Pressing Toward Revival
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
Friday, 4 July — The quiet little town of Chimoio is getting dark. Cool wind is gusting in from the lonely hills, and the sun is disappearing over nearby Zimbabwe to the West. Heidi, Surpresa and I just flew in to encourage our believers here, and we are setting up for a local conference meeting in a brand new church we just built.
The floor is still dirt. Rough wooden pillars hold up the simple tin roof. We raised a wall of mud bricks just halfway up to the roof, so we get plenty of light and air during hot days. It only cost a few thousand dollars, but it is a dream church for hundreds of people.
Our few bare light bulbs go on, using the bit of local electric power that is available. We fire up the generator for our sound system that we carry everywhere in our Cessna. Our Mozambicans kick up clouds of dust as they sing and dance their hearts out, and then Heidi begins to teach in Portuguese. Pastor Joni, whom God has used to raise the dead, interprets into Chimoio’s local dialect.
We only have a few days with our people at each of our conferences, so we pour all we can into them. We want them to know that they are not alone, that they are a part of a family around the world held together by the power of God Himself. To the limit of our ability we convey that no one can join this family except through repentance and faith in Jesus. We preach righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and intimacy with our Lord and Savior that forever satisfies our every longing. Facing extreme poverty and vast need, we have no secrets but Jesus and Him crucified.
In the morning we gather again. We have attracted attention. There is life here, and people all around are drawn to this intense focal point of festivity and worship. What kind of God is this, and what will He do?
Before the message we pray for the sick, and begin laying our hands on the crowd up front at our crude dirt altar. A mother brings her little boy forward. He’s four years old, but his legs are thin and curled up, useless for walking. His mother says he has never walked in his life. His father is standing back, watching. We set him down on the floor and Heidi, Surpresa and the rest of us begin praying our hearts out. Minute after minute goes by as our prayers get more and more intense. We are holding the boy’s hands. Then strength quickly pours into his body. His legs extend and now he can stand, a bit wobbly as we hold his hands. Since he has never walked, he has little sense of balance.
But now he can stand by himself! And he is terrified! His mother has always held him close, but now she is backing away and leaving him! He takes some faltering steps. A whole crowd is surrounding him, watching him, loudly praying and shouting, and no one will hold him! He begins crying. Tears run down his cheeks. He has never been alone like this. Now everyone is jumping with excitement and pressing forward to see. Still, everyone keeps away from the boy, wanting him to take more steps and show he can walk! And he does…slowly, and then a little more steadily.
We can hear his father, who is crying, and tears are coming down his face too. “My boy can walk! My boy can walk! Do you see? That’s my boy!” That is all the proof I need that Jesus has done a miracle. That family will be changed forever. Later the boy is much stronger, quickly making up for lost time on those legs!
Another lame boy, three years old, got up and walked at that Chimoio conference. The whole church, the onlookers and everyone there were treated to a taste of the Kingdom of God. Faith rose, and the church will grow and sink its roots more deeply into the things of God.
One by one Jesus touches the poor. Step by step this revival advances across Mozambique and Africa. Are there many who do not get healed? Yes. Does everyone respond to healings with profound repentance and spiritual desperation? No. Are we able to instill maturity and selflessness throughout a crowd in three days? Only to some extent. Jesus healed ten lepers, and only one came back with a good attitude to thank Him. He taught the people daily, but understanding was not given to them all.
Here in Mozambique we are just a small band of ordinary Christians sitting in the dirt trying to love people the best we can with what God has given us. Are we going too fast? Are we going too slow? Do we know how to disciple everyone? Are we delivering the whole counsel of God? Can we keep everyone from greed and jealousy when we help with food, clothes, money and other resources? Do we have our numbers right? Do we have adequate organization, communication and records? Do we have just the right curriculum for our Bible schools, relevant and effective? Do we have enough logistical and staff support to back up our visions? Do our methods work? These questions press down on us all the time.
We are just jars of clay. We are overwhelmed by the demands made on us. We don’t have answers for everything. We are not experts on world evangelism and revival. We constantly make mistakes and fall short. We are confronted by the limits of our compassion daily. We are pained by our small faith and hearts. We are just starting to learn about our Jesus, just beginning to seek His Kingdom and righteousness.
Our focus is learning how Jesus wants us to relate to Him. One thing we must have: His presence, His companionship, His voice, His heart — intimacy with Him! We thrive only if we have His emotions, without which all our theological understanding is pointless. He is love, and we don’t even know Him unless we love our neighbor. We want to go through life with Him, in Him, possessed by Him, one spirit with Him, walking as He walked.
When we first came to Africa we did not start with crusades, leadership seminars, Bible schools and high-profile activities. We had no money, no sound systems, no trucks, no staff and no budget. No church or charity paid us to come bring relief to Africa. We were considered by many to be hopeless nobodies with impractical dreams.
What we did have was the voice of the Lord and blazing fire in our hearts. We did not lay down our lives, sell everything and set out to preach the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth just to have church-as-usual and missions-as-usual. We have a restlessness that words cannot describe. Nobody can slow us down. Woe to us if we don’t preach the Gospel with all the passion that God put in us and run the race to win! We can’t live without His supernatural Presence. We can’t continue without blazing conviction of sin, a love that explodes out of our hearts because we have been forgiven so much.
And we can’t live and minister without believing the Scriptures! I wrote the following in the introduction to our new book, “There is Always Enough”:
“I always wanted to believe and live the Sermon on the Mount, but usually got told that it did not mean all that I thought it meant, and that I needed to be practical. I would read the Scriptures longingly, trying to imagine how wonderful it would be not to worry about anything, safe and secure in the presence of Jesus all the time. Miracles would be normal. Love would be natural. We could always give and never lose. We could be lied to, cheated and stolen from, and yet always come out ahead. We would never have to take advantage of anyone, or have any motive but to bless other people. Rather than always making contingency plans in case Jesus didn’t do anything, we could count on Him continually. We, our lives, and all that we preach and provide would not be for sale, but would be given freely, just as we have received freely. Our hearts would be carefree in the love of our Father in heaven, who always knows what we need, and we could get on with the glorious business of seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. There would always be enough!”
And I learned from my missionary grandfather to do everything upside down in the Lord. We started not with leaders, but with the “least of these,” the orphaned, abandoned and unwanted, the destitute of the earth left by the wayside with no hope of amounting to anything. They received Jesus with joy. In our early days I watched them in their rags on the cold bare floor of our dark, unpainted “church,” tears running down their faces, singing “Thank you, Jesus!” Would Jesus feed these children in answer to simple faith? Did we have a message for the poor, who had no access to email, TV publicity and fundraising newsletters? Could they depend on Jesus without begging?
At times they prayed all night for their daily food, and food would come in the most unexpected ways. They rose at four in the morning to intercede for their nation. They were caught up frequently in visions with Jesus and the angels of heaven. They danced around the throne of God, singing their simple African songs. They were supremely grateful for their slightest blessings, like a new water well, or a used army tent. Jesus was the thrill of their lives. And in a short time we brought hundreds off the streets of Maputo into our family in God. In all our stress of the time, it was a taste of heaven.
Soon local pastors wanted in on the blessings, and the Holy Spirit. We began to visit churches in the bush. They longed to come learn with us, and so we started a Bible school, but one in which they could see us model compassion for the lowly and helpless. We had a school where they could not just study the Trinity, but get completely drunk in the Spirit and be overcome mentally, emotionally and even physically by the Presence of God.
Our visits to the bush drew pleas for more visits. We did not have the staff, time or transportation to visit all the little village churches that wanted us, so we called people together where there were airstrips and we flew all over Mozambique in our little donated Cessna 206. Even today it is the only way I can maintain personal contact with our far-flung churches.
Jesus kept blessing and providing. One by one a series of people were raised from the dead. Rego and Joni, the first pastors to be used by God in this way, were in our first Bible school class, and they simply followed instructions when Heidi prophesied what they would do. We never planned on overseeing so many pastors, but by the hundreds churches sprang up. Barely literate and qualified in any way, our pastors were the best people available to lead these churches. We did everything we could to prepare them in our schools, three months at a time.
Now, eight years after we began in the summer of 1995, this movement and our methods are up for critical review. Many of the classic questions of missiological study are being pressed on us. We face the same problems Jesus faced when He was on earth, and the same problems God faces in dealing with His people around the world. How can He bless us materially without us losing interest in Him? How can we teach faith to people when we provide for them in so many ways? Why do people come to God anywhere — because they love Him at all costs, or because they want something from Him?
We preach our hearts out with one goal: to present everyone perfect before God on that Great Day. We are not after numbers, except that we want everyone to be saved. We are not after sensational publicity, except that we want Jesus to be glorified. We do not write newsletters and speak at conferences world-wide to keep our ministry machine going here. We are sharing the wealth we find here when Jesus moves into hopeless but hungry hearts. Freely we have received; freely we give. We trusted in Jesus alone for everything when we began, and we will never change, no matter what happens.
We see sin and human nature at work over time. We see what happens when a certain percentage of people get jaded by the work of God and begin to take our provision for granted. Pastors fall. Some are jealous; others are brought down by pride of position. There is sexual immorality — the scourge of Africa. And when we encounter these things we fiercely oppose them without compromise, but with huge helpings of mercy and grace as well. Time after time we have been severely discouraged by the failings of our pastors, but over and over we have also seen salvation and deliverance through the persistent pursuit of His ways and His firm and sometimes drastic discipline. It is amazing how God is able to bring judgment and correction while at the same time proving His infinite love.
This movement has grown far beyond our ability to manage it. Some say it is too big. We must scale back. We must bring order and manageability — which we would love. We must curtail emergency relief and tend to long-term development.
But we aren’t that sophisticated and calculating. Yesterday in the Maputo dump Heidi sat with a poor lady in her shack with her crippled little son. A visiting team wants a tour of the dump and to see the ministry, but that’s not Heidi’s concern. There’s no camera around and she doesn’t care. She has no strategy but to love this poor lady and pray for her in her heartbreak and desperation. Our ministry growth has come out of a desire to put on Jesus’ brown robe and come to a complete stop, loving the one person in front us who is hurting.
We want to learn how to live the Sermon on the Mount, and in Him we will try with everything in us until the day we die. We have a vision. We don’t care about being something or somebody, or making full use of our gifts and talents. We cannot abide a contained, throttled, “sustainable” mission lifestyle. We want to spend and be spent, burning with a passion that rivers cannot wash away. We don’t know who will join us, or stay with us. We don’t strive to get people to help us any more than we try to raise money. We have seen the power of God and we cannot go back. We see a white-hot core at the heart of this movement, and we are motivated to proclaim Him in every way possible, everywhere possible, whenever possible, with all the energy that He so powerfully works in us.
Sometimes we crash. We get discouraged to the bone. But then I remember Paul, who could not keep from pouring himself out: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:8-9).” We do value raising the dead, and every other kind of visitation by God. We want to endure whatever it takes to attain to the kind of faith that pleases Him utterly, that allows revival — real, supernatural revival that is the power of God made normal in our lives. Are there shortcuts? Can we get there in a controlled, predictable, organized way? We are not lovers of stress and chaos, but we will pursue revival in every way we know, whatever the cost.
Yesterday was a very hard day for us — and then our Zimpeto family gathered around us. Our little children saw our distress and called us to them so they could pray for us in their incredibly sweet, pure way. Through the prayers of such as these Heidi was healed of multiple sclerosis several years ago, after having been prayed for by people all over the world. Our faithful Mozambican friends poured their love on us. And we bask in His sovereignty, and in a movement we did not start and do not have to sustain. It is His work, which he began in his chosen vessels here in this country long before we arrived. He has elected the poor of Mozambique and Africa to display His glory. He is far from finished. He will not stop an inch short of perfection. But we feel His smile and pleasure. We are making progress, pressing forward to what lies ahead, forgetting what lies behind. The river is deepest where it is lowest, and all we know to do is go lower still. What joy!
In His great love,
Rolland and Heidi