Seeking the Least, the Last & the Lost

By Joy Ercoli

By Joy Ercoli

“We want to do much more than build roads, buildings, and schools. We just want Him. We want to be deeply, deeply, deeply in love with Him. Where people fall more madly and deeply in love with Jesus Christ, not losing their first love but intensifying it more and more, Heaven will come to earth and lives will be changed.” - Rolland Baker

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3

Iris is first and foremost about sharing the good news of Jesus and His love. We are not a faith-based humanitarian charity, rather we are a missions movement committed to a tangible expression of love. Our call, in particular, is to serve the destitute, the lost, the broken, and the forgotten.

Heidi & Rolland Baker didn’t set out to start an organization – they didn’t survey the landscape and choose a social problem to tackle.  Instead, they embarked on a life-mission to reach the lost with the soul-saving truth of Jesus.  

In Rolland’s book, Keeping the Fire, he explores how Iris approaches ministry and uses the Core Values as a guide.  Our first value is to know Him in a passionate relationship with a love that is stronger than death. We major first of all not on mission strategy, methods, projects, and fundraising, but on encountering the love that a love-starved world craves and needs. This does not mean we are attracted to mindless, impersonal mysticism – to “experience” without content or relationship. No – Jesus is our heart’s desire. We relate to Him with both our minds and hearts; we engage with Him and find life and joy in our interaction. When we find Him we find and gain everything. Without Him we can do nothing of real value. Therefore we start by finding God and relying on Him! And as Heidi succinctly puts it, “All fruitfulness flows from intimacy.”

Our priority is prayer and worship, and the interesting thing is this: the more we pray, the more we want to go out on the streets. The more we dedicate ourselves to seeking the Father, the more we want to minister to the lost.  It is a natural overflow to progress from loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength to loving our neighbor. The results of that overflow are the projects and programs Iris has to stop for the one in need. 

We are confident in the part God has called us to play and we want to carry that call on faithfully to the end. It is with that confidence we humbly and earnestly cheer on others who are also part of God’s grand plan to show the world how much He loves it. Heidi has often explained this idea with an image of a fishing net. In her description, Iris is just one little piece of the net with other groups and individuals making up the rest. If we were all separate, no one would catch any fish, but it is through connection and support that many fish are caught.  The strength that Iris brings to the net is this: When you are filled with Love and grasp His beautiful pursuit of the ones He loves, you will take every opportunity to stop for the one in front of you.

It has been an unusually challenging few years for our teams in Mozambique with instability, unprecedented natural disasters, and now extremist violence impacting the northern province of Cabo Delgado. And yet — God. We marvel at His kindness and faithfulness and divine capacity to use all things for His glory.

In 2019, Cyclone Kenneth ravaged the northern coast of Mozambique a mere two months after Cyclone Idai broke records for flooding, damage, and lives lost in central Mozambique. We mobilized our relief efforts immediately and started by literally rescuing people out of trees. Cyclone Kenneth hit a region sparsely populated, difficult to reach, and already simmering with a violent insurgency — to an extent that international relief agencies refused to bring aid there. When our team based in Pemba found out no one would go there and that it was the very area we had been trying to bring the Gospel to, but had been repeatedly rebuffed, we volunteered to go. An official with one of the international agencies said if we went we would be on our own because of the danger. He told one of our missionaries, “You don’t care about your own lives enough and you’re all about Jesus.” What he thought might dissuade us only galvanized our conviction that we needed to go.

The only way to access these villages was by the ocean, so we loaded up a wooden fishing boat with food and supplies. As we approached, the people gathered to see what was happening. It had been three weeks since the cyclone and we were the first ones to bring relief. This same village that had refused us in the past now welcomed us with open arms and heartfelt gratitude. They happily accepted the supplies and were even more accepting to hear about Jesus and how much He loves them. 

In November 2020, a man showed up at our church in Mieze (a small village near Pemba). He stood up on Sunday morning and gave an unexpected testimony. He began by saying he was from Nambo —the very first village we brought relief supplies to. He said after the cyclone, Iris came into his village and were the first people to make contact with them. 

“…they gave us food, and then they came back and gave us tarps, and then they kept coming back to give us food. We didn’t understand why they did this. We were of another faith. They were Christians. Last month, the violent insurgents came back and attacked yet again completely destroying our village and burning everything. I ran with my family and told them wherever we ended up we’re going to go find a church. So I am here today to become a Christian and I want to find Jesus because of the help we received after the cyclone.”  

Our Pastor Martinho and elders prayed with the man and his family and they all have received Jesus and the hope of eternity. To God be the glory!

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