Prior to serving with MCC, Albertan Sharon Philips had already served in overseas mission trips in India and Mali in the area of education. She served with schools, children with developmental disabilities, teaching ESL to adults, and helped create a storybook bible.
She was moved to serve with MCC after learning about the challenging and poverty-stricken areas in which MCC works. “I was immediately interested in the Seed program because of its focus on community, growth, and learning. It was amazing to me that MCC would choose to send a group of young adults in a region that was still classified by some as having continuing conflict. It was immediately encouraging and motivational.”
Sharon participated in the Seed program between February 2016 to January 2018. She served in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), located in the Africa Great Lakes region. She shares that her experience serving in the DRC, through Seed, taught her that individual change is the most vital and significant. “The Pastor of the Anglican church that I attended in Congo ran a young adult program and shared weeks and weeks of sermons where an individual faith in a God who asks for personal repentance would create new life where there had been only death. Many Congolese were so tired of the conflict in their country that seemed out of their control that they would say, 'This is just the way it is.' The changemakers I met there and since say otherwise.”
Since serving with Seed, Sharon says she has learned to change the way she lives in relationship with others. “Restorative justice is an incredible concept for an honour-bound, confrontational person like me. I was fascinated by pastors and leaders of NGOs and social movements who did not seek personal gain or vengeance for past harm, but sought to move forward from immense pain.... It is a joy and a hope to see the grace and mercy of God visible in Christians who have personally seen loss and suffering.”
“I know now that I may need to forgive and work with my oppressor to make amends, or, alternatively, seek forgiveness (even individually) and work for my community to make amends.”
When asked what advice she would give to anyone interested in serving overseas or with MCC, Sharon passionately shares, "I would absolutely encourage anyone and everyone to volunteer their time and skills overseas. Christians, especially, have the simultaneous gift and responsibility to imitate a Saviour who sought after us and became a servant. It is vital that we share our lives with others overseas in order to know how to best serve in the ways they most need and to see the ways in which our own cultural practices and societies are broken and need healing. Personally, this gave me the desire to change the way I listened to others, to vote for or change policies for the benefit of the marginalized, to understand that lives different from my own can be my responsibility if I so choose, that the wastage of resources and the weaknesses of humanitarian aid are my responsibility if I so choose."
For those who are able and willing, listening to the passion and vision of a young, educated leader from Congo will cause them to want to help in a way that a picture of a starving child never can.
Sharon believes that anyone can make positive, sustainable changes in their lives and local communities, as well as encourage others from afar while being voices that drive relief and development efforts overseas. Still, she advocates that "for those who are able and willing; listening to the passion and vision of a young, educated leader from Congo will cause them to want to help in a way that a picture of a starving child never can. That picture is a guilt trip that may need a short-term solution; that conversation will be an expedition to discover how you both can bring about reconciliation and growth within your communities."
To learn more about volunteer opportunities through the Seed program, visit: https://mcccanada.ca/get-involved/serve/volunteer/seed