Mother's Day is upon us. In honor of it, I want to highlight a woman who decided to mother a nation. She gave up a privileged life to serve the Lord in a country that is considered the poorest one in the world. Together with her husband, Rolland Baker, Heidi embarked on a mission that looked impossible in its scope. However, the Baker's moved forward and began to change the face of a nation in a ramshackle orphanage in Africa. Heidi became known by her children as Mama Heidi. Today, all who know her around the world also affectionately refer to her as Mama Heidi.
The Baker’s web site, Irisglobal.org., describes their call: “The primary mission of Iris Global is to seek the face of God with all our hearts, that we might glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. We proclaim Jesus. He is our salvation, our prize, our reward, our inheritance, our destination, our motivation, our joy, wisdom, and sanctification—and absolutely everything else we need, now and forever."
As a young woman, Mama Heidi heard an audible call from God to go to the mission field with areas in India, England, and Africa being highlighted. Their belief that revival would occur amongst the poorest people on earth brought the Bakers to Mozambique where the government offered them an unsupported orphanage that had been completely neglected. They report that "80 miserable, demon-afflicted orphans in rags" lived there. Heidi and Rolland agreed to take over the orphanage as long as they were permitted to bring the Gospel to the children. The power of God was manifested, and "within months the children were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, weeping while still in rags with gratitude for their salvation.” These young ones were taught how to pray. As they cried out to God night and day, their food was miraculously provided by Jesus. The orphanage grew to 320 children and put Mozambique on the radar screen of many churches who began to support the ministry.
Challenge after challenge faced the Bakers: They were evicted from their original building and had to construct a new orphanage, hit by cyclones and floods that resulted in great famines, and overrun with scared, hungry people rushing from terrorists. The Bakers have written several books about their situation and their experiences with Jesus. Their titles tell the whole story about the miraculous provisions from heaven: There is Always Enough, Expecting Miracles, Compelled by Love, Birthing the Miraculous, and Living from the Presence.
A Scripture that has inspired the Bakers from the beginning of their ministry comes from Romans 5:3-5. "...We also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." The situations that looked hopeless gave them hope as they lived in the power of God. The Bakers story traveled throughout the world, and all who heard it had their hearts touched. Support began to pour into their ministry, and they were able to build dorms for children, schools for the bush pastors, and purchase a bush airplane to spread the Gospel and provide needed supplies for out-lying communities. What started as a small orphanage in Pemba, Mozambique has expanded to churches and schools throughout Africa and around the world. Mission training for those who want to join the ranks of missionaries is available to those who want to make an impact around the world for Jesus.
I have had the privilege of hearing Mama Heidi speak on several occasions. When we look at the Baker's expansive ministry today, it is easy to forget how it all started. Mama Heidi shares her ministry philosophy with everyone she speaks to: "Stop for the One" or "Love the One in Front of You." One by one she and Rolland built a ministry that spans the world. One by one the Bakers changed the world for Jesus. Mama Heidi's love for Jesus and mother heart for the lost and hurting is one we all need to adopt. On this Mother's Day I want to honor Mama Heidi for her love and courage to mother a nation and the world. When we look at what is happening in Africa right now, it seems the challenges that are faced by the Bakers continue to grow. The people of Mozambique are encountering terrorist groups who are destroying their lives. Thousands are pouring into Cabo Delgado where Iris ministries has set up a place to help care for their needs. The stories of their loses are heartbreaking. You can look on their web site to read more about this ministry that has truly captured the heart of God. Perhaps our prayers and gifts can make a difference for one and help this mother, Mama Heidi, to continue spreading the love of the Lord.
Joan E. Mathias