A letter from Tracey King-Ortega serving in Nicaragua
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Greetings from a rainy, rainy Managua!
The rainy season is now in full swing, arriving about a month late and coming on with a vengeance. This first major rain of the year happened about a week ago, bringing almost eight inches of rain in less than two hours. That’s the average amount of rain we should be getting over the period of a month. It was a disaster. Our entire house flooded. We scrambled around the house, raising up as much as we could, propping our couch up on paint cans, and placing toys on countertops and the bottom drawers of our dressers up on the beds. But once the water starting creeping in, there was not much to do but wait. In that moment I gained new insight into the meaning of the word helpless. I also had time to reflect some on the futile efforts we make in the times of oncoming crisis as I saw our Tupperware, having been carefully placed to catch drips for a leaky roof, floating around our house.
Thankfully all three kids slept like angels and were none the wiser. The waters slowly began to recede around 3 a.m. The next day was spent hosing the mud out of every nook and cranny of our home, though I keep coming across spots we missed.
I wanted to write about this, not to tug on your sympathy strings, but because this event has left me reflecting on why I am here, giving me a deeper sense of a call to mission. Rather than feeling upset by all this, I have found that in the midst of difficult times, I gain a greater sense of gratitude and of feeling blessed. I have a wonderful family with whom to face the hard stuff, and I am learning stamina, resiliency and trust in God. We are bouncing back just fine, but many of my neighbors have fared far worse. Sorting through and tossing out water-damaged “stuff,” I know more deeply what matters and in a strange way am grateful for the opportunity to purge.
Family members back home worry about us. It may be hard to explain why I welcome these hardships, but they are a gift. My understanding of mission is that God is calling us to be uncomfortable, challenging us to whole body and life experiences that will transform us and transform the world. In order to serve and work for change for those who are marginalized or suffering, I need to have my own firsthand experiences to create empathy. After my house flooded, my eyes were opened a bit more, resulting in a deeper sensitivity to the suffering of others. I feel a stronger sense of call to discern how I can contribute to addressing the causes of poverty and the needs it creates. Mission is twofold. I see an image of a hand reaching out that is both asking for and offering support. We build God’s kingdom by serving one another, not just by serving or being served, but both. That is true solidarity, and something I wish for us all to experience.
Beyond cleaning out from the mud, we are doing well. The kids are all healthy and thriving. Catherine is now in preschool at the Colegio Alemán-Nicaragüense (German-Nicaraguan School) and is being taught in both Spanish and German. She loves the idea of becoming trilingual.
The twins will be 2 at the end of July. I just love watching the interactions between them and how closely connected they are, yet with two very different personalities. They keep me very busy. As they grow, I feel as if I have shifted out of survival mode and am more able to enjoy motherhood. I suppose the fact that we are all sleeping through the night has contributed greatly to that becoming true.
Work has also kept me quite busy. Due to shortfalls in contributions in 2014, Presbyterian World Mission is facing the prospect of having to recall up to 45 mission workers over the next two years. And in fact we are currently in the process of ending the service of seven different mission co-worker families around the world. I have been directly involved with having to close a position that served with our partner church in Honduras. I ask for your prayers for our mission co-workers facing major life transitions and for clarity on how to best maintain connection and support for the important work that God is doing through us and our partner, the Presbyterian Church of Honduras.
Given this current economic situation, I especially want to thank those who support me directly as a mission co-worker. There are also many who hold me in prayer, prayers that comfort and sustain me through the challenges that come with the job. Thank you for that and also for considering supporting me in my work through prayer, correspondence, and financial support, without which my service could not be possible.
I also want to let you all know that I am beginning plans for my upcoming interpretation assignment. I will be spending the first six months of 2016 based in southern California with the aim of connecting in person with supporting congregations and sharing about what God is doing in this part of the world. Contact me if you are interested in a visit from me and we will see what can be worked out.
Blessings and peace,
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 44
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