Mark and Nancy Sheppard began missionary service in the nation of Liberia, but God had an agenda of personal transformation neither of them expected. Nancy has written about that experience in her recent book, Confessions of a Transformed Heart. We asked Nancy to tell us a bit about her experience in Africa and her aims in writing the book.
After a wonderful first term of ministry in Liberia (1986-89), we were in the States for our one-year home assignment when the Liberian Civil War began. We hoped very much that it would end quickly and we would be able to resume the life and ministries we loved. Sadly, it dragged on and on. In 1991 we returned to Africa, this time to Liberia’s neighboring country, the Ivory Coast, where we began to minister among the Liberian war refugees.
After the missionaries evacuated from Liberia, Baptist Mid-Missions made a policy that no families with children still in the home could live inside Liberia. We had three young children at the time. It was our strong desire to continue work among the Liberians that caused us to make the decision to enter refugee work in the Ivory Coast rather than begin work among an entirely different people group.
Some people love a good conspiracy. Others avoid them like the plague. Stephen Altrogge believes that whether we like it or not we are all part of one big conspiracy. This is not a conspiracy like those involving Area 51 or Lee Harvey Oswald. It is bigger and more sinister. It is a cosmic conspiracy.
In his new book, The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence, Altrogge explains this cosmic conspiracy we are all part of:
It’s a conspiracy between the world, my heart, and Satan to steal my happiness. These three are plotting and scheming together to make me perpetually discontent. They’re stubbornly determined to poison the joy I have in God and to deceive me into believing that I can find happiness somewhere other than God. They want me to dishonor God by gorging on the unsatisfying pleasures of the world instead of finding true joy and satisfaction in Christ. (p. 12)
So what is this conspiracy trying to perpetuate in our lives? Discontentment—specifically, discontentment with what God has given us in Christ.
Where does this discontentment come from? My circumstances or others around me? No—it comes from me. In reference to Mark 7:21-23, Altrogge points out the following:
The problem is me. I am my own worst enemy. The raging, covetous, discontented desires come from within. They’re not the product of my circumstances, and the desires won’t be satisfied when circumstances change. (p. 17)
Throughout Scripture we see that God is the center of the universe and its activities. That means I am not. God made me for Himself (Isa. 43:6-7). “Discontentment begins when I start trying to be God….when I attempt to displace God from his rightful place at the center of the universe” (p. 24).