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Appleby Gypsy Fair 2013 - Reflections from Friends in Northern Ireland

posted 2 Jul 2013, 00:16 by Stephen Hind

For many years I had a desire to come to the Fair at Appleby to do some Outreach for the Lord but until I retired, 2013 was the first opportunity to actually attend and a team of seven men made the journey from Belfast to Appleby with our Mobile Evangelistic Unit and one other campervan.

In order to have some literature to distribute, I undertook to write a condensed version of Gypsy Rodney Smith and his family.  We called this “The Long Road Home”.  We decided to print 5,000 copies of the booklet.  While writing I was suddenly arrested by the Lord saying to me, “What about the non-readers”.  This was something that had never occurred to me before so I asked my wife, Pat, to read the story and we recorded it and produced almost 2,000 CD’s.  One interesting thing occurred concerning this – I wanted a photo for the CD and for the booklet but where to find such a photo?  A search of the internet led me to Fine Art America and I chose a photo at random from among many pictures of Gypsy wagons.  Imagine my surprise when the first man to receive the CD looked at it and exclaimed:  “That’s Hugh Smith from Hull leading his wagon up Appleby Street”.  Our material about the Smith’s had a photo of a Smith on the cover!

Almost all our booklets were distributed and every one of the CD’s.  The team worked on the hill among the Gypsy wagons and at times in the street among the visitors to the fair.  Many were the serious conversations held about the Saviour and His great love and some came to the point of decision for the Lord.  Another thing that kept happening was that on the Wild Rose Caravan Park where we were based, people kept coming to our vehicle to talk to us about the Lord.  

On the first morning, a lady passed by as I was setting the table for breakfast outside the Campervan, very cheerily she said: “Am I invited for breakfast?” I replied, “You are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb”, somewhat puzzled she wanted to know what that was.  For the next half hour she listened to the story of Gypsy Smith and heard the Gospel.  When I reached the part where Cornelius Smith after he was saved, went back to Baldock to the pub where he had drunk and played the fiddle and I related how the first converts that day were the Landlady and her daughter, the woman exclaimed:  “I am the Landlady of a pub in E!”  Later she brought her husband to talk with me.  Next morning as we had a time of prayer, I heard a noise and glanced up and the lady had brought her chair over and was sitting listening in wonder to the prayers that morning.

Others came to talk and listen and soon everyone on the “Wild Rose” site knew about the “Irish Traveller preachers”.  They just presumed we were travellers too.

In fact, we are travellers, travellers to eternity and we just long that others will join us in the Glory land.

Time and space mean that we cannot write about all the conversations held and hearts touched but it was a wonderful time of blessing.  It was a special privilege to meet John Heron and the friends from Cumbria Gospel Outreach with whom we enjoyed such warm fellowship in the Lord.  John’s spirit and open heart were a great blessing to us and we counted it a privilege to work together.  Would we do it again?  Well please God we would love to return next year to follow up contacts and make new ones.  Maybe we will get a bigger team together next time but we would certainly love to come back to Appleby.

Through being at Appleby, we have learned of Gypsies in Jerusalem.  This has been a revelation to us so we are going to try to seek them out to share the Gospel message.  Just imagine how sad if they lived and died in the very city where our redemption was accomplished and no one ever told them of Jesus.

We simply want to give thanks and praise to the Lord Jesus for permitting us the privilege of being at Appleby to witness for Him.

Ronnie McCracken
On behalf of the team from Northern Ireland.

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