His Presence in the fire
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
FROM ROLLAND: HIS PRESENCE IN THE FIRE
The cool wind of the dark night blustered against our faces, and most of us were wrapped up snugly with jackets, sweaters, blankets and wool hats. We were gathered up on a little hill, and so felt exposed to the wind all the more, but we felt especially secure. It was the coziest, safest spot on our main Iris base in Pemba, and all who were there didn’t want to be anywhere else just then. We considered it our hiding place in Jesus because it was our new prayer house built as a gift from Bethel Church in Redding, California. Our beautiful house had a round, thatched African-style roof on wood pillars, a plain cement floor and a short wall, and then nothing but a panoramic view of Pemba and the ocean by day, and the mysteries of the stars and town lights by night. A freshly-planted garden and winding walkways adorned our wonderful gathering place for prayer, worship and warfare, both for a few solitary souls or for a whole intense army of God-lovers crying out to Him with all their hearts.
This night was especially intense because we were fighting back, resisting witchcraft and strengthening ourselves in the Lord after an extraordinary series 0f unusual attacks, setbacks, accidents, threats, failures and discouragement. So we called for a night of prayer and warfare like we had never had before. We brought out our drum set and our African drums. We turned up our guitars. We danced with all our might, declaring the goodness of the Lord. Most of the base was there — our children, missionaries, students, Mozambican staff and visitors, and we never felt so united, worshiping Him with one voice and heart. With an exhilarating beat and a rich blend of voices we delivered the contents of our hearts to all who were listening, both in this natural world and the spiritual world.
We love our God! In the Name of His Son Jesus we resist every evil influence against us. We will delight in our perfect Savior, and He will deliver us from every deadly peril. We seek His face and worship Him alone, and trade our rags of sin for His righteousness which comes by faith. We cry for peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, poured out without measure, and every treasure that comes with the Kingdom of God. He will reveal His goodness and power, and is able protect and enhance His reputation in this favored haunt of demons that is Pemba and our surrounding Province. Tears flowed freely as we delighted in Him all the more. Joy came too, as we contemplated an eternity with our perfect Lover and Friend.
Like many others, I lie down the concrete to soak in the Spirit and pray with even more concentration. A dozen little Mozambican children gather around me, lying right beside me and even on top of me. I felt warm and loved. They laid hands all over me, crying their little hearts out that Jesus would take care of and protect Mama Heidi and Papa Rolland. They sang with their amazing African voices, and some even gave me loving massages and huge hugs. It was the perfect place to be.
No one was in a hurry, and more arrived as the sounds of our evening of warfare and worship spread far across the center and beyond. In time our warring music turned to softer sounds of love and delight. Some lost themselves in the Lord as they danced and spun lightly on their feet, hands raised freely to heaven. Smiles and laughter broke out too as the Spirit came closer with all His variety. It was a beautiful night, a perfect night, and no one was in any mood to leave. I realized we would want to do this often, and make it a beautiful habit. But it was also necessary for our survival in this very occult town of Pemba we called home.
But the night finished very differently. Don Kantel, our base director, knelt down beside me, put his face between all the little children on me, and stated simply that our entire center, along with our other center and Heidi’s and my house, would be destroyed by a powerful tsunami in sixty minutes. A wall of water up to ninety feet high would come at us at hundreds of miles an hour because of an awesome earthquake in Indonesia. The Indian Ocean’s new tsunami warning system had produced a mass reaction as cities up and down the east African coast were already undergoing mass evacuation. Friends in South African watching their television news frantically began calling us. “Get the children to the highest ground you can!” they said.
Quickly the children grabbed their mattresses and bags of clothes and moved up to the top of our sloping property in the far back away from the ocean. Some stayed at the prayer house to pray earnestly against the tsunami. I quickly drove home to see what I could save by throwing valuables and necessities into my red Land Rover. It looked like our funky little beach house that Heidi had so lovingly made into a home was going to be history in minutes. I debated in the Lord how long I could stay at the house to save belongings and get more news. I also stood in my office on the roof and shouted at the devil, “No! You cannot take what Jesus has given us here in Pemba for His work. No!”
I stayed another minute to check news off our satellite Internet system, and then got a phone call from Pretoria. My friend Peter Wheeler there had just heard the latest. When the tsunami passed the Seychelle Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it was no more than a mild high tide, and the alert was off. As it turned out, the ocean floor did not buckle so as to cause a huge tsunami, even though an earthquake of that strength could potentially produce such a buckle in other places. I thought about sleeping upstairs when the high tide came at one a.m. in the morning, but decided to trust all the reports, sleep downstairs, and not even go out to check the tide.
For one hour the fate of so much of our work in Pemba was in the balance. No human response on the planet could have had any impact on natural forces so great. We live fragile lives in this world, without the slightest wisp of ability to contend with the power that God can unleash at any time He chooses. We have no security of any kind apart from our Savior. Our hearts cannot function without a safe haven, a hiding place, a solid rock, a guaranteed future — and Jesus is all these things and infinitely more.
During that hour many of our children stood their ground in the prayer house and prayed. No one panicked or cried. The Holy Spirit’s Presence was thick. We simply threw ourselves on His mercy yet once more, knowing we had no future unless the King of the Universe smiled on us and shielded us as only He could.
The evening ended with a kind of party out under the stars at the top of our property. The children lay on their mattresses and played as dinner was cooked and brought up to them. Some of us sat on the hoods of our trucks, drinking Coke and hungrily feeding ourselves rice and beans. We laughed, shouted and cried, and loved our God very, very much for being so faithful and reliable on our behalf. For us, life without knowing Him is no life at all. So now, that crisis past us, we face the future with more faith in Him than ever. Moving from glory to glory, we mount higher on wings like eagles until every evil power arrayed against us falls away and we are united with God our Savior, the Lover of our souls. —
In November I flew Heidi east from Pemba deep into our province of Cabo Delgado and landed at the town of Montepuez. We left our Cessna at the barren little airport there and continued by Land Rover over a rough dirt road until we finally reached Namuno, a small village. We were holding a bush conference there for our church people in the region, and two hundred of our leading pastors were waiting eagerly for us. Men, women and children were wild with excitement. We and our contingent of missionaries, staff and visitors, who had come all the way by road, pitched our tents in a dirt courtyard by mud huts. Just as the sun set we ran over to the meeting where we had the Jesus Film showing. Preaching off the back of our big flat-bed truck, Heidi again invited an entire village to Jesus. She was born for this ministry in Africa, and her golden face and voice have been crafted by the Master for this time. Our friends call her a “light bulb” for Jesus, as her light attracts multitudes to Him all over Africa.
But this conference is more significance than it looks at first. Our pastors here have proven themselves to be heroes of the faith, and I felt like I was on hallowed ground. In the past this mud hut village had the reputation of hosting the most intense witchcraft in the province, maybe in the country. The entire village had been under the control of witch doctors and their attendant evil spirits since far in the past. Its people were constantly fearful and in serious bondage. But during one morning of the conference, we stopped everything just to hear testimonies.
One-by-one our hardy, weathered, lean pastors told their stories. They sounded like the Apostle Paul, “counting their lives nothing if only they could complete the task given them to testify of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.” And so braving hardship, hunger, cold, wild animals, quicksand, deep rivers and crocodiles, even when they couldn’t swim, they spread the Gospel to “the least of these” in all directions. Barefoot and poor, without a roadside inn or a convenience store, God began to use the men just as He pleased to end the domination of evil spirits in this area. Today, Namuno is almost completely cleaned and free of witchcraft, and a spiritual example for villages all over the country. Its people know the joy of the Lord and power of His hand. Every morning brings them supernatural strength from above. This motivates us to keep preaching, keep serving and keep believing all God’s promises so that we don’t fall short and miss out. —
In August Heidi and I joined Georgian and Winnie Banov for outreaches in Turkey among poor gypsy neighborhoods. Again we found that the poor and humble typically receive us with the great excitement, and their Christian leaders are so hungry for more and more pursuit of revival. For this reason Eastern Europe is strongly on our hearts, and we must return as much as Jesus lets us.
From Turkey I joined Georgian and an Iris team for a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The nine of us entered the border by road from Rwanda and spent almost a week with our Iris Congo director, Joseph Mushengezi. Our churches there have grown from 35 to 85 in a year, and Joseph has a fiery vision for evangelism all across Congo. God has given him favor with the government, both locally and nationally. He has been provided with a national radio program, and is in a key position to advance the gospel radically in this nation.
DRCongo has been ravaged by deadly violence and poverty for many years, and our own people are becoming refugees, suffering terribly from lack of shelter, food and medical care even as I write this. Our churches are so far mostly in the northeast corner of Congo, and at the moment there is dangerous fighting around Goma, the main city in that area. We would like to supply each pastor there with a bag of rice and beans so that they can remain to encourage the people.
Our photo gallery shows pictures of our trip to Kalonge, Joseph’s home town, located in a forest and mountain area that has in the past been the stronghold of rebel troops. We have a simple tin-roofed church there full of eager worshipers who know that Jesus is their only answer, their only true and faithful lover. We bought a large piece of land on a hilltop overlooking a beautiful valley, and our vision to establish a simple conference center where we can hold revival meetings and train pastors from all over Congo. The logistics would be such a challenge, as the town is reachable so far only by digging our way through deep mud for hours and hours even with a 4WD truck. Those with engineering and road-building skills are desperately needed. But we have reached the ends of the earth, where many children have never seen a white person, and have no way of imagining the luxuries of life in the West. But again, in the most unlikely and lowly places God loves to reveal Himself, and we want to press forward so that Congo will experience what Mozambique has tasted — the Holy Spirit poured out in ever increasing measure. We set no limits in our work, but instead our imaginations have been fired by the Holy Spirit to see God’s best in a nation that has tasted what Time Magazine has called “the world’s deadliest war.” Let us know if in the Lord you want to participate!
We bless you this Christmas, and pray that we may be of huge encouragement to you by His grace. Your sensitive, major generosity is an ongoing miracle in our lives that brings great blessing and eternal life to the most desperate we can find. We feel so loved by Jesus through you!
In His great love, Rolland —
I have been extremely blessed by your love and prayers for Rolland and me, and for our Iris family. We are focusing on beautiful Jesus and trusting Him for His healing power to be manifested. Rolland is still recovering, but he is receiving lots of healing prayer and anointed help from medical doctors as well. We thank you all for your patience in the area of communication. We are not able to respond quickly to emails. Please know we appreciate your kindness.
I am thrilled to be home with all my friends and beautiful children in Pemba. My heart is filled with joy seeing the fruit in this movement God has birthed through His Holy Spirit. Our mission school is an absolute delight. I see the love of Jesus poured out all over this place. The students’ hearts have become so abandoned and surrendered to God.
This sizzling hot Sunday in Cabo Delgado we worshiped in the dust and surrendered ourselves again as a movement to feed the poor with bread from heaven and bread from the earth. It is time for greater multiplication. As we release the sons and daughters into their harvest of fruitfulness, we see greater glory. As Pastor Supresa says, “The joy never ends!” I was thrilled to be able to do some of my favorite things this week: baptize our new Makua and Makonde believers in the ocean, bless the missions students to live in the Ezekiel 47 river of God, and have a huge, holy chaos Christmas party with all our gorgeous children!!!!! What a tremendous gift from Jesus for me to be able to come home. There were plenty of gifts, candy and pops for all. I thank God for the amazing people who made it all possible. Swimming with the kids and seeing aunties splashing around in our warm, turquoise ocean, I felt the Father’s heart. He smiled on us!
Thank you again for your generous support. Please don’t stop praying. We need you. I will be going to America to spend time with Rolland and my family for Christmas. I pray you live deeply inside the huge heart of Jesus glory love. I thank God for the powerful gift of Jesus, who by emptying Himself for us and coming as a baby became incarnational love manifested on the earth.
Much love in Jesus, Heidi