Revival and Famine in Malawi
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
The full moon is bright, casting sharp shadows from the thick trees overhead. The warm night air is loud with the cries of hundreds of voices. In the dirt alongside the road, without lights or sound equipment, village pastors are on their faces calling out to Jesus, “Be with us! Stay with us! Never leave us! We have to have you! We want you! We love you!” They are shaking. They are crying. Their wives are there too, tears running down their faces. Even their little children, barefoot and in rags, are bowed down, praying with faces in their hands. Surpresa and I move around in the dark, praying for everyone we can. “Love them, Jesus! Love them intensely tonight! Be with them! Show yourself to them!” Some fall to the ground and just stay there, reveling in His touch and company.
They are not alone. Jesus is with them. And nothing will separate them from His love. I just flew from Mozambique in my Cessna, and many of them have walked for days to meet with me here near a small town in Malawi centered among many of our destitute country churches. They are in crisis. The Gospel is being tested. Malawi’s worst famine in fifty years has been descending on this area for months. Floods and then drought have destroyed crop after crop. Malawi is already one of the world’s ten poorest countries, often in serious trouble, but now the government has announced that seventy percent of its people are at risk of starvation.
Aid agencies are slow to assess the situation, and their budgets for Africa are reduced by diversion of interest to Afghanistan after 9/11. The logistics of distributing food in rural Malawi confound everyone. There is no seaport. The roads are tortuous. Rail lines are either out or congested. Few are prepared to pay air freight charges. Trucks and containers are booked for months in advance. The limited quantities of imported maize are sold at high prices, which the poor cannot afford.
We started our work in Malawi in the dust and dirt of a tiny town far from the main cities. The Holy Spirit fell like the Day of Pentecost on an early conference, and in a couple of years hundreds of churches have been added across the country. We have preached our hearts out to the pastors, telling them of God’s goodness and faithfulness in His Son Jesus. We have brought some to Bible school in Mozambique. We have taught them not to worry about food or clothing, but to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. They know that His Presence is worth infinitely more than relief goods by the truckload.
Now comes the test. For months our own pastors and their people have been starving. Each morning they leave their mud and thatch huts and set out down roads to search for whatever might be edible. Families come back together in the evening with handfuls of berries, cassava leaves and water lily bulbs from the rivers. Some have been killed by the many crocodiles in the floodwaters. They mash the lily bulbs into a black paste that has no taste or nutrition, but fills their stomachs. Running out of these they desperately start eating worms and grass. And they start trading their only possessions, pots and mats or whatever they have, just for discarded corn husks. Mothers cannot nurse, and their babies die. For lack of nutrition bodies swell and the sick do not recover. In all of this malaria and cholera take their toll.
Now I am with them as one of their spiritual leaders. Not one book in my theological library can tell me what to do. There are no aid agencies active anywhere near us. The beautiful church buildings of the city are far away. The conferences of the West are very far away. Pastors sitting in front of me have already lost family and friends to hunger and disease. No immediate relief is in sight.
And still I preach, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39). And, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)?
These pastors do not complain. They are not begging. They are on their knees and faces lost in worship. They are loving their God and Savior. And Jesus will respond, not by Himself, but through His Body, and He will do so miraculously as we are “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). We are not spectators of His power, but monuments of His grace. We are His answer. Our death becomes His life. May He do exactly as He likes with us, as we all become “useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).
We are in Africa and choose to plant ourselves in the most wretched of conditions in order to see the glory of God, and we will not shrink back. Our mission staff is small — tiny for such a harvest. We are all stretched and exhausted from early morning to late at night. We don’t have a team of efficient administrators at computers answering email and making arrangements all day. In fact, our main office computer for email was just stolen, and my laptop went down on a trip last month. Hundreds queue at our doorstep each day for food, medicine and money for every desperate need, even coffins. Always there is a cry for more trucks, beds, shoes, blankets, bricks and Bibles — and nurses, Bible school teachers, engineers, mechanics and office managers. We don’t have time or staff to supply all the reports, brochures, videos and publicity materials that are asked of us. We have containers of relief goods and medicine to import, but the government runs severe interference. The corrupt and petty drain us of time and money.
But on we go, carrying the treasure of God’s power and grace in Jesus. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:7-10).
The harvest is huge, the needs are vast, and we must be about our Father’s business. As long as it is day, we must do His work, for night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4). We will wait on Him and mount up on wings like eagles. We will bury ourselves in His heart and be intimate with His thoughts and feelings. We will undo what the devil has done. And we will consider our lives worth nothing to us, if only we may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given us — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
EASTER AT ZIMPETO, 31 MARCH 2002
Back at our children’s center in the Zimpeto district of Maputo we are celebrating our Savior’s resurrection. In contrast to the north of Mozambique, our kids are well-fed, scrubbed and in new clothes. They laugh, sing and dance easily. They are secure and at rest in the love of Jesus. This Easter they have excitedly decorated our meeting hall and are ready with special musical presentations. We truck in more children from the streets and the dump, and again every newcomer is at the altar wanting Jesus. Heidi preaches, “He is alive! He is alive! Bring on the fire, Lord! We want more!” And again the Holy Spirit takes hold of children, teenagers, pastors, villagers and visitors from around the world.
The revival that marks the north in all its extreme poverty is resurging in the south. Heidi visited the Maputo prison, a very grim place, and in one evening led all the prisoners to Jesus. We have a “revival team” that goes out to towns and villages all around Maputo, and they keep coming back with terrific testimonies. Most recently they told of Jesus healing a man paralyzed for four years. His legs were curled under him and useless, but in faith our evangelist pulled them out. They straightened, and the man got up and walked! Many amazed villagers were saved. And of course Heidi keeps bringing in children. She picked up two little boys this week, Lucas and Gildo, who were sleeping in a cemetery after their mothers died. All the one hundred fifty community children who just started attending our school at Zimpeto have come to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is shaking our southern leaders, filling them with increased faith, vision and resolve.
Now we are urging our children, Bible school students and staff at our own community of Zimpeto to think beyond themselves, now that Jesus is providing for them through the prayers and miraculous generosity of many. Even the poor can exercise their faith and hearts on behalf of famine victims and the unsaved far away, and be part of God’s answer for this region of Africa.
We continue to be awed by how Jesus takes care of so many here through your participation with us in the Gospel. Your incredible giving, even without communication and appeals from us, is an ongoing, overwhelming testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit and your sensitivity to His love. We have been reliably receiving your parcels at our Nelspruit, South Africa, post office box. Our staff tries to send out thank-you cards to everyone, but we often get behind. Last year we frequently omitted sending receipts to Americans for checks under $250, since those checks when canceled are adequate receipts for the Internal Revenue Service. This saved us time and money when we were under high pressure. Now we have helpers working on more efficiency this year.
May Jesus continue to conquer our hearts until we all function together as we should in Him, bearing with each other in love and making up for what the other lacks. We love our family in Jesus. It is excellent to serve the King together with you!
In His great love,