With a commitment to missions bundled into her very DNA, Sharon Oxley makes International Needs Nepal her next outreach target.

Raised in the lush lands of southern Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, Sharon Oxley grew up a Mennonite and was deeply influenced by its commitment to global missions.

At church every Sunday morning, her congregation would pause for a “Minute for Missions,” a feature as intrinsic to Sunday morning worship as the sermon or the Gospel reading, or prayers for the sick.

Sharon was thus exposed to dozens of stories of missionary families serving throughout the United States and around the world through the Mennonite Central Committee.

The Lure of India

At the age of 16, Sharon picked up Dorothy Clark Wilson’s biography Ten Fingers for God. In rich, descriptive language, the book chronicled Dr. Paul Brand’s pioneering work with lepers as a missionary doctor in southwestern India.

Sharon was drawn to Dr. Brand’s willingness to care for members of society labeled “the lowest of the low.” And she was mesmerized by the exoticism and sensory overload that was India.

Inspired by the prospect of becoming a medical doctor, Sharon majored in biology as an undergraduate at Wheaton College. There she met husband Tim Oxley, a missionary kid from Japan, and soon had her hands full caring for three children while Tim worked long hours as an attorney in Chicago.

While working as a full-time mother, Sharon served on global outreach boards at her local church and even participated in a few short-term mission trips. But her passion for more extensive missions involvement had to be put on hold.

When her oldest child entered college in 1999, Sharon began work on a master’s degree in arts and religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. After graduating in 2007, she launched a nonprofit organization to help combat the trafficking of women in India. That same year, she also took her first trip to the country she had fallen in love with at the age of 16.

Since then, Sharon has participated in and led nearly three dozen short-term overseas mission trips to nations such as India, Ghana, and Turkey and has written a six-part training manual to help facilitate their success within a biblical context.

Reviving the “Hippie Trail”

In February 2015, Sharon traveled to Nepal for the first time. Along with International Needs (IN) Regional Director Terry Heyward, she flew direct from Istanbul to Kathmandu along a trajectory made famous by the grand exodus of young Westerners in the 1960s.

The purpose of Sharon’s visit was to see the work of IN Nepal. As the director of global outreach at Christ Church in Lake Forest, Illinois, Sharon had collaborated with International Needs on various comprehensive mission projects in Ghana for several years and was interested in expanding her church’s outreach horizons.

“I was drawn to Nepal for a couple of reasons,” she says. “Number one, International Needs is an outstanding organization. That was the first reason.”

Empowering Women at Risk

Sharon was also drawn to Nepal by her longstanding interest in women’s rights and anti-trafficking work.

Lydia students eager to start class
Lydia students eager to start class

The Lydia Vocational Training Center, one of IN Nepal’s three ministries, helps combat human trafficking by giving at-risk women access to five-month-long, all-expenses-paid residential training and discipleship programs.

“I’ve seen a lot of training centers, homes, and orphanages in developing countries over the years,” says Sharon. “International Needs Lydia Center is vibrant, organized, and well-run. Everything about it was something I wanted to be involved in. I didn’t find any area lacking.”

Through all Sharon’s ministry trips and endeavors, she draws inspiration from Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NIV). Calling upon her mission-driven, Mennonite roots, Sharon is committed to helping Nepal’s at-risk women by continuing to facilitate her church’s collaboration with IN Nepal, through her personal stewardship and prayer life, and by leading short-term mission trips of other interested individuals.

“My life has been enriched by all that God has allowed me to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell on the other side of the world,” says Sharon. “It is a privilege to have a front row seat to a small but powerful part of God’s plan for the nations and to pour my energy and efforts into working for women’s rights – one of the places on the globe where the hole is the deepest.”