Heidi Baker — Clinging to the Promises and Presence of God
Heidi Baker — Clinging to the Promises and Presence of God
by Steve Eastman, OpenHeaven.com
Heidi Baker and her husband Rolland minister to the poorest of the poor in the world’s most impoverished country, Mozambique. But as the Beatitudes teach, God has a heart for the poor. The Bakers may well have seen more miracles per square mile in that country, than others have observed anywhere else in the world. That includes healings, multiplication of food and resurrections. In Compelled by Love Heidi details how the miraculous often has its roots in the Beatitudes. Recently, when she was in the United States, we spoke with Heidi about her book and her life with God.
Your husband Rolland tells us in a forward to Compelled by Love about your background. “She had a privileged upbringing, living on a private beach, and lacked nothing in education, comforts, and opportunity.” He also says that by the age of 16 you “… had already been mystically taken to heaven and commissioned by Jesus to be a missionary and a minister to Asia, England, and Africa.” His description brings to mind certain characters in Scripture who suddenly burst on the scene and started doing exploits. Could you fill us in on the details about how you accepted the Lord and that trip to heaven?
I was an American Field Service student on a Choctaw Indian reservation in central Mississippi and I was studying the Choctaw culture. Someone invited me to a revival on the reservation. I didn’t know what a revival was, but I went to it, and there was a Navaho preacher preaching.
It was an extremely powerful evangelistic message. He was saying how he always hated white people and I wanted to run out of there because I was the white person in the meeting. But I just kept listening to him, and he said Jesus came into his heart and gave him love for all people, and Jesus wanted to come in our hearts; so we had this long altar call, Just as I Am, and I think they must have played it six, seven times.
No one went forward but I was just so drawn by the Lord, I felt a physical force pulling my shirt. I just started crying and I went to the front. I was the only one that got saved that night. So it was all a revival for the American Indians and one little white girl got saved.
There was a lady playing the organ, who was Pentecostal Holiness and she said, “It’s wonderful you’ve been saved. Now you need the Holy Ghost.” I didn’t have a clue what she’s was talking about. She said, “Come with me tomorrow night.” I remember waking up in the morning. I was just singing. I was so full of the presence and joy and I just felt the love of Jesus. I really felt changed. I went to their little church that night, a little Pentecostal Holiness church in central Mississippi, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I was speaking in tongues and praying.
So you got it all at once?
Yeah, March 13, 1976 I was saved. March 14, 1976 I was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Did you have that trip to heaven at the same time as you were filled, or was that later on?
That was about five months later, and I don’t know if I would call it a trip to heaven or heaven came to me. I don’t know how to describe it, except I was surrounded. I was on a five-day fast. I was worshipping Jesus in this little, tiny Pentecostal church and suddenly this white light surrounded me. I had my arms frozen in the air and my eyes closed, and I could no longer hear the preacher or the two pianos playing. It was the only time in my entire life I heard the external, audible voice of God.
He called me. Jesus said, “You are called to be a minister and a missionary to go to Africa, Asia and England. You are called to be married to Me.” I felt His presence like a [touch] on my left hand and oil ran down my arm.
The preachers told me I was frozen there for three hours. It felt like a few minutes to me. I’ve never, from that moment, diverted from that call of intimacy and missionary life to Africa, Asia and England. We were in Asia 12 years, three in England and 14 in Africa.
Moving along chronologically, you met and married Rolland and moved to Asia. What lessons did you learn from God in that initial season of your ministry?
I started preaching the next day after that vision, after that experience with the Lord. I started feeling God had called me to the poor, broken and sick. Back then no one asked a little 16 year-old to preach in their church, especially a young woman. But I just started preaching, and I felt the Lord said fruit would always come as I would go to the poorest, loneliest and most broken people.
Just find the most hungry, the most sick, the most needy and minister to them. They’re the ones that want more of God. That’s my greatest lesson, and tenacity is another one. You don’t stop, and you don’t deny your calling. You remember His goodness everyday whether you’re thrown in jail or slammed against the wall or shot at or ridiculed. You just continue to cling to the promises and to the presence of God.
Twelve years later, you and Rolland moved to England to get your PhDs. It must have been a big change from ministering to the multitudes. I know God later showed you many truths in Mozambique way beyond what you learned at the University of London. What I want to know is how did God use that time in the UK to shape you into who you are today?
That was a really powerful experience. I was at King’s College/University of London. I spent my days with theologians and in the library. I spent six to seven nights a week on the streets with the homeless, so I never stopped ministering. In fact, we planted a church among the homeless and worked with the mentally ill and prostitutes, drug addicts and really violent people - invited them to our home and fed them on the streets. What I learned was their hunger was just so desperate. They wanted time more than food. They wanted to know they were loved by Father God and by us. So, that was probably my greatest lesson doing my PhD, learning from the homeless.
What about the academic work? Did it help?
It did. I’ve always been inquisitive and love to study. It was just a tremendous privilege to be able to put those years aside to spend time reading the church fathers and mothers and the patristic writings. I was also very involved in reading about the orthodox Christian mystics.
Like Jean Guyon and some of them?
Yeah. She’s one of my favorites, Jean Guyon. I also loved Christian Catholic mystics like St. John of the Cross. They helped me find that some of my own experiences were already in the church. That was refreshing to me and helpful to me because sometimes I thought, “Wow. What’s happening to me? Why am I seeing these things?” When I started reading Christian mystics throughout the centuries, I was able to understand my own spirituality a little more.
I related to it, and I was just undone by some of the things they had seen, just thinking, “Well then, I can have more.” You know, it’s this holy hunger, that poverty of spirit. If they can see it, then I can see this, too. Or I can have more, too, because God is not a respecter of persons. He’ll feed the hungry. Whoever’s hungry, he’ll feed them.
You arrived in Mozambique with your PhDs and almost no money. When you first got there, there wasn’t even a place to stay. Please tell us about that?
Oh, it’s wonderful. I went ahead of my husband and children. Rolland let me go ahead because he was still writing, working on his thesis. So I went, and the Lord had spoken to us to give away our building in Hong Kong. He said, “You just go with nothing, and I’ll show you what to do.”
I ran out of money by day three and didn’t know where I was going to sleep. I was sitting on a street corner. Also, the last night I was in a Bible college, I think it was a Baptist Bible college where they said I could spend the night, a lady just ran up to me. I could tell she was a missionary. She had a bun and little, flowered skirt and shoes. She just tossed keys in my hand and said, “Could you do me a favor? Watch my house?” And off she ran without telling me the address of her house; so I had to find people to teach me. The rest is history.
The Lord just kept providing for us. I spent my days on the street with the poorest of the poor, just like I had in England and Asia. I didn’t come flashing the PhD or any past experience. I just came as a learner and listened and learned two languages. After about six months, I had gained their trust and started taking in homeless children. The Lord said, “You learned from the poor, and now I’m asking you to learn about the Kingdom from the children.”
I said, “I don’t do children.”
He said, “You do now. Take them all home.”
So I started taking home these kids. Then Rolland and my own two biological children came, and we started with 80 kids from an old orphanage. Then we just took in more and more kids. Now we have 7,000 children.
I wonder if you could tell us just a little bit more about learning from the poor in Mozambique. You talk a lot about it in Compelled by Love. Other than language, what lessons did you learn from the poor?
I started learning from the poor in Asia, probably even before that. I learned about the Kingdom breaking forth for the poor. So I was asking God what that means and what are the attributes of the poor in spirit that even the wealthy could attain. I realized it’s hunger and thirst, desperation, humility, brokenness and knowing that you can’t do it by yourself on your own.
The attributes of the poor are the things that turn God’s heart toward us for breaking the Kingdom in. When we’re poor in spirit, that means we’re desperate for God, we’re needy for God, we can’t walk on our own. We stay humble and lowly before Him. These kinds of things break His Kingdom into the world in greater measure.
Someone who’s had a major effect on your life is Randy Clark. I’m also impressed with him because when he came to my area as part of a big conference, he enthusiastically accepted an invitation to speak to the homeless. No, it wasn’t part of his honorarium. He just went downtown and ministered like he did at the conference. In your case Heidi, how did a prophetic word from Randy affect the future direction of your ministry?
It was a very powerful experience. I was in Canada, and I’d been to this church one time and I went back. And he was speaking about pressing in and a desperation for God.
Was it at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship?
Yes, it was TACF. And he was preaching about the anointing and pressing in and desperation and hunger -- all of the things that I’d found in the poor. Thousands of people were there. I just couldn’t stand it anymore. Before anyone else, before he gave an altar call, I ran right up to the altar and lifted my hands into the air and just started screaming for more of God. That’s just not my typical personality at all. He just grabbed my hands and said, “The Lord wants to know, ‘Do you want Mozambique?’ The blind will see, the deaf will hear. The crippled will walk. The dead will be raised, and the poor will hear the good news.”
And I just started screaming, “YEESSSSS!!!” We didn’t know each other at the time, and I don’t even know how he knew I was in Mozambique, but I think John (Arnott) had talked to him about a missionary couple. Later he told me he didn’t know what he was asking. If I had known what I was saying, I would have not known how to respond. That’s just wild, but it was just because of the anointing on that moment that I just screamed, “YEESSSSS!!!” ”
The power of God hit me in such a powerful way. I went back home to Mozambique thinking this would all happen, and instead, no blind eyes or deaf ears opened, the rebels took away our buildings, my husband got cerebral malaria and I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
We had 320 kids, and I prayed for 20 some blind people and none of them saw, but I believed this word. I knew it was from God. I knew that I knew that He was going to release this nation, and that we would see this nation come to Him. I just wouldn’t give up. One day, about a year after this prophetic word, the first blind person saw, a lady named Mama Aida. On the next day, a second blind person saw. She also had my name: Mama Aida. The third day, a third blind person saw. She, too, had my name: Mama Aida.
That was the nickname you had there with the kids?
That is my name in Mozambique. They all call me Mama Aida. No one calls me Heidi, and no one calls me Aida. It’s Mama, Mama Aida. That’s my name there.
I asked God what it meant. He said, “You’re blind. I’ll open your eyes.” So, I started weeping and crying for God to open my eyes. And he showed me the Western world. He said, “One third of your life you are to minister to the one-third world. So that’s what happened through that prophetic word; and now we have at least eight thousand or so churches in Mozambique,
So what you’re saying is don’t give up even if you don’t see anything for a year. It can still happen.
Even if you don’t see anything for 20 years. I heard Africa, Asia and England when I was 16 years-old. I didn’t get to Africa till 1995. I’m 49 years-old and the greatest fruit of my life and ministry has been in Mozambique.
Yeah, you never give up. You just believe what God has told you. You press in for it. You’re tenacious and you do whatever it takes, whatever he calls you to do. Now we have a strategy from heaven: plant a church every five kilometers. We work very hard. We take evangelism teams out. Hundreds of us every month are outreaching every village in Mozambique. Now, the country is turning toward the Lord with thousands and thousands of churches.
Let me ask you a bit more about the miraculous. You’ve seen a type of miracle that is not mentioned in Jesus’ earthly ministry, but He did do something similar – the multiplication of food to feed a crowd. In your case, you witnessed the multiplication of Christmas presents. What happened?
Giving out presentsThat’s only happened once. We’ve had the food multiplied many times. And it’s just super-exciting every time. We always cry. And we don’t test God. We buy as much food as we can. I knew God would multiply food. I’d seen him do it. But I thought it would be a little over the top for Him to multiply presents. That was my theological background kicking in.
I love to give gifts. I was giving out Christmas presents one year in southern Mozambique on a 120-degree day. I sat on a grass mat, looking each child in the eye, loving and blessing them. My staff had worked for months on getting all the presents together. I don’t even know how many we had, maybe a thousand or so gifts. The homeless were there and the street kids were there and all of our own children were there.
We were getting to the end of the line and our teenage girls were now in the queue. A helper, who happened to be a psychiatrist, was next to me. Her name was Brenda. I was thinking of John 15 and I just looked at one of my own girls and said, “What do you want?” The psychiatrist really got ticked off and said, “I told you, there are stuffed dogs in the bag.” I knew the girls didn’t want old second-hand stuffed dogs. I said to the girl again, “What do you want?” A couple of the girls yelled out, “Beads. Beads.”
I just prayed, and I looked up to the Lord and said, “Brenda. They want beads.” She reached in and started screaming, “There are beads in the bag.” She started sobbing. Some people from Argentina, who saw it happen, started jumping and screaming. My Mozambican helpers did the same thing. We were all sobbing and pulling out beads. That was a powerful experience. We had also counted something like 24 wrapped checkerboards and gave out twice that number.
What year was that?
I think it was ’’97 or ’98. It only happened one time, but it changed my life.
You spend a third of your time ministering to churches in the West. Why do we often lack the miraculous that is so common in Mozambique and other third world locations?
Blessed are the poor in spirit. For theirs is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are the children. Theirs is the Kingdom of God. There’s something about desperation, no backup plan, a child-like spirit.
When you tell the poorest of the poor they’re going to see a miracle, that deaf ears are going to open, they don’t question it in the village. They don’t say, “Oh yeah, prove it.” Bring the deaf, and they hear. They’re so child-like in their belief. They just see way more. They’re also more desperate, and they’re more hungry in the natural realm; so it seems to pull the Kingdom of Heaven to them in a greater way.
But it can still happen here.
Yes. It says the poor in spirit, the child-like. It doesn’t mean you have to be a child or you have to be physically poor. But that’s what the book’s about, the lessons I’ve learned from the poor and the children. That we would learn them in the one-third world so those miracles that are so common there, would become common here as well. It’s an attitude of the heart. It’s not whether you’re eight or six or make less than a dollar a day. The attributes that those poorest people have, those are the attributes that you in the one-third world can believe to receive. You can press in for those attributes.
I attended one of your meetings several years ago. You laughed, cried and spent time on the floor on your knees. It was evident something special was going on between God and you, and those of us who were there got to share in it to some degree. Can you explain that intimacy with Him that occurs regardless of your surroundings?
I’m more in love with Jesus than life. He’s my everything. I want His presence more than I want to feed the poor. And I love to feed the poor, and I love the lost.
That’s an important point because many times people minister when their heart goes out to the people, but maybe they don’t have everything as strong with Jesus as they should.
Fruitfulness flows from intimacy. It doesn’t come from any other place. It’s John 15. All fruitfulness flows from intimacy, and the point of intimacy isn’t just the fruit either. It’s being with Jesus. It’s being in love with Him and being filled with Him and [reveling in] His presence and His touch. That’s what I live for. If I never, ever get to take in another orphan, if I can be in the presence, that’s what I’m created for. I just love His glory. I just love His presence. I love to feel His touch and be where He is.
Thank you, Heidi, for talking with us.
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