Another day at Iris
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
03/30/2012 | Iris Global | Pemba | Mozambique
THURSDAY AFTERNOON, February 16! Time for outreach again! We do this every week! And we take all our visitors, ready or not, on the Iris version of an African bush safari, hunting for souls and the glory of God.
Packing starts early in the day. Tents, sleeping bags, headlamps, bug spray, water bottles, toilet paper, cameras, sandals, lots of deodorant(!)… All the essentials. And it all goes on top of our Land Rovers, which sway dangerously under heavy loads. So fun.
By 5 o’clock we are almost ready to head out of town to our chosen village an hour away. Our advance team has already gone on a big flatbed truck to set up sound and the Jesus Film. Everything is going smoothly. Exciting! What an operation. We are professionals!
Heidi and I take separate Land Rovers. She goes off to get gas and snacks for the trip, jammed full of visitors and kids all singing and thrilled. But then back at the base I get a call. It’s the advance team. It’s pouring rain where they are, and their big truck is hopelessly stuck in deep mud halfway to the village. They can’t make it. Amazing that they are in cellphone range. Quick! We need plan B!
“Get the church sound system!” I’m told. But we’ve never taken it to the bush to get all beat up before. Our other sound systems are in repair, veterans and victims of previous Iris outreaches. Nobody makes anything Iris can’t break. “Just get it!!” Okay, our boys haul out the heavy speakers and amp rack. But they are way too big for my short LR Defender 90 truck and all its stuff. Plan C. “Go home! There are small speakers, a media player and a video projector in your office we put there that Joe used in his plane!” But no screen. “Get a sheet! Find some poles! Quick, quick!” Race, race, drive, drive. It’s so late, and already dark. It’s a two-hour film. But no generator! Whoa! “Buy one!” Zoom. Shell out exorbitant dough at a local shop. A visiting photographer buys it for us out of sheer goodness.
Get another phone call. Wow. For some reason the torrential downpour stopped! The big truck is out of the mud and already at the outreach. The sky is clear, the Jesus Film is playing. All that fuss for nothing… Joy, joy!!
Okay, down the road we go, later than ever. This will be great. Thump, thump, thump. My steering wheel is vibrating. Something underneath is not sounding right at all. Very strange. Everyone is listening carefully. Heidi is racing ahead, as usual, and I’m trying to keep up with a very shaky truck. Something is wrong with a wheel, but how fast can I go safely anyway? I don’t know where the village is, and if I lose Heidi, it’s all over with. Cellphone coverage on the main highway is off and on, but I get Heidi and she stops for us.
The steel belt on my right front tire has broken apart, but somehow the tire hasn’t blown yet and we are riding on plain rubber. But it’s late, we have visitors, and the outreach must go on!! Okay, drive slowly at 30 mph and we thump and shake all the way to the village. Success!!
It’s actually a very cool outreach. The crowd listened carefully to the Gospel after the film. Practically everybody wanted Jesus, again. Lots of prayer from our team. Healings. One old deaf-mute, well-known to the village, was healed, hearing and repeating phrases over the mike! Fantastic! Another village soaking up the love and power of our Perfect Savior!
We pray for people until late. Our little tent city is set up in a dirt courtyard. Hundreds of kids watch with huge curiosity as we funny foreigners establish our idea of basic, essential civilization. That would include a huge pot of spaghetti and tuna fish warmed over a wood fire that we share with many Mozambicans. We add mayonnaise to every plateful, but no forks and spoons needed here. This is Africa.
The night is hot and the ground is hard. We just soak, turn and baste in our perspiration. But we have more than grass mats, and some of us even brought pillows! The chickens and kids wake up at 4:00 a.m., and that’s it for sleep. Soon comes dawn and Starbucks coffee—Heidi’s specialty. The bathroom is a reed fence sort of shielding us over a pit latrine. Our team produces toothbrushes, girls find hair brushes, and we start making tea and jam sandwiches for everybody, village moms and kids included.
But this is a big day and we have to get started early. First we honor the local chiefs. Each of our team sits low before them and spends time building friendship, explaining our backgrounds, our purpose in coming and our desires for the people. And the chiefs respond to each with solemn, dignified grace. They open their people to us and our ministry wholeheartedly. They want Jesus to reign and bless their land. The urge us to return, and they are profoundly grateful for our visits, love and help. Yes, their territory is ours, and they want to learn and grow in God.
Word of the deaf-mute’s healing last night reaches the imam at the local mosque, and he arrives in his robes and hat to pay his respects and declare with us that Jesus is Lord! He is full of joy to hear of His miraculous power, and there is no tension at all.
The morning continues…
We want to make the most of this overnight visit. We’ve been here before, and the village already has an Iris mud hut church, like nearly every village within a few hours’ drive of Pemba. But we aren’t there often, and the people need encouragement, friendship, input, ministry of all kinds.
And they need real church weddings before God and the people. Many couples in our churches have already been together for years by common law and village tradition. They cannot manage a civil ceremony or afford the expected feasting of a “real” wedding in the big city, but now that they know Jesus they want us to marry them. So today we marry three couples in their dim church hut. Kids crowd all around, eyes peek in through every window, the celebration is wild, dust is kicked up and thick in the air, and we are thrilled that the love of God is being poured into these covenant relationships.
Now we visit people in their own homes, simple huts with dirt floors, rope beds, mats and a cooking pot—and not much else. We pray with each family and their sick as everyone from giggling, beaming kids to peaceful, smiling, leather-faced grandmothers crowd around us with eager affection and hunger for God. It takes time, but these people have lots of it, and we have learned to stop for the least of these. God is in no hurry.
Next, a baptism for new believers! Our people do not hesitate to declare their faith openly! But where to baptize? Many villages are hours away by foot from a water supply, a pond, a stream, or often just a muddy trickle. And now there is just such a water hole nearby, a half-hour hike. Single file we tramp through the tall brush and assemble around a pitiful, tiny pool in a pit between some rocks. It’s not the Jordan River, but it’s glorious. The water is so shallow we use cups to douse people to make sure it works, ha. We get them wet and soaked, and we all shout with joy and praise as each comes up out of baptism, hands lifted to God and thrilled by new life. The African sky overhead is deep, clean and richest blue. Brilliant clouds are strewn by the master Artist. We are surrounded by the wild, God’s country. Here in this unknown, insignificant spot on earth we have a down payment on heaven as angels rejoice over each soul won forever.
And the afternoon…
It’s hard to leave. The villagers cannot get enough of our visit. And we have so many plans for them, as we do for each village we reach. Our vision is for village sponsorships, not just for individuals. We do aim for transformation, with schools, literacy programs, health care, better farming methods and tools, so many things. But all means nothing without Jesus, who sustains us and is our life and delight…
On the way back to Pemba we stop at the Mieze prison, a habit we have formed. It is a stunning shock for visitors to discover that the Holy Spirit has invaded this grim, dirty, crowded, claustrophobic, Mozambican idea of confinement. The prisoners are thrilled again by our visit. Most of them are let out into a long, very narrow and dark hallway to worship with us. They greet us excitedly, grinning with life. Now nearly every prisoner is a believer with fresh hope and an excited outlook on the future, in spite of their sentence. And they sing! Richly and loudly their voices reverberate in the hall and up to heaven, all joined in love for their Perfect Savior. It’s just amazing, spine-tingling, so moving. They want all of the Holy Spirit they can get. Every time we visit we teach them more, and they listen intently. They are loved by God, sons of the King, with a brilliant, eternal future that cannot be taken from them. Only the Holy Spirit can give them joy in such circumstances, and it is real, tested and proven. Jesus is glorified by such hearts and souls, and He will make up to them all their suffering. They are His workmanship!
Finally we are back in Pemba, tired, super dirty, and ready for showers and cold Cokes, the ultimate luxury here. We have poured out all we can, and given all we have with joy in our hearts. And now we rest, feeling very loved by our God and privileged beyond description to partake of His nature and do His work united with Him… Next week will be even greater! Of the increase of His government there will be no end…
Thanks, as always!!
We are again trying to comprehend the spectacular faithfulness of God to support us and our huge Africa family through your unending love and generosity. We of course need every cent more than you can imagine, but He knows what we need and it’s so amazing to watch His church function as it should. No pressure in the Kingdom! Be encouraged without limit by the faith and riches of the poor on our side of the world. We are after that which accrues to your account (Phil. 4:17).
Write us, come visit, be possessed and controlled by the Spirit, spend your lives on the poor and needy, delight to do His will, and you will get the desires of your heart!
Much, much love in Jesus,
Rolland and Heidi