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Appleby Gypsy Fair - Ronnie McCracken - 2014

posted 2 Aug 2014, 07:37 by Stephen Hind   [ updated 2 Aug 2014, 07:39 ]
Fifteen of us set off from Larne in Northern Ireland on the Stena line ferry on June 7th en route to Appleby for the annual horse fair. Last year we had seven members on our team so it was great to have an extra eight helpers this time, making our team fifteen in total.  We had two motor homes, a minibus and a small van full of materials for use at the fair so it was a small convoy that drove out of the ferry in Cairnryan.

On our arrival at  the, “Wild Rose” we quickly got everyone organized to their living space for the next five days and then had a short  get together to pray for the coming outreach among the Gypsies and visitors at the fair.  

On the first day of the fair we met again with Mr. Billy Welch, the ‘Sherro Rom” of the fair. Billy warmly welcomed us and even bought lunch for the entire team as a ‘thank-you’ for blessing received last year.  Billy had asked me to bring a marquee this time and it was a privilege to be able to pitch the tent right in the midst of the living wagons on the hill. There we served free teas and coffee to all who came to visit us and we had a constant trickle of people coming in.  We had been able to purchase a brand new marquee through the Lord’s gracious provision for this year’s outreach at Appleby. It was wonderful to meet with people we had contacted last year and hear from them how much they had enjoyed reading, “The Long Road Home” or listening to it on CD.  One lady told me that she thought it was a music disc and put it on in their car as they left the fair last year, she became enthralled by the story and listened to it the whole journey home, the CD concluded just as they arrived at the home yard.

The weather was not so kind to us this time as previously and this hindered people from standing and talking to us. On Saturday it rained constantly all day long. I decided to go into Appleby to speak to John Heron at the C.G.O. van outside the Methodist church. On the way back to the hill the rain was torrential and I was soon soaked right through, many people began to hook up their caravans and start for home because of the weather. There was a constant stream of traffic leaving and by the time I reached the marquee I was totally wet and feeling a bit cold and miserable. I sent the team members off to the “Wild Rose” for dinner while I remained to do security duty at the marquee.  No sooner had the team departed than a woman and her son entered the marquee and she announced,

“I am a backslider and I am here to return to Christ”.

I asked her to slow down a bit and tell me who she was and very soon we were deep in conversation. Her name was Corina, and she was a Gypsy woman from Sweden. On a whim she had decided to come to visit the fair at Appleby for the first time in her life. However when she and her son, Joshua, arrived they could not find any accommodation. They tried five different hotels and found them all full. Some places in Appleby simply close down for the fair week to avoid any trouble. In desperation on a very wet Saturday afternoon, with no place to stay, Corina telephoned to her friend back in Sweden.  Corina poured out her heart regarding her dilemma and then her friend said, “Corina I am going to pray for you right now and if the Lord answers you will know that you should come back to Him.”  For the previous nine years Corina had been a backslider due to tragic family circumstances for which she blamed the Lord.  There and then on the telephone her friend prayed for the Lord to provide somewhere for them to stay and the Lord heard and answered prayer. A short time after that prayer Corina found herself in Kirkby Stephen where she spied the old Methodist church, which is now a back packers hostel!  When she enquired about a room she was told that someone had checked out because of the weather and a room was available.  Astonished at how the Lord had answered Corina made her way back to Appleby where she met John Heron at the stall. John sent her to the blue and white marquee on the hill and she arrived as described and announced that she was a backslider who wanted to return to the Lord. After some words of counsel and prayer Corina cried to the Lord to take her back into His fold and as she called on His name with tears, the assurance came to her and Joshua that all was well with their souls.  All of a sudden I did not feel so cold or miserable any more but was full of rejoicing that the Lord had brought this lady and her son all the way from Sweden to the marquee at Appleby to fulfil His purposes. Please do pray for Corina and Joshua.

Sunday morning the Gypsy brethren conducted an open-air service at the stage and it was wonderful to be with them as Alan led in song and brother Joe shared the Gospel message. For us it was special to see Billy Welch take a stand with the believers at this service. We continue to pray constantly for Billy and Rachel.

It was a great delight to participate in the evening service at Kirkby Stephen Gospel Hall on Sunday and all were blest as our sister Concepta was interviewed and shared how the Lord had saved her from a very devout and religious Roman Catholic background. We were reminded that nothing is too hard for the Lord. 

All too soon the fair was over and it was time for us to begin the return journey back to Ireland.  On the way we stopped at Lockerbie to distribute booklets and tracts.  Lockerbie was stricken when the sabotaged Pan Am flight exploded over the village with the loss of all passengers and also people on the ground. Last year we had visited part of the town so this time we wanted to cover areas we had not managed to get to last time. Some other villages were also visited on the way to Cairnryan as well before we reached the ferry for the crossing to Larne. The team members returned with many happy memories of days well spent at Appleby in the work of the Lord. These team members are not ‘full time’ Christian workers but volunteers who paid their own travel expenses to come and help us and we are so grateful to the Lord for sending them to us. In the will of the Lord we would love to return again next year to follow up on contacts made and to seek out new ones.  How much we appreciate the wonderful work done by Cumbria Gospel Outreach and the fellowship with brother John Heron and other workers,  it was a real privilege to work together again in perfect harmony and I would commend the ongoing work to your prayers.

We plan to go (dv) to Ballinasloe in the Irish Republic to witness at the Horse Fair there where about 100,000 people are expected. Please pray that the Lord will open up the right place for us to work and ask that our visit will greatly encourage the small Christian Fellowship there that is led by brother Tim Quinlan.

Ronnie McCracken