Evangel Island Journey -
These web articles were written by Timothy Smith, son of Rev. Norman and Joyce Smith,
who ran the Baptist mission boat Evangel from the early 1950’s to the mid-
These are my introductory notes and personal comments, to guide you on your journey with the Evangel.
Right: the new logo for the series. The Evangel is at the dock in Ouzinkie, its home base from 1958 to 1964. The photo was taken in 1961. Click on the photo to go back to the index.
My name is Timothy Smith, fourth child of Rev. Norman and Joyce Smith, who moved with their family to Alaska in the spring of 1952. I was born in the Territory of Alaska the following spring. As a young child, I learned to walk on board a small boat called the Evangel as it traveled from village to village, cannery to cannery around Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. The boat was my summer home. As the child of missionaries who operated an unusual mission boat in a spectacular mission field, I had many unforgettable experiences, often just in trying to get from one place to another. Our adventures took place in the 50’s and 60’s, when Kodiak Island was a remote, often hostile and always unpredictable place. The basic introduction to the boat and the other articles is in this document, but then I hope you will move on around the Kodiak Island area using the article link in the photo above, for a unique Kodiak Island journey featuring photos and tales of the travels of the Evangel.
The reader needs to understand that the web articles that follow were written by
a man in his fifties, but the memories are those of a child, not an adult. Of course
there is perspective and the long view of experience. But I was not an adult in the
50’s and early 60’s, and so I do not know whether the actions and attitudes of the
adults around me would be the same as what might be done today. I do know, however,
that when I look back at those days, how I lived and what I was accustomed to, it
makes me shake my head in wonderment. It was a frequently exciting, usually dangerous,
back breaking, tough kind of existence. But it was also a life our family shared
in common with all the other rural residents of the Kodiak Island area, so naturally,
I regarded it as normal. I won't quibble about particulars or speculate much about
how I would react to those things now. As a young child, I lived without running
water or regular electricity, rarely used a bathtub, had hand-
The element of faith is also not to be missed or glossed over in these short articles. True, I was a Baptist missionaries’ kid, but that doesn't explain everything. I suppose it would be possible to have done all those things and traveled to all those places without a sense of the hand of God, but I certainly felt Him. Just the words to all the hymns we sang would have seen to that! And looking back as an adult, I see God’s hand at work, but in a much different way than I would have been able to see as a child. Yes, I spent the first twelve years of my life traveling around some islands in Alaska on a mission boat. But the boat, of course, is not the hero of this story, and neither am I. The articles are not an official biography of my parents, either. And these articles are definitely not written to sound like missionary support letters or magazine travelogues. I am simply telling a story, and when the kind of work my parents were doing is part of the story, it will be included as naturally as will any of the other elements. It is my intention to simply share some of the adventures we had, publish some of my dad’s spectacular photos from an era that is long gone, jog a few memories, and maybe let the mission of that little boat and its crew inspire a few people. (Continues below…)
Photos of the Evangel’s Early Years (1949 -
The Evangel was built from a Navy buoy tender (see above photo for similar hull design) and completed in 1949. The Baptist newsletter (left) indicates the qualifications needed to be its captain. The Chandlers from Washington took the job for a couple of years. Norman Smith helped in 1951, then moved to Alaska to take the helm permanently in 1952.
Norm Smith put in a new Lathrop marine engine, and re-
Left: Norman Smith prepares to launch the Evangel after replacing its engine. Right:
The boat is tied up (near where City Dock is now) in Kodiak shortly after re-
All of the journeys recounted in this series of web articles were taken aboard a
The Evangel could hold folding chairs, a portable pump organ, filmstrip projector,
record player and records, movie projector, children’s crafts and curriculum, hymnbooks,
Bibles and stationery supplies in addition to its full complement of nautical gear.
It had dual power sources (triple, if you count its hookup to city power while in
port): full wiring throughout for 12-
Every summer during the seasons it was in operation, the Evangel would make several
trips around Kodiak Island. There was never a “typical” trip, because we always stopped
where there were people, and some locations were so remote and so sparsely populated
that we weren’t able to get there very often. There was usually a north-
A Concluding Thought:
The Evangel was an odd-
During the camping season at Camp Woody, we typically divided our island journeys
in half, with Larsen Bay and Karluk as the farthest point on a north-
Note on Sources of Photos and Accuracy of the Narrative
Most of the photos are from Dad's little Argus C3 slide camera or from one of his
Kodak 616 negatives, all of which he shot without a light meter! Dad’s old photos
are not all-
Photos of “Timmy” – My Spot In The Story
Top: “Timmy Smith” graces the cover of a Baptist missionary booklet. Right: The Smith Family poses in Akhiok, 1956: Noel, Joyce, Norman holding me, Robin, Jerilynn
Left Photo: the Smith Family in Ouzinkie, our second home base, 1961: back -
Left: a frame from a display for my parents’ 50th Anniversary in 1990 features the actual “Christ Our Pilot” picture that had hung in the cabin of the Evangel, and a wooden model of the Evangel carved by a local young man on Spruce Island.
Below: Joyce and Norman Smith, Pillar Mountain, 1971. Mab Boko photo.
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