A letter from Tracey King in Nicaragua
September 12, 2008
Friends and community,
I’ve been through missionary orientation twice. It’s quite comprehensive. We cover a great variety of topics—from our pension plan to why it is important to write regular newsletters to a biblical understanding of our call to mission service. We spend a lot of time anticipating the relationships we are going to enter into in our country of service. Mission, we learn, is not so much about what you do, but about the quality of relationships that we build. We spent several sessions talking about building cross-cultural community and preparing ourselves to enter our country of service with a deep commitment to the local people. To be able to truly encounter the other, we must be prepared to be changed. So, I went into mission service expecting the blessings of relationships and community among our partners here in the region. What we didn’t touch on—and something I didn’t expect—are the friendships and community that I would develop with people from my own denomination in the United States.
During my first four and a half years in Nicaragua I worked with CEPAD (the Nicaraguan Council of Protestant Churches) as a delegation coordinator. I set up and accompanied week-long study/work trips for groups from churches, presbyteries, seminaries, colleges, and universities. The trips introduced them to Nicaragua and deepened their knowledge and understanding of this beautiful and complex country. My role was to help to build bridges between countries and cultures through experiences, education, and relationship-building. Through this ministry, friendships were forged.
Now I’m the regional liaison for Central America. My role continues to focus on ministering to and with U.S. Presbyterians. I help connect the efforts of churches and presbyteries to our international partners in faithful, vital, and empowering ways. One way we do this is through country mission networks, and through these networks I have gotten to know many people who share a passion for Central America.
Though I live a world a way from them, I look at all the wonderful people I have been blessed to encounter and see that many of them are now part of my faith community. These friendships give me strength and energize me for the mission that we all participate in. But they have also become a source of personal strength. This became clear to me recently in a special exchange with Katie Roberts, a friend I made on a delegation eight years ago.
Out of the blue Katie sent me an email saying that they had been thinking about me lately: “Probably the Holy Spirit poking us to check in,” she said. I wrote back about my life and work, saying that work was going well, but that, overall, this has been a difficult year. Though I hadn’t told many people about what happened, I decided to share with her that on December 28 my oldest brother died of a drug overdose. It was a shock to us all, as we knew of his struggles with drug abuse in the past, but believed that he had been clean for quite some time.
Katie responded immediately. She knew right away why I had been so close to their hearts. Less than a month after my brother’s death, she wrote, they had experienced a similar loss in their family. She wrote, “We are so sorry for your loss and believe me when I say, we can feel your pain!” In the struggle to make sense of life and death, she shared with me words to the “Hymn of Promise”: “…unrevealed until its season – something God alone can see.”
In her sharing her loss with me, I felt that God had gifted me with strength in my grief. Through my work as a mission co-worker, I have indeed been blessed with a growing community of people committed to joining in God’s mission. There was a reason I was moved to share my loss with Katie—her sharing ministered healing to me.
Through the death of my brother, I have known the comfort that a community can provide in a time of loss. But I also know that communities are there in times of celebration and joy. I’ve experience that, too: I am engaged! I plan to get married on December 31 to a Nicaraguan named Mainor Ortega. Mainor and I have known each other for about eight years and have been dating for the last two. He is a wonderful man. As a friend said to me after I told her the news, “It is as if you both won the lottery.” It does feel like that, in a way. Wedding plans are well under way. We’ll be getting married in Nicaragua, and my family will come to spend Christmas and New Year’s. We are looking forward to that time together to both mourn the anniversary of my brother’s death and rejoice in the gift of marriage to a man that I love.
Please join in me giving thanks to God for the Holy Spirit who moves among us and for the gift of community in times of joy and sorrow. It is amazing what the spirit can do and what the Lord provides!
Blessings and peace,
The 2008 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 255