On we go in Jesus!
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
What does revival look like among our churches here in Africa? Big crowds, exciting meetings, singing and dancing until all hours? Sometimes, but here’s one portrait that focuses clearly on what is different about the heart of our God.
Iris Africa has hundreds of churches in South Africa, mostly among the very poor, and a few weeks ago we were having a youth conference in the town of Slauslau, just east of White River near Mozambique. Surprise Sithole, our African director, and our five South African commissioners were holding three days of meetings in the town’s community hall, Friday through Sunday.
On Saturday night, September 27, the meeting was going beautifully until late. Many older Christians were there to support the youth, and everyone was having a wonderful time. Then a gang of drunken teenagers showed up outside the hall to cause trouble, throw rocks and do what violence they could to disrupt the meeting. At midnight one of our commissioners, Franse Shongwe, a young married man of 28, went out to lock the gate to the hall and prevent more trouble. The gang jumped on him and began to beat him without mercy until he stopped breathing and they left him for dead.
They all fled into the night, and the horrified church began to pray earnestly. The police were afraid to come out and pursue the case that night. An ambulance was called and called, but never came. Finally someone took Franse’s body to the hospital himself in his small car. As they were checking the body at 1:15 a.m., Franse suddenly began to breathe again. The doctors injected him with painkillers and sedatives, and he was out for the night.
Surprise went to the hospital at 6:00 a.m. to visit. Franse’s eyes were swollen shut, and his whole body was swollen and covered with bruises. He was a tragic mess, and he could hardly think straight and communicate through his lips. It looked like he would take a long time to recover. Meanwhile the church kept praying, and considering what they should do with the gang if the police caught them. Before long it was agreed that the church would forgive the murderers. Later in the morning the police did catch one of them, and at 2:00 p.m. they called the church to ask someone to come down and file charges at the police station. The church announced their decision that no charge would be made, which thoroughly agitated the police. This would encourage more crime, they said, and the teenager should be jailed at least eighteen months. No, the church was firm. The boy was forgiven.
As that decision was being made at the church, Franse’s body was totally healed. Just after the police called, the hospital also called to ask someone to come and pick Franse up. Surprise went the hospital and found Franse totally well, with no swelling, no bruises, no scars and no problems whatsoever. It was as though he had never been touched and nothing had happened the night before. Patients were not supposed to be released on a Sunday at this hospital — they were always kept through the weekend and watched until Monday. But there was nothing wrong with Franse, and they had no reason to keep him. Surprise did have to run out and buy new clothes for Frans, whose own clothes had been torn to shreds in the beating.
The next morning, Monday, Franse himself went to the police station with Surprise to pick up the teenage criminal, who had been released into the church’s custody. Do whatever you want with him, the police said. The church ministered to him with compassion, and within an hour the boy gave his heart to Jesus.
Three weeks later, the boy is attending church, Franse is doing perfectly well teaching in Bible school, and the Kingdom is advancing!
AFRICA, ONE VILLAGE AT A TIME: 24 OCTOBER 2003
It’s a typical night for us in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. We’re heading for Miezi, a Moslem village that has refused all Christian advances, until yesterday. Recently a sick man in this village met a believer from our Pastor Juma’s church in Murrebue, 10 kilometers away, and was persuaded to walk to Murrebue to receive prayer. The man was healed, and soon others were walking that distance every week for salvation and healing. The news reached the chief of Miezi, and yesterday he agreed to allow us to hold an outdoor meeting tonight and show the Jesus film right in his village.
In Pemba we climb into our Land Rover and head out of town into the night. Then we’re off on a dirt road, bouncing over the ruts kicking up clouds of dust. We veer around corners, narrowly miss trees and ditches, and watch out for lonely walkers in the dark carrying heavy loads on their heads for miles. The lights of the town are far behind us and all is blackness out here in the bush. We press on, trusting that we’re on the right track.
After 30 kilometers, we have to be close. Then we see it: a big, bright screen lit up with scenes from the Jesus film. Yes, there’s our truck that our staff drove out earlier, with a sound system all set up and working. We hear the soft purr of a 5 kw generator running way off in the trees away from the crowd. There’s a smooth dirt clearing in front of some huts, and a big crowd of hundreds of people all sitting quietly, giving the film total attention. There are no lights at all except for the projector image.
These are all Moslems. They have never listened to the Gospel before. No one is heckling or causing trouble. They are captivated. The movie is long, but no one moves, and amazingly the sound track is in their native Makua tongue. Then the familiar final scenes flash by, and we are on our feet, ready to preach! Each night we trade off, taking turns with our visiting guest speakers. Tonight it’s Marc Dupont, and he pours his heart out about our God and Savior who takes away all fear. Who wants to know this Jesus, this wonderful friend who made the world and gave His life for us — this mighty King whose name stands above all names?
Hands go up, here and there, and then more and more, until there is a mass response and a rich excitement. We pray out loud together and the people shout. Who wants the Holy Spirit — the Spirit of Jesus, who is here right now? We keep praying and the people keep responding. Our pastors and team members move out through the crowd praying with everyone they can. They press in on us. They want prayer for everything. They are sick, poor and hungry. And they very much prefer this Jesus over anything they have known before.
We call the sick forward. A man almost totally blind for years can now see. Another man who was totally deaf in one ear is back to normal. More testify. The crowd is shouting its approval and jumping with joy. They come up to us. “Please build us a church here! We want a church right here in our own village! We don’t want to be Moslems anymore!” Their resistance is gone. The love of God is prevailing, and Jesus is having His way.
Two days later on Sunday we have a wonderfully beautiful wedding on the beach for Kent and Andrea, two of our staff at our Pemba center. We send a truck to Miezi to pick up new believers, and also others who want to come. We preach at the wedding, and right on the beach another fifteen or twenty Moslems fervently come to Jesus on their knees in the sand. We are keeping a list of Miezi’s new Christians. We’ll send a pastor from our Bible school, build a simple church Pemba-style, and give them all the assistance we can. This will be our ninety-eighth church in this very strongly Moslem province, after starting with one small church on a hill in the central marketplace of Pemba 17 months ago.
Moslems just announced on the radio at the beginning of Ramadan, Islam’s month of fasting, that they are losing the province to Christians, who are raising the dead and overtaking them quickly. Jesus, win the province with your grace, beauty, gentleness, power and sheer goodness. Receive your people in this corner of the world who have finally met you, the God they have been longing for all their lives.
We have five Bible schools operating now, three in south, central and northern Mozambique, in South Africa, and in Malawi. All are very basic, serving pastors who soldier on in faith through hardship unimaginable in the West. Jesus will be with them, and they will see His glory, even in the darkest, most unlikely places. He knows how to repay those who love Him!
Orphaned and abandoned children stay at the top of our priority list in Mozambique, and they always will. They are “the least of these,” and they are invited to sit at the head table with Jesus at the wedding feast!
May Jesus powerfully be with you who have supported us! May His grace pour down on you with His energy and joy! As overwhelming as our situation appears, and as endless as the emergency requests we deal with every day here seem, we know that the blood of Jesus is more than enough. May you be thrilled as you participate with us in His divine nature, and may He be overjoyed with us!
Jesus is not slowing down, and we don’t want Him to slow down, ever. Pour on the fire, Holy Spirit! Do with us all that you want! Qualify us, take us in all our weaknesses, lead us in triumphal procession in Jesus, and through us spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.
On we go in Jesus! —Rolland