Christmas in Pemba
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
It’s a dark, rainy day, unusual for Pemba. The southern hemisphere’s summer is upon us, and our fans feel so good in the heat and humidity. No white Christmas here, but we have been celebrating the season in our own way, and spirits are high. In a few days Heidi and I leave for California to spend Christmas with our own children, but now it is a joy to reflect on how the Lord has blessed our Iris family here in Pemba as we celebrated Christmas early. The ocean spread out before our house is a stormy gray, but the Holy Spirit has been with us in all His brilliance and peace.
ON THE BEACH WITH OUR CHILDREN
For Christmas we took our children to the beach and we had a wild, great party. Of course there was lots of running, jumping, flipping and splashing as the children played in our awesome Pemba water. It was a brilliant day, with warm breezes and rustling palm trees. Then we all grouped together and had an hilarious time with games. It was fantastic to watch all those bright smiles and hear all the loud laughter. Jesus has brought them into a whole new world!
Heidi organized some children with simple costumes and props, and they put on a nativity play right there on the beach. The children will not forget it! We held races in the sand, and the children ran with all their might to the finish line, which was a line of missionaries with their arms held out to grab the children and hug them. Some of the time we just relaxed, sitting under trees in the shade talking and laughing. Finally the suspense was over and the climax came — we passed out hundreds of bags of wrapped presents along with drinks. Somehow we kept the lines under control, and each child came away beaming, feeling very excited and loved.
May the Holy Spirit look after each one of these children, and raise them up in the knowledge of the Lord, bearing fruit all throughout their lives!
DELIVERANCE IN THE BUSH
Rain is pouring down through the thick trees all around us. Pools of water stand in the deep mud surrounding our bush church. A throng of Mozambicans are huddled together, tightly packed as they try to find space to stay out of the rain. Plastic and canvas sheets have been spread out from the church roof, held up by sticks and poles, to keep the rain off as many people as possible. But the downpour is heavy, conditions are wet and miserable, and the whole situation is a very unlikely setting for revival. We are having a bush conference in Inhambane Province, which we have rarely visited, and people have come from hundreds of miles around. They are hungry, physically and spiritually, and I am praying that the Holy Spirit will make the most of our time together. However, the devil tries to dampen the occasion.
The rain is loud, and the people in the back standing in the mud can hardly hear our simple sound system. What can the Holy Spirit do here? Plenty! Right now He is cleansing the entire assembly of demonic oppression. Tears are running down faces and bodies are shaking. Hands are lifted high. A huge outcry is rising up to heaven. I have just asked how many are being harassed and afflicted by demons, and nearly everyone stood up. Mozambique is riddled with witchcraft and demonic power, and so many churchgoers are syncretistic, going to witch doctors as well as God to try to meet their desperate needs. Every chance we get in our Bible schools and churches we urge the people to make a clean and total break from powers of darkness. So now I have asked the people to confess anything and everything that is still wrong in their hearts so that they can be cleansed and protected from evil forces. Suddenly the Holy Spirit came in force, and I can’t preach over the sound of repentant voices loudly crying for mercy and help. I and our pastors lay hands on as many as we can reach. We rebuke all evil power. Finally a mood of great peace and relief settles on everyone, and we move gently into the rest of our service.
At one point the electric power quits, leaving us sitting in the dark under the sound of the heavy rain. But soon the people sing, and without a dominating keyboard their pure, powerful voices blend and pulse with uniquely African harmony and rhythm. Their worship is spine-tingling. Our little, muddy, wet conference has become a taste of heaven on earth.
After a few days we leave, flying in a little Cessna to our next meetings to the north, in Sofala Province. We are full of wonder at our huge, far-flung Mozambican family, now over ten thousand churches strong. The Holy Spirit miraculously binds our churches together, giving us a united heart for a transformed society of humble, Spirit-filled believers saved by the blood of Jesus.
A STAFF PARTY FOR 300!
We all gathered at Maringanha, our new property at a wild, undeveloped stretch of beach a few miles from Pemba. We had construction workers, guards, cooks, teachers, houseparents, administrators — everyone in our Iris family who works for us. Many had never experienced Christmas, or the generous, gracious heart of God until they came to Iris. Heidi and I were determined to give them the greatest time possible. We’ve built a nice, big, round, open, breezy prayer house with a thatched roof there, and when I arrived it was already packed. We set up a a generator and sound system, and started dancing African-style with abandon. This last year we produced our own Makua worship CD, and we had it playing as loud as possible. It was so beautiful.
Heidi arrived, and we launched into some wild, fun games with lots of running, racing, jumping and cheering. We had a blast on into late afternoon, and then as we were treated to a fantastic African sunset over the water, we blessed and thanked our workers for all their labor in the Lord. After a very special chicken and rice dinner, we plugged in a floodlight and kept celebrating and worshiping the Lord. Finally we closed by passing out gifts. Heidi and I sat together on chairs, and we kissed and hugged each worker according to African custom as they came by and received their wrapped present.
There are many ways of appreciating the power of God’s love, but today we have again tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and that He is transforming the lives of lost sheep even here in remote Pemba.
SUNDAY CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
We start church at eight in the morning with prayer and intercession. By nine and ten the crowd swells with men, women and children from our center and all over Pemba. Church is never predictable. Different groups sing and dance. We worship with all our hearts. Foreigners and Mozambicans pray for each other. Our children lay hands on and bless our visitors. We soak in prayer on grass mats, seeking Him and His presence.
But today is special. Our Mozambicans put on a Christmas play, with angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, a horse, goats and hay, a manger and a real baby Jesus. Another wave of worship sweeps over the people, and we revel in God’s amazing, overwhelming gift of His Son to the world.
Many of our Mozambican visitors know very little of the Bible, but this drama will burn the story of Christmas into their hearts. What a privilege it is for us to be able to bring the Good News to Pemba in such a vivid way. This Christmas we appreciate more than ever the beautiful, international family that God has formed among us here.
Just in: report from the bush
Three outreach teams from our mission school just arrived back in Pemba after ten days in the bush going from village to village. They are overcome with excitement. The blind saw, the deaf heard, and food was multiplied three times! Hearts were broken for the poor as the call of God fell on many. Details in the next newsletter!
May this be the greatest Christmas ever for you! Together let’s press on to what lies ahead — the best yet! Let’s long for more faith working through love, the only thing that counts. Bless you for loving and supporting us in so many ways. May we always be an encouragement to you in return.
We encourage you to browse through the large photos in the gallery listed below, and in the previous newsletter gallery. We will continue to supply as many photos as possible, which you can print, distribute and use in any way you like. Ask if you need full resolution files.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Much love, Rolland and Heidi, Pemba, Mozambique