The Printed Page Evangelistic Society

written by Kraig Josiah Rice

The Printed Page launched Bottled Missionaries directly after World War 2 and at that time was one of the greatest literature evangelism ministries in the world. The official name of the ministry was the Printed Page Evangelistic Society of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was interdenominational in scope. I quote freely from their

Annual Report of Evangelistic work during April 1948 - 1949

"The members of the Printed Page Evangelistic Society became interested in Bottle Evangelism through an American Missionary, Mr. George Phillips, of Tacoma, Washington, U.S.A.
Mr. Phillips, who sends hundreds of messages out on board ships leaving Tacoma, wrote to a member of our Society in 1944 asking us to send out some Gospel messages for him on board ships at Belfast. Later towards the end of 1945 our Society adopted this effective method of spreading the Gospel and began to send out 100 per week on board ships leaving Belfast."

A letter to George Phillips with the letterhead of the Printed Page at the top dated August 20, 1946, contained this information,
"Dear brother in Christ,
I received your welcome letter today. Glad to hear you got the first rolls (Gospel Bombs) I sent you out into the tide at Tacoma. You will have to excuse me if I don't answer your letters promptly, as you see we are all volunteer workers here and have our ordinary daily work to do besides the evangelistic work.

I sent 50 rolls lately for you to put in bottles and send on board some ship to be dropped over board into the Indian or Pacific Ocean. When you get them on board will you please let me know the name of the ship and where she was bound for? I think it makes it much more interesting when you can tell the people this who find the bottles.

I have also sent you 1,000 of our Good News Tract in three kinds, and am sending you another 1,000 suitable for the Indian or Pacific Ocean. Yes, I will send you some of our rolls for your other helpers and I will introduce your work to any other Christian workers we come in contact with in the British Isles. Our aim is to spread and share the Good News into the four corners of the earth.
Thanking you for all,
Yours in His glad service,
Robert Waide
P.S. I could use some everlasting safety matches and gospel tracts."

The address of the society at that time was 2 Malt Street in Belfast.

Another letter was sent to him by Ossie and Florrie Walsh when the address of the society was 55a Agnes Street in Belfast, at a little later date.

The report indicated, "Two other Societies have also begun missionary bottle Evangelism in Northern Ireland, namely,
the Floating Christian Endeavours of Belfast and Carrickfergus."

"Sammy Boyd, Missionary Bottle Evangelist"

Among the letters and papers of George Phillips was the name of Sammy Boyd. He was a bottle evangelist from Belfast, Ireland, but it is unclear if he was independent or working with one of the societies.

The paper contained this information:
"Sammy Boyd, a bottle evangelist by a heavenly calling".
"Bottles are precious to him, for he uses them to carry the messages of salvation across the sea.
Inside a bottle Sammy puts some Gospel tracts- some of them written by himself- and casts it into the sea, leaving the tides to carry it whithersoever it will. In this way the story of redeeming grace reaches people in many parts where the Gospel preacher's voice is seldom beard.
God has richly blessed Mr. Boyd's unique work, and he receives letters from many who have been helped by his missionary effort. The secular newspapers have taken note of the Christian enterprise, and Mr. Boyd asks for the prayers of readers that God may continue to bless the bottled messages.
The sea is Sammy's parish, so whenever you are by the seaside and notice a bottle you should pick it up; it might contain a message from the Emerald Isle."

"So if you see a bottle
Washed up upon the land;

See! Does it bear a message!
Then read it if you can.

It may be from Old Ireland,
Or some land across the sea;

Just a simple Gospel message
The Lord has sent to thee."

One section of the Printed Page Annual Report was headed,

Bottle Evangelism

"Through the medium of the printed page and empty bottles our Society is spreading the good news of God's salvation throughout the world. Two Gospel tracts and a tract with John 3:16 in various languages, according to what waters the bottles are thrown into, and a printed note in English, Spanish and French, requesting the finder to write and state where found, are rolled and placed in empty bottles, which are then corked tightly and sealed, ready for distribution at sea. Some are thrown into Belfast Lough at ebb tide, whilst others are given to seamen on board ships at Belfast docks to cast overboard from their ships during the voyage."

Since this unique method of spreading the Gospel of Christ began on 26th November, 1945, 20,500 bottled 'Gospel Missionaries' have gone out from here for distribution in the oceans and seas of the world on board 167 ships bound for 50 different countries, and we have received 828 replies from people of 46 different nationalities and 50 islands of the sea who have picked up our 'bottled messages!".

I found your bottle on the beach between Middletown and Bigtown, Po River, Wednesday evening at about 10 p.m., November 10, 1948, Lower Krov Coast, Maryland Co. Liberia.

I enjoy reading of your messages. I beg to introduce myself to you all and shall appreciate very much if you all would please send me some of your booklets, to get right with God, and would like to know the way to Heaven. Yours, S.W.D."

"This bottle was thrown off the S.S. Balanea (London) into the Atlantic during her voyage to the Atlantic and was found six weeks later at Po River, Bigtown, Liberia (West Africa)."

"Dear Friend-
On the 26th of August of this year I saw a bottle floating in the sea, in which were some tracts. These tracts have got the date of November 26th, 1945, so this bottle arrived here 33 months after you sent it out.

The place where we found it is in Costa de la Guajaba, Boca de Carabelas, near the end of the Maximo River, in the North coast of the province of Camaguey in this Republic of Cuba, and in the same place where the Catholic fathers put a wooden cross about five years ago, because we suppose that is the place where Cristobal Colon got to Cuba.
Yours very truly, W.Y.D."

"This bottle was thrown off the S.S. Baron Graham (Glasgow), bound for Cuba, into the Atlantic, and was picked up out of the Caribbean Sea 33 months later."

"A bottle thrown off the S.S. Ulsa Dan (Denmark), bound for Copenhagen, into the North Sea was picked up by a German woman who trusted Christ as her Saviour as a result of reading the tracts enclosed, five months later at Postfach, Schleswig Holstein."

"Dear Sir-
We found the bottle containing the messages at Stone Bay, Broadstairs, on the morning of 25th December. The number and date on the back of the note was N.S.G. 1948. We would be interested in receiving further messages.
Wishing to know further about your society-
We remain,
cordially yours,
S.L., V. McG, and M.McG.,
Middlesex, England."

The Society added this note,
"As a result of finding one of our 'bottled messages' while on holiday at Stone Bay, Broadstairs, a young Middlesex girl decided to accept Christ as her own personal Saviour. Broadstairs, Kent, England."

"Dear Sir-
Thank you very much for the texts and leaflets, etc., that you sent me. I took particular notice of the one headed 'My Decision.' For some time I had been thinking about taking Christ as my personal Saviour, and when your leaflet arrived I showed it to the minister of our Church. I had a long talk with him about it and it was that evening of Sunday, January 23rd, that I took Christ as my personal Saviour. I have been following the Scripture Union Notes and I am sure that by making this decision I will be very happy for the rest of my life.
yours sincerely,

"The bottle which was found by this girl was thrown off the S.S. Echo (Holland), bound for Rotterdam, into the English Channel and was found on the Kentish Coast."

"One of our 'bottled messages' was found by a German fisherman in a net 3 weeks after it had been thrown off the S.S. Ulsa Dan (Denmark), bound for Copenhagen, into the North Sea."

"As an indirect result of one of our 'bottled messages' landing on Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands, 35 souls are reported to have found the Saviour. One of the islanders read the tracts enclosed in the bottle to the people of the village and later wrote to us requesting supplies of tracts. We sent 12,000 assorted tracts to this island which has 8,000 inhabitants. Here are a few extracts of letters received from the islanders:

"Dear Brother- I took some of the tracts which you sent me to St. Croix, American Virgin Islands, 40 miles from Tortola, and as a result of this work 35 souls have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Master. I'm sure you will be glad to hear this report. I should like you to send me as many calendars as you can, so that I can distribute these to the many homes before Christmas. -B.P."

"Copies of Danish and Norwegian newspapers were received containing articles regarding the finding of one of our 'bottled messages'. One of these papers translated and published the entire contents of one of the 'bottled messages'."

"One of our 'bottled messages' was found by a contributor to a Devon newspaper who later inserted an article on 'BOTTLE EVANGELISM'."

One tiny part of the Annual Report under Bottle Evangelism was headed in large black type, "BOTTLED MESSAGE PICKED UP BY DOG".
"A bottle which was thrown into the English Channel and washed ashore at Kent 6 months later was picked up by a dog which carried it home to its master."

Another tiny part of the Annual Report under Bottle Evangelism was headed in large black type, "BOTTLED MESSAGE'S SEA JOURNEY FROM BELFAST TO ICELAND!".
"A bottle thrown into the Belfast Lough at Herdman's Channel West was found 15 months later washed ashore at Akranes, Iceland."

Another part of the Annual Report under Bottle Evangelism was headed in large black type, "RIVER EVANGELISM."
"A number of bottled messages have been thrown into the River Bann and as a result of picking up one of these a young girl has accepted Christ and her chum is under conviction of sin, and has written enquiring the Way of Salvation."

"A youth who came in touch with us through finding a bottle trusted Christ as his own personal Saviour. Later his chum also accepted Christ. Kilkee, Eire."

"Dear Sir-
I received your booklets, and was glad to got same. I hope to get more very soon from you. Would you be able to send on some more booklets to a girl here in Kilkee? You desired to know if we were both trusting Jesus Christ as Saviour and King of our lives. Our answer is 'Yes.' I have some more friends who would like to read your booklets. If you can supply them I shall forward their addresses. -S.K."

Another part of the Annual Report was headed in large black type, "THE LORD'S WORK IN THE GOLD COAST."
"Three years ago a bottle thrown from the S.S. Radcombe was picked up by a native a month later on the Gold Coast. Copies of our tracts were sent to this country. Since then we have received a steady stream of letters from Gold Coast natives requesting copies of our tracts and enquiring the Way of Salvation. It is known that 10 have been brought to Christ through reading the tracts sent to them."

"During last summer a copy of our last year's annual report was given to a Christian worker who became very interested in the possibilities of Bottle Evangelism and later traveled to Liverpool with the view of starting the work there. The workers there adopted this method of evangelism enthusiastically and hundreds of bottled missionaries are now being sent out from this great port in England."
"Of course, this report referred to the beginning of the work of the Merseyside Bottle Evangelists. Thus God's work is spreading."

Another part of the Annual Report was headed in large black type, "FROM A GERMAN PASTOR."
"If you knew your neighbor was in possession of a full larder, and your children were hungry, would you hesitate to knock, or would you doubt that he would give a small portion? Certainly not! However, there is a hunger which is worse than bodily hunger- a hunger for the 'Word of God.' Millions of refugees go in vain to book publishers and libraries, but the few books are insufficient, and many who are returning to an earthly home are denied an entrance into the true Fatherland, 'The Heavenly Home.'

In the name of the many thousands who cannot call upon you personally, I have taken it upon myself to plead for Christ's sake. When one daily sees and hears this hungering for the Living Word, there is only one plea:- 'Lord help us, and give someone the strength and courage to witness for our Redeemer, and also give us the necessary material to satisfy the hunger for the Word.'

I am urged by the Spirit of God, to plead that even the least the Printed Mission can do is urgently needed, especially Bibles, Portions, Scripture books and tracts."

In answer to this need the Printed Page was able to send one quarter of a million tracts to Germany as well as 50 parcels of food and many bales of clothing. God's name be praised for their faithfulness.

"The grand total of Bibles, New Testaments, Gospels, and Tracts sent from here during the year was 626,650. The number of souls known to have been saved since this work began is now 112."

In regards to Missionary Bottle Evangelism,
"This interesting and effective means of spreading the Gospel message could not have been undertaken without the co-operation of officers and men of the Merchant Navy. During last summer a consignment of bottled messages was taken on board a huge passenger liner, which was leaving Belfast on her maiden voyage. The Captain of the vessel, a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, undertook to dispatch these messages into the sea. This captain, although a busy man, took the two members of the Society who had conveyed the bottles to the ship, into his cabin in order that they might ask God's blessing on these messages. He prayed that not one of them would be lost and that much fruit would result from the sowing of God's Word in this way.
It is estimated that of the many bottles sent out in this way thousands are still floating at sea as yet unfound."

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since February 4, 2006