Khartoum to Chennai: Jesus on the Move!
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
The children’s voices are strong, determined, fervent. I hear them all around me. Down myself on dust and dirt, I look up briefly and realize this is no ordinary children’s church. Eight-year-olds are pounding their fists on mud-clay walls crying out for God’s mercy and power. Some are bowed to the ground, others kneeling on benches. They are connecting with God Himself. In childlike simplicity and purity they excitedly seek Jesus for love and fruitfulness. They want to pray for the sick. They want to preach the Gospel. They want the Holy Spirit. They want revelation. They want a taste of heaven to be unleashed on this place. And they will not be denied. Let the river flow, let the joy descend like sweet spring rain…
The children pray on, becoming louder and more urgent. They show no signs of tiring. The needs around us are unspeakable, the hopelessness absolute without Jesus. The children will be part of God’s answer. They are in place to receive an outpouring. They have nowhere to go. There are no other distractions. They have no future but Him. They are willing and laid-down already, so early in life. Their prayers become worship and singing, a rising crescendo, a fragrant offering to heaven. And I try to remember where we are this Sunday morning…
I look around again. There’s the courtyard, just dirt and mud. A few rooms, bare, dusty and dark. Beat-up tin doors barely hang on their hinges. No lights, running water or electricity. Crude beams hold up primitive roofs. No color, no finery, no design, nothing pretty or nice. Everything is brown. Everything speaks poverty, brokenness, barrenness, bare survival, relentless deprivation.
We are in a tiny plot enclosed by mud walls in the middle of a refugee camp of 600,000 people just south of Khartoum, Sudan. This is where (name removed for privacy) takes care of her thirty orphaned and abandoned children, praying night and day for help and all-out revival. This is a children’s center, unlike any I have seen. And once again Heidi and I see a most outstanding opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do, starting at the bottom, beginning with the weak and helpless.
For years I have been following the wars of Sudan, the persecution of the Christians in the south, and now the Darfur fighting between Arabs and blacks to the west. Finally, here I am in response, sitting with the children Jesus has chosen to be among the first-fruits of another move of His Spirit in Africa. What can Jesus do here with so little? What can He do that the world’s largest humanitarian organizations cannot do? We are here to find out…
I get up with the children. They are laughing with such joy and expectation. They have so much life. And now they are eager to pray for the sick themselves. And the sick have begin to arrive at our little “center.” For three days we have had open-air meetings in a huge dirt field nearby with full government approval. Georgian and Winnie Banov and I got together to organize these meetings with (name removed for privacy), and we are so gratified by what we have seen so far. Word has spread out into the camp in all directions to Moslems and everybody that Jesus is here! He is real, and He heals!
It all began three days earlier at our first meeting, a very humble start. Our hired sound system blew up in smoke when an ancient generator misbehaved. Local organizers were clearly used to a pattern of formality and church entertainment rather than revival in the Holy Spirit and the love of God. But we spent thousands for food, and invited the sick, many of whom crowded together out of the hot sun under our ornate Arabian tent. On we went. Georgian got out his wonderful, trademark violin and struck up his energetic, wild, joyful worship music, shouting his testimony to the crowd. Eventually I got another smaller sound system to work temporarily. In all the crush and confusion, a lady brought her beautiful teenage daughter to me. She could hear, but could not speak. I soaked and soaked her in prayer, and Georgian joined me. Soon afterward a stir went through the crowd. This girl, whom many knew could not speak, began speaking!
Georgian and Winnie, with their friends Perry and Joe who came to help with the ministry, joined me in praying for everyone we could. Our translators got excited, writing down healing testimonies one after another on a clipboard. I got out in the open dirt and preached my heart out. People streamed forward for salvation and the Holy Spirit. Moslems in turbans and robes thronged to us, grabbing us desperately, pulling at us, planting our hands on their heads and bodies for prayer. It seemed that everyone who could hear us cried out in prayer to God, hands raised, shouting and crying, wanting His love and forgiveness. A young boy blind in both eyes got his sight back. Another boy with a broken leg began to walk. In the crush and desperate confusion, I couldn’t tell what all happened.
We returned for a second and third day of meetings. Far more people came. We found another sound system, shrill and screechy, but loud. Georgian, Perry and I preached a God of love and compassion, a friend who wants to be one spirit with us. God is a lover! I shouted. He cares about one thing: people! He is here to love you! Let Him wash you clean and make you a real lover too! The people’s fiery hunger for the Holy Spirit kept rising, even as they stood for hours in the heat and dust under the desert sun.
We didn’t know at first, but more were healed as they went home, and as they slept during the night. Georgian’s team had to leave, and I missed their incredible company and encouragement. But I stayed on, and was soon joined by Felito Utuie, our very anointed young evangelist from Pemba in Mozambique. And the testimonies began to come in. “I never believed before, but now I know for sure that Jesus exists!” one Moslem said. People hungrily returned to the field where we had met. “We need more meetings! We need prayer! There are so many more sick people!”
I ask the children to start laying hands on the sick, and just like our children have done for years in Mozambique, they eagerly crowd around those who need His touch. Let your power flow through these young, fresh, happy hearts, Jesus.
I stand at the center’s gate, ready to start walking again to houses where prayer is wanted. For days now I have gone up and down this camp’s dirt roads and alleys through a landscape of dwellings that could be a scene from the fierce surface of another planet. There is not a tree or a blade of grass in sight for as far as the eye can see. The spires of mosques are silhouetted against a gray sky and a sun darkened to red by blowing dust that clouds the roads and burns our eyes. For miles and miles all we see are more mud-clay huts, everything brown and colorless. We walk, and when we can we ride on donkey carts. Our clothes are caked with dirt. I am thinking water, water, water, where do people get water. And then I see barrels set out here and there in the open dirt that drivers fill from water tanks pulled by donkeys.
I can’t imagine living here for years, as most of these refugees have. Sudan has the largest population of internally displaced persons of any country in the world, and several million of them surround Khartoum in camps like this. All of them have fled war zones where they faced only destruction and death. Journalists are here from all over the world to cover what is happening.
But now I am here to cover something new! I issue a call to our friends and readers all over the world to pray for a River of refreshing life straight from the throne of God to begin coursing through this dry, brown shell of human habitation that is Mayo Camp. I issue an invitation for preachers, prophets, short-term missions teams, doctors, teachers, Spirit-filled helpers of all kinds, to come and be useful to the Master in this place. Mayo Camp is ready to explode with the Holy Spirit. The people are so extremely hungry for anything to do with the true and living God. How fitting that such an oppressed place should come to revel in the richest and most delightful of Holy Spirit outpourings.
I know what the people want, because it is what we all want when we are suffering the most. We in the West have our hearts and senses temporarily dulled by our comforts and entertainment, and we don’t realize how much we need companionship with our God. We don’t understand where our deepest joy originates. But when we come to the end of ourselves, when our sins and past mistakes overtake us and overwhelm us with grief, when there is nothing more we can do to keep our hearts alive, we realize how much we need the intimate love of our God. We need to be lost in His heart, captivated by the One who will never leave us. We need His company, His comfort, His delights. We need to know Him, understand His feelings, comprehend how to relate to Him. Our relationship with Him is our life, our only life that survives. We love much because we have been forgiven much. We utterly, desperately need our Savior’s love, a love that makes all things new, that redeems everything in our hearts, that lights us on fire with everlasting romance.
The River of revival brings the Presence of God, and in His Presence is fullness of joy. When we look back, we lose that joy, and we have no strength to go on. But instead we look to the Cross, we look into the eyes of Jesus, we look ahead, and we build fellowship with the Lover of our souls that is the foundation of eternal joy that nothing can take from us. Our calling is to feast on our God, to live always in His Presence, learning from Him and drinking Him in, getting full enough of His joy to fulfill His purposes for us in this life.
Come, Holy Spirit, into Mayo Camp. Come into the heart of every reader of this newsletter. Come, come, come with your love and pure delights. Come with your gifts, revelations and infinitely creative ways of loving us. We need you, Jesus. We cannot bear substitutes. We cannot bear second-best. We love your company, your power, your touch. We cannot live without your joy. Your Presence is not optional to us. We are sustained by your company. Come closer still… Bring life to us all, from the poorest refugees of Africa to the tsunami victims of Asia to the rich and comfortable of the West.
We are taking steps to establish Iris Sudan and provide a channel through which help and spiritual blessings can come to these refugees from all who are called by God to participate with us in this way. Contact me for detailed information!
The Holy Spirit is moving increasingly in all ten provinces. Only by trusting Jesus completely and not leaning on our own understanding can we cope with our continuing growth and challenges. Nothing shall separate us from the love of our God! When we are weak, then are we strong! Thank you for your outpouring of love, faith and prayer in response to our last newsletter in which we shared some of our battles and testings. Please continue to pray with us, that we will have His strength and wisdom to be among His shepherds of this movement, which has far outstripped all our hopes and expectations!
Our bush conferences continue, most recently in Niassa and Zambezia provinces, and we will have many more this year. We are so grateful for all our visiting speakers and teams who add so much life, energy and gifting to these intense outreaches. These conferences bring breakthroughs in the Spirit that alert whole new populations to the reality, presence and love of God. Then we bring those moved and called to be pastors to our Bible schools where they learn and soak in the Spirit until they are fired up with enough faith, love and joy to do their work.
After the most intense times of testing we have major progress to report in Pemba, our newest base. After nearly being shut down completely by the government, we have now been able to buy and pay off the biggest commercial property that was available, such a tremendous, miraculous event to us. It is amazing that this property, belonging to the richest Moslem in town (who has become a close friend and is on his way to salvation!), was sold to Christians. It overlooks the ocean in a perfect location, and is large enough for a primary and secondary school, a four-year Bible school, our school for missions that we are starting this summer, dorms for five hundred children, space for long-term and short-term missionaries, trade shops, and even a restaurant that could provide work for our older children. The highlight this year will be a huge tent that we are importing from the Middle East that will cover three thousand people for worship services. We give our richest, most joyful thanks to Jesus, and to all who helped us financially with these projects in His name.
At one point during these developments Heidi wrote:
“One of the fleeces I prayed for that day as a confirmation to buy this property was that God would move mightily during my Bible class, and come with His sweet Spirit to touch our humble and happy pastors. My favorite time this week was that afternoon when God brought an open heaven to our Bible school. I preached my heart out from one of my favorite passages, Ezekiel 47. The Holy Spirit came with tremendous power and glory. His sweet presence filled the room and not one pastor could stand under His weighty glory. Many lives were changed as pastors were taken up in visions. One saw angels in the room pouring buckets of water over the pastors. Others saw flames of fire burning brightly in people’s hearts. Another pastor saw fields growing wheat ready for the harvest. The Lord said that His glory will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea, and I believe that this revival which began in the late 1990s will not be known for manifestations, but for intimacy unto the harvest. I am unspeakably grateful to my precious Jesus for touching the pastors and giving me such a confirmation to possess this land.”
Our outreaches to Moslem villages in the countryside around Pemba continue every week, and the Holy Spirit keeps coming in power, healing the sick and winning Moslem hearts that have never before shown any sensitivity to the Christian Gospel. We need more newsletters to tell the stories! Heidi often leads these outreaches, and repeatedly the blind see and the deaf hear. Our young Mozambican evangelists like Felito Utuie are receiving more and more healing anointing, and our visiting teams get hugely encouraged by what they see God do through their hands. At the moment Heidi is preaching in Sierra Leone at an open-air crusade, and again last night the blind saw, the deaf heard, and a man got out of his wheel chair.
Most of you are aware of our plans for our new international school of mission, which we are opening this June in Pemba. It began as a vision given by Jesus to Lesley Leighton, a very close friend in Jesus from New Zealand who started ministering with Heidi and me years ago in Hong Kong. Heidi and our staff confirmed this vision, and we have all been excited in the Lord since. Called “Holy Given: Iris International School of Mission,” it gives students from around the world an opportunity to learn and experience mission work in an atmosphere of revival in a poor, third-world country. We are extremely grateful and glad for the outpouring of response we have received from both prospective students and well-known teachers who want to participate with us. We do pray, however, for a higher percentage of men students! Contact details are below.
Most of you received our last newsletter in which we outlined our new mission to Chennai, India, in response to the tsunami disaster in that area. Our mission team was initially headed by Heidi’s personal assistant, Shara Pradhan, who has been sending out reports of the team’s progress and challenges, and many beautiful and miraculous experiences. If you want these fuller reports directly from her because of your specific support, involvement and interest, I encourage you to email her at email@example.com. You can also follow the reports from her that are posted on our administrative web site at www.irismin.com. Again we are grateful for the outpouring of response and financial help we have received. It is so beautiful to watch Jesus work through His Body!
In 1980 Heidi and I began our ministry in Indonesia. We first visited ourselves, then brought evangelistic dance-drama teams, and then spent six months in Jakarta and a year in Bali. Now the Holy Spirit is prophetically bringing our attention back to Indonesia and to the prospect of a “tsunami of the Holy Spirit” in response to the unparalleled disaster that has come upon Bandah Aceh in northern Sumatra. I and others in Iris Ministries are earnestly praying and preparing to follow the Lord and be a part of what He is doing to bring attention and glory to Himself in an arena where only He can bring true and lasting relief. Please contact me if Jesus is leading you to participate with us!
Much, much love in Jesus,
Rolland and Heidi