & there you were; so I started reading & in a short while, I saw myself; no, not as the young man with the orange bottle of pills, but as the white haired old geezer who visits 5th grades, college campuses, motels and a number of other locations to place Bibles & hand out New Testaments; I commend you on your knowledge of the Gideon Ministry; having come to know you as I have in the past 18 months through your blogs & books, I suspect you have heard more than one Gideon speaker in a local church; a slight clarification – the 2 business men who “happened” to meet in that Wisconsen hotel did so because an overcrowded condition forced them to share a room; during the evening they discovered that they both were followers of Jesus Christ and, as you noted, the rest is history; a couple of concluding points: as your story illustrates, an encounter with God’s word has saved countless lives, but it had saved an even greater number of souls; as Jesus himself noted – ” For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world & lose his own soul”; my final thought- I noted earlier that food & pain were the reasons that I was watching the clock strike 4AM; that wasn’t entirely true; the young man in the motel room was battling depression; being a follower of Jesus Christ does not automatically make a person immune from battling the demons of depression; you write frequently on this subject & I appreciate that, Sean; I believe that the meeting of those two businessmen in that hotel was by divine appointment; such meetings happen every day, we’re just too busy to see them; but maybe we just had one!

    Reply
    • Carol Krebs - November 17, 2021 10:44 am

      You too sir are a wonderful writer…. thought it was Sean at first. Thank you for making this crazy world a better place.

      Reply
  2. Ann - November 17, 2021 9:59 am

    Whew! Sean, another strong message and history lesson…blessings to all.

    Reply
  3. Joe Dorough - November 17, 2021 10:13 am

    Thank you for your testimony! I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving in the Gideons for 52 years and we receive unsolicited response from rushed and wearied souls whose life was changed because they open His word and choose to have their name written in the Lambs Book of life!

    Reply
  4. Ed (Bear) - November 17, 2021 10:52 am

    The other day, I commented to one of your many fine works that I know good writing when I see it. I kinda regretted saying that because it sounds conceited. Your today’s piece reaches another very high level of good. God bless you Mr. Sean!

    Reply
  5. kristiknits - November 17, 2021 11:30 am

    What a wonderful tribute. My father and father in law (both in their 80s) are Gideons. They are still active; the most difficult thing is that the guys in their camp are passing away, and it concerns them both that young men are not coming in behind them. Thank you for putting the word out there, so to speak.

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  6. Wendy Johnson - November 17, 2021 11:45 am

    My husband is a Gideon. The testimonies I’ve heard from and about people “finding” the Bible at hotels always reminds me that God will meet you were you are. My husband speaks in churches about the Gideon organization, it’s such a blessing when people stop us after the service and tell their Gideon Bible story. Thanks Sean for reminding everyone about this wonderful organization! Sad though, they can not in America go into the local schools any more.

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  7. Frank Bentley - November 17, 2021 12:18 pm

    Thank you Sean. I am a Gideon and these stories always bring tears to my eyes. The encourage me to continue all the more. God Bless you.
    Frank

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  8. Lisa K Riley - November 17, 2021 12:22 pm

    Sean, the inspiration of the Gideons has led to my own involvement with the Christian Motorcyclists Association. We too go into prisons, rallies, and anywhere else we can and hand out a “Hope for the Highway” New Testament Bible. In between the books are testimonials from real folks about God and how He has walked with them through their trials. My copy in the motorcycle was pretty beat up, but it found its way to a man at a gas station after a conversation. I heard from him after my husband passed away. He said he had been praying for me. You never know.

    Reply
  9. Sarah - November 17, 2021 12:35 pm

    What an incredible powerful message! Thank you.

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  10. Beverley Phillips - November 17, 2021 12:40 pm

    Thank the Lord for Gideon Bibles. I remember when people would distribute those small New Testaments at schools. I may still have one. Thank you for this reminder of an organization I wasn’t sure still existed. Thank the Lord for the Gideons.

    Reply
  11. Dee - November 17, 2021 12:42 pm

    God’s word reaches the soul, His love knows no boundaries. He neither slumbers nor sleeps.

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  12. perryteri4gmailcom - November 17, 2021 12:55 pm

    Thank you, Sean. My husband and I just joined the Gideon’s this year. We are learning about so many people that have been touched by the gift or presence of a Gideon Bible in a hotel, doctor’s office, etc. Praying that one day the schools will allow Bible distribution inside the doors again. For now, we are allowed to stand a number of yards away and offer New Testaments to those who walk by. We were able to distribute 600 New Testaments on a local university campus, in a central walkway area. Gideon’s will not give up the effort! The positive responses I have gotten to those we offer the gift of a New Testament to have been amazing. I am going to share your story with our local camp and with others. Please pray for some younger members to step into Gideon roles to spread the Word!! I love to start my day reading my Bible and your blog. Thank you for sharing your view of the world daily. You are blessed and you are loved!

    Reply
  13. Susan Forte - November 17, 2021 1:00 pm

    Thank you, Gideons! Thank you, Sean for giving us the history of this wonderful organization. I am a retired teacher, and I remember fondly the days the Gideons came and distributed Bibles to my students❤️ Countless lives have been saved and changed with the Word of God.

    Reply
  14. Anthony H Quickle - November 17, 2021 1:04 pm

    As always when reading Dietrich…beautiful tale, beautifully told. Thank you.

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  15. B.D. Thrasher - November 17, 2021 1:06 pm

    Oh my.

    Reply
  16. Jan - November 17, 2021 1:31 pm

    As Anthony said … beautiful tale, beautifully told. I needed this today. Thank you, Sean. Thank you, Gideon’s, for the wonderful work you do. Much needed work in today’s world.

    Reply
  17. Lisa Sanford - November 17, 2021 1:34 pm

    Ohhh, Sean! Thank you for writing truth.

    Reply
  18. Nancy Crews - November 17, 2021 1:42 pm

    ❤your writing.

    Reply
  19. Sandi. - November 17, 2021 1:50 pm

    The Gideon organization is absolutely wonderful! God bless each and every member.
    Sean, your post today gave me shivers up my spine, but they’re the GOOD kind.

    Reply
  20. Paul McCutchen - November 17, 2021 2:01 pm

    Sometime the right words at the right time really helps.

    Reply
  21. robnrockin - November 17, 2021 2:06 pm

    Thank you Sean for keep on keeping on. Every day you write is a day i look forward too. Thanks for not calling it quits during the last year or two, which seems like forever, and keeping on. I’m glad i didn’t have to come across the plains of TX, and the SE to see you, Jamie, and mother Mary to get to you keep on. We need your voice in this old hurting world. Your the best! Robyn

    Reply
  22. Keloth Anne - November 17, 2021 2:15 pm

    Prayers for this young man—depression is a horrible and such a misunderstood disease.
    Thanks for your incredible writings and for sharing ♥️

    Reply
  23. Mary Fisher - November 17, 2021 2:22 pm

    Thank you Sean for writing about the Gideon organization. My husband is a Gideon and I have heard many of his stories of many encounters with people and the witnesses that his small group sees in our own community here in Georgia. Funds for Bibles are given by groups, churches and heavily by businessmen who are Gideons. God’s word is just as it describes in Hebrews 4:12, piercing the heart! To God be the Glory!

    Reply
  24. Joan Vibert - November 17, 2021 2:26 pm

    Wow!

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  25. Cathy - November 17, 2021 2:29 pm

    Wonderful way to begin my day. Thank you to all the wonderful People who distribute these Bibles. They are lifelines to many people.

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  26. granny1940 - November 17, 2021 2:31 pm

    What an inspirational piece this is. I wish I was as steadfast about writing my blog as you. Saw you in Auburn, KY at a winery and have loved you ever since. Thank you

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  27. Patricia Gibson - November 17, 2021 3:19 pm

    Very thankful for the Gideons ❤️🙏

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  28. Sandy - November 17, 2021 3:33 pm

    Your words mean more than you could ever know…. thank you…. And God Bless you and yours…

    Reply
  29. Charlotte Lee - November 17, 2021 3:38 pm

    Sean, you are inspirational in spurring us on to good works. Heartfelt and salt of the earth! My morning devotions now include your blog. Thank you and may I live in awareness of how I can make a difference every day.

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  30. Deborah (Debbie) Gillespie - November 17, 2021 3:39 pm

    Another home run with this one, Sean. Thank you. God bless you (and Jamie) BIG TIME.

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  31. Stacey Wallace - November 17, 2021 3:54 pm

    Thanks so much, Sean. The Bible and Jesus Christ cured me of depression. I remember receiving those Bibles when I was in school. It saddens and angers me that now the Gideons aren’t allowed in many schools today, at a time when those Bibles are so desperately needed. I once heard this and love it: The Bible stands for: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

    Reply
  32. sfnorman@yahoo.com - November 17, 2021 4:00 pm

    Wonderful words

    Reply
  33. Joy A Chanin - November 17, 2021 4:06 pm

    I always appreciate your stories of encouragement and uplifting spirits. However, they seem to all be directed toward believers of the New Testament. Perhaps you could share some more non-denominational stories.

    Reply
  34. Suellen - November 17, 2021 4:06 pm

    A member of the Gideon’s came and spoke to our church a month or so ago. A special collection was taken up for them and the plate was overflowing. God bless them and the work that they do.

    Reply
  35. Cecelia Arnold - November 17, 2021 4:39 pm

    This was one of your best!! Made me cry. Because of the Gideons, many people who were doomed to Hell have found their way to Jesus and salvation. Thank God for the Gideons.

    Reply
  36. Christina - November 17, 2021 4:55 pm

    The Word became flesh and dwelled among us, even in motels everywhere…meeting us in our most desperate places. Thanks Sean for this good good reminder of this good good work!

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  37. Cynthia Russell - November 17, 2021 5:03 pm

    THANK YOU!!

    Reply
  38. Penn Wells - November 17, 2021 5:06 pm

    We’re all just one unfortunate decision or an unkind word away from oblivion. Sometimes the most important goal is just to make it to daybreak, isn’t it? Asking for a friend… 🧐

    Reply
  39. Edna Isdell - November 17, 2021 6:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing about the gideon’s bible Mission and how the story of each person that wrote a message is so important.

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  40. Mim - November 17, 2021 7:03 pm

    Amén.

    Reply
  41. Linda Moon - November 17, 2021 7:17 pm

    You are right. It is never as simple as someone’s fault…whatever the “it” is. That lie just makes someone’s brain feel worse. The Gideons gave hope to many people through the Biblical canon of belief and prayer. Thank you for sharing their notes and stories, and let’s pray that anyone else who could fit into this story will find a reason not to end his/her LIFE, ever.

    Reply
  42. Gayle - November 17, 2021 7:24 pm

    Well this brought tears to my eyes and a prayer for all people who know dispair

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  43. Pat McNeill - November 17, 2021 7:58 pm

    THAN YOU for writing this!

    Reply
  44. Ellen Cameron - November 17, 2021 9:21 pm

    Praise God for His perfect timing. Your friend didn’t open that drawer by accident… it was all in God’s plan!
    Thank you for sharing and for all of your daily life lessons!

    Reply
  45. Bkr - November 18, 2021 12:44 am

    Wow!!

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  46. Tommy - November 18, 2021 1:30 am

    I guess i’m thrice blessed; received the red New Testament as a 5th grader (with a promise to read it through, which i didn’t do until middle age), received them as a Soldier, and distributed them TO soldiers. BTW, Janin, you won’t find anybody more “non deominational” than the Gideons; we are an INTERDENOMINATIONAL outreach. And yes, the Bibles we place in motels etc. are both Testaments. Thanks and bless you, Sean.

    Reply
  47. Lisa Wilcox - November 18, 2021 2:56 am

    Loved this so much! The Gideon Bible ministry sure has been a blessing to so many. Thank you for this post.

    Reply
  48. MAM - November 18, 2021 3:51 am

    The Word of God has saved many a person by sheer stint of its power. Nowadays, I believe we need His Word more than ever. Keep on writing the inspiring words, Author Sean!

    Reply
  49. Karen Snyder - November 18, 2021 4:07 am

    Not a day goes by that you don’t teach a lesson, or tug at the heartstrings, or both! May God bless all those in the depths of depression -such a terrible illness. May He also richly bless the Gideons and you, Sean, with your hearts for giving.❤️

    Reply
  50. Holly Decherd - November 18, 2021 6:40 pm

    Very moving. I loved and remembered my fifth grade teacher whose son was a year behind me. As adults we ended living a mile apart, so I learned of his mother’s passing. Her memorial charity was one organization: the Gideons. I was so happy to give to them in her sweet memory.

    Reply
  51. Dimitris - November 18, 2021 8:08 pm

    I was a student in the American College of Greece, back in the early 80s. One morning a copy of the Gideon Bible was found in each student mailbox. I was not born again then. I still have this Bible.

    Reply
  52. Suzi - November 18, 2021 10:42 pm

    And Amen

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  53. charlynecox - November 19, 2021 2:08 am

    I love this! God bless the Gideons…faithful! #seekandsavethelost

    Reply
  54. Jennifer M Moon - November 20, 2021 1:55 am

    Sean, it’s not very often that I get goosebumps reading your stories. But this one gave me goosebumps in spades. God bless the Gideons and you!

    Reply
  55. Buddy Caudill - November 23, 2021 5:05 am

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
  56. Katherine D Kempf Jones - November 27, 2021 7:10 pm

    Wow! THANK YOU, Sean, for sharing this important Message with all of us! May the Lord bless you, your curiosity, the Gideons, AND your pen/keyboard! – Stay open & Keep on writing.- DiAn

    Reply

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