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Disarmed: A Brave and Radical Life

April 16, 2022

Another Way for week of April 8, 2022

Disarmed: A Brave and Radical Life

I don’t like books with murder, not even in a novel. In many novels a murder appears within the first several pages of the book.

So it goes with a book I recently finished reading: the biography of a young man, Michael “MJ” Sharp. The book is called Disarmed (published by Herald Press 2021), written by a seasoned journalist, Marshall V. King.

Author Marshall King

It was hard to read. The cover reveals the killing up front. The book goes on to show how this brave young Christian man gave his life because of his strong desire to facilitate peace and save the lives of others in countries where young children (seven to twelve age range), are often given guns and even sticks to join local militias.

I wanted to read this book even though I knew it would not be pleasant. I had heard the sad and heartbreaking news in 2017 when Michael and his United Nations co-worker, Zaida Catalán were kidnapped and killed. It was not the first time that people I knew through my work connections were slain for the principles they held near and dear, and were trying to share/teach others. Everyone knows war is hell, war is terrible, war is to be avoided at all costs. Unarmed, MJ was doing something about it.

I never met MJ even though his early life eerily parallels some of mine, despite my being roughly 35 years older. We attended three of the same schools: public middle school, a Christian high school, and Eastern Mennonite College. My friends told me some of the hi-jinks MJ and his buddies got into, especially in high school and college. He was editor of the college newspaper The Weather Vane, where 30 years earlier I began my writing career.

Michael’s father, John Sharp, pastored a church in Scottsdale, Pa. which sponsored my column in the local newspaper. Later, I met John at a book signing for a 400-page biography he wrote about a well-known Mennonite leader, Orie O. Miller, who began some of the far-reaching peace-building work headed by Mennonite Central Committee. (Orie O. was also a second cousin of my Dad’s.) John is an awesome historian and writer himself, but chose to leave another talented writer the gut-wrenching job of gathering facts, stories and details about his son’s death. Marshall King did diligent research, even in the midst of the Covid pandemic these last couple years. He interviewed tirelessly, more than 100 people in addition to combing through papers and files.

MJ was a popular kid who early on loved exploring and playing tricks on others. He enjoyed deep relationships with men and women, and was beginning to yearn for a family life with a wife and children, but that was not to be. As a seasoned traveler, he practiced the utmost care and safety measures, encrypting information on his computer and cell phone as he mingled with leaders of various guerilla groups or authorities. In his last engagement with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he had called a friend to let him know where he was and what he was doing. He always told his family he had no “death wish” and tried to protect himself and others.

MJ was far from perfect, and discouragement sometimes bogged him down as he worked for various international agencies. He had bouts with depression. But MJ followed a purposeful, important calling and puts many of us to shame for the timidity we sometimes show in not standing up for our deep beliefs.

That is the reminder that MJ leaves me with: I am far too timid in not voicing my concerns, beliefs, and vision for our community, nation, and world.

As we approach Easter, let us remember the bold way Jesus faced the religious and political leaders of his day. He urged his followers to put away their swords. Let us also take courage as we speak up, volunteer to help others, boldly reaching out with love and care for.

***

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comments or questions here, or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

4 Comments
  1. I remember the deep sorrow that reverberated through the Mennonite community when Michael Sharp was murdered. He truly was a martyr and his influence continues. I didn’t remember that he wrote a 400-page biography of Orio O. Miller, whose name appeared in many Mennonite publications I read in my earlier years.

    Prayers for peace are being offered all over the world during this season. Franklin Graham has asked Putin to declare a ceasefire during the days of Passover and Easter. Who knows whether or not that will happen. Yet, prevailing upon the Prince of Peace to intervene is our only Hope.

    Happy Easter to the Davis family! 😀

    • It was Michael’s father John who wrote the big biography of Orio O Miller. Yes, I would call the young Michael a martyr.

      I had not heard about Franklin Graham’s call for a ceasefire. Would Putin listen? This whole mess is so disturbing, sad, evil, so wrong, and hard. We must pray daily.

      Blessings to you and yours as well. We won’t give up faith!

  2. A post that tugs on our heartstrings. As much as we try to see the good in the world and try to remain optimistic – there is still much in the world that is not good. And so shall it be until the last days. I enjoyed reading this and seeing how many fragments of your lives had such a connection, even though your paths never truly crossed in this life. Great post!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Trisha. I’m amazed at your productivity in writing …. busy busy and sharing such interesting stories. God bless ya real good! Happy Easter Monday.

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