African Diamonds in the Making
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
The sparkling edges of the Indian Ocean are rippling gently on the rocky sand before me at low tide here in Pemba. The brilliant noon sun is accenting ribbons of green, turquoise and blue tropical water with intense flashes of reflected light that add dazzle to the shimmering surface. The restful sound of surf is mingling with the rustling of shade trees that form a rich green canopy over our yard and simple, funky house. From my table on our roof under some African thatch, I look out over grass and flowers at this wide vista of clear, warm, ever-moving water that is Mozambique’s coast — one of the world’s last untouched environmental treasures.
I am looking at the glory of the Creator, who does all things well. His workmanship is superb, in nature and in us. He knows how to glorify Himself, and to protect His honor and reputation in this world. His will is spectacular, joyous and beyond improvement. His Kingdom is the home of righteousness and perfection. His purposes will be accomplished in the earth. He is thrilled with the progress of His Church, and where she is going. The dust, chaff and residual sin of this world do not bring Him down. He is not discouraged and at a loss. He is not just hoping for better things from us, but He is powerfully at work in us, and He will succeed!
Our enemy will use every possible device to convince us otherwise. We will give him less attention, and Jesus our Savior more. We will not concentrate on weaknesses in ourselves and dark forces of danger on all sides, but on His face. We are sustained by beholding His beauty. We are confident in His Cross. We are satisfied by what He has done. His Gospel is all-sufficient. We will immerse ourselves forever in the river that flows from His throne. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!
We choose His perspective. From another perspective, Heidi and I, along with our whole ministry, have been assaulted relentlessly these four months since our last newsletter. We are exhausted, overextended and overrun by needs, crises, corruption, disappointment and the desperate cry for relief that rises up constantly from the poor of the world. And we cannot keep up with the demand for spiritual relief that calls for our attention from all over the world.
But His mercies and compassions never fail; they are new every morning. We are never discouraged, for “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:7-10).
Here in Africa among the poorest of the poor we are seeing revival fueled and sustained by the power of God, in spite of all our weaknesses. Onlookers react in all different ways, and there is always so much to criticize, but at the core of this movement is a white-hot, total abandonment to Jesus and His Kingdom. We will not be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Him. We are advancing. Our weapons are a firm faith, gentleness, peace, patience and a love that cannot be resisted. In Him we cannot lose!
Since January Heidi and I have been preaching our hearts out. Between us this year we have been to Canada, Australia, Eastern Europe, Taiwan, the east and west coasts of America, Korea, Brazil, England and Sudan. Now Heidi is heading for France as I go to Singapore. But what we preach is most intensely tested and refined in the fires of poverty and suffering in Africa. We descend into the darkness, and find that Jesus is there, in glory and power, and that He is a perfect savior for any who want Him. Through the humble and poor of Africa He calls the rich and powerful to Himself, winning hearts around the world with His matchless ways.
Though we travel outside Africa a third of the year, and minister in many countries in Africa, we continue to concentrate on Pemba and the northern province of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique. Our second Holy Given missions school starts there next week when students from twelve nations will arrive to learn missions on the mission field by listening, studying, worshiping, getting “wrecked” by the Holy Spirit, serving and ministering among the poor daily for ten weeks. Our base in Pemba is becoming an intense hub of activity where we care for hundreds of children, operate a free primary school for the community, train pastors in our Bible school, and launch outreaches out across the province where more than 300 churches have been planted in three years. The “unreachable” Makua people group around us is coming to Jesus, village by village, night by night.
The Holy Spirit’s pattern among us continues. In February Heidi wrote the following after a typical night outreach:
“I have been back in Pemba for awhile though it seems like more has happened in a few days than a previous year! Miracles are on the increase. Thursday night, when we went to a village in the ‘bush bush’ of Cabo Delgado, I called the deaf to come forward after hundreds of people were saved. Finally, Tanya, one of our missionaries, brought a deaf boy to the children and me who was instantly healed. After his mother testified, five more deaf people were brought to me including a deaf mute, totally out of her mind. Together the children and I laid our hands upon each one. Jesus mercifully and kindly healed them all. The deaf mute was also able to speak, as she was restored to her right mind. The kingdom of God belongs to the children! The village surely is being turned upside down by the love of God. We will be building a church in this very village next week.”
As remote villages have been responding to the Gospel week after week all this year, our meetings in our big tent at our Pemba center have been filled more and more with the glory of the Lord. We shout and dance up a storm as only Africans can, in the dirt and heat with clouds of dust rising from stomping feet. Pastors, missionaries, children and visitors together get lost in passionate, fiery celebration. But then the dust settles as a hush comes over us. The Holy Spirit quiets our hearts in perfect peace, and we transition into worship, deep and powerful. Then something amazing happens — the children begin to lead. They gather to sing to their Savior, and their soft, clear, gentle voices blend and harmonize with holy artistry, thrilling and spine-tingling. The Holy Spirit has come to rest among us and find his dwelling place.
At such times God has been giving some of our pastors and children heavenly visitations and visions. One Friday during chapel, our twelve-year-old Crispen was worshiping the Lord. Suddenly he had a clear vision of something very dark flying out of his heart. He then saw a brilliant white light come into his heart and explode. Then he heart a voice that said, “We are more than conquerors!” He came to Heidi and asked if she knew what it meant. He was undone by the Holy Spirit. Then one Monday morning during worship, one of our student pastors, Fernando, had an amazing vision. He saw the powerful hand of God pick him up and place him in a cemetery in the middle of dry bones. The Lord told him to preach to the bones and tell them they had new life in Christ Jesus. He was very afraid, but God told him not to fear because he was with him. So he preached to the bones, and they became living people…
A few weeks ago Heidi wrote:
“Sunday was a beautiful day. Church was filled with singing, dancing Makua and Makonde friends, along with many visitors from around the world. I preached from Mark 16:15-18, ‘He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”’
“In Mozambique, we see King Jesus protect us from great opposition as He promised in this passage. During church several people gave their testimonies. One lady had been full of demons and was told by her witch doctor to eat her family! She was severely sick and could not sleep. She would cut her arm and drink her own blood. When she came to church I would hug her and pray she would know the love of Jesus. Then one of our pastors visited her and burned all her witch doctor fetishes, and almost immediately she was freed and filled with the peace of Jesus. This morning her face was beaming with love, and instead of eating her family, they have become her friends!
“The next lady had an even more amazing story testifying of God’s grace and power to protect us all. She had been very ill with acute asthma for ten years. Her husband was sure she was a prostitute, and was going to divorce her. Recently she came to our church in Pemba as demonized as anyone we have seen. She was healed of asthma and set free instantly by prayer and a hug filled with the love of Jesus. Her husband was amazed by her transformation, although he continued to drink and fly into crazy rages. One day he had a demonic fit and died. After he was pronounced dead at the hospital his wife began to pray in Jesus’ name. In a little over an hour he was raised from the dead — and came straight to the church to ask Jesus into his heart!”
From the freezing cold gypsy huts of eastern Bulgaria to the 115 degree F. heat of Sudanese refugee camps, from the isolated native Inuits of arctic Canada to the dirt-poor subsistence farmers along the Zambezi River, we see ravenous desire for God among the poor and lowly. We will preach with all our strength to those who will listen, those who will receive, those who know they need Him. Jesus knows their suffering, and He will make it up to them. He will be their God, and they will be His people. He will use them to shame the wise and make the world jealous of their wealth toward Him.
It is a privilege beyond price to see the joy and affection of the Holy Spirit poured out like a waterfall on people who have known so much severe hardship, disappointment and bitter loneliness in their lives. Jesus is the perfect Redeemer, and it is a wonder to watch how He works, where He chooses to reveal Himself, and on whom His Spirit comes to rest. We crave being at the center of the vortex of His activity in this world, missing nothing. We will go anywhere and do anything if only we can participate in His most transcendent, breathtakingly irresistible work.
In this process we also encounter the worst Satan can do. Our enemies in Pemba try to get us deported. They publicly slander our motives and threaten us with lawsuits and prison. They falsify charges, demand restitution for crimes we didn’t commit, threaten our staff with murder, waste and steal our money, and strike for whatever they choose. Ministry to the poor involves vastly more than becoming a provider of food and clothes. It means much more than healing bodies and generating wealth. Bringing the Kingdom means a supernatural kindling of that most fundamental quality of revival — a hunger and thirst for righteousness. It means a thundering cataract of mercy and grace that cuts through the hard rock of evil like Niagara Falls, with clean, refreshing purity blowing like wet mist in the gentle breeze of Jesus. Africa is rich with diamonds buried deep in the ground, but one by one God is transforming the poor of Africa into sparkling diamonds in the Spirit, perfect and marvelous for all to see.
For this we will die. For this we will lose our lives for His sake. For this we will give up all, take up our cross and follow Him. We are enthralled and energized by all that fires the heart of God Himself. He remembers every tear. He repays us. And we will share His life and glory.
Pray for us always, that we will not falter and fail here in Africa. Join us in our work as you are gifted and empowered by Him. May our closeness in Him result in great fruit that will last. May righteousness, peace and joy rule our lives as His signs and wonders confirm our message and follow us everywhere. May Jesus Himself be with you richly in return for your amazing, faithful support all these months. May you comprehend what you are contending for with us, and may we together enter into the joy of our Master.
Much love in Jesus, Rolland and Heidi