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Rodney (Gipsy) Smith
"The longer I live the more astonished I am at the reluctance of Christian people to testify concerning their own experience.
If only they could summon up courage to say to some lonely neighbor, 'I love Him; do you?' the results would amaze them."
Gipsy Smith was perhaps the best loved evangelist of all time. When he gave his life's story, crowds overflowed halls and auditoriums. Born in a gypsy tent six miles northeast of London, he received no education. The family made a living selling baskets, tin ware and clothes pegs.
His home was a gypsy wagon. His mother died from smallpox when he was young and was buried by lantern light. After his father accepted Christ he led Rodney (Gipsy) to the Lord at age fifteen. Two years later the young gypsy accepted the invitation of General William Booth to be an evangelist with and for the Mission, preaching to crowds of from 100 to 1,500.
He married Annie Pennock in 1879. He ministered to his own people via a Gypsy Gospel Wagon Mission, begun in Edinburgh in 1892. In his evangelistic work he was always "Gipsy."
In 1886 he made the first of some thirty trips to North America. This saint of God conducted evangelistic campaigns in the United States and Scotland for over 70 years.
He twice traveled around the world as an evangelist. Tents, auditoriums, halls – none could hold the crowds of 5,000 or 6,000 or 10,000. In the Paris Opera House, he saw 150 converted from the "cream" of Parisian society.
His first wife died in 1937, and in 1938 the 78-year-old gypsy married Mary Alice Shaw on her 27th birthday. This brought some criticism. But it was a good marriage; for she helped him in his meetings, sang, did secretarial work, and later nursed him when his health failed.
He could sing as well as he preached. Sometimes he would interrupt his sermon and burst into such songs as: "Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me" or his favorite:
The world says I'm dreaming, but I know 'tis Jesus
Who saves me from bondage and sin's guilty stain;
He is my Lover, my Saviour, my Master.
'Tis He who has freed me from guilt and its pain.
Let me dream on if I am dreaming;
Let me dream on, my sins are gone;
Night turns to dawn, love's light is beaming,
So if I'm dreaming, let me dream on.
Although he was a Methodist, preachers of all denominations loved him.
Rodney (Gipsy) Smith died aboard ship, en route to America, 87 years old God's gypsy to the last!