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Tracey and her three teenagers, serving the homeless in Mexico
Tracey and her three teenagers, serving the homeless in Mexico | Photo courtesy of Tracey Gooch

Heeding a call to serve, Texas family crosses borders to help those in need

I’ve had breakdowns and breakthroughs during this experience, but those moments of knowing we’ve genuinely aided our fellow human beings remind me of why we’re on this mission.

Tracey Gooch
Interview Subject
Tracey Gooch is a former corporate manager and single mother of three who is passionate about leadership development and service work. Corporate burnout and a calling to be a missionary led her to quit her financially comfortable life, sell everything to fund her travels in Mexico, and serve local communities alongside her children. Follow Tracey on LinkedIn.
Background Information
In April 2021, Tracey Gooch quit her job in corporate America, sold her house, and moved to Mexico to perform service work. Nearly a year later, she continues to seek out ways to help those in need in locations across the world.

Accompanied by her three teenage children—ages 14,17 and 18—Tracy has so far lived and served in Playa del Carmen, Mérida, and Guadalajara while homeschooling her younger two children, teaching remotely at the university level, and running a leadership consulting business. In 2022, she plans to travel to Spain, France, and Portugal.

FRISCO, TEXAS—The email adding even more to my coverage area was the final straw for me.

I was working for a company that wanted me to do the workload of a director without the title and additional compensation. The job also involved long days and driving from Texas to Oklahoma on short notice.

I felt like these leaders were working me like a track horse, while they took vacations; I wouldn’t have taken the position if I knew this was what I signed up for.

Because of all these factors, I felt completely burned out from corporate America. Being a Christian, I couldn’t help but think that the Lord was speaking to me. I would wake up consistently at 2 a.m. for weeks, having dreams about what I really wanted to do: serve others. It wasn’t what I planned, but I just kept hearing the voice of the Lord telling me that this is what needed to be done.

I decided right then to write an email to my superiors stating they had three choices: add another manager and reduce my workload, promote me and give me a raise, or part ways completely. Though I felt exhilarated, I was also clear-headed and confident. It was a calculated move.

I clicked “Send,” closed my computer, and knew I had just set myself on a new path. Little did I know just how different that path would be.

Selling everything and bringing my kids along

Our plans to move abroad and perform service work began in March 2021, when my children were ages 13, 16, and 17.

They assumed I was joking when I first brought up the idea, but when I began playing with travel plans and asking how they felt about certain countries, they began to question if this was for real. It was when I started selling and giving things away that they finally realized I was serious.

We lived in Frisco, Texas in a nice, big house; I had spent a lot on the furniture. However, I sold it all for cheap to fund our new adventure. I thought it would be emotional for me, but the big pieces all left me dry-eyed; oddly enough, my velvet hangers and air fryer are what brought me to tears.

I think the COVID-19 pandemic played a part in my kids’ willingness to join me on this mission. The idea of getting back out into the world and traveling even had my introverted daughter ready to pack and help me get this started.

As their mother, I was proud to see that not only were they onboard, but they shared in my mission for service. They trusted that I was trusting my instincts, and they have supported me from the beginning.

Starting our service journey in Mexico

We decided to start our work in Mexico because it was the closest country to home. I had prayed about this being the place to go. I was relieved with how similar it was to when I lived in the States, with some familiar restaurants and shops.

Our biggest service project so far was helping in a retirement home in Mérida.

When we reported to the home, the sharp smell of urine stung my nostrils as soon as the doors opened. There was no air conditioning, and the oppressive heat was overwhelming. It wasn’t like a facility in the US; looking around expecting the standards we were used to at home, the conditions shocked us.

We brought in food and scrubbed the place clean as a family, from floors to toilets.

We came back to the States in September for a visit. Before returning to Mexico, I remember putting off reaching back out to the retirement home. It had been a big job, and a draining one.

When I finally did, my contact said to me, “I was praying, and you were the person on my heart. God was telling me to reach out to you, but I was scared.” He told me they didn’t have enough food, and I found myself breaking down in tears.

Reading that text message, responding to him, and being able to support them again in a time of great need helped show me that this is what we were meant to do.

Helping clean the retirement home in Mérida, Mexico | Photo courtesy of Tracey Gooch

Serving both practically and spiritually

We encountered a new mother and father with a 6-week-old baby girl who needed gastrointestinal surgery and ended up needing colostomy bags. The family struggled to find the bags, keep them stocked and afford the formula needed to feed their daughter. Her mother quit her job to care for the baby, and her father made no more than $20 USD a day.

We assisted them in every way we could. Sometimes we brought them colostomy bags we had been able to source, and other times provided food. But occasionally, certain weeks were especially lean; I had to make the hard decision to feed my own family and pay our own bills, and there was nothing left over for the family. However, I’m still proud we were able to help them as much as we did. 

I feel honored to have been able to serve on a spiritual level, as well.

One Uber driver drove us back and forth to church in Playa del Carmen, but his relationship with his own faith was strained. The pandemic had further weakened it; he wasn’t going to services anymore.

However, by the end of our stay, he told me that he was going back to church and even wanted me to meet his pastor. I was so happy to see his attitude change and again had an “aha” moment about how important this work was to me.

Personal sacrifice proves worth it

People assume that we are able to do this work because of a connection with a church or non-profit organization. But we operate on our own, by our own means.

We do everything—travel, purchasing essentials and groceries, paying rent, helping the communities—out of pocket, from our own funds. In my old life, I was used to giving, not receiving. I’ve had to do the hard work of putting aside my pride and ego to ask for donations so we’re able to continue our mission work. It was hard to give up some of those everyday luxuries we were used to, but worth it.

I’ve had breakdowns and breakthroughs during this experience, but those moments of knowing we’ve genuinely aided our fellow human beings remind me of why we’re on this mission.

Service is easy for me to do despite the obstacles—it is my passion, and it’s what’s in my heart. Doing it with my children alongside me has made it even more fulfilling.

Kaylin Daniels is a member of Orato’s Spring 2022 Writer’s Workshop & Internship Program.

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Kaylin is a graduating senior at the University of South Carolina, soon to obtain a degree in Mass Communications with a cognate in Marketing. She is dedicated to her studies and passionate about journalism. She tries to find unique voices to share with Orato, to help rebuild trust in the news again.