The UPPC Story Project: Sharon Moffitt

As someone whose faith journey had a particularly rough beginning, Sharon Moffit was the last person to imagine she would have an impact on Christian ministries, much less become a missionary to Africa.

After her first trip to Meru, Kenya, in 2003, with a group from University Presbyterian Church, she helped establish a ministry called Cherish Meru, which helps raise money for children in Meru to attend school.

Born in Fort Collins, Colo, Sharon and her five siblings, were deeply impacted by their father’s alcoholism and subsequent suicide. Her mother did remarry, but that marriage wasn’t healthy either.

While Sharon’s family didn’t attend church together, she and her siblings were regularly dropped off each week at Sunday School. But it was one year when her aunt and uncle took them to Vacation Bible School at a nearby Southern Baptist church that Sharon invited Jesus into her heart. However that didn’t mean her faith journey was a smooth ride from then on.

In 1969, Sharon married Don. Don’s medical internships took them to the Madigan Army Medical Center, and they settled into a house on Sunset Drive in University Place. At the time, they had no idea that they were just minutes away from UPPC, the church that would become their faith community for years to come.

“We were blessed immediately the moment we hit town. I believe now that the Lord planted us right here for a reason,” Sharon said.

Soon after they first moved in, a neighbor invited Sharon’s 13-year-old son, Pat, to UPPC’s youth group. Pretty soon, the family ended up attending the church.

Finding community and support at UPPC was a blessing and answer to prayer for Sharon and her family. At the time of the Moffits’ move to University Place, the family and marriage were both in crisis.

“We were in a lot of pain at that time, just trying to figure everything out and UPPC became a true sanctuary. It was a place where we felt safe to be broken. We felt safe to be in kind of a messy state,” she said.

Not only was Sharon feeling tensions about her family, but she was also continuing to struggle with her faith in Christ.

“I was what some people call a marginal Christian. I was a believer, but I wasn’t an active disciple of Christ,” Sharon said. “When we were headed out to Washington, I remember distinctly saying to God, ‘I am tired of having one foot planted in the world and one foot planted in Your world. I need to come to terms with that and make a decision about that. I want to be in Your world.’ ”

Over the years, UPPC not only gave Sharon people to walk alongside her, but it also gave her the opportunity to be there for others as well.

“We have walked through hard times and joyful times with people. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have a community like this to support us in all the various aspects of our lives and then to allow us into their lives to be a support to them as well,” she said.

One of her most memorable ministry experiences was when Sharon was part of the first team  from UPPC to visit Meru so church members could begin to determine how they could be used by God in Africa.

“I would have never, ever imagined myself a global missionary,” Sharon said.

At the time, she didn’t want to go that far away from home, wasn’t “keen” on flying, and didn’t consider herself a “missionary-type person.” But, when she was invited to go on the trip, she found herself “completely convicted” that she was supposed to go.

So, Sharon embarked out across the world to a town unknown to many. At the time, Africa was in the midst of the AIDS crisis, which gave Sharon a unique experience as they saw terrible poverty and grieving families. The people of Meru became role models for Sharon and many others as they lived out what it means to “really rejoice in Christ in all situations.”

For Sharon, stepping into ministry not only became an outlet for her gifts and talents, but also opened doors for God to work in her life.

“I am certainly not the first person that he has chosen that was reluctant to do the thing he was asking me to do,” Sharon chuckled. “But, I am so grateful now that I did it. I can’t even imagine now not having done it.”

Sharon ministered to high school and college students by hosting a Bible study in her home for 14 years. Sharon’s love for people and gift to accept others right where they are at has also played out in her leadership with the Women’s Bible study at UPPC. After attending for a few years, Sharon started teaching the group. Those who attend Women’s Bible study tend to be retirement age, which led Sharon to realize some interesting stereotypes about “old church ladies.”

“I realized that there was a pack mentality in terms of how they were viewed. These were the ‘old folks’ in the church. But, as I got to know these people and started asking them to share their stories, I found myself going up to the pastors and saying, ‘you have to hear some of these stories.’”

Now, Sharon makes a point of asking the women who gather if they have any piece of their story to share.

“Story is kind of the theme of my teaching life here,” said Sharon. ““I have always been a believer in story as the most essential part of building relationships.”

Sharon is grateful that her story includes UPPC. For her, it has been a “great foundational place to serve God and to be served as well.”

“Jesus is at the center of all of this. And to know that is here excites me to invite people to come to our church,” Sharon said.

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