Merseyside Bottle Evangelists

written by Kraig Josiah Rice

I quote freely from a pamphlet-tract of theirs titled


dated November 1962, written by the Merseyside Bottle Evangelists.

"The bottle missionary work began in 1948, after Irish businessman, Mr. J.J. Gilpin, of Bangor, visited a Brethren meeting in Liverpool. He brought with him a sample message bottle and asked the men at the gathering if they would take up this work. A gross of suitable bottles was ordered and the little band began their task of spreading the Gospel, little realizing it would prove so successful."

"With the cartons of bottles for dispatch to the deeps go letters from Mr. Rees to the casting sailors, asking them to return data of the times and positions they were in when the bottles were hurled to the waves to start their long voyages carrying the Word to the far-flung corners of the earth."

"Each bottle, sown like a seed in the deep by Christian officers and men on ships of all nations sailing from Merseyside, contains 'a message from God'- the Gospel verse 'For God so loved the world...' printed in nineteen languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Burmese, and Zulu."

"When these 'seeds' take root and bloom, as they so often do in the minds of finders everywhere, a little group of men in Liverpool are overjoyed because their labours are bearing fruit. Twelve in all under organizer and correspondent, Mr. Robert M. Rees, Liverpool, they belong to the Plymouth Brethren."

"The only organization in England doing this work, which is entirely voluntary, the Bottle Evangelists have been instrumental in the casting of about 65,000 bottled messages into the seas since September, 1948, up to July, 1962."

"Some 5,500 (approximately) replies have been received. Stacks of correspondence, with enough foreign stamps to make a small boy philatelist pop-eyed, and letters in many languages, all filed by Mr. Rees, testify to the success of the work."

"Translation presents no difficu1ty to these men. The proprietors of a Chinese laundry near to Mr. Rees' home translate some letters. Arab, Indian and other foreign cafe managers and customers in the city offer their help, too. His nephew, Mr. George Cross, a linguist, has also lent invaluable aid."

"The letters are carefully sifted and those writers who are really interested are sent the Bibles and literature they ask for, in the cause of converting others in their lands."

"Organizer Robert Rees is a retired machine attendant. Aged 67, broad-shouldered and grey-haired, he was one of the toughest seamen who ever put to sea under sail of the four-masted barque 'Wander' many years ago."
"In 1932, Bob became converted- in Valparaiso of all places- and came to live in his home town, Liverpool, two years later. He is married."

"On the appeal of Commander E. G. Carre, editor of a magazine for the Merchant Service Officers' Christian Association, he volunteered to carry the Gospel to men on ships which called at the Mersey ports and, as the Garston representative, he took his Bibles and tracts aboard the vessels."

No matter who you are
God loves you.

One section of the pamphlet had a heading in large blue capital letters that said,

"It has been continued throughout the years by the encouragement we have, in learning of many who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, in various parts of the world through the correspondence and literature which have followed the many letters to say they had found the Message of God's Love. In late 1958, owing to age and eye affliction, it was realised that younger men should be found to continue with this branch of the work, with the result that God brought forth very able young workers under the direction of Mr. J. Bowe, a member of Ebenezer Gospel Hall, who has faithfully upheld and done much for the enlarging of our coasts, retaining the title of Merseyside Bottle Evangelists."

Another section of the pamphlet was addressed to


"The account you have just read is a copy of an article which appeared in one of Britain's leading newspapers, describing the work of 'Bottle Evangelism,' an effort to spread the gospel of God's saving grace to all parts of the world. I have no doubt you, like many other people, express surprise on having this unique method of preaching brought to your notice, how God is using this simple way of telling of His Love for lost guilty sinners, and of the wonderful results, as seen by the many letters received from 'finders' in far off strange lands and scattered islands the world over, many changed lives being known to us."

"Did you notice the first word in the caption under the picture? 'CAST.' For a few moments I would beg of you to continue reading, whilst I endeavour to bring before you the deep significance of the word CAST.
We read in God's Word, 'Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days,' Ecc. 11:1. This is our special joy in service- to CAST the bottle-messengers on the seas, praying that He will direct them to those who know not the Gospel, BUT before this can be done, it is absolutely essential to make complete change in our way of living, to make a choice as to whom we will serve, i.e. to cast our lot in to follow HIM who said 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'
Matt. 4:19."

"It is for you, my dear reader to consider this matter NOW, for the invitation is sent out and extended in love to you. Allow me to quote the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise CAST out,' John 6:37. Are you perplexed and fearful of what the future will hold for you if you make this choice and take the step? Listen to the words of comfort given to all who believe in Him as their own personal Saviour 'CASTing all your care upon HIM, for He careth for you,' I Peter 5:7. Is it not grand to know His promise is given in Micah 7:18, 'Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity... he retaineth not his anger for ever... because he delighteth in mercy... he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depth of the sea.' Not to float around for a period and then to be brought to our remembrance, NO- forever out of sight."

"This is the wonderful story of God's Love, that He is willing to remember your sins and iniquities no more, for He gave His only begotten Son to pay the price on the Cross of Calvary, for your sins, as it is written 'Christ died for our sins,' I Cor. 15:3, that whosoever, and this means you, are fully forgiven."

"This is God's gospel good news, my reader, will you give it your most earnest consideration NOW? The other side of the picture is indeed terrible to contemplate, for it is also scriptural TRUTH. 'As it is appointed unto man once to die, after this the Judgment' (Hebrews 9:27) which is written for our learning and warning. In Rev. 20: 11-15 we have brought before us the scene of that judgment, Oh my unsaved reader, listen while I quote God's Own Word- Take Heed, 'I saw a great white Throne... and I saw the dead small and great stand before God... and whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was CAST into the lake of fire,' Oh! be warned by these few words."

"Why not accept the message of the bottle, as many others have done in simple faith. '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."

"If you desire any help on this most important matter which concerns your eternal destiny, write to us as many have already done and been helped with literature and counsel, and we shall be very happy to enlighten you to understand more clearly how to 'CAST your burden upon the LORD,' Psalm 55:22."

"Right now, out there in the ocean waves, the brave bottles are riding the crests".

"Someone, somewhere, on Mull or Madagascar, will be waiting for the word that will dash up on rock, sand, mud, or shingle in a flurry of foam."

On June 16, 1987, a letter was written to me (Kraig Rice) by Hugh B. McGowan, the United Kingdom Director of World Christian Ministries, a Christian Bible smuggling ministry. He wrote me from Merseyside, England with this information:

"Dear Brother, Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Many thanks for your letter and the insight into your ministry in the spread of the gospel.

Unfortunately, I have the sad news to report, after inquiry, that the Merseyside Bottle Evangelists of Liverpool are not longer in operation. Most of the brothers who were exercised in this work are now with the Lord.

It gives me a personal delight to hear of your Ministry as I was involved in this kind of work after I was saved. I did a lot of voluntary work in putting tracts into bottles and sealing them for Christian sailors to take to sea. Our organization was in the City of Belfast where I was born and raised, and the name of the Organization was 'The Printed Page.' That work also came to an end because, like Liverpool, the shipping became less and less. Many of our wonderful once thriving ports are virtually at a standstill as far as shipping is concerned.

May the Lord bless you in your Ministry and when I hear any further news I will be in touch.

Yours Sincerely in the Master's glad service,
Hugh B. Mc Gowan."

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since February 12, 2006