So I will be hearing Heidi Baker twice this month at River Camp in Gloucestershire and at Revival Alliance in Birmingham.
Heidi Baker is one of the most inspiring Christians I know, along with Dick Woodward, the quadriplegic Pastor Emeritus of our old church, Williamsburg Community Chapel, who, while confined to his bed, wrote and broadcast a survey of the Bible called the Mini Bible College, and is joyful, faith-filled and full of wisdom. People make “pilgrimages” to his bed.
Heidi Baker looks after 10,000 orphans in Mozambique, lives deep in the heart of God, attempts to live the Sermon on the Mount, and experiences miracles on a daily basis.
* * *
I love listening to her. She is very American, very Californian, blonde, athletic, bouncy, vivacious. Entirely unself-conscious. When she prays, she doesn’t worry whether she looks too showy or devout, as I do. She just goes ahead and prays naturally, folded up on the floor in a foetal position, sometimes coming up with electrifying prayer or prophecy or an entire talk in that position of worship on the floor, holding a microphone. Yeah, a most unusual position for a preacher, but does she care?
Heidi 53, looks gorgeous, dresses well, eye-catchingly and attractively, but simply and inexpensively (I bet), and radiates health and fitness. Ah, beauty is a gift from God, and he sometimes gives it to his special saints (I think of Beth Moore or Ann Voskamp) to significantly aid their ministries in our appearance-obsessed world.
Heidi, who is a few years older than me, is amazingly simple and joyful. She quotes her husband Rolland, “Heidi when I met you, you were five, and now you’ve become three.” I love that. I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s bon mot, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” (Incidentally, my husband says I am about ten, so I sure have some growing younger to do!)
* * *
I find this disciple of Jesus very inspiring. My kids love her.
I am called to write, and live in a beautiful old rambling home with a beautiful old rambling garden (now looking a bit unkempt alas) in a country village just outside Oxford. Normally, I wouldn’t go out of my way to go to listen to someone who has adopted 10,000 children in Mozambique, because her life was too alien to mine (in a way that C.S. Lewis’s, for instance, is not).
But Heidi wears her amazing Christ-likeness lightly. She does not even think about it. She is focused on Jesus.
She reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s description of a humble person, “If you meet a really humble man, probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. You might feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. And he will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
But, in fact, and this is why she has such a successful speaking ministry in the West, and why she is so inspiring, what makes Heidi Baker so special is not actually the work she does. I do not believe her joy comes from the 10,000 orphans. I believe it comes from her very close relationship to God, her surrender to him, the Yes she continually says. Listening to her talk of Jesus, it is immediately clear to me that I do not know Jesus as she does, and while that makes me cry with sadness, it also inspires me to get to know Him better.
Her love affair with Christ, her trust, her faith: These things are open to all of us, those called to write in Oxford and those called to turn Mozambique upside down. Prayer is the most equal opportunity thing there is.
* * *
Heidi lives in miracles as her native element. She was seriously dyslexic, but was healed, and eventually earned a PhD in Theology, and has written lovely, convicting books. Read There is Always Enough, and oh, you will be so inspired.
When she last came to the church I used to attend, she said that her husband Rolland Baker had cerebral malaria and suspected dementia. He could not dress himself, or cut his nails or look after himself. And a boy they had adopted, who had stolen from them, and continued relapsing into rascality, looked after him with utter devotion, protecting him, dressing him etc.
I cried as I left. I was too upset to speak. I felt like chiding God like St. Teresa of Avila, knocked off her donkey into the mud, late on a rainy night, once did, “Lord, if this is the way you treat your servants, it’s no wonder you have so few.”
I was angrier than Heidi was, but then maybe Heidi foreknew something I did not. Rolland Baker was completely cured of his “incurable” cerebral malaria and dementia in a remarkable retreat centre in Germany, called The Community Without Walls.
Heidi herself had a complete burnout, suffering from numerous tropical illnesses as well as chronic fatigue and returned to the States, where she was completely healed, physically and spiritually, at Toronto Catch the Fire Church (formerly the Airport Fellowship).
The one thing I do know about faith is that according to our faith it will be done to us (Matt 9:29). Heidi sees so many miracles because she believes she will.
* * *
But she has also long experience of dreams deferred. In a remarkable vision, she had heard God say that the blind would see through her prayers, but prayed over hundreds of blind people before one saw!!
I’ve heard her talk—a long rambling story which took about an hour– about her dream to reach an isolated unreached people group in Mozambique which took twenty years and involved raising money to get a boat, getting a boat which vital parts stolen or rusted, raising money again, finding people to fix the boat, but she finally does reach them, and they accept Jesus.
Sometimes God gives us glimmerings of our destiny to cheer us on and up, and in the long years of waiting for it to be fulfilled, our character forms and is toughened.
And that is as much part of the story as the longed-for conclusion which, in our naivete, we had imagined was the entire story!!