KEEP ON PRAYING
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Devotinal By Michael Guido
Gypsy Smith (Born Rodney “Gipsy” Smith), the great evangelist, was converted when he was a boy. He loved his grandfather, and he tried to win him to the Lord.
Not being allowed to talk to his grandfather, he prayed for his conversion.
One day the grandfather asked, “Laddie, why are the knees of your trousers so badly worn?”
“Because I’ve been praying for your conversion,” he explained.
Weeping, he knelt with the boy, and received the Lord.
Have you ever worn out your trousers by praying for the conversion of your family and friends?
Try it, won’t you?
Prayer: O God, all through today make me brave enough to follow Thee, strong enough to witness for Thee, and convincing enough to win souls to Thee. Constrain me to pray persistently for the conversion of my family and friends: through Christ. Amen.
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Who was Gipsy Smith?
His Early life
The grave of Polly and Cornelius Smith in St Nicholas churchyard in Norton now part of Letchworth Garden City.
Smith was born in a gypsy tent six miles northeast of London, in Epping Forest. The site is marked with a large, commemorative stone,in the woods near Waterworks Corner, Woodford Green. Smith received no education. The family made a living selling baskets, tinware, and clothespegs. His father, Cornelius, and his mother, Mary (Polly) Welch, provided a home that was happy in the gypsy wagon. Smith was a child when his mother died from smallpox near Baldock in Hertfordshire. She is buried in the nearby churchyard of St Nicholas church in Norton, now part of Letchworth Garden City. The Smith children numbered four girls and two boys (Rodney was the fourth child).
Cornelius was in and out of jail for various offences. There, he heard the gospel from a prison chaplain; later, he and his brothers were converted at a mission meeting. From 1873 on, “The Converted Gypsies” were involved in numerous evangelistic efforts.
Smith’s conversion as a sixteen-year-old came as a result of a combination of things. The witness of his father, hearing Ira Sankey sing and the visit to the home of John Bunyan in Bedford all contributed. He taught himself to read and write and began to practice preaching. He would sing hymns to the people he met and was known as “the singing gypsy boy.
At a convention at the Christian Mission (later to become the Salvation Army) headquarters in London, William Booth noticed the Gypsies and realized the potential in young Smith. On 25 June 1877, he accepted the invitation of Booth to be an evangelist with and for the Mission. For six years (1877–1882), he served on street corners and mission halls.
He was married on 17 December 1879 to Annie E. Pennock, one of his converts. It was from this marriage that Rodney and Annie had three children, two boys and one girl. Albany Rodney, the eldest, became a Christian later in life and eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and became an evangelist in the United States. He was known as Gipsy Smith, Jr. and served as an evangelist from 1911 to August 24, 1951 when he died. Albany was married and had three children of his own. His eldest was John Rodney or (Jack) and was known as a well-respected lawyer. G. Wilbur Smith was a Presbyterian pastor and pastored three different churches, 1 in Missouri, 1 in Stuttgart, Arkansas and his last pastorate was at Batesville, Mississippi. Albany’s youngest was Betty and was the apple of his eye, she grew up into a fine wife. Rodney’s youngest son, Alfred Hanley became a Christian while he was yet young and became a Wesleyan pastor in England and served at 11 different pastorates during his 43 years in the ministry. Hanley died on February 11, 1949 at the age of 67. Rhoda Zillah served with her father in his great South African campaign known as the “Mission of Peace”. She eventually married a banker named James Lean and had two children, Rodney James Lean and Zillah Lean. Zillah Elizabeth Lean, Gipsy’s granddaughter, worked with the late English author David Lazell, of East Leake, in his first biographical account of Gipsy Smith entitled, “Gipsy Smith, From the Forest I Came”. Also, Reverend Charles Smith, of Van Buren, Arkansas wrote a brief biographical account of the Gipsy Smith family for the British Evangelical Magazine, The Flame (July-September 2006: Volume 72 No. 3).
‘Gipsy’ Smith as a Captain in the Salvation Army
Rodney and Annie served in several assignments and saw membership rise to hundreds, then a thousand. By June 1882, great crowds were coming and the work was growing. A gold watch was given to him and about £20.00 was presented to his wife by the warm-hearted members of a local congregation. Acceptance of these gifts was a breach of the rules and regulations of the Salvation Army, and for this, he was dismissed from the Army. This happened so suddenly that other evangelists had to step in to take up his preaching engagements, including a contemporary preacher Charles Crowie Smith, who took over 2 engagements in Hanley. His eight assignments with the Salvation Army had produced 23,000 decisions and his crowds were anywhere up to 1,500.
He traveled extensively around the world on evagelistic crusades, drawing crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands throughout his life. Busy as he was, he never grew tired of visiting gypsy encampments whenever he could on both sides of the Atlantic. Gipsy never wrote a sermon out for preaching purposes. Smith wrote several books and could sing as well as he preached. Sometimes he would interrupt his sermon and burst into song. Several of these hymns he would sing were recorded by Columbia Records. Although he was Methodist, ministers of all denominations loved him. It is said that he never had a meeting without conversions.
During World War I he ministered under the auspices of the Y.M.C.A.to the British troops in France, often visiting the front lines. As a result of this, King George VI made him a member of the Order of the British Empire.
Gipsy Smith’s wife, Annie, died in 1937 at the age of 79 while he was in America. Front page headlines in 1938 carried the news of the 78-year-old widower marrying Mary Alice Shaw on her 27th birthday. This, of course, 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.
Stricken by a heart attack, he died on the Queen Mary on a cruise in America, age 87. It was estimated that this was his 45th crossing of the Atlantic. His funeral was held 8 August 1947 in New York City. A memorial with a plaque was unveiled on 2 July 1949 at Mill Plain, Epping Forest, England, his birthplace. So ends the life of one who once said, “I didn’t go through your colleges and seminaries. They wouldn’t have me…but I have been to the feet of Jesus where the only true scholarship is learned.”
Much of this report was taken from work done by Charles Smith (No relation to Gipsy Smith) and published in the online “The Free Encyclopedia” Wikipedia. Charles wrote to suggest I credit this report and I am most happy to do so. Charles is working, I believe, on a larger work on Rodney “Gipsy” Smith’s life & ministry. He hopes to publish soon. Click this link for Wikipedia report: http://bit.ly/ccU244
You will find more detail about “Gipsy” Smith in the story about his father’s conversion to Christ. A remarkable story and one you should share with others. http://bit.ly/9Utx8u