Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
12/4/2018 | Pemba, Mozambique
Heidi and I want to communicate with our friends again this Christmas season about what is happening with Iris Global, and what we are learning and experiencing in the Lord these days. We feel extraordinarily blessed by our worldwide ministry family, which has grown faster and larger than we ever imagined. It is beyond our control, the handiwork of God, and it is bearing fruit in more ways than we can know. As founders and leaders our desire is for Jesus Himself to shepherd this flock without hindrance, taking pleasure in us as we draw ever closer to Him by His grace.
We resonate with Paul, who wrote, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). And, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). We think of how we launched out into the mission field four decades ago with no support and not even any plans to return to our home country. What we had was a fervent desire to throw our lives into God’s hands to get fruit that will last, anywhere on the planet that He leads us. Our lives are not our own. We have been bought at a price, and only Jesus can turn our lives into monuments to His grace, surrounded by the redeemed whom He has drawn to Himself through us.
Now we have been joined by an army around the world, all with the same fervor, blending in with the whole Body of Christ. God has brought together in Iris an amazing variety of people, with a kaleidoscope of personalities, giftings, and emphases. We treasure what we share in Jesus; we delight in how we complement each other; and we marvel at what Jesus is able to do with us and in us as we run the race set before us. We urgently call on the Lord to protect us and guide us however necessary, that we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching (Eph. 4:14). We “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3), letting nothing lead us astray from “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). We maintain at all cost an eternal perspective, which alone makes sense of all that believers go through in this life.
From the beginning Iris has taken seriously the parable Jesus told of the sheep and the goats. If people are suffering in this world and we do not meet them at their point of need, how are we showing them the love of God? As Jesus put it, all that separates sheep from goats in His story was the willingness to give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, visits to the lonely…. Whatever we do for the least of these, we have done for Jesus (Matt. 25:31–46). And so we are holistic. We are open to anything that will demonstrate the Kingdom. That includes miracles of every kind, which are God’s powerful way of introducing people to the King.
But we do not stop there. Our ultimate goal and destination is Jesus Himself, who is both our perfect God and Savior, and perfect human companion, the manifestation of the infinite, invisible Father. We are part of the Bride of Christ, and in all that we do we aim to participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). We know where we are going. We press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14), for whose sake we count as loss all things (Phil 3:8).
Our values reflect our faith and love for Jesus. We lay up treasure in heaven. We set our minds on things above. We go lower still. We are willing to suffer light, momentary affliction, which is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17). The joy of the Lord sustains us in all our trials as we learn to trust God who raises the dead.
We have often written about our activities over the years. But for those who have connected with us recently, I will summarize our movement’s history here. Beginning in 1995 with a small band of abandoned street children at a neglected government center, the movement has become a holistic ministry not limited to particular specialties, but which includes evangelism, village outreaches, Bible schools, missions schools, medical clinics, primary and secondary schools, farming, vocational training, church planting, bush conferences, counseling, child sponsorship and in the near future, a university—and more.
The movement has grown organically, taking on the flavor and direction of the giftings brought its way in the lives of hundreds of missionaries and thousands of national believers. It is more a family than a ministry organization, and hunger for its atmosphere, “feel,” and spiritual “DNA” has spread to the extent that it now touches some thirty-six nations. Now called “Iris Global,” it is primarily a practical, down-to-earth demonstration of the truth of the gospel and the power of God in one of the most challenging environments on earth. It is a testament to God’s agency, for all that has happened since 1995 could not possibly have been foreseen and engineered by human strategic methodology.
More than eight years ago I wrote the following in a newsletter. Today we feel the same, and so I include it here again:
Heidi and I are back in Pemba after traveling since January on an intense ministry schedule that has taken us all over Asia, to Europe and across Africa. It has been a thrill to see the power of God fall on hungry believers all over the world. The Body of Christ is getting more and more desperate for God, willing to pay any price to experience His presence and companionship. There is no pleasure like walking and talking with Him, leaning on Him alone for every possible care and desire of our hearts. How much more of Him do we want? He is able and willing to pour out His Spirit without measure. May we never lose our appetite for more righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! All these are found only in our magnificent Savior, with all the intensity and fire of the author of life Himself! This is not the time to be hindered by doubts, divisions and politics in the church. We don’t have room for worrying about titles, positions, credits and recognition. We can’t be bothered with concerns over support and publicity. We don’t know how to engineer and program revival. We are dependent on our God like humble little children. What we have already seen and heard has raised our expectations to new heights. He is able to keep us, and finish what He began in us. We can trust Him with our hearts, our spirits, our health, anything that has to do with our well-being. His power among us knows no limits. He baptizes us with His Spirit, and all things are possible when that happens. Deep conviction and repentance, sobs of love and gratitude, tongues and prophecy, waves of heat, purest peace and refreshment, super hunger for the Word of God, visions and visitation, revelation, healing, floods of heavenly joy, insatiable longing, wrenching intercession, singing in the Spirit, angels all around, weakness under the tangible, heavy weight of His Glory, a sense of wonder and awe at His presence…. We love His gifts, and all the touches and demonstrations of His love. They all propel us toward that ineffable goal written of by Christian mystics for centuries: union with God! “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17). When fruits of character are joined by gifts of power, truly our lives reflect His glory and presence. We need His love in our hearts. We also need His anointing to accomplish anything. We need both Word and Spirit.
Christmas is not quite here yet as I write this, but so that you can appreciate what Christmas is like for us when you get this letter I quote what I wrote in a previous year:
It’s Christmas! 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. 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, goodbye parties, growing up ceremonies, graduations, outreaches, home meetings, baptisms, prayer meetings, 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.
This year Iris Global is being shaped and molded in new ways by the hand of God, and we are delighted to be in His capable care. Persecution is increasing at various Iris bases around the world. Wicked violence is on the rise. We are having to make agile adjustments all along the way. We need to know what we are doing and why we are doing it. The gospel needs to be made more clear than ever. We must preach only what is worth dying for, the Good News! So let us celebrate our Savior’s birth together and have the greatest Christmas we have ever had! Thank you for all that you have done to support us, help us in so many ways, and love us so richly!
Rolland & Heidi