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Serving Near and Far

A Letter from Tracey King-Ortega, serving as regional liaison for Central America, based in Nicaragua, currently in the U.S.

November 2019

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Individuals: Give online to E200518 for Tracey King-Ortega’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507539 for Tracey King-Ortega’s sending and support

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It’s been 17 months since my children and I left Nicaragua in the midst of social-political conflict. We thought it would be for a short time and as things remained unresolved back “home” in Nicaragua, the kids and I got more settled into my childhood home in Southern California.

I continue to do my work as regional liaison, which much of the time, as was the case while I lived in Nicaragua, is spent communicating and coordinating right from my computer via email, Skype and WhatsApp. I have also been able to travel quite frequently to the countries of Central America, and more easily now that my husband has joined us here in California.

On my last trip I was able to spend two weeks in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I was back “home” and it felt really good. It was sad and hard and overwhelming to hear dear friends share with me in hushed voices what it is like living under what feels like a dictatorship. Families separated as loved ones seek exile in the U.S. and elsewhere, the exhaustion I hear in voices that are worn down by a devastated economy with growing unemployment. Villagers grateful for state-sponsored school meal programs that assure that their kids may get a few decent meals in the week, yet are so quick to express gratitude to God for each day.

The purpose of that trip was to lead an Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) task force on Central America that is digging deep into our understanding of the region to better discern how God is calling us to engage in mission in Central America. Understanding the context is a difficult undertaking but an important part of being faithful to God’s call.

It can be overwhelming to hear the stories and try to make sense of the analysis. But our presence, our showing up and asking the questions is an important part of answering the call. Accompanying, listening, caring and praying are deeply appreciated and provide a degree of comfort.

For me being fully present for those two weeks was meaningful and powerful. My transition back to the U.S. has been a difficult one. I struggle with what, as a mother of three young children, feels like a selfish desire to want to pack up and move back to Nicaragua so that I can be present, to bear witness to the pain of my adopted country, the birthplace of my children.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the peace and beauty of the ocean view we enjoy every day as we walk our children to school. But being in affluent Palos Verdes, CA, it is all too easy to feel as if all is right with the world. I am well aware of how incredibly lucky, blessed or just privileged we are to find refuge here. While in Nicaragua, everyone I encountered affirmed our family’s decision to relocate to the U.S. for now. The kids are thriving, we are all safe, and for that, I am grateful. But my heart continues to ache as I struggle with my own purpose and meaning these days.

And then I think back over the past couple of months and the incredible sense of affirmation I’ve felt that here, in this place, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. My home congregation of St. Peter’s by the Sea has recently called me to serve as elder to mission. Being ordained and installed as a ruling elder in the PC(USA), after more that 20 years of serving the church, feels like a significant milestone and recognition of my having a place in this church.

So here I am, attending session and finance meetings, and I am seeing that this “being a church” thing is a lot more complicated than I imagined. I realize I have so much to learn. I’ve lived in Nicaragua for twenty years and therefore have not really experienced the joys and frustrations of the day-to-day life of the church. I want to listen and learn before judging or pushing for change. And at the same time, I hear many people saying to me that they want me to share my perspectives and experiences. I’m not quite sure how my decades of world mission experience translate to the local congregation, but the chance to figure that out together with this community of faith feels like an amazing opportunity. I am learning to embrace the thought that perhaps God has mysteriously called me to this place at this time for a reason.

During this difficult past year, I am grateful for the comfort your prayers for me and my family have provided as well as the financial support that makes it possible for me to serve near and far. I am richly blessed as I continue to connect with and support our partners throughout Central America while also learning how to interpret God’s mission in ways that can make a great impact and difference in the life of local PC(USA) congregations. Thank you for continuing to support me on this journey.


Tracey King-Ortega

Please read this important message from Sara Lisherness, interim director of Presbyterian World Mission

Dear friend of Presbyterian Mission,

Greetings in Christ! As the interim director of Presbyterian World Mission, I am grateful to have the opportunity to thank you for your continued support of PC(USA) mission co-workers.

The enclosed newsletter bears witness to some of the many ways in which God is at work in the world through long-standing relationships between global partners and the PC(USA). These partnerships are nurtured and strengthened by the presence of mission co-workers in over 40 countries; you are an important part of this partnership too, as you learn about and share how our church is involved in global ministry; as you pray for our partners and mission co-workers; and as you take action to work with others for God’s justice, peace and healing.

I write to invite you to continue joining us in partnership in three ways. First, your prayers are always needed. Please pray that God will continue guiding the shared work of the PC(USA) and global partners as we engage together in service around the world. Pray, too, for mission co-workers, that they may feel encouraged in the work they are doing under the leadership of global partners.

Second, please consider making a year-end gift for the sending and support of at least one mission co-worker. There is a remittance form at the end of this letter and an enclosed envelope so that you can send in a special year-end gift.

Finally, I encourage you to ask your session to include one or more mission co-workers in your congregation’s mission budget for 2020 and beyond. PC(USA) mission co-workers’ sending and support costs are funded by the designated gifts of individuals and congregations like yours; your gifts allow Presbyterian World Mission to fulfill global partners’ requests for mission personnel.
Faithfully in Christ,

Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness
Director, Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry
Interim Director, Presbyterian World Mission

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