It was in 1943, while students at Moody Bible Institute, David’s parents heard about the death of five NTM missionaries, at the hands of wild Indians in Bolivia. Interestingly, although the newspapers announced that this tragedy would result in the demise of this fledgling mission society, the Lord used the news to challenge David’s parents, Lyle and Lila, to take the place of the martyrs, by taking the Gospel to unreached tribal groups. Sharps were thrilled to find that the New Tribes mission headquarters was located only 5 blocks away from Moody, in a building that had been known as the High Hat Club.
Sharps began attending the meetings with the first missionary candidates, and found they loved everything about the mission. Upon graduating from Moody, Lyle pastored a church in Illinois for a year, then the Sharp family entered missionary training in Fouts Springs, California. After the training, they headed to Brazil, as the first NTM family to take the Gospel to unreached tribal groups in the Amazon basin of Brazil.
As a result of Lyle taking David along on trips to locate unreached tribes, David heard his dad give the Gospel to Brazilians who lived along the rivers. By the time David was 5 years old, he too accepted Christ as his Savior, and already knew he wanted to be a missionary.
David was five when he accepted Christ, and he never lost his focus of being a missionary. After high school David graduated from the Missionary Bible course at Moody. Directly after Moody, he entered New Tribes Missionary training course. During the training he met Laura, and they discovered that although they had grown up far apart they shared some important similarities. They were both born in 1943; David in Illinois, and Laura in Canada. Most importantly they were headed in the same direction – to the mission field.
Laura had learned about missions through her aunt Susanne, who had been a pioneer missionary with New Tribes mission. When Laura was ten, her aunt died in Brazil. The Lord used Ken Johnston’s words of challenge at the memorial service to challenge several of her neices and nephews who responded, and later became missionaries.
David and Laura went to West Brazil in 1970, where they had the privilege of opening the work in the Katukina tribe. The only way to reach the tribe was by canoe. The first day of travel on the river was enjoyable, and they wondered why no one had taken the Gospel to the Katukina. On the second day when they began traveling up the tributary that the tribe lived on, they found the reason. The Gregorio River was so shallow that instead of being able to use the outboard motor, they had to walk in the river, dragging the canoe. Day by day as they splashed further up the river and slept in their hammocks in the jungle at night, it became indelibly clear how isolated they were, and why the Katukina hadn’t been reached.
On the ninth day when they finally reached the village, they were shocked to find out they were not able to explain their purpose for coming, as those they encountered didn’t speak enough Portuguese. However the Katukina proved to be very friendly, and patient enough to help them learn their language so they could find out why the Sharps came to live among them.
While learning the language they discovered that what they were taught in language school was perfectly suited for what they were doing. Within two years they were able to make an alphabet for the tribe. They found that their limited medical training had taught them enough basic medical and dental procedures which allowed them to treat the tribes many health needs, including preventing any losses from poisonous snake bites.
A frightening event occurred when their two year old daughter drank kerosene, (stored in a can) and nearly died from lack of oxygen. David applied CPR and was able to revive her. A pilot soon arrived with a paramedic, and she survived with no permanent damage. But the incident remains a scary time.
After that they managed the supply base in the small Amazon town of Eirunepe. This base served as headquarters and housing for seventeen missionary families who worked with eleven tribes.
During their forty two years with NTM they have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy a variety of ministries. One of their favorite opportunities was leading about a dozen mission trips, taking young people to Brazil to help missionaries. The biggest blessing was to see a good number of the team members become missionaries themselves.
When asked if they would do it all again? Their answer was an emphatic “Yes”. It definitely has been worth it all. And they feel blessed seeing their children continuing on in serving the Lord.