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The gospel in my Bible is dramatically different from that preached in many churches.
I spend most of my time on the mission field in Haiti. Yet when I come to the U.S., I am reluctant to go to church. It's embarrassing to admit, but it's true. Often I hesitate to walk through the church doors.
I continually ask myself, Why? I love God with all my heart, I love His people and I love His Word.
So then, what is the problem?
My struggle stems from the fact that the gospel I read in my Bible is dramatically different from the gospel that is preached in many American churches today. Before I explain, let me give you some background.
First, I believe in prosperity. I am a mother to 72 children, and 504 children sit at my lunch table daily.
I moved to Haiti alone in 1999 with a promise from God: "Go, and I will be with you." Though the early years were marked with pain and hardship, in the last eight years, the Lord has blessed me beyond measure.
Second, I believe in healing. I have to! Good medical care is nonexistent where I live in Haiti.
In 2002, my 3-year-old boy, Guy, was dying of AIDS. His face looked skeletal, his eyes had sunken in, and he refused to eat or drink.
It was my faith and prayers of desperation that brought him back to life. Today, he is 8 years old, healthy and beautiful.
Third, I am a woman of faith. In 2001, the property that I had purchased was a cactus field. Today, we have a church, a school and two orphanages.
I do not consider myself to be a "poverty-mentality" missionary. I believe God's people should be blessed.
But when was the last time you heard a teaching on suffering? Why does the church love to teach on Hebrews 11, the chapter of faith, but conveniently stop at verse 34?
Verses 36-39 state of the heroic saints who went before us: "Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them.
"They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised" (NIV).
Why do we not teach new converts Philippians 1:29? "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him."
Not many churches today are raising up a generation of men and women who are prepared to risk it all for the sake of the gospel. Why? Because we have omitted the teaching about suffering saints.
Could this be the reason that the American missionary is becoming a dying breed and most of them who do go, do not return for a second term?
Do I think the church should stop preaching about the blessings of God? No. I believe the church should teach that God is an intimate God. He deals with us as individuals.
He may require something from you that He does not require from others. We are not all chosen to walk the same road.
The apostle Paul was beheaded in prison, but prior to his death he told Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier (see 2 Tim. 2:3). Peter's final words to the church were "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).
You may never have to give your life for the gospel, but would you be willing? When God hears the cries of His people, He looks for a deliverer. And the deliverer He calls may be you.
The message of the cross can be summed up in two words: "Follow Me." Today, the eyes of the Lord are going to and fro throughout the earth and He is asking: "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?"
Can you honestly say, "Here I am, Lord, send me"?
Danita Estrella is the founder of Hope for Haiti Children's center, a ministry that provides food, clothing, education, medical care and the teaching of the gospel to impoverished children in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. She has lived in Haiti since 1999. For more information, go to danitaschildren.org.