I remember the first time I was given a Gideon Bible. I was in elementary school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and came across some gentlemen handing out little orange copies of the New Testament, accompanied by Psalms and Proverbs as kind of a biblical bonus. My young fourth-grade mind didn’t quite know what to make of the situation, but I took the Bible in my small little hands, brought it home, and leafed through its pages with wide-eyed curiosity. I believe I already had a bible of my own, but what struck me about my new Gideon Bible was the manner in which it was given. The men who were handing them out at school that day were kind, friendly, and not judgmental in the least. Some kids kept their bibles, some threw them away, and I distinctly remember one being literally torn apart. It was a very literal scattering of seed, some of which fell on some on rocks, some on the path which was then devoured by birds, and some on fertile soil where it might eventually take root and produce good fruit of its own one day. The experience was not lost on my young mind.

Over the years I learned more about the this organization and their mission to spread the word of God to all corners of the world, and I still get a little twinge of joy when I look in a dresser drawer or end table in a hotel and find a small copy of the Bible emblazoned with the succinct yet powerful phrase “Placed by the Gideons.” It’s comforting to know that they are still out there, doing the work of getting scripture into the hands of as many people as possible. That short description is the background for this picture, which I shot on a chilly Wednesday morning in mid-April when the Gideons were on the OSU campus doing what they do: handing out free bibles to anyone who wanted one.

I brought my D7100 + 50mm combination to work on this particular day and actually spent a few minutes mentally debating whether I should go out and take a picture of these men. It seemed like a perfectly benign course of action, and yet I had a hard time bringing myself to do it. I knew all I had to do was ask one of the Gideons if I could take his photo and I was sure he wouldn’t mind, and yet I was lost in a series of mental gymnastics trying to justify my own inaction. “What if they think I’m weird?” “What if they say no?” “What if they get annoyed?” I finally mustered up the gumption to go out and snap a few pictures because, as finally told myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

As usual my fears and anxieties were entirely unfounded. I struck up a conversation with this man and his colleague who were standing on a corner about 50 yards from my building at work. We chatted for a few minutes about college, campus, bibles, and photography and they said I could most certainly snap a few pictures. I took four shots (two of this man, two of his friend), said Thank You, and went back to my office. This image is my favorite and captures so much of what I like about the Gideons. He is smiling and engaged in a genuine conversation with this young man, and the two of them are each clutching a precious object: one, a bible and the other, a phone. I don’t know if the student took the free bible or not, but hopefully he walked away with a positive impression of the other man and possibly a newfound respect for this type of street ministry.

To the guy in this picture: if you’re reading this post, thank you for doing what you do. It means a lot, to a lot of people.


  1. Hi, i just wanted to say i enjoyed this article.

    GOD bless…may HIS WORD continue to spread and give life.


  2. Simon–
    Up early this morning and was greeted by your photo ‘Gideons’. I don’t have much to say about the mechanics of the picture (aperture, speed, etc.). Being the owner of a D7100, I love to see what the camera is capable of. By the way, you shoot using auto ISO? I have ever thought about the effect of black and white for portraiture. I will try it this week!
    What I found so pleasing about this picture was its presentation of the work of the Gideons. Wow! As I was getting ready to go to work, I thought about the photo and what the Gideons do. Then it struck me. Delivering these Bibles is a way of fulfilling the ‘Great Commission’. Indeed, their work in bringing the message of Jesus Christ to others has the potential to last for eternity.
    I am alive this morning thanks to the power and majesty of our Lord and Savior. I will carry His name to others today.
    In Christ…

    • Good morning David! Always nice to have you here in the blog comments :) I’m so glad you like this photo and yes, I do shoot using Auto-ISO. I used to think that sort of thing was for beginners or other such nonsense, but have come to realize that for the most part modern digital cameras are so good even at higher ISO values that I might as well use them. It sounds kind of silly, but it really has changed the way I shoot.

      You’re so right about using this ministry as a way of fulfilling the Great Commission. The Gideons are not the kind of loud, vocal, disruptive evangelists that often make headlines, but I think they are all the more effective because of it. I’m glad they are out there doing the work they do :)

      Have a great day!

  3. Sadly, here in the UK there is a move afoot ( by Humanists) to ban the placing of Bibles in hotel rooms …. I believe some have already succeeded..

    • I’m sorry to hear that, Eileen. But even if they do get their way, I know the Gideons and others like them will still find a way to bring light to the dark parts of the world that need it most :)

  4. Tom Frye says

    The Gideons serve a better purpose than that guy who used to stand across the street from Northeast with a bullhorn, telling kids they were on their way to hell. I know his name, but I will withhold it here. Can you imagine the damage he did, blackening God’s name with his Bible thumping and shouts of damnation. It must be so dark in his little world.

    When I think of the Gideons and their soft-spoken example they set in a dark world that desperately needs light, the first thing that comes to mind is my friend Simon, who is exactly the same, not a condemning or harsh bone in his body. Now there is a bright soul!!

    • Aw shucks Tom, that’s so nice of you to say. Though I do need to also say that one of the best ministers I know is this guy named Tom who has impacted the lives of thousands of young people and shown them light even in the darkest corners of this world, all from little ol’ Havelock ;)

      You’re right about the Gideons, man. Those dudes keep it real. Every now and then we have bullhorn-type preachers come to campus and shout at the students about how they are all going to hell. Last time that happened I was talking with one of the campus security officers near the event and he told me that a particular triumvirate of loudmouth hate-preachers goes around from campus to campus here in Oklahoma and Kansas trying to incite violence among the students, and will then sue the campus for not protecting them. He said they basically do it to eke out a living, and the campus police all keep in touch with one another to let them know when “Preacher Bob” or another of his ilk is on his way so they can prepare.

      It’s sad and shameful, and surely drives more people away from Christ than to him. At least the Gideons are out there doing their thing, just like my buddy Tom :)

  5. As with many things in life, you lead by example, not by preaching. Good works, compassion and sharing of your joy do not go unnoticed. This goes for your spiritual life, your work life and how you treat people in general.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • You’re exactly right, Rebecca. Rather than holding nasty signs or shouting angry words at passers-by, the Gideons and others like them do their work quietly, under the radar, and with respect for other people. I have seen many students pass them by or say “No” to their offer of a bible, and they are always met with a smile or friendly handshake nonetheless.

      Like you said, this type of approach is good in all aspects of life!

  6. Thank you for the picture and your comments. The Gideons are a fine organization and have done much good for a long time. I hope others will see this and dig out that little Bible and read it. In it is the way to eternal life to all w ho believe. (John 3:16). Again, thanks for posting this. I am a Christian and appreciate it.

    • Thank you for your comments as well, Mary. I think what I like most about the Gideons is how un-intrusive they are, and when you take time to visit with them they are usually just really friendly people. I think that goes a long way in terms of effectively spreading the gospel :)

  7. I love the story line, hitting more than two birds with a stone! You did well in letting us know your deep faith in God, the Gideons being appreciated for its good work and of course the photography. I mean photography does tell a lot stories! Love it.

    • Thank you so much for your comments, Thothar. You’re right–we can use photography to tell all kinds of stories, and sometimes what is happening behind the scenes can be even more interesting than what is shown in the picture :)

  8. Jacqueline says

    Love the significance of this photo. And I can totally relate to your hesitation to ask for permission to take the pictures!

    • Thank you Jacqueline! I’m glad to know others are hesitant to ask permission too. I know legally I can pretty much take photos of anyone and anything that’s out in public view, but I still feel a bit creepy when I do that. But then I also feel weird going around asking people for permission too :)

  9. Tim Ashcraft says

    I love this picture—simple yet profound. The calm, deep joy on the face of the older man is captivating. I don’t know if the younger man accepted a Bible, but it looks like he is in appreciative conversation with the other man. If not for your commentary, I might have thought this was a man wishing his grandson well in college. He just seems to be expressing that kind of friendliness. I, too, think this is the best way of spreading God’s Word. Whether through giving out physical copies of the Bible or testifying to the Gospel’s power in personal life, the joy says it all. A well-told story in a well-presented photo!

    • Thank you so much for your comments, Tim. I’m glad you like the picture and like you, I don’t really know what became of this conversation but it certainly seems like a far more effective method of ministering to others than hollering with a megaphone :)

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