A Letter from Tracey King-Ortega, serving as Regional Liaison for Central America, based in Nicaragua
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Five months into my time in Southern California, Nicaragua and the total upheaval of society there over the past seven months remain at the forefront of my thoughts and prayers. The current crisis there is very personal to me. I have had a family member imprisoned and beaten for participating in the protests and receive daily reports of fear, repression and tragic stories of this ongoing situation.
The numbers vary depending on who you talk to. Somewhere between 200 to 500 dead. Thousands injured, hundreds of political prisoners and upwards of 20,000-30,000 Nicaraguans have fled. Most have gone to Costa Rica, and others have come here to the US as well as to Spain and other countries. It is reported that 340,000 jobs have been lost in the months since this crisis began, a huge blow to this country of 6 million, already ranked the second poorest country in the hemisphere.
What the people of Nicaragua are going through is absolutely heartbreaking.
As a person of faith, I try hard to find the hope. We have some amazing partners in Nicaragua that are helping. In the midst of this tragedy, they are finding ways to build peace with justice and reconciliation in an increasingly polarized nation. I feel honored and privileged to be walking with them in that.
Assessing needs created by the crisis, our partner organization CIEETS (the Inter Church Center for Theological and Social Studies) has responded with humanitarian aid in several communities of Carazo and Ciudad Sandino. Already present in these communities, CIEETS is able to identify families who have been directly impacted by job loss and increased food prices and is providing basic grains and other essential foods. Presbyterian World Mission is providing $13,000 to finance a more intensive program for the first half of 2019 to provide pastoral accompaniment and trauma-healing tools to affected populations.
I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua at the beginning of last month to help facilitate a workshop with our other partner CEPAD, with which our denomination has a longstanding partnership. It was a grace-filled space where people from all across Nicaragua with distinct and often conflicting perspectives and experiences came together as a community of faith struggling with tough issues. We spent time talking about how trauma affects us and learning basic tools to care for ourselves and others in these trying times.
We also analyzed stories from the Bible. We read about Rizpah, the woman in chapter 21 of 2 Samuel whose sons were handed over by King David upon request from the Gibeonites as atonement to them for the killing of their people by Saul. What felt like justice for the Gibeonites brought heart-wrenching agony to this mother. Through role play, we felt Rizpah’s pain, admired her strength in challenging the injustice done to her and wrestled with what justice is and how justice for some is not necessarily justice for all. And we talked about what God’s justice may look and feel like.
We did a deep dive into Psalms 85:10, which says, “La misericordia y la verdad se han encontrado, La justicia y la paz se han besado.” I prefer to translate from the Spanish version because of its poetic imagery. “Mercy and Truth have met, Justice and peace have kissed.” We discovered together that Truth can be elusive, that sometimes Mercy and Justice don’t get along, and that Peace without the others is meaningless. It was a powerful and challenging time. And most encouraging of all is knowing that this was the first of many workshops like this planned for all of CEPAD’s communities in the coming year.
I am excited to announce that in January we have a new mission co-worker couple, Ian and Jhan Vellenga, who will be moving to Nicaragua to work with CEPAD in their partnership and delegations program (pcusa.org/ian-and-jhan-vellenga). In the midst of what is feeling like a protracted crisis, I am grateful for these areas of light and hope and for the fact that together with our partners we are contributing in constructive ways.
In this season of gratitude, I also want to thank you for your ongoing support, both financial and spiritual. Throughout this difficult time, there have been countless times that I have almost inexplicably felt an incredible peace about me, knowing that your prayers are sustaining me. Don’t get me wrong, the extended separation from my husband is hard on the whole family, and the uncertainty of where things are heading in Nicaragua continues to feel heartbreaking, but despite these daunting circumstances, we are comforted knowing that we will ultimately be okay. We therefore give thanks and keep working alongside our partners as we feel called, working for the well-being of the people of Nicaragua.
Blessings and peace,
Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear partners in God’s mission,
We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.
Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.
Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.
Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.
I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!
In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!
At God’s service and at your service!
José Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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Tags: 2 Samuel 21, cepad, CIEETS, crisis, hope, justice, mercy, nicaragua, peace, polarization, Psalms 85, reconciliation, repression, Rizpah, the Inter Church Center for Theological and Social Studies, truth
Tags: Tracey King-Ortega
Tags: global partners, god's mission, jose luis casal, king-ortega's sending and support, mission, mission co-workers, nicaragua, partners, people of nicaragua, prayers and financial, prayers and financial gifts, presbyterian world, presbyterian world mission, sending and support, support of our mission, support of our mission co-workers, tracey king-ortega, tracey king-ortega's sending, tracey king-ortega's sending and support, world mission