Flying and bush conferences again!
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
07/24/2012 | Iris Ministries | Pemba | Mozambique
Travel by Iris Air!
Thursday, July 22. It’s been a peaceful flight so far, flying at 10,500 feet westward toward Malawi from Pemba on our first long trip in our new Kodiak. The air is smooth, the sky cloudless. Our passengers are reading or dozing in relatively spacious comfort. We are covering a three-day road trip in two-and-a-half hours. We have been praying and waiting for trips like this for years. Now all of east Africa is reasonably accessible to us, and even the rest of Africa. We can take a small missions team, sound equipment, a generator and basically all we need to hold open-air “bush conferences” in the most remote areas of the continent that we could never reach by road or commercial airlines.
But today we are flying to a well-established Iris base in Bangula, down in the southern tip of Malawi. Years ago we arrived at Bangula’s old abandoned airstrip on an exploratory trip in our little Cessna 206. The runway was covered with tall grass, ant hills and rubble, but we had it cleared off and the government gave us the use of it. And so we bought property right on the edge of the runway, and it became one of our earliest Iris bases, now a model ministry directed by our stellar missionaries, David and Joanna Morrison from Canada.
The yawning wilderness of Africa slides benignly beneath us, its isolated huts and occasional footpaths hidden from our lofty vantage point in the sky. The whole continent seems uninhabited, the province of natural grandeur, unspoiled vistas, crowned by untamed vastness. And yet we know that Africa is not called the dark continent for nothing. In all that magnificence below there are people, millions of them, who for centuries, even millennia, have been held under the cruel heel of the evil one. But God in His love and wisdom is changing that, and we live to partake of His nature and be part of His plan of salvation for Africa!
An airplane for me is a cathedral of prayer in the sky. My meditations and interactions with Him in the clouds and heights are undisturbed by the tumult and clashing of problems on the ground. But now we are free in our cozy aerial cocoon to contemplate with our God and Lover what is to come in the lives of the incomprehensibly poor in southern Malawi. We delight in our God, but we do not live for bare pleasure. We have come to Africa to face directly the sufferings of this land. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task” (2 Cor. 2:14-16)?
We are here to improve the physical lives of the poor in every way possible, and thereby demonstrate what love looks like. But ultimately we are here to save souls. We are here to rescue the perishing and bring them eternal life. We bring a Kingdom not made with hands, not one that we can see, but a never-ending Kingdom that is within us, a Kingdom of love, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We live for another life, in another place, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. We are here to bring Jesus our Perfect Savior to Africa, and to set its sights on Him and eternity!
I could fly forever in my spiritual world. But Chileka airport at Blantyre is coming up, and we need to descend. Winter fires have filled the usually pristine skies with smoke, and it seems we are descending blindly through thick white haze. But our computer map, GPS and autopilot are in control, and soon we have runway 28 in sight. On the ground we rush through formalities, needing to get to Bangula by sunset.
Back in the plane we lift off, turn gently around a nearby peak and head south, just clearing the green hills that surround Blantyre. Now we are flying low-level, skimming houses and farm plots that dot the landscape just below us. This is flying in Africa at its best, seeing the big picture and yet staying down where the people are and taking in their world. At this altitude the ground moves quickly by, and flying seems so much faster and more amazing.
Bangula is several thousand feet lower than Blantyre, past a ridge down on a flat plain by a swampy river filled with crocodiles. It is almost intolerably hot in summer, but this is smokey winter, mercifully cooler, and we don’t miss air conditioning in our plane. In all the haze we don’t see our dirt runway until we’re just a few miles away. It’s crooked, and criss-crossed with bicycle, foot and goat paths. Not an international airport. The sun sets in five minutes, and it’s already glowing red on the horizon. It’s getting dark. We circle the field to check it out and alert everyone on the ground. We see kids and animals moving out of the way. A truck is going down the runway to clear it off. Hundreds of excited, expectant spectators have lined the runway’s edges to see the new Iris bird land. They have poured in from villages all around, and pastors have come representing hundreds of Iris churches in Malawi. This is a big event!
We coast to stop before the crowd. Curious, excited kids press forward, kept in check by our hired guards. Our team spills out of the plane, exhilarated by the trip and our new environment, reached so easily. Heidi and I haven’t been here in a long time, and now we are eager to make the most of our visit. What a change our plane has made!
God in Malawi!
For the next three days we immerse ourselves in a good, old-fashioned Iris bush conference, made worthwhile only because God shows up! This base is relatively developed. We don’t have to set up the sound system, string lights, find water, dig latrines, pitch tents and start cooking for thousands. Our early days were much rougher! So much is already organized. Here Iris has amazing missionaries and national leaders, property, houses, schools, water tanks, satellite antennas, grass, trees, shade, refrigerators — amazing! We settle into our rooms, pray and head for the first night meeting…
An outdoor Iris conference in Africa is a cultural phenomenon! As we approach we can see clouds of dust rising in the spotlights. Feet are pounding the dirt all over our bush arena as our Malawians worship as only Africans can! The worship team up on our simple cement stage is blazing with red-hot energy, rhythmically dancing up a storm to the music. Drenched with perspiration, they tirelessly radiate a spirit of fire and glory acting out what they are singing. Africans cannot stand still! They move! They express! They glow! They explode! They feel! The crowd is ballistic, all very normal for these meetings. Ha. If only the West could get this worked up! Our God is worthy!!!
The people come for a reason. They are desperate, and they have come to seek the only One who can help them. Their poverty is indescribable. So many are seriously sick. They have been battered by witchcraft, cultic churches, corrupt and immoral leaders, huge frustrations and disappointments, broken homes and a meager economy. Their living conditions and prospects for the future seem hopelessly bleak. But that’s why we are here. We preach Good News, a perfect Savior, eternal hope, a Kingdom of love, peace and joy that cannot be taken away.
Over these days our speakers take turns and cover one subject after another. The people need so much teaching and understanding, as well as immediate, direct experience with God. We cover dwelling in God, connecting with Him, receiving gifts from Him, knowing and relating to Him, being His friend, imparting His love, peace and joy — all predicated on plain and simple repentance and faith in Jesus. Our team, pastors and leaders spread out through the crowds and minister to every one they can.
We live for what only God can do, and we thrive on testimonies. People come away from these meetings with all kinds of reactions, but we treasure the pure and rich ones. We will travel anywhere for the sake of that white hot core of respondents to the Gospel who just want to be close to Him, united with Him in perfect love. Jesus graciously heals people, filling them with His Spirit and loving them as they need to be loved. Outrageously glorious joy descends on some. Young children, deeply touched, sob in His weighty presence. Basically everybody affirms their salvation. Music modulates between wild energy and rich, melodic depth — all beautiful. Hope and power are being poured out. People are encouraged to resist the devil all the more in strength of faith, and to press forward to what lies ahead. They are poor in spirit, and know their utter need of Him. He will go with them back to their humble huts and bare surroundings and make them rich toward Him as they take hold of true life. Pastors gain strength and rejoice in their calling, determined to carry on as never before. This is a worthwhile trip…
It’s Sunday afternoon now, and we have to go back to Pemba. A great crowd accompanies us to the plane and we load up. We roar down the 2,000-foot runway and pull up in a max performance climb-out, leaving a cloud of dust. We will remember this time, and be back for much more as Jesus continues to grant us all that we need to complete the task He has given to us of testifying to His incomparable grace…
North of Pemba
That Bangula trip was our third outreach in our new Kodiak. Before that we flew north up the coast several times, covering an eight-hour road trip over terrible roads in fifty minutes. Each time God hugely blessed our efforts. Village chiefs are consistently opening their hearts wide to Jesus and the work of the Lord. They know we love them, and that we want their people to be blessed in every way, not only by eternal life, but with water wells, schools, construction, medicine — anything and everything that God puts in our hands to give them. We received government favor, were able to buy property, encourage many bush pastors, introduce our teams to their leaders one-by-one and find many other ways into the hearts of their people.
And yes, many found Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. It seems at least several deaf people hear at every night outreach. One deaf-mute was healed and spent the whole next day hanging out with our missions team thrilled and talking! And then we prayed for one blind lady. Nothing happened at first, but when she went back to her hut, her eyes were opened, her room filled with bright light and two doves landed on her shoulders carrying flowers in their beaks! She went to her native priest the next morning to ask what happened and what it meant. He told her she needed to go to church and ask the Christians. She beautifully came to Christ!
Each week now we can take the Kodiak to places far from Pemba, strengthen our churches and fuel the movement over huge areas like we used to do with our Cessna. Only now we can carry much more with increased speed, power, convenience and reliability. It truly is an amazing tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit, a gift straight from heaven through the supernatural generosity of our donors. We so look forward to writing more reports of how your giving has impacted our ministry.
So much good news!
We are intensely busy night and day with all that is happening here. We have hundreds of missions school students, another full Bible school, many visitors, teams and speakers, meetings all the time, new churches every week, a hospital and university in development, farm projects, a vocational school, another primary school and many other initiatives going on. We love our family atmosphere, our heavenly DNA of love that spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him! The Gospel is perfect! Our God is worthy!
Thank you with all our hearts for your unity of spirit in supporting us, praying for us, visiting us, laboring with us, joining our family and rejoicing in Him with us always!!! Together with you we have so much to look forward to as we become more than conquerors in His love!
In Jesus, always,
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.