Category Archives: Jon Erwin

How The Gideon Changed My Life

By Ken Raney

Here’s how the Gideon changed my life…my wife, Deb, and I have been fortunate enough to attend all five Gideon conferences, and every year the Lord has used the Gideon to encourage us as we attempt to use the gifts and talents the Lord has given us, for Him and His Kingdom.

Admittedly, those are high sounding words. But what does that really mean?

We went to the first Gideon at a time when I had given up on ever using the talents I believed God had given me. I was working in the corporate world, making a pretty good living. Our youngest daughter was a junior in high school and we were facing an empty nest within a year. Deb had received an invitation to attend a new conference that was being formed in order to get established authors in front of Christian filmmakers to pitch their stories to be made into movies. Deb wanted to go, but we needed to pay $300 nearly a year in advance. After we prayed about it, I said, “I think you should go, and I want to go, too!”

Months later, as we were getting ready to go to the conference, I told Deb that this was probably the end of my efforts to be an illustrator producing art and stories I hoped would lead young adults to the Lord. “Unless something happens at this conference to change my mind, I give up!”

Well, the Lord broke through to me at the Gideon! Did I get a contract for my book? No. Did I make a connection with publishers that encouraged me with my book? Nope. The only thing that happened is that I met and talked to dozens of people who felt the same way I did. God had given them a gift. They had a passion to reach the world with the message of Jesus Christ through entertainment media. Some were being successful; some were, like me, frustrated and despairing, but all of us shared this common calling.

I left the Gideon with the distinct belief that I had heard the Lord say to me that He had something He wanted me to do. What a refreshing revelation! I was not only encouraged, I was emboldened.

Our second Gideon was just as spiritually refreshing as the first. We heard keynotes and devotions from professionals in media telling how the Lord had guided them to do what they do. Their struggles. Their triumphs. And again, we were greatly encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit ministering among us.

In fact, artist Mike Maihack told me near the end of his first Gideon, “This is almost like a spiritual retreat!” He and his wife, Jen (a photographer), loved it.

Three times a day, we would all trek down to the cafeteria and stand in line next to a musician, a make-up artist, a director, an actor or actress. We would talk and learn about each other and our testimonies. I truly believe one of the best things about the Gideon is being able to have lunch with fellow Christian creatives and learn from and about them. Many a friendship and partnership has been forged over breakfast.

About three months before our second Gideon, I was laid off from my job. I had been Advertising Manager for a good-sized manufacturing firm, and they decided they didn’t need me on their payroll any more. The interesting thing is, I was not surprised. In fact, I was somewhat expecting it, because about two years earlier, the Lord spoke to me and told me that I would not be retiring from that company. It seemed he had something else in mind for me.

I came home from work early on February 27, 2009 and announced to my lovely wife, Deborah, that I had been laid off, and that I was fairly certain God did not want me to look for another “real” job!

Needless to say, this was not well received. We decided to pray and set some benchmarks as we tried to discern the Lord’s will. Again, one of the benchmarks was the Gideon.

Deb and I left the second Gideon believing the Lord did indeed have something in mind, but we differed on what that might be. I had received a vision from the Lord for an entertainment website aimed at Christian teenagers. I remember leaving the Gideon and telling Deb, “Wouldn’t it be cool to launch at the Gideon next year?”

The Gideon had provided a lot of contacts for content, career interviews, and collaborators on Clash. I received much encouragement and help with Clash from fellow Gideonites.

When it came time to start planning for Gideon #3, I contacted Lori Marett, the Gideon co-director, and asked if I could give one of the devotions in the morning. I told her I had something big to announce. She graciously said yes and I spent the next eight months setting up a corporation for Clash, producing the website, and loading content. Clash launched on February 1, 2010. Three months before the third Gideon.

My plan was to get up in front of the 260 attendees of the Gideon and report the amazing things God had done with this new website/ministry.

Instead, I had to get up and tell them that even though I was sure God had called me to do this, and He had confirmed it time and again with signs, and even miracles. At that point Clash was not a success in the way I had hoped. We had hoped to have 100,000 teens visit the site every month and we were only drawing about 5,000. And we had exhausted our advertising budget and really had no hope of attracting any more visitors to the site.

Well, apparently that was a much needed message, because I was swamped after my talk by others who had or were facing the same thing. They felt a call from the Lord, yet things weren’t going like they expected. Again, I left very encouraged and determined to press on with what the Lord had given me to do.

I just checked and as of January 1, 2013 we are at 10,000 visits per month.

The Gideon has had a large number of stories where attendees have achieved success, and in many cases as a direct result of connections made at the Gideon. We marvel at watching the careers of Saylors Brothers Productions, Erica Lane’s music, Erwin Brothers Productions, Ben Avery writing for Kingstone Comics, Eric Wilson, Ray Blackston, and Doug Peterson writing for Kingstone’s Bay Forest Books imprint, and some others whose names can’t be released quite yet.

And me, I’m making a living as an illustrator and graphic designer in the world of Christian Media.

Big names? Yes, the Gideon has had its share of big name media folks: Ted Baehr, Brian Bird, Mitchell Galin, Dallas Jenkins, Michael Joiner, Michael Katt, Paul McCusker, David Nixon, Linda Seger, Nancy Stafford, Phil Vischer, Ken Wales, Muse Watson and many, many others.

This year, as always, Christian films were shown each day of the conference, and many times the Gideon hosted the world premiere of a movie. Producers, directors, and actors answer questions after the film, then we break for some great brownies or cookies, and go back to watch another movie. Many attendees sit around and talk late into the night and then complain about how tired they are the next day.

In the four years Deb and I have attended the Gideon, there has been a noticeable improvement in the quality of the films in terms of production values, cinematography, and acting. More and more, Christian movies are on a par with excellent secular films––every bit as well-done, well-written, and well-acted.

If you are a Christian creative or want to be one, pray about attending the 6th annual Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival, July 12-16, 2013 at the Orlando Airport Marriott, in Orlando, FL. Even seasoned professionals can be inspired and learn new things as they rub shoulders with others in entertainment media. You can sit down to lunch with a singer who has dozens of CDs, and wants to make a movie of an incident in his life in which the Lord saved him from a plane crash, or you can meet a retired U.S. General who was involved in the Black Hawk Down incident, or hear the inspiring testimony of the National Champion Waterski Jumper, or learn about making movies, writing novels, creating graphic novels, all from people whose heart’s desire is to be used by God to reach a lost world for Jesus Christ.

We hope to see you at the Gideon next year.


“For I Know the Plans I Have for You…” in 2013 (Jeremiah 29:11)

Blog written by Gideon Director, Lori Marett

With each New Year, most of us take the opportunity to look ahead, consider plans, set goals, and make resolutions. Personally, I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish in 2013. But I have to be careful with all those well laid plans – I need to leave room for God to intervene and to bless me with projects and opportunities I could never imagine, because this happened to me in 2012 and continues to spill over into 2013.

Those of you who attended Gideon 2012 were blessed to hear our Banquet & Awards Night keynote speaker, Jon Erwin, producer/director/ writer for the movie October Baby.  Jon shared how he was inspired to write the script after he had heard a woman speak about her life as an abortion survivor. Many of us have seen the movie and know what a powerful and inspiring film October Baby is, but what you may not be aware of is that this film is having a resurgence as pro-life groups and churches celebrate January as “Sanctity of Human Life” month.

October Baby Resources

*October Baby resources* 

Consider community outreach, a Bible study, or a women’s small group session with these resources 

“Sanctity of Human Life” Sunday is held on the closest Sunday to the anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize abortion in the Roe v. Wade case. During the month of January, pro-life advocates will be promoting the sanctity of life through sermons, Bible studies, music, film, television, and offering information on adoption to women who are considering abortion.

While October Baby may speak to women who are considering abortion, a new television series, “Surrender the Secret” will speak to the hundreds of thousands of women who are struggling with the guilt and shame of having had an abortion. This ground-breaking television series was created by Cecil Stokes, a producer with October Baby, and can be found on KnockTV, an emerging leader in the Christian television marketplace.

Surrender the Secret

KnockTV programming is currently available on-demand, 24/7, on the Internet.


Interestingly, at the time that Jon and Cecil were considering making a movie about abortion, I had been approached by producer Bradley Dorsey because God had also given him a vision to create a movie tackling the topic of abortion. At the time, I did not know that Jon and Cecil were creating October Baby, nor did they know about our film, Meant To Be. While our projects were completed independently of each other, I am humbled and honored that God is now using our works to promote the message that ALL life is precious. God has plans for each of us, a set of blue prints if you will, even for the unborn.

So as we move through 2013, know that God has a set of plans for each of us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It’s okay to draw up our lists, set our goals, and make our resolutions. We just have to leave some space for God to bless us in ways that we could never have imagined!

Happy 2013 and God bless!


*Gideon Networking Notes: As Jon Erwin shared during his keynote at the Gideon 2012 Banquet & Awards night, he did not know Cecil Stokes until they met at Gideon 2008. Subsequently, they became friends and felt God leading them to come together for October Baby. I would not have met Jon or Cecil if it weren’t for Gideon 2008, and now here we are in the same pro-life camp with our projects. But Meant To Be would not have been possible if Torry Martin, whom I also met at G2008, had not recommended me to screenwriter Marshal Younger, who was tied up with another script and could not write this for Bradley Dorsey. But because of Marshall’s generosity, God blessed Marshall by freeing him up to lend his talents to the script a week before MTB went into production. This is a perfect example of the body of Christ exhorting and uplifting each other and allowing God to use us to glorify Him! I’m so looking forward to the people I’ll meet at G2013!