Christmas with Jesus
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
12/21/2011 | Iris Global | Pemba | Mozambique
Christmas in Pemba
THIS IS WHAT Christmas week looks like in our part of the world from our front yard, far from snow and sleigh bells. Even in the squelching heat, we revel in beauty all around. Ocean ripples arrive softly on the shore as the tide rises. Fishermen glide by, paddling their dugouts lazily. Women are wading on the reefs, gathering long nets. Children are racing, flipping and diving on the beach. The slight breeze is so pleasant and welcome. Protected and refreshed under spreading shade trees, we look out over a vista that could only have been designed by God. All seems quiet, peaceful, slow—vintage Africa.
Last night we had our staff Christmas party on our porch. Warm, pulsing Christmas lights trimming our thatch roof cast a dim, colorful glow on our many faces, white and black. Our scrawny, pitiful African pine tree was lit up too, adding to an improbable but perfect atmosphere in the darkening, sultry evening. For no practical reason we dressed up and looked so uncharacteristically sharp and beautiful we could hardly recognize each other. But here in this once-pagan land we gathered to enjoy His Presence together once more and celebrate the arrival of our Perfect Savior two thousand years ago. And so deep in “faraway” Africa Christmas carols rose to heaven as a sweet, fragrant offering to our God for His gracious, unfathomable kindness toward us who believe.
We were tired. We have had such a challenging month/year. So many needs and desperate, desperate requests/demands. So many children need love, presents and more attention. We are constantly asked for housing, transportation, phones, food and even airfare. And we have had almost daily major events. Birthdays, good-bye parties, growing up ceremonies, graduations, outreaches, home meetings, baptisms, prayer meetings, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas celebrations for workers and children—every day something different. All this in addition to regular Bible school and Harvest school classes, church meetings and dealing with personal issues and crises among our people and leaders. We have been working! And loving…
But we were happy. Jesus has given us so much fruit. Testimonies abound. We would not trade our lives here for anything. He is worth it all, and every person is priceless. So we sang and danced and laughed and ate—all the chicken and rice we could hold, and then all the Christmas desserts we could get down after that. Our senior staff is such a huge, composite gang now, almost eighty of us, including young and old missionaries, grown-up Mozambican sons and daughters from our early years in Maputo, young leaders rising up, local pastors, what a mix. Relaxed and unstressed, we just enjoyed Christmas together. We read the nativity story. We gave thanks and worshiped. We gave presents. We jumped and shouted. We hugged, blessed and prayed for each other. We love what God has done, and we kept reminding each other of all the miraculous that has happened this year.
Fernando and Visions Beyond the Veil
This is Fernando, one of our teenagers, a normal, likable kid who has been with us for a long time. We have a homegroup for our youth every Monday night, and recently at one of these meetings Fernando got a taste of heaven! Some background here. Heidi and I were not originally “children people.” But we learned from my grandfather H.A. Baker, who wrote Visions Beyond the Veil, to look for revival among “the least of these,” poor, helpless, abandoned children. And so we came to Mozambique hungry for a continuation of that outpouring described in Visions. Many have had visions during these sixteen years since, but Fernando had one that is taking us even closer to the sequel we are after.
The meeting started with unusually deep prayer and worship. The Holy Spirit fell on some, and one of the older youth began prophesying spontaneously that our kids would have dreams and visions, and encounters with God. While we read from H.A.’s book, Fernando was filled with the Spirit. He got up, walked around with his eyes closed, and was talking to thin air—but all very coherently. Clearly he was seeing and hearing things that we were not. Immediately we realized he was in a vision! We could ask him questions and he would respond, but at the same time he was talking to Jesus and to angels, shaking their hands—which we saw him act out, and we heard his responses. Just like Visions Beyond the Veil.
To mention a few things we learned later, God spoke to him out of Proverbs 7 about following His commandments. He saw angels all around. There were flowers that never decay, houses, a river-fountain and lights with lots of colors—yellow, red, green, blue—lots of blue. He saw fire over people’s heads. He saw the hand of God stretched out to help him up a ladder to a higher place where he saw a big gate, and he was given a key. He opened it, and there were many more entryways ahead. He was most moved when at one point he saw Jesus’ hands, which had holes in them from the crucifixion.
He came out of the vision and we gathered around to hear more. And then he went back into another vision, this time of the healing blood of Jesus, and a place full of joy and the Holy Spirit where all can receive love and knowledge. We enter by a straight path that does not turn, and we cannot leave it. Then Fernando started giving thanks and praising God for His might, His power, His extended hand, all His wonders, and a spontaneous song sprang up from his heart.
Our entire base was deeply stirred after this meeting. We realize we are on course to receive the desire of our hearts, the greatest down payment on heaven we have heard of yet! “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:1-2). “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
Bible School and Harvest School
Fiery, laid-down love! Intense Presence! The explosive joy of the Lord! Power and energy. Passion for the lost! Jesus is here! God is in the room! Church can begin! We love our joint Bible School/Harvest School graduations, always the climax of ten weeks of blending Word and Spirit in the context of on-the-ground missions. Twice a year we bring in new students and pastors from the remotest bush, and also eager students from nations around the world who are zealous for missions and want to be as immersed in God as possible. The hungry will be fed! We bring in our favorite speakers, and then pour everything we have into every heart and mind. We love, laugh and think hard, get as filled up as possible, and then head for our local villages and the “bush-bush” to seek and save the lost among some of the most forgotten people on earth.
As much as possible we bring cultures together, black and white, east and west, rich and poor. We are a cross-section of the Body of Christ, and want to see it function as it should, each member contributing its gifts from God. We teach the Word to the limit of our ability as it becomes the Sword of the Spirit. We preach a living Savior whom we can find, meet and trust for everything. These schools are the foundation of our ministry, our chance to impart our core values and the relationship we have with our God. And we pray they will bear eternal fruit as many are called to long-term missions, satisfying the humble and poor in spirit wherever they are in the world. May we all pay the price, as with Paul we consider our lives worth nothing to us, if only we may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given us—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
We just finished our largest Harvest School yet, almost three hundred students from seventeen countries. The interest is great; we are limited only by the extent of our facilities, which we pray God will increase according to His perfect plan for us. You are welcome to apply for our next session through our website www.irisglobal.org.
Actual experience on the frontiers of missions in the African bush is the highlight of every session. In the last few years we have seen more than two thousand churches planted in this one province of Cabo Delgado. More spring up every week and we cannot keep count. Our “technique” is simple: all that counts is faith working through love (Gal. 5:6).
Every week we send truckloads of leaders, students and our own children to three villages. So many have opened up to the Lord that we are now often welcomed excitedly as we come back to love and encourage the people further. It is glorious to see the Kingdom spreading through the isolated and forgotten countryside of this land as village by village the power and love of our King is becoming known.
No carpets and air-conditioned sanctuaries here. We meet outside in the dirt and in the dark with hundreds and even thousands of villagers. In wind, dust, heat and rain they stand in their rags for hours, absorbing all they can. There is almost no resistance to the Gospel in this environment. Everyone wants Jesus when they feel His love through us all and see what only He can do. Of course they will need much more teaching, and more sanctification by the Spirit. But it is thrilling to see great crowds jumping and shouting “Yes!” to Jesus and His gifts. Every time our teams spread out and pray for everyone possible, resulting in tremendous testimonies. And in the morning we serve food for everyone, make friends, honor the chiefs, visit houses and families, pray for the sick, disciple the elders, preach and teach in simple mud churches, and just keep pouring out all we have.
This is Antonio, a 12-year-old known to his whole village as a deaf-mute since he was very young. Here he is, happy and healed, to the joyful excitement of everyone around. Almost every week the deaf are healed, and as a result this time three local chiefs came to Jesus acknowledging that He is Lord. They opened the whole area to us, welcoming our desire and efforts to bring more teaching, ministry and practical help of all kinds. For months since our last major newsletter we have seen this kind of breakthrough in village after village, invigorating us with fresh energy and appetite to see God do even more in the future.
The Kingdom of God is holistic. We don’t just preach heaven, but we prove the love of God by drilling wells, building simple churches and schools, supplying teachers, providing for orphans and abandoned women—doing whatever we can with what we have. These villages are primitive almost beyond belief to many Westerners, and desperately need help and development of every kind.
We love adorning the Gospel with love and good works that people can enjoy and appreciate here and now. We revel in all that transformation that we can achieve in the Lord that gives the poor more of a taste of heaven. We love material blessings that come from the good hand of the Father. We love to feed the hungry, set the lonely in families, teach the unlearned and bring hope and a future to the destitute.
But most of all we proclaim Jesus. He is our salvation, our prize, our reward, our inheritance, our destination, our motivation, our joy, wisdom and sanctification—and absolutely everything else we need, now and forever. All His grace and power flow to us through the Cross and no other way. We say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25).
We are glad to be known as social workers and humanitarians, and to have a reputation for doing good. But all is in vain if we do not bring to the people faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ. We want to be known by His Name, first and foremost. And our Christmas is spectacular because He is with us!
We invite you to help as the Holy Spirit fills you with compassion and vision. We are not a controlling, highly regimented ministry defined mainly by positions and authority structures, but are more of an informal, warm family in the Spirit. We want to see you free and flourishing in your calling, making the most of your gifts. We do not trust in ourselves and our methods, but are always asking God for correction, more guidance and greater gifting. And for far more help, in all areas imaginable! But count the cost. Don’t just lightly experiment and dip your toe in missions. These are life-and-death issues. Lay your life down, take up your cross and follow Him into joy unspeakable and full of glory. You will share His reward, now and forever!
You can contact us and make applications for school and visits through our website www.irisglobal.org. We are expanding into many countries, and there is wide-open potential for creative new forms of ministry. May Jesus have His way with you perfectly!
We are amazed by the support we have received even in this recession, and we owe you such a huge debt of love. Our needs are great, and we needed every penny. We have been living on the edge, literally praying for our daily food, but Jesus has provided through you! We bless you for such sensitivity and generosity, and we look for what may be credited to your account (Phil. 4:17). May you be enriched toward God in this Christmas giving season, receiving the very best from Him as you seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. Thank you for remembering the poor!
Much, much love,
Rolland and Heidi
For further information, previous news and writings, photo galleries, Iris base pages, books and DVDs, child sponsorship details, missions school application procedures, visitor preparation details, convenient donation instructions and more, go to our website at https://www.irisglobal.org. We welcome communication, including feedback and urgent prayer requests, which can be sent to us using our website’s Contact Form.