Gospel Tracts, Unlimited

A man's works follow along after him

written by Kraig Josiah Rice

Carleton E. Null had a Northern California ministry that floated missionary bottles. He incorporated his ministry on April 27, 1940 (prior to World War II), under the name, Carleton E. Null, Inc. On July 12, 1954, his ministry had a corporate name change to Gospel Tracts, Unlimited, but his unique ministry was also known as The Gospel Bombers. His ministry officially retired on March 29, 1974, seven years after his death.

A Brief Look At The Life Of Carleton Null

Carleton E. Null was born on November 26, 1887, at Winterset, Iowa. He was a decorated combat officer in World War I. He entered into some silent films as an actor. After that he was a male clothing model in Chicago.

He drank alcoholic beverages and had no inner peace in his life. His Christian mother interceded in prayer constantly for his salvation to Christ but he resisted. He traveled the highways from time to time as a hitchhiker.

He did accept Jesus Christ as his personal saviour and his whole life changed. (Please see his testimony farther on in this work. He was handed a New Testament from a worker with the Pocket Testament League.)

After his conversion to Christ he went to Biola University in the 1930's. He became the Director of Personal Work there. He was also a traveling evangelist and in the late 1930's settled down in Oakland, Calif. There he started his incorporated ministry that produced such good fruit and influenced so many lives for Christ. He not only floated missionary bottles but operated the Bible Book Store, spoke on Gospel Radio, and had a jail ministry to some of the inmates at San Quentin Prison.

He married Dorothy I. Bryan, on November 23, 1941, in Alameda County, Calif. when he was 54 years old. He had 2 sons.

During World War II he traveled with his wife and spoke in churches in Oregon and Washington. In Washington he influenced a man by the name of George Philips who started the Worldwide Missionary Effort. After that time he ran his ministry and raised his children.

Carleton E. Null died on March 5, 1967, at the age of 79, less than one month after I (Kraig Rice) accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour.


Note: the following document was written by C. Null and it is his personal testimony.

"One morning a man handed me a pocket Testament, saying:
"I want to give you this. When you read it remember that it is God speaking to you".
I reasoned like this: "If that actually is God speaking I ought to find out what he has to say". I started reading it on that basis. Skeptical of everything at first, I was soon convinced from a scientific standpoint and assured by the spiritual reality that it is in truth the very word of God.

Many outstanding scientists have been believers and have proved beyond all doubt that there is perfect harmony between real scientific facts and the Bible. Fulfillment of prophecy proves conclusively that it is a supernatural book that could never have originated with sinful man. It showed me not only that I was a sinner (which I realized) but why, and offered the only remedy, the only cure. There is no possibility that God would lie. I can believe Him with absolute assurance. That being the case I can confidently believe that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He arose again the third day according to the Scriptures"; that He is a living Saviour who can save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him.

"The life is in the blood" and "it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul". When the Son of God shed His blood on the cross at Calvary, it was a sacrifice for the penalty of our sins (our life) that God paid in full Himself that He might righteously and graciously forgive all sin of the one, who in repentance, believes in and actually receives the living Lord Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour.

Because that penalty was paid over 1900 years ago and was sufficient for the sin of the whole world we will go to hell only because we reject and will not receive the salvation that God has already provided and offers as a free gift through Jesus Christ the Lord.

I went back to my office and studied carefully the verses on the back of this folder. I wrote my name on the decision line in place of "whosoever" in John 3:16. In a prayerful transaction with God I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. I would do everything possible to help you do the same.

We don't become lost. We are lost until Jesus saves us. One is either saved or lost right now. We cannot be in the two conditions at the same time. One who is not saved cannot accept Christ, yesterday. Yesterday is gone forever. It is too late.

No one is sure of tomorrow. It may never come.

It has been truly said that we are only sure of two heartbeats between us and eternity.

God says to be saved NOW. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 2 Cor. 6:2.

Study the "What To Do" guide on the next page very carefully, seriously. Come to Christ. Receive Christ. Believe and trust in His finished work on the cross of Calvary and that He is risen from the dead. Believe (will to believe) and receive eternal life NOW. In an actual, definite, prayerful transaction with God, write your name in place of "Whosoever" in John 3:16 and thank Him for saving YOU.

You know that God would not lie to you. God says: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved". Acts 16:31.

If you would like a helpful booklet to answer questions that may be in your heart, kindly check the square on the return postal, requesting more information about salvation, it will be mailed without charge and without obligation. PRINTED IN U.S.A."
Written by Carleton E. Null.


The returns from bottled Gospel Bombs are surely thrilling. There is an in-creasing number participating in this interesting evangelism. If the return of our Lord is as imminent as we who love His appearing, anticipate, it is sobering to realize that thousands of bottles floating through the oceans may reach some shores with the Good News, even after the rapture of the church.

We use a Bomb sealed in bottles made for this specific ministry. In addition to the regular content, a special tract with John 3:16 in 21 languages is included in the Bomb. Bottled Gospel Bombs are individually numbered, consecutively, so that the number shows through the cellophane and can be read through the glass. Thus the date, latitude, longitude, etc., can be recorded when it is tossed into the water. We have records of Bottled Gospel Bombs being found one day after being tossed into the ocean. Others have been found eleven years afterwards. Most of the returns come from bottles that have been in the oceans for two years or more. One just received was found by the Mayor of a municipality in the Philippines, over two years after it was tossed from a ship en route to the Orient. Over 50 per cent of the returns from Bottled Bombs profess to accept Christ. They seem to feel (and we believe rightly so) that the bottle has brought the Good News providentially. A return just received has a note reading:
"It was God's will that I am one of the lukies (he means lucky) among the thousands and many thousands". This bottle had been in the water over two years.

Proper follow-up for the returns from bottled Gospel Bombs and especially caring for the requests for further information about salvation, often necessitates securing literature in the foreign languages. The expense of the right follow-up for bottled Gospel Bombs far exceeds the original cost. After we have carefully cared for the follow-up, you are advised of all the particulars concerning the Bottled Bombs that you have made possible. Five dollars will place 60 bottled Gospel Bombs aboard an ocean-going ship for some missionary or seaman to toss into the water. This pays also for the cost of follow-up and advising you of the returns. This permits us who cannot go, to be foreign missionaries and yet remain at home.


You receive vinegar, juices, syrup, catsup, bluing, oils and other items in bottles which contain 12 to 16 ounces content. These are all of uniform size at the mouth and a number 7 cork will fit them. Even if they have screw caps you can force a number 7 cork in far enough to make them water-proof. You can secure these corks at a drug store. We do not recommend using wine or liquor bottles for Gospel Bombs; Coca-Cola or Alka Seltzer bottles do not have buoyance in the water with a Gospel Bomb inside. Colored bottles do not permit the colored Gospel Bombs to show through.

Bottles with plastic screw caps will some times keep the contents dry for several months in rivers, lakes and inland waters. Salt water in the oceans soon corrodes the caps. For a couple of dollars you can often find a hand bottle capper. Caps are reasonable in price. Because most bottles in the above sizes are uniform you can cap them just as a Coca-Cola bottle is capped. We force a number 7 cork in as far as possible, trim the top even with the bottleneck, then cap it also. The cap eventually rusts but it protects the cork for a long time. A young peoples' group could get the members of a church to save bottles, put your own Gospel Bombs inside and toss into rivers and inland waters on vacation or conference trips and you will get encouraging and interesting returns. It will surprise you how many usable bottles can be saved for this purpose in one home and how many can be distributed by one individual.
Driving from Eureka, California, to Grant's Pass, Oregon, 48 bottled Gospel Bombs were tossed into the river in a few hours on the highway.

Here are some copies of newspaper articles about his missionary bottle evangelism work:

"Gospel Bomb' Causes Stir on Beach at Newport-
NEWPORT BEACH- "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have Everlasting Life," John 3:16,

A bottle containing this message caused a stir among beach visitors at 36th Street, Thursday, Newport police reported yesterday. Described as "a gospel bomb" it was found by George Gobar, 3608 W. Ocean Front, police said. A small crowd of people gathered but kept their distance, while the white-glassed bottle, similar to a vinegar bottle was broken open.

The message was written in Fiji, Dutch, Zulu, Greenland, Mexican, Australian, llocano, Russian, Brand Scots, Spanish, Esquimo, Dyak. Japanese, English, German, Italian, Yiddish, French, Chinese, Swedish, and Polish.

An envelope also in the bottle requested the name and address of the finder to be sent to Evangelist Carleton E. Null; Oakland, Calif."

"To worship is to quicken the conscience by the
holiness of God, to feed the mind with the
truth of God, to purge the imagination by the
beauty of God, to open the heart to the
love of God, to devote the will to the
purpose of God."
-William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury, d. 1944)


"Swimming at Long Beach, St. George's, on Wednesday afternoon Miss Phyllis Taggett found a bottle in the sand. It was securely corked to prevent water penetrating and spoiling some pieces of paper inside. Miss Taggett broke open the bottle to find a religious tract, a card containing an address and an exhortation to write to California for a free booklet. Miss Taggett does not think she will apply for the booklet but she is going to keep the tract and the address as a memento of her find. The card bore the following name and address-
Mr. Carlton E. Null, P.O. Box 599, Oakland, California.
On the other side it said: "This good news is distributed in this manner to attract your attention to Lord Jesus Christ". Space was left for the finder to fill in his (or her) name and address before posting the card to California.

The above clipping from The Royal Gazette of Bermuda, Saturday, August 15th, 1953, was sent to us by a Christian of Bermuda. Because we have had P.O. Box 501 for five years we know this bottle was tossed into the ocean over six years ago as it refers to box 599 (The old one we do not use any more).

The following article about his ministry was published in a Sunday School Magazine entitled, "Power" on December 7, 1952. The author was Jack Durkee-

"LOOK At THE date at the top of this page. Got it? Is it familiar? No? Take another look. Now you remember, don't you? December 7- the date that Franklin D. Roosevelt said would "live in infamy". It was 11 years ago today that the Sunday morning skies over Hawaii were darkened by a swarm of Japanese bombers. Their main objective was a fleet of American battleships anchored in Pearl Harbor. At 7:45 A. m. the Japanese planes were "on target" and the commanding officer barked out the order that sent a hail of bombs screaming down from the skies. A short time later, bomb racks empty, the planes were darting back to their aircraft carrier bases. Eleven years ago today: Japanese bombers attack Pearl Harbor and plunge the United States into World War 2!

Bombs are mighty terrible things, you say- and you're right. Yesterday's bombs that thundered down on Pearl Harbor, today's atomic bombs built to wipe out whole cities at a crack- these are frightful weapons to reckon with! But- and this may surprise you!- not all bombs are planned to cause death and destruction- in fact, some bombs are designed to bring a new life and inward peace and blessing to mankind. Do you doubt that? Well, to prove it, let's go back in history about 15 years. That's when it all started. And the place it started was the modest little office of Carleton E. Null, then Director of Practical Christian Work at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA).

On a certain spring afternoon in 1937, a retired British Army surgeon named Maunsell came striding into Null's office. Doctor Maunsell was plenty excited over an unusual new idea he'd just thought up. Briefly, it was this: he wanted Null and one of his students to take the following summer for a gospel tour among the tramps and hoboes of America's highways. For his part, Maunsell offered to pay all expenses for the trip, which he hoped, would cover a good many of the camps and "hobo jungles" between Los Angeles and Chicago. Would Null be interested in the plan? Well, it so happened that Carleton Null was very definitely interested. You see the problem of effective "highway evangelism" had been on his mind for many years, since the days he himself had traveled the highways as a hitchhiker. To Carleton Null, Doctor Maunsell's offer sounded very much like an answer to his prayers.

Null's choice of a companion for the trip was Robert Scot Deans, a missionary home on furlough and a student at BIOLA. Weeks of eager preparation followed, and when summer came, the two men set off cross-country with a carload of gospel literature. Somewhere along the road between Los Angeles and Chicago, they got the idea of rolling up tracts and Gospels of John, tying them tightly with rubber bands, and throwing them to pedestrians.

When they arrived in Chicago, two Christian businessmen,
Elmer Isaacson and his brother Paul, asked about their experiences on the highway. Especially were they interested in tract distribution. Null and Deans demonstrated how they'd been rolling up Gospels and other pamphlets for easy handling. The two brothers not only thought the idea was a good one, but even offered a practical suggestion to improve it, "Why not", they said, "wrap your tracts individually in colored cellophane? That way, they'd be kept clean and the bright colors might help attract attention to them".

The suggestion seemed well worth trying, so Null and Deans hurried out to a nearby five and ten-cent store and bought five ten-cent rolls of cellophane. Back in their hotel room, they cut up the cellophane and began to try different ways of wrapping it around the tracts. It seemed that the best way of all was to roll several tracts lengthwise into a tight little cylinder about six or eight inches long, then cover it completely with cellophane. The finished product had the shape and appearance of a fat peppermint stick. On their way back to Los Angeles, the two men found that the new idea really worked. They saw young and old alike scramble for the cellophane-covered cylinders which were tossed along the roadside. Even gangs of railroad workers dropped their shovels and climbed fences to get them. Carleton Null and Deans realized that they'd discovered an entirely new means of tract distribution- one with exciting, almost ex-plosive possibilities. Because of that, and because of the bright-colored little cylinder's firecracker-like appearance, they immediately called it, "The Gospel Bomb".

Later, Carleton Null and several friends got to work and set up a small, non-profit organization to make Gospel Bombs. Experimenting, they found that the most effective kind of bomb included several well-chosen gospel tracts along with a business-reply postcard which could be sent back to the "bomber". Typically, these cards ask the reader to say whether he has received Christ as his Saviour or if he wishes further information about God's way of salvation. Usually the card invites him to send for more gospel literature: Bible story books, New Testaments, or free subscriptions to Christian publications.

Since Null started his "bomb factory", he has helped scores of others get started in the production of their own bombs. To put them on their own, he puts Christian "bombers" in touch with manufacturers of cellophane and recommends appropriate tracts and methods of rolling them securely and distributing for best results. But all the while Null and his crew, made up largely of volunteers, have printed millions of gospel tracts and have rolled well over ten million bombs, shipping a large portion to missionaries in a dozen foreign countries and to other Christian workers. Null himself, now a field representative for BIOLA, continues to personally distribute countless Gospel Bombs- "They make every mile traveled count for Christ", he says.

The first large-scale gospel bombing was done by church and Sunday School groups. Gigantic house-to-house campaigns were launched, often covering whole cities at a time. In one such recent campaign First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood set as its goal the distribution of one million Gospel Bombs. In this case, statistics showed that for every 100 bombs handed out, five new members were added to the church. Null himself estimates that one soul is saved for every $2 spent on Gospel Bomb materials.

Many strange and interesting stories about Gospel Bombs have been recorded by Null. For example, not long ago a Christian businessman tossed a bomb to a man standing on a busy San Francisco street corner. The bomb sailed through the air, bounced off the curb, and landed in the street. Then, as the Christian watched helpless with horror, the man stepped right out into the traffic to pick it up. As he bent over, a fast-moving car whizzed by, grazing him slightly, and sending him jumping back to the safety of the curb. The Christian was so scared and shaken by the near-tragedy that he vowed he'd never throw another Gospel Bomb as long as he lived. But a few days later he got a return postcard in the mail. It was from the man on the street corner. He wrote that because of his close call, he'd read the gospel tracts carefully and had accepted Christ as his Saviour. The businessman was, of course, overjoyed at this response, but the incident had taught him at least two useful lessons:
(1) that he'd better go right on gospel bombing, and
(2) in the future he'd be careful that they landed on the side-walk instead of the street!

In recent years many new uses of Gospel Bombs have been introduced. Besides being passed hand-to-hand and house-to-house or being distributed along highways, some have been corked in used vinegar bottles and tossed into lakes, rivers, and oceans. When dropped in the ocean special tracts are included with Scripture in 21 languages. Carried by wind and waves, these "bottled evangelists" sometimes travel halfway around the world.

In one case a young British Army sergeant in a lonely, West African outpost found Christ through a Gospel Bomb which had been floating in the ocean for over seven years! Another such bottle wound up on the shores of a Mexican island resulting in a letter in Spanish from a young native convict. According to Null's records fully 50 percent of those who reply after finding bottled bombs profess to receive Christ.

Today the number of bombs that ship out to sea is increasing since Christians the country over are taking advantage of a special plan. introduced by Null. With every dollar marked for bottled bombs, two dozen bottles are put aboard an outgoing ocean liner, from which they are later tossed into the water. Keeping special records for each contributor, Null tells the contributor where and when his bombs went into the ocean, and later, when returns come in, he reports on the results. Business-re-ply cards included with the bombs are keyed so that they can be readily associated with the actual contributor whose money sent the bombs in-to action. This program, Null says, enables many Christians to be foreign missionaries, and still remain at home.

Bright-colored rubber balloons are just about the newest way of gospel bombing. In this method, the balloons are first inflated with gas and then the bombs are attached underneath and the balloons released. Helium filled balloons rarely travel more than a few hundred miles, but there is at least one case on record of one filled with hydrogen traveling more than 1,500 miles- which is equivalent to a trip halfway across the United States! Today, following the footsteps of Carleton E. Null, many thousands of churches and other Christian groups are engaged in full or part-time gospel bombing. Millions of bombs are carried each year by land, sea and air to the far corners of the earth. But even this great success does not begin to meet the need. In the years ahead, the gospel bombers, fired with a worldwide vision, hope to press forward with their unique "ammunition" to present the Word of truth "to every creature".

Here is a letter that Gospel Tracts Unlimited wrote in response to the above article:

"We are thankful for the preceding well written article that so truly describes the Gospel Bomb ministry. We are especially grateful to the editors of POWER for permitting us to reprint it. So many became Gospel Bombers because of reading this article that I resigned from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles in order to devote all my efforts to the Gospel Bombs.

Early in March, 1954, Dr. Oswald J. Smith was speaking at a Missionary Conference at the Melrose Baptist Church in Oakland. Thursday night Mrs. Null and I heard him stress, "That God so loved the WORLD."
"That Christ died for the WORLD". We prayed as never before that we might help reach the WORLD. Friday night Mr. and Mrs. Jerold May (both BIOLA graduates) heard him stress that the need of the hour was for missionaries to secure tracts in the language of the people among whom they were working. That the supply of these foreign language tracts was even more imperative, in some areas, than sending additional missionaries. That oftentimes 14 cents so invested resulted in a soul receiving Christ.'

Jerold May thought of his large publishing plant, equipped for every printing need both offset and letterpress. It was staffed entirely by Christian craftsmen. It was already providing all the material for the Gospel Bombs. Did the Lord want that plant with a capacity for printing one million tracts a day, to produce foreign language tracts for missionaries throughout the world? After much prayer there was no doubt about it.

We have organized GOSPEL TRACTS, UNLIMITED to accomplish this ministry. Missionary leaders throughout the world are associating themselves with GOSPEL TRACTS, UNLIMITED that we may help evangelize the world in this generation.

We want every possible assistance that will enable us to secure correct copy for the many languages in which the tracts will be printed. We want to know of every evangelical missionary throughout the world who is unable to get tracts printed in his field or is unable to secure tracts in the needed language. We want the prayerful cooperation of yourself in every way that you are enabled. Everything will be conducted non-profit.

Time is short and we must work fast. Many, many tons of paper is urgently needed. We are functioning now and several hundred thousand foreign tracts have already been provided. We are praying that this excellent plant may soon be turning out a million foreign language tracts a day. Gospel Bombs in bottles have been reaching targets throughout the world for over fifteen years. Foreign language tracts will increase the effective distribution of Gospel Bombs by multiplied thousands.

The "Saved Whosoevers" must take the Gospel to the "Lost Whosoevers". If we cannot go ourselves we should send a substitute.

Sincerely, in His praise,

Jerold F. May, President-Founder

Carleton E. Null, Chairman of Gospel Bombers

(Signed) Carleton E. Null 2 Corinthians 9:8"

Note: This info was shared with me by Rev. Paul Null, a minister in the Baptist Church, who is the son of Carleton E. Null.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006
"Good evening! My name Kara (Null) Olsen. I've been "googling" our family name on the internet and happily stumbled across your Web site. Carleton E. Null was my grandfather. He, unfortunately, passed away before I was born or before my parents were married, so we only know about him through stories from my grandma, Dorothy (Bryan) Null; my dad, Paul Null; and uncle, Wade Null. We are fortunate enough to have some of his written materials, as well of several of the original bottles with tracts. Thanks for taking the time to write about my grandfather's life and ministry. Have a great day!
Kara (Null) Olsen"

BREAD ON THE WATERS (BOW): Our web address is www.breadonthewaters.com


Click on the bottle to go to the main missionary bottle ministries index page.

Permission to print and reproduce this document is given as long as it is done so in its entirety.

since February 12, 2006