The spreading kingdom
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
12/8/2009 | Pemba, Mozambique
NEW LIFE AT LONDO
The water is warm and clear, absolutely beautiful, lapping quietly on the sandy beach. Rich green trees line the shore, trunks half-covered by the high tide. The sounds of splashing and the laughter of children are all around. Beautiful faces are bobbing up and down. One by one African children are diving into this ocean paradise and swimming out to deeper water with their beloved Mama Heidi. Her blonde hair stands out among all the black children and contrasts strikingly with our blue-green watery world over the coral reef. It’s a brilliant, gorgeous African day here in our remote, northeast corner of Mozambique.
From our boat deck I look out from a short stretch of beach at the stick-and-mud huts set back from the ocean on a small hill. This is the village of Londo, isolated by the wild bush and accessible only by sea. Until we landed here the people of Londo lived their lives for generations without ever hearing the name of Jesus. But on learning of His love and power, they opened their hearts without reservation, and He is transforming this village measure by measure.
A few hours ago our team arrived after crashing through open ocean swells, an hour’s journey across the bay from our base in Pemba. The people, young and old, swarmed to our boat shouting and jumping. They know Mama Heidi very well now, and were thrilled to receive visitors who bring more love from their heavenly Father. We carefully unloaded our cargo: a battery-powered sound system, gifts for the children and lots of lollipops and drinks.
We climbed the hill to the simple school and church we had helped to build and had a joyful service, singing and praising the Lord of all creation. Our very close friend, Mel Tari from the Indonesian revival, preached on the glory of being found by Jesus on a very remote island in the Pacific. Heidi helped us put on a Christmas skit which was hilarious and moving to the kids. We passed out candy and drinks, and gave each child a backpack and flipflops. A great highlight was giving out awards for the best students of different ages at the little school Iris had built for the village. No one here had any education until the school was formed. Everything had to be provided from scratch: books, papers, pencils — and a teacher! We added an adult literacy course, and now the older men and ladies are reading for the first time.
I noticed that all the time the children were laughing and dancing in the church, grownups were standing and sitting in the windows grinning broadly at all that was going on. Jesus has not forgotten Londo, and is sustaining us through many challenges so that we can continue to show real love to this village and reach many more Mozambicans isolated in this wild, remote province. We have seen more than one thousand bush churches planted in Cabo Delgado since we arrived seven years ago, and yet we feel like we are just beginning to see what God can do.
It’s time to go. We climb back into our boat and wave goodbye to our amazing village family in Jesus. We will be back. They have even built Heidi and me a mud hut just for us so we can stay longer. We head back to the open ocean, and once again the big swells crash against our boat and soak us with spray. We take it as the powerful wind and water of the Holy Spirit and pray for all the more.
Take us anywhere you want, Lord. We will go to the farthest corners of Mozambique, or anywhere in the world, if only we can see you reveal your glory among your chosen people!
AMERICAN THANKSGIVING IN THE BUSH, 2009
Our team is standing in another village courtyard way out in the bush. It’s dark, but the stars are out and the moon is shining brightly. It’s a beautiful night. Our big truck from Pemba is our preaching platform. Our faithful generator is running, powering our sound system and one strong floodlight. Heidi is silhouetted against the light and very excited, telling stories in her own animated way to illustrate the Gospel. The whole village is gathered together to listen, all the children sitting up front paying close attention. They’ve been singing and dancing as only Africans can, and clouds of dust still hang in the air.
We’ve been here before. Most of the villagers are already enthusiastic believers, and a church has been established. But we love to re-visit our churches and keep the fires of the Holy Spirit burning. Tonight we pray for the sick, as always, and yet again the deaf hear. Two are healed, one the son-in-law of the village pastor. Both have been deaf for years, and suddenly are learning to speak again. The demonstrated power of God grips the people, and increased faith rises up to heaven once more.
Unexpectedly tonight we are moved deeply by our thanksgiving dinner. Heidi and I are invited to the pastor’s hut to eat. There is nothing in the hut but a plain table, little wooden chairs, a local rope bed and a few changes of clothes hanging on a clothesline. We learn that our hosts have done the most special thing they could for us. Once a year they eat chicken, and tonight they have killed their one scrawny little chicken for their guests of honor. We each get a tiny piece or two, and the chicken sauce is delicious, which we enjoy by dipping cakes of ground corn meal in it. We feel soaked in the rich love of God as we partake of the very best this pastor and his family have to offer. Finally we take our leave, and with great thanksgiving we go to our tents and fall asleep for the night. All is quiet, and Jesus is with us.
We wake up early, wet with perspiration as the rising sun heats our tents. After coffee and bread, and lots of fellowship, we gather with the villagers to dedicate the new children’s house. We have been instituting a system of church-based orphan care in as many villages as possible, asking each pastor to take care of a dozen full orphans. We gather in the house to pray with our orphans, who are not orphans any more, but fully adopted into the family of God and by the Body of Christ in the village. The pastor, his wife and his new children under their care are beaming. We are putting together a child sponsorship program that we pray will support these children and thousands more like them all over Mozambique.
As we emerge from the children’s house, we are met with a surprise. Moslem leaders in their caps and gowns have come to the village from the nearby mosque, which serves the Moslem community of the whole area. They heard about the deaf being healed the night before, and they want prayer too! They bring us extravagant offerings: a pair of doves and a rooster! They also are touched and healed as we pray in the name of Jesus. They grin and are so pleased. We leave them with a solar-powered audio Bible. May the love of God continue to spread across this province as more and more come to know the power of the Cross.
We head off for a baptismal service in the local watering hole. Many of the local believers and even a few visitors are baptized in the middle of a powerful African rain storm. It’s a long drive back to Pemba, but we are ready. Tired and hungry, we climb in our Land Rover to head home. But we have been fed in the Spirit, and one more village has felt the power of the age to come. We are sustained, and next week we will be out in the bush again, spreading the Kingdom with all His energy that works so powerfully in us.
DELIVERANCE IN THE BUSH
Rain is pouring down through the thick trees all around us. Pools of water stand in the deep mud surrounding our bush church. A throng of Mozambicans are huddled together, tightly packed as they try to find space to stay out of the rain. Plastic and canvas sheets have been spread out from the church roof, held up by sticks and poles, to keep the rain off as many people as possible. But the downpour is heavy, conditions are wet and miserable, and the whole situation is a very unlikely setting for revival. We are having a bush conference in Inhambane Province, which we have rarely visited, and people have come from hundreds of miles around. They are hungry, physically and spiritually, and I am praying that the Holy Spirit will make the most of our time together. However, the devil tries to dampen the occasion.
The rain is loud, and the people in the back standing in the mud can hardly hear our simple sound system. What can the Holy Spirit do here? Plenty! Right now He is cleansing the entire assembly of demonic oppression. Tears are running down faces and bodies are shaking. Hands are lifted high. A huge outcry is rising up to heaven. I have just asked how many are being harassed and afflicted by demons, and nearly everyone stood up. Mozambique is riddled with witchcraft and demonic power, and so many churchgoers are syncretistic, going to witch doctors as well as God to try to meet their desperate needs. Every chance we get in our Bible schools and churches we urge the people to make a clean and total break from powers of darkness. So now I have asked the people to confess anything and everything that is still wrong in their hearts so that they can be cleansed and protected from evil forces. Suddenly the Holy Spirit came in force, and I can’t preach over the sound of repentant voices loudly crying for mercy and help. I and our pastors lay hands on as many as we can reach. We rebuke all evil power. Finally a mood of great peace and relief settles on everyone, and we move gently into the rest of our service.
At one point the electric power quits, leaving us sitting in the dark under the sound of the heavy rain. But soon the people sing, and without a dominating keyboard their pure, powerful voices blend and pulse with uniquely African harmony and rhythm. Their worship is spine-tingling. Our little, muddy, wet conference has become a taste of heaven on earth.
After a few days we leave, flying in a little Cessna to our next meetings to the north, in Sofala Province. We are full of wonder at our huge, far-flung Mozambican family, now over ten thousand churches strong. The Holy Spirit miraculously binds our churches together, giving us a united heart for a transformed society of humble, Spirit-filled believers saved by the blood of Jesus.
BICYCLES FOR JESUS
It’s taking a long time, but no one cares. We are distributing dozens of bicycles to pastors so they can evangelize and plant churches over greater distances here in Nampula Province. It’s dark, hot and humid. Our simple, poor, but large city church is packed out, lit only by a few bare bulbs. One by one pastors are called out and they make their way forward. We lay hands on each one and pray for them as we give each a bicycle. Some of our pastors have been walking ten, twenty or thirty miles a day to plant churches, in the rain and mud, dust and heat, day and night. So we anoint each bicycle, praying that angels and the power of the HolySpirit will accompany each one wherever it goes, and that our spiritual leaders will bear all the more fruit. They have been waiting for these bicycles for years, and now the Lord has provided through a church in Curatiba, Brazil.
Many have been raised from the dead in this province, and the name of the Lord has become famous among the desperately poor who frequently face illness without medical care. Demons fight all they can, but they are being pushed back. Tonight I preach, and call the hungry forward for prayer. We missionaries and pastors lay hands on as many as possible. The Holy Spirit touches each one as He wills, according to their faith and desire. One young girl is thrashing on the floor, possessed by an evil spirit. She is delivered as one of our Iris missionaries, Antoinette, prays over her, washes her clean, and comforts her until she is calm and peaceful. And then, as she smiles with quiet joy, the girl is given a beautiful vision of heaven!
Late in the night our team finds a little restaurant still open, and once again we reflect on what God has done among us. Against all odds and in spite of every hardship, God is pouring enough love, patience, endurance, determination, faith and vision into pastors in this province to accomplish miracles of growth that we never expected years ago. Our appetites are whetted. The more He does, the more we desire even more! May the intensity of His presence in this province never stop increasing.
Wild celebration! High energy African dancing, arm-in-arm! Hearts bursting with praise! Many being hit by the intense power of the Holy Spirit and all the variety of His emotions! Singing with all of the heart and soul! Faces dripping with perspiration, but full of joy! Missionaries praying for pastors; pastors praying for students; students praying for teachers; everyone praying for everyone! This is graduation day for our Harvest mission school and Bible school. We are seeing a tremendous day of worship, blending black and white, rich and poor, foreigners and nationals as we mark the end of almost three months of classes and outreaches at our Pemba base.
Our speaker Mel Tari gave us a powerful message on the significance of this day in the plans of God for each pastor and student. We and the Body of Christ worldwide are winning the war against the powers of darkness, and the African continent will not be left out! It is exhilarating to watch our village pastors jump and shout as they sing, “Go, go go!” They will go to the uttermost parts of this nation, carrying the Gospel with all the love and power they have been given. Pray with us for their safety, health, strength and anointing as they face every kind of challenge. Pray also for our mission students as they follow their calls throughout the world. Many are interviewing for long-term service with Iris, and we are deeply blessed.
We bless you this Christmas season in the name of the Lord. May our lives and labor here in Africa encourage and enrich you in return for all your faithful, ongoing support and intercession. May the Holy Spirit strengthen our relationship until we are all filled with even more love and joy than we have asked for! May the love of the Father embrace you always.
Much love in Jesus,
Rolland and Heidi Baker