A Road Trip Leads To A Hotel Bible

by The Gideons International on April 8, 2016

On a cold, dreary night in the 1970’s, a young hotel executive was driving to Washington, D.C. With his career taking off and in love with his future bride, one might think there was nothing Shahn Wilburn lacked. However, deep inside his heart, Shahn knew something was missing. On that night, he began to ponder the question, “If I were to die, where would I spend eternity?”

Raised in the rural community of Kimballton, Virginia, Shahn grew up going to church with his parents. He regularly attended Sunday School, adult worship services, and church ice cream socials.

Important values like responsibility and working hard were instilled into Shahn by his parents. In the summer of 1966, he started his first job working as a dishwasher at a resort. He continued working summers there while he attended school. Upon graduation from college, he entered a career in hotel management, quickly rising to become sales manager of a major hotel property.

Somewhere in all of his ladder climbing, Shahn had let church slip out of the picture. However, between his successful career and a lovely fiancé, he began to realize just how blessed his life was. He began to feel obligated to “balance the good fortune” by going back to church. He also began trying to study the Bible.

It was during this season of his life, that he found himself questioning what was waiting for him beyond this life. As he drove toward Washington D.C. on a business trip, the question, “If I die, where would I spend eternity?” kept circling in his mind.

“The answer was obvious and one I did not relish,” says Shahn. “For the first time in my life, I felt as if my soul was laid bare before a holy God.”

As he approached the nation’s capital, the rain was pouring. And Shahn was pouring out his heart to God. “I remember praying and feeling a tremendous need to be heard by the Lord. After weeping over my sin and talking to God about my life, which at that moment seemed so empty, I sought assurance from God that He was listening.”

Shahn arrived at the hotel. He trusted there would be a Gideon-placed Bible in the drawer of his hotel nightstand. To his surprise, there wasn’t. “In nearly eight hundred hotel rooms, I suspect that was the lone room with the Bible missing.”

He called the front desk and notified them his room didn’t have a Bible. Shortly after, the bell captain arrived at his door with a Gideon-placed Bible in hand.

“There beside my bed, burdened over my sin, I needed to know God as I had never before known him. I opened to the inside page and read John 14:6 which says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

He read other passages that night as well, trying to determine exactly what his responsibility was in attaining his soul’s salvation. After all, he grew up learning anything worthwhile could only be accomplished by hard work. He came to discover that God’s plan of salvation was not based on what Shahn could accomplish, but rather what Jesus had already accomplished on the cross.

“I could not find that I needed to do anything but believe that Jesus died for my sins, was buried, and arose the third day to give eternal life to all who would accept Him.”

So it was in that hotel room that Shahn dropped to his knees and trusted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. “It seemed as if a weight had lifted from me, and I felt at peace with God.”

When he returned home, he shared his life-changing decision with his parents, friends, and his fiancé, Juanita. In the months to come, he would grow in his walk with the Lord. That spring, the couple married and continued to grow in the Lord.

A career change allowed Shahn to balance work with attending Piedmont Bible College in Winston-Salem, N.C. Then doors began to open for him to fill in part-time for some pastors.

God’s timing always fits a bigger plan. One of the doors that opened was with a small congregation of less than 20 people at Riverview Baptist Church back in his home county. Soon after Shahn’s first sermon there, the pastor retired for health reasons. The congregation needed a pastor and offered the position to Shahn. He accepted. That was in October of 1980.

Pastor Shahn Wilburn and his wife Juanita

Pastor Shahn Wilburn and his wife Juanita


Now, more than 35 years later, Shahn and Juanita are still serving at Riverview. The church has grown to over 1,100 people, several of whom are Gideons.

We praise God for how He had worked through Pastor Wilburn to help promote the Gospel and help others come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

“And to think, it began in a hotel room with a Gideon Bible,” says Wilburn.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ivan Secord April 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Praise God for His unmerited favor. Praise God for our pastors. Thank you Pastor Shaun for your ministry. May you be encouraged in preaching the Word and leading your church for Jesus. May we be obedient Gideon’s in spreading the Word and in witnessing for Christ.

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Warner Riviere May 24, 2016 at 4:57 pm

Praise the Lord!

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Wayne Robbins April 8, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Glory be to God!

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Bill Reedy April 8, 2016 at 7:50 pm

Wow what an awesome testimony and it goes to show you we can’t say for sure there is a Gideon bible in all hotels but it was cool the bellman came right up with one! Pairse God, good story Shahn!

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Robert Dalier April 9, 2016 at 1:59 am

Shawn Wilburn was my Pastor at Riverview 2008-2010. My wife Jane and I admired him and his leadership at Riverview. We talk of him often. We moved due to job demands but still remember his teaching and the fellowship of the congregation . Still miss them and now we are in Laurel, MS and are members of Highland Baptist Church, Pastored by Gene Douglas. Have also joined the Gideon International Camp here in Laurel, led by Ben Howse.

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Pastor Brigid May 13, 2016 at 2:24 pm

GLORY TO GOD. THE MIGHTY HOLY SPIRIT IS SO POWERFUL. This is the time to serve the LORD faithfully because HE IS COMING WITH A REWARD AND HE WILL GIVE TO EACH ONE ACCORDING TO WHAT HE HAS DONE.

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