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A letter from Tracey King in Nicaragua

Novermber 2010

I set out on a journey the other day. After a week of theological training with 20 Q’ueqchi’ pastors in Coban, Guatemala, made possible by the collaboration of several presbyteries that partner with the Q’ueqchi’-speaking presbyteries of the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala, we had a day off and were headed to Semuc Champey.

Pools of water reflecting the trees around them, photographed from high above.

The spectacular crystalline pools along the limestone bridge that is Semuc Champey.

For years I’d heard about our destination and sensed that words did not come close to the spectacular panoramic treat that was awaiting me. The draw is a 300-meter-long limestone bridge over the Cahabón River. Along the bridge are several natural pools, filled with crystalline mountain spring water. The color of the water changes throughout the year. It is a beautiful place, often called idyllic. I’d seen pictures of the place and knew one day I’d have to go and experience it myself. When that day came, I was excited that just down in the valley, along some bumpy dirt roads and then following the path to the lookout, I was finally going to see Semuc Champey with my own eyes. What I wasn’t prepared for was the journey itself.

Once we arrived I started off for the trail to the lookout point that promised spectacular views. Members of our group had varied levels of interest and stamina, so I took off ahead of everyone, not really sure if the others were planning to make it to the top.

Setting out, I was so excited that I didn’t bother to ask how far it was or how long it would take. Marcos, our Q’ueqchi’ driver, was my hiking buddy. Despite the increasingly steep trail, we kept a quick pace. We saw no one as we climbed. Every so often a sign appeared letting us know we were heading in the right direction, but giving us no real indication of how close we were to the top.

Photo of Tracey kneeling on a brigde with the valley in the background.

Sweaty and tired Tracey at the Semuc Champey mirador.

We began to wonder if we would ever get there. This was taking much longer than expected. I thought our group might be waiting at the bottom, worrying. Or perhaps they, too, had decided to make the climb, but we had no way of knowing. Frequently Marcos and I debated whether we should turn back or stay the course. Having come this far, neither of us really wanted to give up, but, tired and weary, feeling the pressure of not knowing where the others were and having no idea of how much further we had to go, turning back was tempting. However, the treat awaiting us, and having put so much into it already, kept us going. We did finally make it to the top, and it truly was spectacular. We took pictures, soaked in the views, and turned around, excited to share with the others what we had experienced.

On the way back down, we ran into a few people from our group. I saw the familiar questioning in their eyes: How much longer? Is it worth it? Am I going to be able to make this climb? Should we just turn back now? But they saw our excitement as we shared that the path wasn’t easy but well worth the reward … God’s breathtaking creation.

As I continued down the mountain, it occurred to me that what I had just experienced made a good analogy for mission involvement. We are often excited at the start, filling our heads with romantic images of the experiences that are in store or the difference we will be making, but we really have no idea what we are getting ourselves into. When we get involved in mission, if we do it right, it takes real commitment, patience and stamina, especially if we are doing mission in partnership. We often second-guess ourselves: Is it worth it? Am I really in this for the long haul? Who else is committed to making the journey with me? (I can’t be the only one in my congregation to keep this relationship alive!) It definitely helps when we encounter others on our journey. PC(USA) mission networks are playing a part in encouraging us to stay involved, sharing stories of what works, what has gone wrong and celebrating the gift of transformed lives (most often our own) because we dared to answer when God called us to mission.

I am aware that analogies are not perfect and can only be stretched so far. Unlike my trek to catch a bird’s-eye view of Semuc Champey, mission does not have one culminating point. We never simply make it to the top, enjoy the view, and head back down. There are moments along the way when, in true partnership and communion with others we might not normally have been in relationship with, we catch glimpses of God’s kingdom; but rarely is our contribution to God's mission complete. We need to keep on climbing, and it is better and more sustainable when we climb together.

Thank you to all of you who have joined with me on this mission journey in Central America. As regional liaison I have the opportunity to see and experience the passion others have for mission and the hope and transformation that results. It is because of you all that I remain steadfast in my commitment to continue in God’s magnificent and promised-filled mission to which we all have been called.

Blessings and peace,

Tracey King-Ortega

“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 274

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