Parents of Goshen native killed in DRC speak out

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--- The parents of the Goshen native killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo are speaking out and praising their son's work.

John and Michele Sharp are understandably devastated by their son's death. No parent wants to bury their child. However, they're proud he was doing something he loved.

The Sharp's say their son told them he wasn't afraid to die. Death was always a big possibility in his line of work in the DRC. But he told them he was ok with it because what he was doing had a greater purpose.

"We hope we'll wake up from this and it will all have been a dream," John Sharp said.

"A nightmare," Michele Sharp responded.

Michael Sharp's parents knew they couldn't tell their son what to do with his life or how to live it. But they were fine with that.

"[Michael] so thrived in his work and his call, that to ask him not to do what he was called to do would have been like asking him not to breathe," Michele said.

"To see him working," John said. "In violent situations to resolve conflict in a non-violent manner was fulfilling. It was special. It was gratifying and something to celebrate."

The Bethany Christian grad had been working in the Kasai region of the DRC when he was kidnapped but his parents say he was never concerned about his safety but rather how his death would impact his family.

"He said, "The burden I carry is the pain I would cause my family if anything were to happen to me," Michele said. "When he was gone, I was praying that he would be lifted of any guilt he was carrying or any burden because I didn't want him worry about us. I wanted him to be able to feel at peace with whatever happened to him and to feel God's presence with him."

Michael never made much money but it made no difference to him. The non-violent peace keeping was his calling no matter the danger.

"It's a painful reality," Michele said. "But I wouldn't have had him spend his life any other way because it would not have been true to who he was. For that, I'm grateful. I'm just immensely sad he couldn't continue."

While Michael won't be able to continue this calling, his parents hope the United Nations do. They don't want their son's death to be in vain.

"If his losing his life brought [the mission] to an end, it would indeed be a tragedy," Michele said. "That would be the ultimate tragedy of his death."

The Sharp's last spoke to their son on Feb. 22. They remember the day because it was when their daughter gave birth to a baby boy named Jesse; Michael's middle name. He was on a flight from New York City back to the Congo to get back to work. They stayed on the phone for some 12 hours according to Michele. While she would have loved for him to be there for the birth, she knew she couldn't take him away from what he loved.

"He was just in his element," Michele said. "I remember different people saying to me in the past, "How can you let him do that?' I'm like, how can I not let my son do what gives him so much joy to help other people?"

The Sharp family is deeply religious and is using their faith as a way to help them get through this tough time.

"We don't know what meaning there is in this," Michele said. But we know what the meaning was in his life. That's all we have. We can hope that others will be encouraged as well."

It's the same faith they hope Michael was able to use in his final moments on earth.

"We want to know what happened," John said. "We want to know why. We want to know these details. As his father, I want to know the last moments of his life, if possible. What was happening? What did he try to do? What was he thinking?"

But as strong as the Sharp's have been, they are still capable of being vulnerable. After all, they lost their son.

"We love him more than we can say," John said. "We stand with him and support his passions and his mission no matter how dangerous it is."

"We are immensely pleased that he had the courage to follow his passion," Michele said. "That he died helping others. There's nothing greater. That's what I'd want the focus to be on."

The Sharp's say they're waiting on the Congolese government to release their son's body so they're waiting before making funeral arrangements.