A Genuine Gem
Mozambique in the south east of Africa, is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Over half her 20 million people live off subsistence farming and are illiterate. When the Bakers arrived there in the autumn of 1995 it was worse. The country had been devastated by nearly twenty five years of vicious civil war that had only ended in 1992. The economy was dead; the infrastructure in ruins; about 12% of the population had AIDS; and another drought had withered away the crops. In the midst of this it was the children who were suffering most.
Heidi Baker is not a conventional Christian. In one prayer meeting she stood on her head. She has been known to deliver half her sermon lying on the floor. She interrupts herself by speaking in tongues. She talks of visions and prophecies and miracles – 53 people raised from the dead, the deaf hearing, the blind seeing, food, and even toys being multiplied. With the church awash with emotional eccentrics and fake faith healers sensible Christians will want to ask a simple question: is she genuine?
The answer is an absolute yes. You can watch her for hours on YouTube: talking, worshipping, preaching and praying. There is nothing slick or theatrical about her. She does not appear on a flood lit stage in a flowing white gown. She is more the jeans and T shirt type. She does talk about the miracles she has seen. But she also talks about suffering: being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, watching her husband Rolland go down with cerebral malaria, working day and night to establish an orphanage in Mozambique, only to have it all taken away by the government, surviving floods, having nowhere to spend the night, feeling stressed ‘to the bone’. And she talks a lot about being sent to the poorest of the poor - in Hong Kong, in
London, and for the last sixteen years, in . And here she has found that God is miraculous in the midst of the poverty. Surely, that is authentic Christianity. Mozambique
Others certainly think so. Heidi Baker’s ministry is not hidden. Hundreds of Westerners and Africans have worked very closely with her. They confirm she is a genuine gem. As do the Christian public. Heidi Baker has long been in the spotlight, but no shady accounts, no deceitful fund raising, no bullying of staff, no sexual gossip has ever been seen.The spot light has shone, and she remains as she is: an intense, out of the box, Christian who is a hundred per cent authentic.
March 13th 1976: Born Again
March 14th, 1976: Filled With The Holy Spirit and Baptised in Water
Heidi Baker is from a well to do middle class family in
. She was brought up in the Episcopal Church where she felt the Holy Spirit, especially when she took the Eucharist. However she is adamant that her born again experience happened on March 13th 1976 when she was a sixteen year old resident volunteer on an Indian reservation in California . She was invited to a revival meeting where an Indian was preaching for Indians about how his hate for whites had been changed by Jesus. When he gave the altar call Heidi writes – ‘I felt as if a hand physically grabbed my shirt and pulled me forward. My heart broke and I burst into tears.’ The pianist there came and told her she now needed the Holy Spirit and invited her for a meeting the next day at the Pentecostal Holiness church. Heidi went and thirty people prayed for her, ‘Immediately everything went black.’, she writes, ‘and then in a few minutes all became bright white....I couldn’t get a word out in English, all I could do was speak in tongues.’ The Pentecostals then baptised Heidi in water. So in two days she was born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and baptised in water. Mississippi
Her Calling: ‘You are to go to Africa, Asia, and
Heidi now became ‘a radical sponge for Jesus’. During a five day fast to seek God’s will for her life she received a direct call during a church service: ‘God’s glory came to me again...this time He spoke to me audibly, ‘I am calling you to be a minister and a missionary. You are to go to Africa, Asia, and
Heidi has been faithful to that calling, but first there was a severe test. At
she fell in love and was soon due to marry. But her marriage plans did not go well with her plans to go on mission trips. Her heart was full of tension, till God gave her a tough command: ‘You will lay this man down on the altar for me, My glory, and My calling on your life.’ She sobbed for three hours, but she obeyed. And she was blessed. Shortly after this Rolland Baker fell in love with Heidi, for who she was, and for her intense child like adoration of God. He was the grand-son of a missionary who had given his life for the poor in Vanguard University California , and he wanted to do the same. Though twelve years older than Heidi, he asked for her hand in marriage and she said yes. China
Heidi’s calling became reality. Almost immediately after her wedding she and Rolland set off to
Indonesia and for the next seven years preached Christ in Asia through music and drama. The meetings were large and people responded. But God wanted Heidi to do more than just preach and perform on the stage. He told her to sit with the poor. So Heidi, Rolland, and their two young children Elisha and Crystalyn moved into a slum house. Later she did the same in Hong Kong – ‘I found a filthy black room added on to the top of an old building with an elevator in the most crowded urban area in the world...our neighbours were prostitutes and gangsters.’ After four years of living here and ministering here Heidi became very sick and for four months had to rest in a dark room in being looked after by friends. Here God spoke to her about the next stage of his calling – to study theology in Alaska . London, England
Heidi and Rolland arrived in
in the autumn of 1991 and here ‘wrestled with prominent theological minds’. But they still sat with the poor. They gave all their spare time to preaching Christ to the city’s many homeless. People swore at them, drew knives on them, and banged on their door at all hours of the night. They kept on loving them, and soon they had started a new church for the down and outs. After successfully obtaining their PhD’s in Theology, the Bakers handed over their church, and were ready for the next stage of God’s calling: London Africa.
Mozambique: the children of Chihango
Heidi and Rolland had been praying about
Mozambique since the 1980’s when they were in Hong Kong. An invitation to a conference in January 1995 when they were studying in gave them their first visit to ‘the mission field of our dreams.’ Here they were offered the opportunity to take over a dilapidated state run orphanage in a forsaken place called Chihango fifteen miles outside the capital London . The Bakers were shocked when they visited the eighty or so children living there –‘They defecated on bare floors...They were bloated and covered with sores. They yelled, kicked, and fought.’ Maputo
Heidi and Rolland returned to Chihango in the autumn of 1995 and with no big funding behind them turned that abandoned orphanage into a true home. More children came to them, and they kept on meeting children with horrific stories. They could not turn them away, but instead Heidi would ‘love them back to life’. In her books and talks she will tell many stories of children the world had thrown away, but Christ had found. There is Beatrice: her mother was dead, her father an abusive alcoholic, she a rape victim many times over. With her lice and scabies, Heidi would hold her. And life returned. Soon 350 children were calling Heidi, ‘Mama Aida’. And they were calling God daddy, learning to worship, and to pray for their daily needs. By the end of 1996 there seemed to be a peaceful routine at the orphanage. As Heidi wrote in her diary – ‘The children are up early in Chihango. All the way from our house we can hear their shouts and seem them scampering back and forth between the trees...We seem to be far away from war...and all the evil legacy of Satan’s work.’ Severe trials and greater blessings though were on the way, via
Factor: Jesus said, ‘There will always be enough...’ Toronto
Being mother to over three hundred children had worn Heidi down. As well as getting sick with suspected tuberculosis, she knew she needed to be recharged spiritually. So she made her way to the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship where under the preaching of Randy Clark reports of unusual manifestations of the Holy Spirit were being reported. As soon as she arrived her lungs were healed and she was enveloped in love. During this time she also had a powerful vision. She saw herself with Jesus being surrounded by thousands and thousands of children. ‘No, Lord, there are too many’, she cried. He replied, ‘Look into My eyes. You give them something to eat.’ Christ then offered her a piece of his bruised body. Again he spoke. ‘Look into My eyes. You give them something to drink.’ And she was given a cup of blood and water, symbolising bitterness and joy, which flowed from Christ’s side. Jesus had one final word for Heidi: ‘There will always be enough, because I died.’
There really was enough
Heidi’s faith in those words was immediately tested. On her return to
the government demanded the Bakers stop teaching the children Christianity at the orphanage. They refused – and were evicted. At the same time they lost nearly 90% of their support from a church in the Mozambique . And Rolland contracted cerebral malaria. As Heidi would later say, in these situations, ‘If God doesn’t show up, we’re dead’. US
God did show up, and Christ proved His word to Heidi with a miracle. The Bakers took the neediest of the orphans from Chihango back with them to their flat in the capital
. But others followed. At their single storey house there was chaos. There were not enough beds, or food, and the children were getting hungry. Nerves were stretched. There was a knock on the door and an American friend came in smiling and said she’d made some chilli and rice for Heidi’s family. There was enough for the four of them. But not enough for the fifty or so orphans squeezed into every corner of the flat. Heidi opened a small tin of cornmeal she had, and started serving everyone...’all our children ate, the staff ate, my friend ate, and even our family of four ate. Everyone had enough.’ Christ’s word had proved true. Then about three months later the Bakers were given 15 acres of unused land, some army tents, and an old circus tent. Maputo had a new orphanage. And later they opened another one too, near the capital’s main garbage dump where children scavenged. Many of these children were found by Heidi and brought to the new home. Mozambique
Toronto again, then thousands of churches
In 1998 Heidi and Rolland again went to
for ministry. And again God met with them in a powerful way. Indeed the glory of God fell on Heidi so powerfully that she was hardly able to move for seven days. Rolland had to carry her around. People thought she was crippled. She knew what was happening though. She cried out, ‘Lord, I am dying.’ ‘Good’ came the reply, ‘I want you dead.’ She was being taught absolute dependence on God – and the church. Toronto
there was an explosion in the Bakers’ church planting ministry. Before going to Mozambique they had planted four churches. Now they were to plant thousands. Toronto
Already hundreds were coming to their worship meetings held at the children’s centres, but then in 1998 an evangelist, Surpesa, asked the Bakers to supervise ninety of his churches. The Bakers visited the churches, they held pastors conferences, and they opened a training centre for them, with the pastors coming three months at a time, ‘They rose at four in the morning to pray and worship loudly for hours.’ These pastors went on to plant more churches. Then in 2000
was hit by terrible flooding. Crops were ruined, water was contaminated, disease was rife, and hundreds of thousands lost everything. It was a national disaster: and a great opportunity for Heidi and her pastors. The government put thousands of refugees into camps, and Heidi went to them with her pastors to give out food, and preach Christ. In one Mozambique ‘preached her heart out and 2,000 people came to Jesus.’ Her pastors were also preaching in other camps. She was again going to the poor, and the poor were more than ready to receive the love she offered. By October 2000, they had 400 churches under their supervision. In 2001 the growth was explosive and by August 2001, they had about five thousand churches. Ten years later and the Baker’s church planting and children’s ministry has spread over the world. Go to their website, www.irismin.org and you will see they are working in fifteen nations, feed 10,000 children a day, and supervise over 10,000 churches. camp Heidi
Miracles: raising the dead, healing the deaf and blind.
Part of the reason for the explosive church growth has been the miraculous. As one of their pastors wrote, ‘When people see a miracle in the church there is a lot more growth.’ At the end of one of their training session, Heidi Baker challenged the pastors to pray for the dead, ‘I exhorted them to start praying for every dead person they saw.’ Shortly after this, Pastor Rego was on a three day complete fast when he was called to a home where a woman had died. He asked the mourners to be quiet and started praying. ‘I prayed for over an hour. She was very cold. The second hour I started to feel warmth coming into her...I picked her up, and then her eyes were open.’ Other pastors began to report incidents of people being raised from the dead. To date the Bakers say they know of about a hundred people who have been restored to life through prayer. You can see professional journalist, Darren Wilson, intervie
w a man called Francis who was dead in the film, ‘Finger of God’. This is also on YouTube.
In 1998 Heidi received a prophecy that she would pray and the blind would see and the deaf would hear. After this she went out looking for blind people and would say, ‘I know you don’t know me, but I’d just like to pray for you.’ They would become Christians, but there eyes did not open. She refused to give up. She kept on praying. And then in ones and twos the blind started to see. When ministering to flood victims in Marromeu the deaf began to hear. Word about the miracles spread, and that night about ten thousand came to the meetings. At one, when the invitation for healing was given, one of the first to come forward was a little girl, Heidi describes what happened:
‘She’s deaf , she’s blind, and I thought, “Oh Jesus”. You can get a little nervous when there’s thousands of people and the first person they bring you is both deaf and dumb…There was no video camera. There were no flashlights. There were no cameras. There was nothing, just the dark, the rain, and thousands of people…I began to pray…And suddenly her eyes opened up. Her ears opened up, and she smiled this beautiful smile. Her mother screamed and screamed.
Intimacy with God, love for the poor
In her sermons, books, and interviews it is not the experience of miracles that comes across most strongly, but Heidi Baker’s intense hunger for God. Ever since her first encounter with Him in
back in 1976 she has been saying – more. She is absolutely not content for her relationship to be a regulated part of her life. She wants to be a love slave. She wants intimacy. And from the time she gave up her first fiancé, through all the trials in Asia, Mississippi England, and Africa she knows that the price of intimacy is sacrifice: constant, total, surrender to God’s day to day commands. And out of this intimacy with God has flown a passionate love for the poorest of the poor. This has not been talk. She has gone to the poor and lived as one of them. She has blessed them, and they have blessed her – ‘There’s something about the poor that delights the heart of God. They’re contrite. They know they’re in need...the poor teach us how to seek after God.’
Many reading this will wonder whether they can have a ministry like Heidi Baker’s. In one sense only God knows the answer to that question, but in Heidi and Rolland Baker He has set out His terms pretty clearly: there must be a passion for intimacy with God, willingness to sacrifice, and a readiness to go and live with the poor. These have been the marks on Heidi Baker’s ministry. They were also the marks of Christ’s ministry when He was on earth. And it is these marks that make her a genuine gem in the church today.
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Tom Hawksley November 2011