John and Michelle’s home is a gathering center for people from all over the world today. This morning there were over 60 persons here. MJ’s collegues from the UN , the State department granted Visa’s for two of MJ’s. Congolese fellow workers to enter the US to attend the funeral. Family and friends. Everyone needs to be together to encourage one another in order to find meaning in the death of their friend.
Michele said, “his death seems to soon. However, we want his friends to carry forward MJ’s Vision. It is important that they can be together to talk and mourn.”
I gave John your greetings and shared we are so sorry for their loss. As he hugged me he said “ it means so much to me that you came to be with us. It is a long journey for a short time. It is comforting and encouraging to know that my friends in Europe and other parts of the world have been talking to you and are remembering us. Thank you”
The Hesston College Mennonite Church is open to welcome everyone today, with a video beginning at 3:30pm and the service live-streamed at 4 PM. UN officials and other of MJ’s friends will be in attendance.
Michelle, John and the family appreciate your prayers on their behalf. They ask that you also remember in your prayers the continued work left by MJ in the Congo.
If you traveled with me on a TourMagination Mennonite history tour to Europe, then you may have had John Sharp as your historian on the tour. John and his family recently experience a great loss, with the death of his son Michael J. “M. J.” Sharp.
Mourners around the world are gathering to pray, light candles, write poems and share stories as they struggle to gathering meaning on the untimely death of UN Peace worker MJ Sharp who was kidnapped and killed along with Zaida Catalan, a fellow UN peacekeeper from Sweden, and Betu, their Congolese interpreter. They were working for peace with the local church and the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Darnell Barkman, reflecting on the loss felt by family, friends and the broader community states that “MJ was an Inspiring Man who gave himself for the lives of Others. His life points us to Jesus.”
Michael, in an interview with National Public Radio, said that he was working with the Congolese Protestant Council of Churches in something called their Peace and Reconciliation Program. Every few weeks MJ and his church colleagues would walk, unarmed, to the base of the rebels known as the FDLR (Forces Democratiques des Liberation du Rwanda). There they’d sit in the shade of banana trees to drink tea with the rebels and listen to their stories. Certain sensitive subjects – sexual violence against villagers, recruitment of child soldiers -were no-go, he said because the aim was building rapport with the rebel faction. “The more we interact with them the more they trust us to turn themselves into us.”
Sharp said the church program helped persuade some 1,600 fighters to lay down their weapons and leave the forest they’d occupied for two decades. On April 5th, MJ and Zaida’s colleagues at the UN Security Council expressed a note of compassion and observed a moment of silence in their memory.
Michael was doing a beautiful thing, beyond the logic of the world. He was acting in the ways of Jesus’ new creation. Love was overcoming fear, love and service were overcoming enemies and making them friends. Today my grandchildren asked me why I plan to go to the funeral service in Hesston College on April 15. I explained to them I want to go to support my friends and collegues, John and Michele Sharp. I admired the work of MJ, his passion and vision. Over several years, I had the opportunity to have him speak to TourMagination tour groups, when our paths crossed in Germany.
His parents gave a beautiful testimony in a recent interview when they said, “there is comfort in knowing MJ died following his passion and dream. He was a caring and Kind soul.” John and Michele, I am so sorry for your loss. You nurtured MJ, his death is a tremendous loss to your family and to the world.