Christmas In Revival
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
26 DECEMBER 2005
I can hear the waves of the Indian Ocean softly wash up on the rocks and coral of Pemba’s beach out in the dark. The air is warm and still. All is peaceful at our funky, thatched house far to the north in Mozambique. And it is three a.m., time to rise. I have more than a thousand miles to travel today on a tight schedule. Soon headlights are shining through our gate through the trees. My ride to the airport is here.
I quietly load my baggage into the Land Rover and we make our way over ruts and sand until we reach a main road and pass by our center. All is quiet and deserted on the streets. We drive up sloping terrain and reach the airport on a hill overlooking Pemba and its huge, pristine bay that is hardly used. We continue past the tiny terminal building and move out onto the tarmac to our Cessna 206 parked beside a few larger commercial aircraft. My three passengers help me as I load the plane, using a flashlight to see. A security guard wanders over to investigate, but we are okay.
The sky begins to glow and lighten in the east, outlining silvery layers of clouds just above the horizon with orange and red. The control tower is closed, but I have filed my flight plan and paid my fees the night before. Our engine breaks the night silence as it starts, and we taxi out to the runway in a mounting sea breeze. We lift off smoothly and line up on a course that slowly takes us away from the coastline toward the central Mozambican city of Beira, our first stop, four-and-a-half hours to the south.
The rising sun brings brilliance to the canopy of beauty that envelopes us. Clouds, exquisitely designed and placed by the Creator, approach us and then flash by with a burst of exhilaration. Hills, rivers and wildness pass below us. I level off at eight thousand feet and trim for cruise. There is no one to talk to on the radio, so I fill our noise-canceling headsets with rich worship music… On we travel in cozy, smooth comfort, each one of us lost in our own thoughts and prayer.
Once again I am thinking of the Makua, a people group of four million living in remote huts scattered far below us, and how God has so graciously been concentrating His attention on them in the last several years. I dwell on what our Good Shepherd has been doing all over southeast Africa since we arrived in Mozambique over ten years ago. In power and glory He has been finding lost sheep and revealing the Kingdom in ways we never dreamed we would see. All our lives we have pressed toward revival, and now we are overwhelmed with a movement that has grown far beyond our natural ability to watch over.
The harvest field is ripe and ready in Africa. The poor know they need the true and living God, and when they meet Him in Jesus, they run to Him. They do not refuse. They are not hardened. They know that finally they have found the desire of their hearts. This Jesus who heals the incurably blind and sick in their villages is Eternal Love. They want to know more. They want to draw closer. They want pastors, churches and Bible school now. They can’t get enough. They shout, dance, sing and worship with wild energy because Jesus is worthy. They know they cannot overdo their passion for Him. And He responds to them with His Spirit…
Every three months our five Bible schools are filled with new pastors and students from the bush. It is amazing to watch Jesus bring them, more at every session. It is life-changing to watch entire villages come to Jesus as soon as they see His love and power. The Kingdom has come upon us when pagan, syncretistic chiefs grab our microphones and shout to their own people, “This is real! No one could do this but God! Listen to these Christians!”
An insistent, insatiable hunger for the Spirit-filled Christian life and increasing revival is spreading across Africa. Hearing of what the Spirit is doing among us, the desperate are urgently calling us to more countries. Bush conferences are in constant demand. Leaders want input, encouragement, direction and fellowship. The people are starving for God, especially in devastated, war-torn countries. With all the cultural richness of their choirs, robes, rhythm and ways, and the promises of health and wealth they have heard, they know they have nothing without His Presence and companionship.
As we fly on, I consider the intensity of the Christmas we just experienced this year, and how it so perfectly illustrates the coming of the Kingdom to the poor of Africa…
A CHRISTMAS REPORT
“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).
Pouring with sweat and covered with dirt and flies, Heidi and our staff spent five hours one afternoon just before Christmas bringing the life and joy of the Gospel to the “least of these” in the Maputo city dump near our Zimpeto center. The burning garbage heaps shimmered through smoke and fumes in 113 degree F. heat, but nothing stopped all the celebration. We distributed sacks of food to everyone. Ladies wrapped in their colorful skirts danced with joy. Choirs sang with amazing beauty and harmony. We offered communion with bread and water — all we had in this poor community — to believers. When we finished with the expected number, we still had more toys in our boxes, and so we opened up the queue again for latecomers! Because Jesus died, there is always enough…
Back up north in Pemba, we began our Christmas Eve with a beautiful dinner for our staff near the beach in the warm night air under brilliant stars. We are amazed and grateful for the quality of our many Iris family leaders, both foreign and Mozambican, whom Jesus has given us for His work. Their love, faith and dedication have made us so rich and full. We did not have snow and a roaring fireplace, but our time together was filled with warmth and joy.
Then, late into the night, we began our midnight candlelight service for all our children and workers. With our kids running, jumping and shouting with burning candles mounted on paper plates in the dark, it was holy chaos rather than silent night. But in the warm, flickering glow and dancing shadows we also sang and worshiped on our faces before our King. We had lights and decorations, and even a gorgeously lit tree, but Jesus was the burning attraction in our hearts. What an amazing time and atmosphere it was, considering that three years ago we began in Pemba with no facilities and just fifteen believers in this “unreachable” town. Finally, we fell into bed at 3 a.m…
Christmas Day was packed with joyful activity. We invited our Moslem friends and the media to our new center that we are developing. Our several hundred children had just moved to their new dorm rooms, and could hardly be more excited. Heidi and our staff began by passing out gift bags of presents, beginning with the youngest little girls (see photos!). Our missionaries had made a tremendous effort to buy these presents and get them to Pemba, and it was priceless to watch neglected, abandoned and orphaned children receive gifts for the first time in their lives. They hardly knew how to react, but we knew they had come to feel loved and valued at last.
Next we held a Christmas service in our huge green-and-white-striped meeting tent. It was hot, another summer day in blowing dust, but the Holy Spirit has come to Pemba. The gentle breeze of Jesus blew refreshingly over pastors, children and visitors as we married Carlos, one of our Bible school teachers, and his bride, a full orphan from Dondo. What a beautiful time for a wedding, Mozambican style! We are grateful for those who have given rings and wedding gowns to Iris so we can bless many poor couples who want to be married by us.
Of course we also preached and gave an altar call, as always. All the children in the community had been invited, and over one hundred of them came forward for salvation. Then our entire church moved out across the road to the beach and we baptized hundreds of our new believers in front of a gathering crowd of curious, amazed onlookers. Pemba’s people can recognize joy, vitality and good works. Their long-standing resistance to the Gospel is melting as more and more of them wholeheartedly rush into the Savior’s arms.
Whitecaps to the horizon decorated our beautiful blue and green water on this unusually windy day. Our children jumped, dived and laughed in the breaking waves as these new creatures in Christ, many of them ex-Moslems, climbed out of the surf grinning, singing and worshiping, publicly identifying with the supernatural life of Jesus.
Adding to the excitement, a visitor and well-known horse trainer from England introduced a sleek, beautiful thoroughbred horse she had brought to Pemba for the children to enjoy. She rode up and down the beach, even taking the horse deep into the water, as our enthusiastic kids ran behind with a mixture of wonder and cautious fear.
Next, we all walked back to our center for our Christmas feast of chicken, rice, coleslaw and Coca-Cola, a rare and amazing treat for the poor. We called in all we could, and finally had a tumultuous gathering of two thousand around our open dining hall filled with Christmas decorations. A group of our young girls energetically performed an African dance they had diligently practiced for the occasion. African drums and dance are always a spine-tingling treat when mixed with the pure joy of the Lord. There were people everywhere, spilled rice and empty Coke bottles all over the floor, scattered benches, paper wrappings — it was wonderful! And the first Christmas most of them had ever experienced.
Heidi was interviewed twice by local radio reporters, with government officials listening. They were amazed by this huge feast given for the poor, including so many outsiders and complete strangers. Heidi spoke of our primary school opening up, offering free education for local children, and our vision for taking in far more children. These Moslem media people were moved, and they are sending a TV crew back to cover this new Christian force in their community.
Our fifteen believers of three years ago have grown to over 240 churches in this province, and more are being added each week. But Jesus wants His whole Makua bride of four million brought in, and so we will press forward with mercy and grace, love and power, until the province has been won, in His beautiful, irresistible way.
Our Iris family enjoyed wonderful Christmas celebrations at our other bases too. Each reflected the power of the Gospel to bring life and hope to the poor, to any who will receive the Savior. With full hearts we look forward to the best yet in 2006 as we continue to grow in the knowledge of Him. May His life and joy fill the whole continent of Africa!
Once again we thank our supporters for being so utterly generous and sensitive to the Holy Spirit, even when we were on such an intense schedule that we could not communicate as much as we wanted. It is amazing what Jesus has enabled us to do through you, and the heart He has given you for His work. We look forward to the future with more confidence than ever that He can supply through His Body all that we need to please Him and finish what He has given us to do. May we all share in His limitless joy and reward!
We were deeply moved by the overwhelming outpouring of love and prayer that we received from all over the world when Heidi was dangerously sick and in the hospital for a month. Finally, at just the right time, Jesus healed her in a matter of minutes while preaching a message of grace and joy in the face of all satanic opposition.
We could have spent this newsletter detailing a staggering list of challenges to our faith that we are encountering as this movement grows. But it is our joy to receive every day fresh opportunity to live out the Sermon on the Mount in the power of the Spirit. We glory in our weaknesses, for then we are strong. We lose our lives for His sake, and yet we cannot lose, but instead become more than conquerors. We want always to live for the praise of His glory. Please keep interceding for us!
Our next Holy Given missions school in Pemba begins on June 6, 2006. Information and online applications are now available on our administrative web site at www.irismin.com. Previous newsletters and photos are at www.irismin.org. We welcome applications for long-term service, and are deeply in the process of considering and interacting with those who have applied already. We strongly recommend short-term visits first, and attendance at our missions school. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for general information.
Our next frontiers of ministry are DRCongo, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and India, with Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Ethiopia coming up. Our next reports will include an Iris team’s recent and amazing month spent in DRCongo, and Heidi’s and my time in Sudan where we will be in a week. May Jesus provide just the people, resources, knowledge, giftings and wisdom needed to fuel and shepherd this revival!
We continue to worship and pray as our little blue-and-white plane slowly moves south through changing skies and weather, clouds and heavy rain, until finally we descend for an instrument approach over Beira’s harbor. We have a lot more flying to do before we reach Nelspruit, South Africa, and then I must drive all the way to Johannesburg, leaving my plane in Nelspruit for service. And then I meet and fly out with Heidi on a round-the-world speaking trip, testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. We will never grow weary and lose heart, but we will hope in the Lord, renew our strength, and soar on wings like eagles…
With all our love and appreciation in Jesus,
Rolland and Heidi