GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, N.L. — On January 1, on the verge of undertaking a virtual bicycle ride from St. John’s to Port aux Basques, 84-year-old Donald Green looked at the calendar in his Grand Falls-Windsor home.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream,” read a serendipitous quote from British author and Christian scholar C.S. Lewis.
“That sort of caught my eye,” he said. “When I started, that was on the calendar the same day.”
Recovering from a bout of vertigo, sporting a pacemaker and a being a cancer survivor, Green knew he needed the exercise. He set out to the Exploits Valley YMCA with the intent of cycling 905 kilometres, the equivalent of the distance across the island of Newfoundland.
A couple of weeks later, he decided to combine his quest for fitness with a charitable mission for The Gideons. His goal was to raise $10,000 to distribute 2,000 bibles to people in China and Malawi.
“A lot of people said I was crazy, I wouldn’t raise it,” Green recalled.
He did, however. On July 6, he arrived in Port aux Basques, virtually speaking, with donations totalling in excess of $10,400. Support came in denominations of $5 all the way up to $1,000, and from all over the country, from St. John’s to Vancouver, but mostly the central Newfoundland area where Green is quite well-known having been a business operator in the construction industry.
His wife, Ina Green, is proud of him.
“I’ve known this man for over 50 years,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful that in spite of his health issues and that, he’s got determination and he never gives up and that’s what keeps him going.
“When he takes on something to do, he doesn’t give up until it’s done.”
Ina was especially happy it ended up being a family affair.
“It was wonderful that our son (David) got to come home, and (Donald) and David went up to the Y and finished the last three kilometres together, David on one bike and he on the other,” she explained.
“Both of our children, David and Susan, have been a help to him, and their friends have come on board with donations and things like that, but for David to be able to come home and finish the last three kilometres was really a nice touch.”
In his appeal to potential supporters, Donald wrote: “There is no greater gift we can give to the needy, hurting people than a copy of God's Word.”
Asked why that would be more important than, say, food, shelter or clean water, Donald turned to scripture, specifically Matthew 6:19-21.
“The Bible says: ‘Lay not up for yourself treasures on Earth, where moth and rust (doth corrupt), but lay up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust nor anything else can affect it’,” he explained, paraphrasing slightly.
“Looking at food and shelter and water, it is sort of a materialistic thing, but looking at the word of God, it lasts forever, it’s eternal. The focus is on the invisible, the eternal, more so than the material, more important than water, more important than food in a sense, that’s how I would assess it.
“You can’t rationalize as such, but you have to take it by faith,” he continued. “I don’t know how the sun rises in the morning and sets in the afternoon and (how) all the planets are kept in place, and the tide rises and falls and (how) the moon affects it, so this is where we’re coming from.”
Ina agrees about the importance of spreading the word of God and offered a slightly different take on it.
“I feel as a Christian, we have to let people know what we’ve experienced and the joy, I might as well use the word joy,” she said. “I’ve been serving the Lord, I’ve been a Christian since a child. I gave my life to the Lord quite young and I’ve had a wonderful journey. I’m now 79 and I’ve not regretted in my life. I’m quite happy with the way I’ve been guided and part of that is enjoying His word and being guided by it and wanting to share it with others, the joy that I’ve experienced.”
This is not the first time Green has raised money for The Gideons. He has been a member of the group for around 15 or 16 years and, in 2008, he brought a very special guest to Grand Falls-Windsor.
Paul Henderson is a legend of Canadian hockey for scoring the goal that reverberated around the world in 1972 to give Canada the win over the Soviet Union in the much-touted Summit Series. Perhaps lesser known is that, since 1975, he has been lending his celebrity to Christian causes.
“I had him come into the province and he spoke to a breakfast we had here in Grand Falls, a men’s business breakfast,” Green recounted. “The bottom line is we raised around $14,000.”
Donald has never been overseas himself and will not accompany the New Testaments his pedalling bought, but The Gideons will add more than 2,000 Bibles to their totals of 32,000 in Malawi and 250,000 in China.
The organization also distributes copies domestically to Grade 5, college and university students in addition to its most famous activity of placing the book in hotel rooms.