“Networking. I love networking; connecting a person to a resource to further them to the next place in their journey with God. That’s what I love!”
From 10 years’ experience in Africa involving community development and disaster management to her current ministry as Pastor of Outreach Missions at CrossRoads Church in Red Deer, AB, Tracy’s life is full of opportunities to do just that.
Tracy grew up in Seattle, Washington, living in a single-parent home with a ‘super mom’ from when she was three years old when her parents divorced. Tracy was active in soccer from age five right up to university. It was through the influence of her grandmother that Tracy’s education was at a Christian school, and it was from her kindergarten teacher that she learned what it meant to have Jesus as her forever friend.
“I always knew God was there with me. I had a clear understanding that God was for me, with me, my friend. I knew my salvation was secure.” This assurance of Him and His love kept her steady throughout childhood and her teen years. “It was my anchor. I knew some things were ‘not what Christians do’. I was a good kid.”
Right out of high school Tracy enrolled at the University of Washington to study Zoology, inspired by her love of animals and her hero Jane Goodall. During her second year, however, God sent a course correction. She was part of a Campus Crusade Bible Study when, in a “not quite audible” voice, she heard God say, “Focus on my people, not on my animals.”
“I was obedient, but I did go through a time of grieving. I began taking more psychology classes focused on people, then moved towards Sociology.”
Also significant during this period of life were her first short term outreach experiences, which included a three month outreach to Bolivia between her 3rd and 4th year at university. “This trip exposed me to what became my passion – community development.”
In the spring of ‘96 she graduated with her Bachelor of Arts (Sociology and Psychology). That year she received an email seeking volunteers to serve at the upcoming 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. YWAM was tasked with supplying 1,000 Christian Youth to be security guards; Tracy was one of them. Her supervisor was a man from South Africa, and through him, Tracy learned much about the struggles and realities in South Africa; it grabbed her attention and would later be a major connection to her future work in Africa.
After graduation, she worked as a photographer for a year while applying for various positions before accepting an offer in 1997 to serve a 2-year internship with University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, her home church during her years at university. Her focus there was working with university students, particularly international students. In that role she was the manager of the International Friendship House and greatly enjoyed the interaction with students from several countries.
A Pivotal Summer
The summer of 1998 was a pivotal summer. Tracy and a dear friend headed to South Africa, accepting an internship offer from her previous supervisor at the Olympics to come work at the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town, South Africa. Expecting only a season of great learning and adventure, it turned out to be much more. It was just a summer placement but, says Tracy, “Now Africa was in my blood. I was enamored with all things Africa.”
All too soon the 3 months were up and she was back in Seattle completing the second year of her internship at the church. She benefitted from the wisdom of mentors and took to heart the counsel of her supervisor who suggested she obtain further education as it would open more doors as she pursued her passion.
She began looking for a Mission Program that would prepare her to serve internationally in community development, the aspect of missions she had fallen in love with while in Bolivia. Failing to find a US program that seemed to fit, her missions pastor suggested she apply for Grad School at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in Oxford, England.
At the Oxford Centre, the education was intense, as the requirements were compressed into only twelve months. She persevered, graduating with a Masters in Theology and Development in the summer of 2000. “By this time, I knew I was ready to go live in Africa.” One of the huge benefits of studying at this school was being surrounded by people from all nations. They taught her so much about culture and life in other parts of the world, really continuing to enlarge her worldview. Before leaving the UK, Tracy again returned to Africa, this time as a tourist, backpacking with the same friend who had previously gone with her to South Africa. Their target was to visit the majority of her classmates from the Oxford Centre. They set off for three months, and beginning in Cape Town, travelled as far as Kenya, stopping along the way at the homes of several classmates. Her love of Africa flourished.
Finally In Africa
Once back home, the job search began. Tracy was accepted by World Concern, a Christian global relief and development agency based in Seattle, to work in Africa. She went through orientation, raised her support, and in January 2003 left for Kenya to start language school and a new chapter. After some months studying Swahili, she spent the first few years as part of a Maasai team doing community development work among the Maasai people group. About two years into this role, a new Country Director was needed for Kenya; Tracy was asked to take this position, but she wasn’t too sure about it. “Then I thought, they believe I can do it, so I’ll do it. I respected their decision.” This meant a move to Nairobi where Tracy served a five-year term as Director, then stepped down to allow a Kenyan director to take over.
A 14-month Interim Director position soon opened in Chad, again with World Concern. Tracy followed the call and moved to Chad. The languages spoken there were French and Arabic, neither of which Tracy spoke, but her team was committed to helping her. This often meant perpetual translation, which was very humbling. “I did what I could. This was my hardest season, but also the richest, with the most learning and absolute dependence on God.” This new role was a stretch for many reasons causing her to move away from traditional community development towards disaster response. The team was based on the border with Darfur (Sudan), and Chad faced the same issues with refugees and internally displaced villages. Tracy’s work became more and more about helping people in their immediate need and creating programs that would build resiliency and foster hope.
Serving as an Emergency Coordinator
Upon returning to Washington in 2009 Tracy felt a change was in order, and took a trip to Asia with World Concern leaders to seek a new context where she could offer her skills. Vietnam was her choice and she was all set to go with her Visa and passport at the ready. Then one night she received an email, a text, and saw the news about Africa; this changed everything. “The people I loved so much were suffering in the midst of a famine. Within 12 hours I was on a plane, on my way back to Washington to quickly re-pack and return to Africa to serve as the Emergency Coordinator for the Horn of Africa.”
When she had been stationed for just over a month at Dadaab, Kenya, then the largest refugee camp in the world housing 500,000 people, she received an email from CrossRoads Church in Red Deer, Alberta. The church had a team in Kenya. They had permits to enter the refugee camps, but no place to sleep. Could she arrange something for them? “I said, ‘yes’, and they came, slept in tents in our compound, and spent just under a week with us. We had amazing conversations. When they left I said to myself, ‘I wonder what will come of that.’”
Just down the road from the World Concern office was the Samaritan’s Purse office. Working in this context was tremendously rewarding as teams searched for, and then implemented sustainable solutions that would bolster the local economy while providing means to generate self-respect and resilience in the recipients. Work in the region was always dangerous, with the threat of kidnapping, banditry, and the sounds of gunfire a common backdrop. Working day in and day out in such conditions was overwhelmingly stressful.
After one particularly exhausting stretch, Tracy and the supervisor in the Samaritan’s Purse office concluded that they needed to stop and observe a Sabbath. They planned a worship service. Tracy, and Adam Minke, an intern with Samaritan’s Purse, were chosen to share from the Word. They met for the first time at that service, and it was where their friendship began. Later they worked together on a couple more projects.
Friendship Became Romance
Adam’s field was hydrology, his expertise a much-needed asset. Tracy’s heart leapt to her throat the day she heard about a harrowing highspeed escape from Somalian bandits firing on the vehicle Adam and others were traveling in. This ordeal, but for the grace of God, would most assuredly have ended in their kidnapping or death. Shortly after this incident, Adam was sent out of the region and eventually back to Mombasa where he continued his work. Tracy also retired to Mombasa for a short time of mandated rest, and met Adam for dinner one night and then lunch the next; the friendship had become more of a romance. Weeks later Adam returned home to Calgary. Tracy had another 6 months to serve. How were they to find a way to continue their relationship? They prayed and sought God’s leading for how they might work together somewhere in the world.
They searched for opportunities to serve together but nothing seemed to line up. Tracy knew that as an American, she would likely face obstacles finding work in Canada. She wondered about the immigration laws and found the definition of clergy to be quite broad, and so she began to search for a church. It was then that she remembered the visit of the team from Red Deer. Still in Kenya, while in the midst of the handoff of responsibilities to clear the way for her return home, she sent an email to the CrossRoads Missions pastor who had been on the team, just to ask if he knew of any churches where she might apply. What a surprise to find out that he had left his position and that CrossRoads Church was looking for a new Pastor of Outreach Missions. As she read through the ministry posting and the list of 16 very specific qualifications, she realized with mounting excitement that she had each and every one. She applied.
Once home in Seattle, Tracy received a phone call from CrossRoads inviting her to interview for the position. She was already planning to drive up to meet Adam’s family in Calgary which made it easy to make the 1 ½ hour drive to Red Deer for the interview. Just a few hours after the interview, Tracy was offered the position. The same week, Adam had been invited in for two interviews in his field and was also preparing to take a new job, this one in Edmonton. They would not be in the same city but they would be in the same province, significantly closing the gap of their long-distance relationship. After taking a few months to adjust and prepare for another big move from home, Tracy arrived in Canada in July of 2012. Adam wasted no time in proposing. The day after his proposal, Tracy began her new position; six months later they were married in Seattle. It was February 2013. Commuting became their new norm as they lived between Red Deer and Edmonton. On December 31st the same year, they became parents of a little girl, Makena. In 2015 Adam found work in Red Deer and they finally were able to live, work and worship in the same city, and have remained there since.
More about Tracy
Tracy continues as Pastor of Outreach Missions at CrossRoads and in December of 2016 completed EMCC’s requirements for the Licensed Minister credential and is currently working through the requirements for ordination. She passionately lives on mission and equips others to do the same. As part of her ministry with the church, she is also a mobilizer and facilitator for Simply Mobilizing with the key course being Kairos. The mission of Kairos is to “help mobilize the Church in Canada to be on mission with God. The courses are designed to educate, inspire, and challenge Christians to meaningful participation in God’s heart for all the nations. It is a tool God is using to transform the worldview of believers so they see themselves as having been blessed in order to be a blessing to all people groups.”
Tracy doesn’t feel any need to have a ’10 year plan’ but simply says, “whatever He has for me, I’m willing.”
Her days are full as a spouse, mom, and pastor, but when there is time for relaxation she enjoys the outdoors and likes backpacking, photography, and most sports. Travel to other cultures is meaningful to her, and of course, trips to the United States to visit her family.
Tracy is available to provide coaching on Global Engagement
Tracy’s 10 years in Africa in community development and disaster response have uniquely prepared her to understand global issues and challenges, having seen them firsthand and grappled through seemingly insurmountable difficulties to find sustainable solutions. “My years in Africa were the most formative of my life. My time there expanded my worldview and I learned what it is to be part of a community that is more relational. Dependence on God was paramount.” Here in Canada, Tracy strives to keep alive the lessons learned on African soil. “I never want to lose that dependence on God. It is a fight to resist the pressures of western society – materialism, individualism, and being task-oriented. It is a lie to fall into thinking that I am the one who makes life, not God.”
Tracy will draw from her experience and resources to help churches, pastors, and missions committees engage in God’s mission. With a listening ear and a collaborative approach, Tracy will work with you to search out the best solutions. Contact her for assistance planning and/or evaluating Short Term Outreach, training effective missions committees, or finding practical ways to care for missionaries you support. She is also available to discuss ways to deepen church involvement in cross-cultural missions, and the lessons learned from being involved in the Refugee Sponsorship Engagement process.
Tracy is available by phone or online consultation. She is willing to travel. Visit emccenrich.ca for more information and to connect with Tracy.