Kansas parents of slain UN worker talk to KAKE

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The Kansas parents of a United Nations worker who was killed in the Congo talked about their loss with KAKE Wednesday.

The body of their son, Michael Sharp, 34, was found in a shallow grave in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with another UN worker from Sweden, Zahida Catalan.  

John and Michel Miller Sharp have a very large map of the African continent hanging in the kitchen of their Hesston home. It was a present of their daughters as a means of keeping tabs on where Michael was working. It's lined with photos of Michael.

John Sharp revealed when their son saw the map, he smirked. Sharp added his son was self-deprecating when it came to talking about his work.

The Sharps said their son worked with the U.N. in a group of experts. Michael's expertise was working with militia groups. John Sharp said Michael developed relationships with militia leaders in the Congo when he worked with the Mennonite Central Committee there.  

"We have heard from colleagues that he was respected by militia group leaders and militia members in ways we had no idea about," Sharp said. "Somewhere, from his growing up, from family, from church, he caught a vision for peacemaking, conflict resolution without violence."

The Sharps added Michael studied to learn what was necessary to make in roads with the militia leaders. Yet Michael knew his work wasn't without risks,  and said so to his mother.

"He sat down with me and said, 'Mom, you know I don't have a death wish. But I want you to know also that I'm not afraid to die,'" Michel recalled. "But he said, 'You know I'll be careful.'"  

The mother said Michael's biggest worry was the pain he would cause his parents if he did die in the line of his duty to make peace. His parents said they did not try to dissuade their son's work for peace.

The parents of Michael wrote a prayer, in the hope it would give their son strength when he needed it most.

"My daily prayer for you my son…For strength and encouragement where there is hopelessness. For Christ’s companionable presence when you are lonely. Where there is turmoil and violence, and for fearlessness and courage. When the situation calls for acting justly and showing mercy. Above all, my beloved son, I pray as you live and work amidst all that is wrong in our world, that your daily journey brings you joy, joy as you serve! I love you, Mom," the prayer reads. 

"We believed from what we'd heard that he had a gift that was needed out there. So we were not going to discourage him," Sharp's mother said.

Now they wait for Sharp's body to be returned.  And they hope an investigation into the death of their son and his Swedish colleague brings answers to how and why it happened.

ALSO ON KAKE.com: U.S. warns against travel to Congo

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