International Ministries

Obituary for Retired Missionary to Congo, Marjorie Sharp

January 11, 2012 News
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Marjorie Ruth Sharp former American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) missionary who served in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo for 35 years, passed away April 7, 2011 at the age of 83 in Rogers, Arkansas.

Marjorie was born on May 3, 1927, in Bowling Green, Ohio. When Marjorie was thirteen the family moved to Tucson, Arizona where they attended the First Baptist Church. All members of the family, parents and two daughters were baptized together at this time.  Marjorie took part in church work, Sunday school, B.Y.F., and choir.  Endowed with a fine voice and having been trained in music, she always gave freely of the gift to her church, her community, and later to the mission stations as well.  It was particularly when she attended a young people’s summer assembly that she came to feel God leading her into the field of teaching.  

While studying at Ottawa University in Kansas, Marjorie met Murray Sharp who had grown up in Kansas.  They had both selected teaching as a Christian vocation.  Both had also been active in the youth program in their churches.  They were married shortly have they graduated from Ottawa University in 1949.  Following their marriage Marjorie began teaching in the elementary grades while Murray went on to study for an M.A. degree.  

In 1952 Marjorie and Murray were appointed missionaries by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society with the designation to the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo). In preparation for missionary service Marjorie and Murray studied at the Kennedy School of Missions in Hartford, Connecticut.  In 1953 Marjorie and Murray, along with their young son, Steven, sailed to Brussels, Belgium to study French and other subjects to prepare them for service in the Belgian Congo. In August 1954 the Sharp family sailed for the Belgian Congo.  For two years Marjorie and Murray taught secondary school.  Marjorie particularly worked with girls and taught music to the boys.  Of this experience, she wrote: “Singing, singing, everybody singing—all along the dusty roads, in the classroom, while marching, at work, or at play, there is always a song in the air.  One of the greatest thrills we have had in this new home of ours is the sight of 1,000 school children marching two abreast and singing ‘Neath the Banner of the Cross’.” After only two years the Sharp family moved to Leopoldville (Kinshasa), where Marjorie developed a kindergarten program and was involved in Christian Center activities and educational work.   It was in Leopoldville (Kinshasa) that they welcomed the birth of their daughter Susan.

Along with other missionary families who were evacuated soon after Zaire (Dem. Rep. of the Congo) was granted independence in 1960 was the Sharp family.  They returned to Kinshasa less than a year later to resume service at the Christian Center.  Marjorie served as director of the kindergarten and trained others for this type of work.  She also taught sewing and shared her gift of music. Marjorie and Murray used their skills as a teaching team, as illustrated in a description of their classes with children: “Murray concentrated on crafts and recreation and Marjorie was in charge of singing and the lesson, either a Bible story or teaching a Christian truth we wanted to emphasize.”  Their largest problem was that of the overwhelming number of children.  
 
In the mid 1970’s the Sharps served as hostel parents for the children of missionaries who were studying in The American School of Kinshasa.  At the hostel their challenge was to maintain a homelike atmosphere while the youth were in high school, separated for months from their parents who were serving in rural areas. As hostel parents, they filled a very important role in the lives of the students and their parents.  Her musical abilities and interest in children gave Marjorie many opportunities to serve.

Later Marjorie and Murray provided logistical support for other missionaries working in the interior.  They were responsible for purchasing, storing and shipping materials and supplies for the Western Zaire Baptist Community (CBZO).  This included tons of items for 35 church centers, over 400 schools, and assisting in securing medical supplies for CBZO’s six hospitals and clinics.     

In 1987 Marjorie and Murray retired from missionary service with ABFMS and settled in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Marjorie was a founder and charter member of Judson American Baptist Church in Bella Vista.  She sang in the choir and also served on a number of boards at the church.  She was also involved in a community Writers Group.  Marjorie wrote a book: “Letters to My Grandchildren” which depicts what it was like for their mother and father to grow up in a different culture.  

In 2006 Marjorie and Murray received the Meeker Award from Ottawa University in recognition of their lifetime of Christian Service.

Marjorie was preceded in death by an infant daughter, Marolyn. She is survived by her husband Murray, son Steven (Melanie Williams), daughter Susan (Michael) and grandchildren: Aaron, Kallianne, Matheson, Mireille, Nicole and Zachary.

A memorial service will be held on April 12, 2011 at Judson American Baptist Church in Bella Vista, Arkansas.