8 Annual Arizona Walk for Missions

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Join Us and Support the Walk!

We’re thrilled to join our friends from OCMC and the Arizona Walk for Missions at another great event in Tempe, AZ this year.

As in year’s past, we’ll raising funds for both Project Mexico and OCMC.

ABOUT:
This project began eight years ago under the direction of Antonia Adams Clement. Antonia, and a committee of representatives from varying Orthodox Churches, from multiple jurisdictions, representing the entire state of Arizona, came together and through the Orthodox Christian Mission Center Ambassador Program, they discovered that 26 Orthodox Christians from Arizona had served the Church as missionaries abroad.

Through this program the fellowship began sharing their experiences and decided to support Project Mexico through funding tutors for our boys at St. Innocent Orphanage.  Speaking to the Arizona Clergy Council (Antiochian, Coptic, Greek, OCA and Romanian member organizations), each parish selected a representative and the Arizona Walk for Missions was born.

Support the Walk with a Donation!



WHEN:
Saturday, May 4 th 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:
Kiwanis Park
Tempe, AZ


 

The Straw-Bale House

Building Naturally at the Ranch

by Tina Cooper

One of the wonderful things about Project Mexico is the diversity of talents and gifts that God brings our way through our staff and missionaries as they work in synergy with the local Mexican community.

When we strive to dwell in community with one another, we see how each person’s offering contributes to our developing vision. Whether producing our own naturally made, environmentally friendly and vibrant limewash paint by iLia Anossov. Or our most recent venture into sustainable building. We see our ministry developing in fresh and creative ways when we allow space to bring forth ideas and collaborate together.

In partnership with OCF during the Spring break build session (March 11-16th, 2019) we will be building the new tiendita (Ranch store) using the straw-bale natural building technique. Natural building methods like straw-bale, cob, adobe, light straw clay and many similar methods can be traced back to ancient times. The word “Adobe” means “mud-brick” and originated in 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt.  In Omaha, Nebraska you can find houses built with this method that are over 100 years old and still standing!


Thomas Ingram, a Project Mexico missionary who specializes in developing agriculture on the ranch, recently visited a Montessori ecological school in Tecate, México. He met with established teacher and naturalist, Cesar Valdarama, who created a native plant palette for the ranch at Project Mexico. With his love for botany and ecology, Cesar has researched the biodiversity of native plants and their benefits for human development and the entire ecosystem in which we live. While there, Thomas was intrigued by buildings on the site that were made of natural building materials. The buildings were the work of the architect, Tonatiuh Magaña.

Thomas and homebuilding coordinator, Oliver Fahling, explored the advantages of building with natural materials. This construction had the potential to become a mainstay of our ministry. They contacted Tonatiuh and the proof-of-concept project of building our new tiendita using the straw bale method at Project Mexico was proposed. Tonatiuh agreed to lead the build! The project was approved by the rest of the Project Mexico team.

Tonatiuh Magaña

Tonatiuh Magaña

Tonatiuh, who holds a Masters degree in Architecture specializes in construction with natural materials. He began building natural structures about 12 years ago. Trained by international and national experts, he has worked on various ecological farm projects in South America. For the last five years, he has designed houses, cabins and educational spaces (such as the school in Tecate) made of straw bales, bajareque and Adobe. He chose to specialize as a natural builder because it allows him to leverage reusable materials and because he likes having the ability to build his own home. Likewise, Thomas who has some experience of cob building likes this approach because, “it allows for better stewardship of the environment.”

Aside from the benefits of using natural materials, these buildings have efficient insulation properties, reducing or even eliminating the cost of heating or cooling the home during winter and summer. Once they are very old, they can then be torn down and allowed to decompose into the ground without having to dispose of drywall or deal with any harmful chemicals.

It’s not just about sustainability for Thomas though, he also prefers the aesthetics of the natural built home stating, “You have the ability to make a natural building for the same cost or less than a conventional building while achieving a much better aesthetic value. These buildings look really nice when completed”.

Interestingly, the idea of using natural building methods are not new to the vision of Project Mexico. Greg Yova, Project Mexico’s founder had similar objectives from the very beginning of the ministry. Greg was intentional in establishing an environment on the ranch that was self-sustaining in a time when sustainability wasn’t as highly valued or practiced. Alongside staff that had an interest in gardening they recognized the importance of growing plants that are native to the land so that they could thrive and use less resources. Greg and his staff created a plan to assess which plants would do well on the ranch, paying attention to sun exposure and shade. From the outset, grey water (water from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines) has been used to water the plants of the ranch instead of being processed through the septic system.

Pigs were also farmed and fed discarded food from local restaurants. The pig waste was then used for soil fertilization. Utilizing resources in different ways through their life cycle was something Greg valued and part of what he considered to be good stewardship of the earth and its resources.

The straw-bale method was also researched as a viable option in the early days of the Project Mexico homebuilding ministry. The team were much in favor of this technique for building their homes because of the numerous benefits including the acquisition of materials locally instead of internationally imported lumbar. However, the lack of expertise at a time when the ministry was still being established meant that it would have been a challenging road to take.

We’re thrilled to announce preparations for this exciting new endeavour are underway! During our Spring build session, we’ll be building the new Tiendita using the straw bale method. First, we must raise funds and recruit volunteers. You can help bring this to life this March! College students are encouraged to register through OCF. Parish groups of all ages are invited to register as well as individuals.

We have also opened up our Spring building schedule! Parish groups or individuals can provide a great service to our ministry and help Project Mexico on many different projects.

Day trips and week trips are available!

If you believe in this venture but can’t come and build with us your contribution to our Tiendita campaign. Your generous contribution will help us bring the project to fruition.


UPDATE: Life at the Border

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I wanted to take a moment to share a little peek into our life here south of the boarder.  My wife—or presbytera in Greek circles or kuria in Antiochian circles or matushka in Slavonic circles—and I have completed seven years living at the St. Innocent Orphanage.  Yes, it has been an adjustment, especially for my presbytera who was raised in a traditional Greek family—an experience very different than life in Tijuana. 

In our years here we have had many new experiences that come with living in a third world country and in a foreign culture.  One of these experiences was the immigration of thousands of Latin Americans traveling through Mexico hoping to find asylum in the United States. It definitely did not go as well as most of them were hoping but I would like to share some of the realities we have seen being on the ground.

Recent statistics tell us that the vast majority of the migrants have chosen to seek Mexican work visas or returned to their home countries. According to the Associate Press (see link below) of the 6,000 migrants in the caravan 1,300 people have returned to their home countries, 2,900 have received Mexican humanitarian visas that permit them to work in Mexico, and 1,300 migrants have been detained. The temporary shelters in Tijuana have been closed and migrants have integrated into the community, living in permanent housing accommodations.

At the height of the Migrant Caravan event, the city of Tijuana had several pockets of migrants waiting in tents looking for guidance for the next step.  Because of the hundreds of displaced that were in these temporary camps, the local municipalities were burdened to say the least.  Despite the sheer numbers, Mexican authorities handled the situation well and at no time did it become a national crisis for the country. 

Yes, the border was closed for several hours coming into America, but everyone forgets to mention that there was another border crossing that was kept open less than 20 miles to the East.  At no time did any of the missionaries feel “trapped” or in danger.  We are grateful that the situation has calmed and that those individuals and families are finding stability.

So people always ask me, “Is it safe to travel to Tijuana?” or “Will I be able to get back into the United States?” 

The answer to both these questions is, “Yes.” 

As an Orthodox priest, husband and father, and the Associate Director of Project Mexico, I would not be living here with my family if it wasn’t safe or we couldn’t travel freely.  And, I definitely would not bring hundreds of youth to the ranch every summer unless I could ensure their safety. 

We understand the fear people have.

How the nature of media can exacerbate and fuel those fears. But I encourage all us who have been called to help the families, orphans and widows to come and live the gospel.  Let us not be controlled by people’s biased opinions or false perceptions, rather, let us be guided by strength and love to courageously give and change the lives of those who are truly in need.

Thank you for your support of the ministry and please if you have any question you can contact me on my cellular phone which works perfectly fine in Mexico.

In Christ,

 

Fr. Nicholas L. Andruchow

Priest

Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage

fnicholas@projectmexico.org

cell. 619-309-8745

 

Spagat, E. (2019, January 16). Last year's Central American caravan dwindles, new one forms. Retrieved from https://www.apnews.com/be98c131631d49f0943e1f7ac6a4993b

Migrant Caravan

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We wanted to take this opportunity to update our supporters on the migrant caravan that arrived in Tijuana this fall. The caravan consists of people seeking asylum in the U.S. from violence and famine in Central America. This is not the first group of migrants that have arrived in Tijuana. Tijuana has many Haitians, El Salvadorians, South Americans, and Columbians who have settled in Tijuana over the past forty years.  

Mexican authorities and local charities in Tijuana have years of experience and ability in aiding and managing groups of migrants at the US/Mexico border. In fact, most of the fast-paced growth in the city is from migrants who cannot get across the border. Instead, they stay and thrive. 

The migrant caravan consists of political asylum seekers from south and central America. Many are fleeing gang and narcotics-related violence from major cities like Tegucicalpa, Honduras or from rural areas plagued by drought. Thousands have been sheltered at the Benito Juarez Sports Complex and State authorities are busy organizing the camp while limiting disruption for Tijuana residents and businesses. 

A nearby Catholic Charity’s soup kitchen helps feed and supply them. Nuns from the Catholic Charities use volunteers year-round to feed the homeless near the San Ysidro border crossing. At Saint Innocent Orphanage we dedicate the week leading up to Christmas making and distributing tamales at the border while singing Christmas Carols. Last year, our Interns spent their off-time as volunteers at the Nun’s Kitchen.  

“On Sunday the 25th of November my family and I were planning to go to San Diego. As we reached the crossing, frustrated migrants rushed the border. For less than 15 minutes, there was a half-hearted attempt to cross a very hardened border crossing. Mexican police and American Border Patrol agents had been preparing for weeks for this occasion. The entire event was resolved in minutes. Since then, everything has returned to normal. More programs are offered to migrants to assimilate into Tijuana.

Mexican work weeks are often six days of twelve-hour shifts. Thousands of visa holders also cross the border every day to work in America and return at night. There is a well-organized commute system of walking lanes, public transit, and ride sharing. At Project Mexico, I cross four-to-six times a week. 

The migrant caravan revealed to me the immense beauty of the professionals and volunteers in Tijuana who have dedicated their lives and money in the alms giving ministries. This is why people come to Project Mexico. - Mike Saur OCMC Seminarian

The migrant caravan revealed to me the immense beauty of the professionals and volunteers in Tijuana who have dedicated their lives and money in the alms giving ministries. This is why people come to Project Mexico. 

Many charities in Tijuana are showing how to deal with the situation like the migrant caravan with love and compassion. Charities have provided lodging, clothing and food. Many migrants have taken offers of employment. The way the authorities managed and dealt with the situation limited the disruption to a single episode.” - Mike Saur – OCMC Seminarian Intern

Project Mexico hosts 5 OCMC interns and their families, several US staff, including Fr. Nicholas, Pres. Merilynn, and their families live in Mexico. We regularly cross the border numerous times each week and experience little to no interruptions in our operations. In fact, the ongoing plight of the refugees will likely increase the need for our services of building homes and providing support to orphans over the foreseeable future as they await their asylum claims to be heard over the next several years.

The people of Tijuana and Mexico are resilient. We pray this immigration crisis can find a timely workable resolution. 

May the Lord touch your hearts and bless all of you.

If you’d like to make a difference today, consider pledging your support for our Annual Matching Grant Challenge by clicking the button below.

Mexico Update

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On Sunday, California Border Patrol closed the crossing at San Ysidro for 3 hours. The Central-American asylum seekers were protesting the lack of resources, slow processing of their asylum requests and the rapidly deteriorating conditions of their makeshift shelter. Most are families who have traveled far to escape violence in their home countries.

First, I want to let everyone know that we are fine in Tijuana. It’s not impacting our operations. If anything, it provides us another opportunity (along with our fellow non-profits) to help our neighbors in Tijuana. Yes, having several thousand extra “temporary” residents has complicated things. The people of Tijuana and Mexico are very resilient and we pray this immigration crisis can find a timely workable resolution. 

Please keep us all in your prayers but for the most part it is life as usual.

And life is plenty busy. Thanksgiving was filled with blessings having family and friends celebrate the day. We had several of the older boys come and enjoy the feast with us. The largest change at the orphanage is the two new boys who arrived and became a part of the community. They arrived last Tuesday and are adjusting to their new home. Please keep them in your prayers. 

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Once again, it is Giving Tuesday! A group of supporters have committed funds to our Matching Grant Program. Today is an excellent opportunity to put our thankfulness into action and give. 

A gift of $50, $100, $1,000 or even more can make a big difference for us here in Tijuana to continue God’s work. 

Please consider giving and help us to continue sharing the hope of Christ through His Church just over border. 

May the Lord touch your hearts and bless all of you.

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Nicholas Andruchow

Priest/Associate Director

Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage

A House Where the Spirit Can Dwell

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Here at Project Mexico there are many challenges. One of the greatest it seems is the demands to just pay the bills. Through God’s grace, the ministry has persevered and flourished despite the lack of predictable income. With this in mind, I was apprehensive when a local Orthodox Mexican man approached me with a sincere desire to improve our chapel. We are always cautious of expenses for the community’s liturgical needs because paying salaries and keeping food on the table is our top priority. In the end, we decided that the Lord was working through this man and the construction should begin. 

The remodel included tearing down walls, removing old concrete footers and hauling off loads of debris and dirt. As the worship space was expanded, the shape of our new chapel started to form.  On the feast day of the Panagia, the Dormition of the Theotokos, we celebrated our first liturgy. It was a blessed day. Unfortunately, the work was not done. There were numerous details that had to be completed to fully complete the project. A thorough cleaning needed to be done. Screens had to be put on the six the new windows. Fixtures for the adult baptismal fount needed to by installed and a multitude of other tasks. Our goal is to be finished for the feast day of St. Innocent on October 6th.  

The process has been extensive and intricate which is similar to our own efforts to fortify our life in Christ and build up the temple where the Holy Spirit can dwell.

For the past 30 years, Project Mexico has brought over 15,000 volunteers to build homes for needy families and to spiritually construct souls worthy to house the Holy Spirit. St. Paul wrote that we are the temple of God’s Spirit.  (1 Cor. 3:16-17) When the missionary first comes across the border they are faced with the harsh reality of poverty but realize God is present despite the suffering. This dramatic experience allows for the spiritual debris to be cleaned out and to start fresh. As the week goes on a subtle, sublime process occurs where prayer and reflection provides the tools for the soul to be strengthened and purified. 

The salvation of your soul is more valuable than the entire world.

Christ teaches us that the salvation of your soul is more valuable than the entire world  (Matt. 16:26). The chapel of the orphanage serves as a home for all of us to grow stronger and to foster our souls where the Holy Spirit can dwell. We are blessed that our place of worship has been improved. And we are blessed that Project Mexico provides a place where hundreds of faithful can work on their own soul. So, becoming stronger in Christ they build up a place where the Spirit can dwell, and their souls can be saved. 

May all of our souls be strengthened and built up.

 

2019 Summer Internships Open!

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Introducing 3 exciting new internship roles for Summer 2019!

 

Anyone who has been involved in a home building trip with Project Mexico knows that our faithful and hardworking interns are at the heart of everything we do. Interns from across the nation dedicate their entire summer to living in basic conditions in Mexico. They work diligently alongside our home building coordinator to facilitate 600+ volunteers to build homes for impoverished families in Mexico.

 

They become part of daily life on the ranch, helping maintain and prepare all that is needed for the arrival of volunteer groups. Not least of all, they become family to the boys of St. Innocent Orphanage. Our internships can be a milestone of spiritual growth and maturation. For many it has been both a transformational and life-defining experience.

 

If construction isn’t your thing but you desire to serve with us next Summer, then we have some great news for you! In addition to our homebuilding intern positions, we have expanded our program to include the following new positions:

 

Group Facilitator (must have youth leadership experience): Your main responsibility will be to mentor, supervise and facilitate the other interns, conducting debrief and processing groups, provide one to one guidance, assisting in coordination of intern activities and trips and facilitate volunteer group discussions.  Seminary, teaching, youth work, camp staff experience would be very helpful. This position may suit school teachers or seminarian students/graduates.

 

Media Intern: Your main responsibility will be to document through photographs, video and writing: the volunteer groups, home builds, families, events and activities of the boys of St. Innocent Orphanage. You will also be responsible for hospitality of Volunteers both on the build site and ranch.  Depending on your skill you will be assigned to a media role and work with Project Mexico’s marketing team. You will also work in other areas as needed.

 

Medical Intern:  If you have medical training, such as first aid, CPR, EMT, Nursing, please indicate the experience, any certifications, experience, or training you have.  We hope to have several trained individuals on staff each summer.

 

The positions above may overlap depending on a volunteer’s skills and experience and the number of suitable candidates who apply.

We are now accepting applications, please submit your applications before November 30th, 2018.

Update Me!

Fill in your contact info and download HomeBuilding 2019 Internship Application Form.

Summer 2019 Home Building Registration Open Now

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Hurry Up and Register Today!

Home Building 2019 

Wow! We’re at 50% full for Summer Home Building 2019 and Weeks are filling up quickly!

Time to gather and register your group before all the spots are gone!

Week 1 Thursday, June 6 - 12 (25% full)

Week 2 Tuesday, June 18 - 24 (90% full)


Week 3: Thursday, June 27 - July 3 (80% full)


Week 4: Tuesday, July 9 - 15 (55% full)


Week 5: Thursday, July 18 - 24


PM OCMC‌ Building A Home For Missions ‌week

Week 6: Tuesday, July 30 - August 5 (90% full)


Week 7: Thursday, August 8 - 14 (OPEN)

Building Homes and Relationships by Olivia Neslusan

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As I sit on an old wooden bench, warm Mexican sun beating down on my hair, and the laugher of young boys playing on the soccer field in the distance, I cannot fathom the fact that my time here at the ranch is winding down. This summer has gone by in the blink of an eye, but contrastingly, it feels like I have been here forever. Looking back at this time last year, I was an eager group member dreaming about being accepted into this internship position. One week simply just wasn’t enough for me, and I couldn't wait to apply and spend three months here at this incredible ranch.

I had so many expectations of what I thought this summer would be like based on my past experiences here and what I heard from past interns, but quickly I learned that it is so important when doing mission work similar to this, to have no expectations and have an open mind. The summer was full of laughter and tears, and certainly was exhausting at times. Building a new home every week and having the energy to greet each new team like it was your first is something that is both beautiful and challenging. But more than the build, this place and this summer for me has been about building relationships.

Theodora and I arrived two weeks later than the rest of the young adult interns that would dedicate their summer to leading home building. In my journal on the first day of arrival I wrote about how I was nervous that close relationships and friendships had already formed, and perhaps we wouldn't get to know the other 17 interns as well. This trivial worry quickly faded within the first couple days. It is so beautiful and easy to connect with other young Orthodox Christians. Growing up in the faith and sharing the same values is something that allows us to truly connect on a deeper level, and I know that these will be people I stay in contact with long after this summer is over.

Connecting with the 19 boys here at the orphanage, though, has been by far the most rewarding part of this experience. Boys ranging in age from eight to eighteen live on this ranch, and each of them have their own vibrant and inspiring personalities and stories. Between group activities and home builds, we get the opportunity to spend as much time as we please with them. Despite their backgrounds of neglect, these boys are some of the most loving people I have ever met. They are eager to learn more about you, make you laugh, and if you are lucky, they sometimes share their personal stories about their past.

This summer the ranch was blessed with three new little boys ranging from eight to ten years old. Immediately after arriving here in this new home, the boys were always eager to participate in church and had so many questions about the faith. It was truly something special to see how they transitioned with such grace. It is a challenge, however, especially with these three new little boys, to connect with them without getting too close and allowing them to get too attached. It is so obvious that they need love from the way they run up to almost any female who they are familiar with and cling to them calling each one “Mama.” Although this can be tough at times, it is comforting to know that the family here at the ranch will indeed give them the love and permanency they so desperately need and want.

That is what is so special about this place.

It is a community where everyone is a part of the family that makes up St. Innocent Orphanage and Project Mexico. It is going to be bittersweet to leave this country and its people, but I leave knowing that this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and also knowing that it was not really me who made it, but rather God who called me to be here.


Home Building Registration Opens October 18

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2019 Home Building registration opens Thursday Oct. 18, 2018 at 9 am Pacific Standard.

We're excited to build hope with you next year!

Summer 2019 Dates:

  • June 6 - 12

  • June 18 - 24

  • June 27 - July 3

  • July 9 - 15

  • July 18 - 24

  • July 30 - August 5

  • August 8 - 14