Revival Fire for the Poor in Spirit
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
LILONGWE, MALAWI, 8 SEPTEMBER 2005
I’m back in Africa after weeks of conferences in the West. And I’m facing another kind of conference: a gathering of the poor, hungry, ragged, barefoot and sick from among our churches in the central region of Malawi. Carpets, air conditioning and chandeliers have given way to dirt, blowing dust and the hot sun overhead. Hospitality rooms and coffee shops are replaced by iron pots of milled maize cooking over open wood fires. Hotel rooms with soft beds, clean sheets and warm showers have become grass mats under ripped and wind-blown black plastic coverings on a remote field with no electricity, water or relief from the night cold. Families huddle together in the dark to keep warm, without soap, toiletries or a change of clothes. Their threadbare shirts rip at a touch, and their teeth, hair and skin show the discolored ravages of malnutrition. They are weak. They hurt. And they long for ministry and love.
Malawi and northwest Mozambique are caught in yet more drought and famine. Four million people are in danger of starving. The world hardly notices. Shipments from aid agencies don’t make it to the remote villages where the need is greatest, and where we have most of our churches. But we have called a “bush” conference to encourage our people, and Surpresa Sithole, one of our international directors, and I have come to preach the gospel in this sea of need.
This has to be the poorest-looking conference the land has seen. Our property is off the main road outside the city of Lilongwe, a long journey on foot for many. We have a shaky platform of rough poles and boards, and we’ve strung some lights to use with a generator during meetings. There are no banners or signboards, or dignitaries in suits. As we set up and mix with the people, our clothes become covered with dirt. There is no parking lot full of vehicles, and no handouts and name tags. We are a band of human beings in the middle of nowhere, it seems, calling out to God for revival and the glory of His Presence where all seems destitute and hopeless to the natural eye.
But this is what we live for, to preach good news to the poor, and to bring life, love and joy to the saddest and heaviest of hearts. We present ourselves as instruments of righteousness to bring a foretaste of heaven into the least likely corners of the earth. We don’t come with fame and fanfare, but instead arrive in weakness, with nothing to preach but Jesus and Him crucified. Nothing less than the power of the Cross will rescue and sustain these lives and hearts.
I am amazed by the strength I see among our people. For years our hundreds of churches in rural Malawi have persevered and grown in spite of severe poverty and hardship. Our four commissioners who oversee these churches model a saintly humility in their patient endurance, sustained by their joy in the Lord. They press on, positive and forward-looking, building up hearts and spirits wherever they go in areas where foreigners and missionaries are hardly ever seen.
For three days we preach our hearts out, joined by David Morrison, our lead Iris missionary in Malawi. Hang on to Jesus! Never let Him go! Come to Him for everything! Don’t throw away your faith! Bury yourself in His heart! Draw close to Him, and He will draw close to you. And this unspeakably wonderful Savior of ours will freely give you the Kingdom. Don’t be like unbelievers, who worry about everything, but pursue righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and you will have what you need. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not famine, not poverty, not anything!
And so the people move forward in waves to kneel, worship and receive more of His grace. The Holy Spirit brings healing to bodies and hearts. Tears and laughter are released. Emotions are set free. Bowing and falling, rolling and shaking in the dirt, the hungry of all ages become filled to overflowing with God Himself. He knows how to love His beloved until they feel loved.
The people are encouraged and overjoyed. Their testimonies flow. I still feel utterly weak and inadequate, seeing their needs, but I grow in confidence that the Gospel will triumph in their lives. What will God do in response? Open the hearts of His people around the world and give them the opportunity to learn the heavenly art of love all the more… Our only job is to love… And if love is real at all, it is practical…
We have to go, but we promise more visits and conferences. We are cheered with enthusiasm and affection. And I am praying that a supernaturally motivated and enabled wave of assistance from around the world will materialize out of the ever-increasing faith that we see before us. And that everything from weather patterns to politics will be transformed by an unstoppable spread of revival fire.
OPEN HEAVEN OVER CABO DELGADO
Moslem leaders are admitting that this northernmost province on the coast of Mozambique, once considered “unreachable” by missiologists, is being lost to Christians. The development of our base and missions school on the largest available piece of property in the port city of Pemba has caused a major stir. The Gospel is advancing whole villages at a time as the Holy Spirit’s power is poured out.
How does this happen? Here is one example. Felito Utuie, a 22-year-old evangelist we have nurtured in the Lord, was trying to get a Moslem chief of a village to grant permission for an outreach. The chief repeatedly refused. Felito told him that Jesus would heal the sick. Finally, the chief asked, “If you come, will I see that happen?” “Yes!” Felito answered simply. So the chief agreed to a meeting in his village.
On the night of the outreach, the meeting began with a very quiet, open atmosphere, unlike some gatherings we have where at first we face loud demonic disruptions. Felito preached the pure, simple Gospel and asked, “Who recognizes their need of a Savior?” Voices cried out in the dark, “I want forgiveness! I want forgiveness!” A great noise arose as the people pleaded for salvation and streamed forward to pray. Then Felito announced that he and his team would pray for the sick. Healings occurred one after another. A mother brought her eight-year-old boy who was deaf, and he was instantly healed. Felito asked the chief, “Do you see?” Immediately the chief asked for the microphone and told his own people, “This is real! No man can do this! Only God can do this! Bring more of the sick! Bring all the sick!”
One man brought his little 7-year-old daughter who was totally blind. She received prayer, and her father urgently asked her, “Do you see?” And then tears began streaming down his face as his daughter looked and saw his face for the first time in her life! And the healings continued that night…
All this last year our outreaches have been frequently bearing this kind of fruit. We don’t preach long or get complicated. The people respond in simple faith, and as soon as they see Jesus is real and will touch them miraculously, they want Him! They want salvation, they want a church, they want a pastor, now! Their chiefs beg us, “Don’t leave us! You can’t leave us like this! We’ve never seen miracles like this! You have to come back and teach us!”
Heidi especially has received a special anointing for the deaf, blind and lame, and sees them healed at nearly every outreach. Once she prayed late at night for a crippled and blind man who was not healed right away. But she told the village to send a runner to tell her as soon as he was healed. So then the following day she was with a good Moslem friend and leading businessman in town when a runner ran breathlessly up to the window of the car they were in. “He is healed! He can walk and see!” The runner had just run seven hours to tell her… In tears and awe, our Moslem friend cried, “Pray for me! Pray for me now!”
A MISSIONS SCHOOL ON THE MISSION FIELD
In August we completed our first session of our “Holy Given: Iris International School of Missions” in Pemba. An intense challenge and adventure in faith, it tested us to the extreme in every way. Initially the vision of Heidi and our close friend in ministry over many years, Lesley-Anne Leighton, the school produced rich fruit against all odds. Other Holy Given sessions are being offered at locations around the world under Lesley’s direction. Here the idea is to offer teaching not only in an atmosphere soaked and dripping with the Holy Spirit, but one situated in an extremely needy, difficult and spiritually desperate Third-World environment where missions can be practiced daily!
Around two hundred students arrived in June from all over the world to face real mission field hardships: no electricity, running water, Western toilets, or enough accommodation. Our PDF flyer for the school was downloaded 10,000 times from our website. We initially planned on admitting one hundred students, but kept adding more as people applied right up to the first week of school. For months we were constructing housing in preparation for the school, but the typical delays and frustrations of such projects in Africa left us far behind schedule. Students ended up in tents and crowded together in our few completed dorm rooms. We met in a large tent, often blowing in the wind near the ocean, sat on plastic chairs, and spent much time daily at the altar in the dirt on grass mats. A stream of well-known, revival-oriented visiting speakers fed us richly, more than we could contain and absorb. Every day the Holy Spirit would fall on us, reaching deep into our hearts and transforming us from glory to glory into the likeness of Jesus.
Several times a week the students would divide into teams and head to the villages to preach the Gospel and heal the sick. Many who had never before been far from home or experienced anything like this were stunned and thrilled to see miracles before their eyes throughout their stay. Most were grateful for the opportunity to endure some of the hardships that are common to the poor in most of the world. Our students grew close to us and each other, many wishing they could stay and crying at the thought of having to leave. More than half the students want to continue in missions in some capacity with Iris Ministries somewhere in the world. We are overjoyed at the stream of testimonies we have received of lives being changed forever by exposure to the Kingdom here in Mozambique.
We will continue these missions schools here in Pemba, and our application materials for future schools will be on our website.
WORLD-WIDE HUNGER FOR GOD
We are hearing a cry for revival and the work of the Holy Spirit coming from all over the world, and especially where there is great suffering, hardship and persecution. Email comes to us in a stream from across Africa and Asia desperately requesting visits, ministry, conferences, teaching, guidance, impartation and material help. Heidi and I, and our existing ministry staff, are responding with all the strength God gives us, but we issue to you an invitation to join hands with us. The Lord of the harvest could bring the harvest in alone by His own might, but He chooses to share His divine nature and glory with us. Enter with us into a world of love, rest and companionship even while buffeted fiercely on all sides by evil storms. In Him we are more than conquerors, shielded through faith by God’s power until Jesus is fully revealed. We are ready to carry His glory into the darkness wherever the love of God is wanted!
In addition to the various nations of southeast Africa where we have been working since 1995, we are in various stages of being established as a government-registered, recognized ministry in Congo, Indonesia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and others. Angola, Liberia and various countries of North Africa are next on our list. Our ministry contacts and lead pastors in all these nations are urgently inviting visiting teams, speakers, and those with badly needed practical gifts of all kinds.
Our orphanage on the island of Nias in Indonesia is thriving, and we are adding involvement with another orphanage in Bali, where Heidi and I first began our ministry together in 1980. Both these works need much attention, and we especially invite the participation of nearby Aussies and Kiwis. We are prophetically focused on another “tsunami of the Holy Spirit” in Indonesia to follow up the wonderful revival there of the ’60s and ’70s.
In most places where we have begun ministry, the devil has caused huge damage, and the existing Christians are heroically maintaining and advancing in spite of hardships that I cannot adequately express. As one example among many, I quote an email from our Pastor Joseph in Bukavu, DRCongo:
“We wanted also to report to you one tragedy of genocide that occurred to one village called Fendula and Ninja where we have a church and our Pastor Badesire Munjombola just lost his wife as the Nterahamwe Rwandese combatants who have been in that area now attacked the population and set ablaze houses and 47 people have been reported killed and hundreds ran for safety now are without shelter, food, medicine and we still having others in hospital. We went there with Sifa and prayed with them. Please continue to pray for families that lost their own and for our pastor and church members among others.” This is just one small event in a war-torn country “where bombs and mortar fire have demolished one out of three homes. There are no factories at all. Jobs are scarce, and every day the Congolese people struggle to survive until the next meal.”
Many of our missions school students are strongly called to these countries where we are already involved, and we urge you and others to stay in close contact and keep looking to Jesus with us for further direction and provision. We will establish special mailing lists for each field and group of interested missionaries.
IRIS IN LOUISIANA
Initially in response to a desperate cry from friends in Shreveport who are trying to help the displaced, we are inviting our missions school graduates and others to get involved in bringing the ministry of the Holy Spirit to the hurricane victims of New Orleans. We have asked Dr. Timothy Johns from Kansas City to represent Iris Ministries and help coordinate this effort. We identify with Tim’s ministry, Rock International, and his son Jason was an enthusiastic, anointed, joy-filled student at our missions school in Pemba. Tim in turn has other contacts, and can reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and by cell phone at 816.517.8564. Support for this effort can be sent to our new support address, listed below. We pray fervently that some of what we learned through ministering in the wake of a major flood disaster in Mozambique may be brought to bear in this situation in our own country. May the Holy Spirit be welcomed without reserve on the Gulf Coast!
Some who hear us in conferences may come away with the impression that we lead a charmed, tribulation-free life of endless miracles! We do prefer to give Jesus and His glorious power most of the attention in our ministry, but it many encourage you to know that, like Paul, we are jars of clay who glory also in our weakness. When we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor. 12:10). We do encounter fierce, demonic opposition, and its intensity is almost incomprehensible. This Mozambican province where we live has been a pagan, occultic stronghold for centuries, and the evil we encounter shocks us over and over. Our time, energy, funds and resources are viciously attacked and drained as the devil aims to turn our hearts away from this great revival in which God has graciously placed us.
Together with Paul, we understand that these things happen that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:9). We resist the devil by overcoming evil with good, and by resting in Him with all the more faith and childlike joy. We cannot lose while secure in His heart. We have no need to shield ourselves, but we entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Peter 4:19). The God who has raised at least 53 people from the dead among our churches in Africa will also renew and refresh us with His incomparable power. He will not fail us; we are His workmanship!
APPRECIATION AND INVOLVEMENT
Heidi and I are astounded by God’s graciousness in providing us with such quality leadership at our various bases. And we are deeply moved beyond expression by the close friendships He has given us around the world. We live in a Kingdom of love, and through the beauty and love found in the Body of Christ we thrive in all circumstances.
Though we have grown to the point where we ourselves can no longer respond to everyone with personal notes, emails, visits and phone calls, we are so grateful to you and owe you such a debt of love. We continue in the Lord in answer to the prayers of many who intercede for us so fervently. We are provided for by God’s people who amaze us with supernatural sensitivity and generosity.
To better respond to you, communicate with you, and inform you, we are establishing our first office in the United States, located at Pastor Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, California. We have staff there, and will be helped by eager students at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry, which include our own children, Elisha and Crystalyn! Mail to our old support address in San Juan Capistrano will be forwarded for now.
Please contact us by email at email@example.com if you want to pursue involvement with us in any way. From there we will guide you according to your interests in the Lord as we are able. We have now become a missions sending agency directed toward wherever there is hunger for God and revival! And there is a huge demand in this movement not only for gifted ministers, but also for administrative, creative and technical people with faith and initiative who are fired by the Holy Spirit with unstoppable love!
Our new support address and contact info in Redding are listed below. Please understand that your support is incredibly needed and appreciated, and is now being used for a vast array of needs and ministry activity: food, children’s care, famine relief, Bible schools, transportation, Bibles, outreaches, communication, travel, needed equipment, bush aviation, salaries for national workers, increasing administration to coordinate mission efforts and personnel, business micro-investment, construction, utilities, media… Please contact us if you have questions, or are interested in specific projects.
With all our love and appreciation in Jesus,
Rolland and Heidi