Overnight in the Bush
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
Village outreaches are Iris at its most basic. This is the core of what we do. Here is where we meet the poor, the remote, the forgotten lost sheep of the world. Here the Gospel shines deeply into the darkness, facing head-on our frail human predicament, and all the despair and damage that Satan and his demons can cause. Our province of Cabo Delgado, classified by missiologists as unreached and unreachable, has been a land of syncretism and witchcraft famous for its resistance to the Gospel. But the power of the Holy Spirit is overcoming the darkness, village by village, and tonight we are launching out again.
Our team of staff and visitors are going to pack into three trucks, and after a typically intense day of meetings and business, we start pulling our gear together. We need tents, sleeping bags, mosquito spray, flashlights, drinking water and bare minimum of personal stuff so we can stay overnight. A Mozambican team has gone on ahead with our sound equipment, a generator, and a screen and projector for the Jesus Film.
We are all loaded, but we need diesel fuel, and it takes awhile to locate a station with a working compressor to fill our tires. Vehicle maintenance is a huge challenge in our very remote town of Pemba. It’s almost sundown, and we head south down our only paved highway, stopping at police checkpoints.
We continue on in the dark. The air cools. The moon appears from behind clouds, casting a faint, silvery glow on the thatched mud hut villages that come up again and again along the narrow road. Without electricity, they seem ghostly quiet and deserted until children here and there dart across the road in our headlights, and sometimes chickens…
Then we turn off to the east, taking a dirt road that winds around trees, ditches and scrub brush and through ruts and gullies, making us appreciate again the long-travel coil suspension of our Land Rovers. This is remote. We are far from lights and telephones, shops and gas stations. We feel alone in the shadowy night, deep in the African bush. Who could be out here waiting for us?
Finally, more mud huts and a clearing appear. We slow down and carefully thread our way between huts, turning sharply back and forth and avoiding deep pits. Then suddenly, around a corner, we see the meeting. Bright images are flashing across a screen high above a crowd. Heads are silhouetted against the screen, which is showing a man commanding the attention of all those around him. The sound is crisp, carrying far through the night air. This entire village is listening to the Master also, hearing His words in their own Makua language. They have not been forgotten. The Good News has arrived.
After the film Heidi preaches her heart out, going straight to their hearts with the Makua she has learned. Everyone responds, crowding around the platform, the flat bed of our big Mazda truck. They are jumping and dancing in clouds of blowing dust lit up by our floodlights. They are crying and shouting. And they humble themselves and pray, asking their incredibly great and merciful Savior to rescue them in every way. There is no resistance, no holding back, no indifference. They have recognized, many for the first time in their lives, what love is, and they cannot get enough.
We have been to this village before, and have already begun a church here. But tonight our return visit is still a huge event. These isolated, illiterate, baby believers feel connected to the outside world, and they feel so loved and encouraged that God would send all these visitors from across the world to their very own village. The meeting goes late. Our team, including some of our children from our Pemba center, are busy praying for every hungry, needy person who comes to them. The singing and testimonies continue into the night…
We pitch our tents in the dark with our flashlights, finding space in a fenced-in little courtyard of swept dirt between huts. The night is cool. The unfamiliar stars of the southern hemisphere are brilliantly arrayed in a sky far from lights and pollution. Sleep comes easily, until the drums begin. And then until four or five in the morning the village witch doctors persist with their chanting and drumming in a determined effort to undermine our spiritual effect on their turf.
We wake up with the chickens and brush our teeth with bottled water. The guitars come out in our group, and soft worship music floats out across the thatched roofs. The village has never had visitors like this, or an occasion like this. Today we dedicate the new church, proudly built with reeds and mud, with an Iris dove and rainbow over the entrance. Everyone congregates, young and old. Children jump with excitement. Mama Aida is here to do the honors. We all press around the front door, and pray with all our hearts that Jesus will fill this holy place with His Presence and extend His Kingdom through all the ministry that will flow from it. With a huge grin Heidi cuts the ribbon and everyone shouts with joy. We flood in, and soon dust is flying again as we all sing and dance with an intensity only found in Africa.
We teach, we pray, we lay hands on pastors. Some are overcome by the power of God, shaking intensely on the ground with tears and supernatural joy. Our concentration, as always, is Jesus and Him crucified. We point everyone to the Cross. We are here to impart faith, without which all our work is for nothing. Jesus alone makes all the difference. And again, there is no resistance. The witch doctors make no headway against the work of the Spirit.
We start packing up to preach in another village before returning to Pemba. But first, two children are brought to us. Their mother has died, and their father is deaf and unable to care for them. Can we bring them back to our children’s center? Let’s go see the father and make sure he’s okay with this. So we meet with him, and of course Heidi prays for his ears. Suddenly, right there in the bright sun in front of the village leaders and everyone standing around, Jesus heals the father and he can hear! Cheers erupt. The father is grinning and overjoyed (see photo!). Now everything is changed. The father can work again and take care of his children at home. And the children can stay in their village with their father, attending their very own home church. Another great day in the bush…
We pack up, load our extra gear on our roof racks, and traverse a few more miles of rough dirt road to get to another of our new village churches. Again we impart all we can to an isolated Iris family of believers out in the bush, and ask the Holy Spirit to watch over them and keep them deeply planted in the heart of Jesus. They are thrilled. By late afternoon we are back in Pemba, richer in spirit than ever. May the Lord of the harvest send many more teams into the African bush…
The Word of the Lord is spreading through Cabo Delgado Province just like this, village by village, miracle by miracle. The poor and humble do not refuse so great a salvation. They do not want to live without Jesus, who has shown Himself to be the God of their deepest longings, and the only One who can deliver them. —
We welcome all our visitors and missions school students, who come to us from all over the world. The needs are huge, not only in Mozambique, but in all of Africa. We are expanding into Central and North Africa, especially DRCongo and Sudan, and are always at the raw edge of our faith, finances and resources. We have a vision for taking in many thousands more children. The spiritual warfare is strong, and we ask that you pray with us for a strong shield of angelic protection.
We continue to be deeply moved and grateful for your generosity, and also for the interest so many have shown in becoming involved with us. We can make good use of nearly every gift, skill and background as we build our infrastructure and send out more and more missionaries around the world. Thank you for loving us, praying for us, supporting us, and being thrilled with our God along with us! We love our family in Him!
In His great love,