The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed.
Travis and Gina Sheets were born Hoosiers. They spend the first 20 years of their marriage in Clinton County, Indiana, where they farmed, worked in economic development, and managed several small businesses. Gina is the former director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture; Travis is a small business owner, parks and recreation director, and former county councilman. In January 2012, Travis and Gina were called to Liberia to share their skills in diversified farming and business development.
How would you describe your work?
We have lived in Liberia for three years and recently completed an agriculture center on a Christian college campus. Gina volunteers as the vice president of administration at the college, where she manages staff, oversees the financial and academic operations, and works with government officials, students, and community leaders. Travis spends his days caring for the livestock, fields, orchards, and gardens, as well as managing the new agriculture center. Together, we teach classes for those in our village based on the “Farming God’s Way” curriculum.
As image-bearers of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?
The Bible is the best agriculture handbook, providing guidance and a framework for how to steward the environment God has blessed us with tending. This is our starting point in Liberia.
Liberia doesn’t need relief; it needs engagement and development. We come alongside the Liberians, meeting them in their need not with money, food, or shelter, but with God’s all-sufficiency and a biblical view of the world. We come to engage in agriculture education that will develop a stable economy and provide food security, while moving the country toward resiliency, vibrancy, and peace.
How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?
We struggle with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that come for short trips with good intentions but little to no experience. They give money and farm tools to Liberians, but the people remained trapped in poverty. Some of the Liberians who come to our training sessions expect to be paid since other NGOs pay them simply to attend class.
We also see the influence of witchcraft and dark medicine. In the past five months, five children were killed in our village, four of whom were ritualistically murdered. One of the murders set off a series of riots, and the United Nations was brought in to intervene. No one has been found responsible for these killings. We say there’s no room for tolerating witchcraft and dark medicine in the lives of Christ’s followers, yet we see churches allowing both within their membership.
Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?
In order for people to develop their potential, we need to start engaging them. We want to help them discover and develop their abilities, helping to move them from dependence to independence. If our Liberian neighbors, who’ve been blessed by God with the ability to work, simply go and sit under a tree waiting on others to serve them, we are not loving them or serving the kingdom of God.