Rodney (Gypsy) Smith
, 1860-1947, was born in a tent, raised on a Gypsy camp, never attended a school - not even for a day! - yet he influenced the lives of millions of people for God through his powerful preaching. He was converted in 1876 and, the next year, was invited by General William Booth to join him in evangelistic work. He served as an officer with the Salvation Army until 1882. He then began ministering as an itinerent evangelist working with a variety of organisations all over the world, but particularly in Britain and America.
I was born on the 31st of March, 1860, in a gipsy tent, the son of gipsies, Cornelius Smith and his wife, Mary Welch. The place was the parish of Wanstead, near Epping Forest, a mile and a half from the “Green Man,” Leytonstone. When I got old enough to ask questions about my birth my mother was dead, but my father told me the place, though not the date. It was only quite recently that I knew the date for certain. A good aunt of mine took the trouble to get some one to examine the register of Wanstead Church, and there found an entry giving the date of the birth and christening of Rodney Smith. I discovered that I was a year younger than I took myself to be. The gipsies care little for religion and know nothing really of God and the Bible, yet they always take care to get their babies christened, because it is a matter of business. The clergyman of the nearest parish church is invited to come to the encampment and perform the ceremony. To the “gorgios” (people who are not gipsies) the event is one of rare and curious interest.
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