Two Ministries. Two Nations. One Hope.
When we look at the history of Project Mexico we can see the message of hope shouting out at us. Hope in that we are not alone. Hope in what the future brings. Hope in the fact that God is active in the world. Since 1995, I have been involved with the Orthodox community in Tijuana, Mexico. Ten of those years have been as a full-time missionary living in-country. I have spent at least one week annually in the field either building homes for the needy families or ministering to the young boys who have been orphaned. The impact I have witnessed is layered and expansive. The Lord works through our humility and out of weakness God creates miracles. God has used Project Mexico to do great things and it is obvious that the Lord is not finished yet. Through the power of
Out of the compost
Three decades of ministry has brought countless challenges and blessings. In the early years, the ministry was nothing but a dream where two inspired Orthodox Christians, Greg and Margaret Yova, persevered to establish a community where Orthodox believers could live the faith while bringing comfort to the afflicted of Mexico. To maneuver between two countries, two cultures, two languages, two currencies and various economic levels is extremely complex. As St. Paul said “our battle is not against flesh and blood … but against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
In 1994, after building homes for six years, the doors of the St. Innocent Orphanage were opened for the first time. Unfortunately, the hired director never arrived, the donors who planned to cover the mortgage expenses could not fulfill their commitments, and after eight months the Mexican government removed all the boys living on site because the bureaucratic demands were too vague in order to comply. Those days were dark and difficult. It nearly resulted in selling the property and focusing solely on the homebuilding ministry.
The tides began to change in 1995 when Project Mexico received the relic of St. Innocent. Shortly afterward, a new Orphanage Director was hired who brought stability for 17 years to the program. Through tremendous labors, the mortgage was slowly paid off by the donations of hundreds of sacrificial believers.
Today we have a 16-acre ranch, which houses the largest Orthodox cross-cultural missionary movement in the world. The Gospel is being lived and is flourishing by God’s grace via Project Mexico. These fruits are the outcome of years of struggle and sacrifice that provided soil for the ministry to grow.
In the fast-paced modern world, we see the extreme growth of economies and societies because of better communication and technology. In the past several decades we’ve seen the world’s population, reliance on technology and consumption of increase three-hundred-fold. This type of growth can be overwhelming but at the same time, it can provide opportunities to capitalize and make the world a better place. This is essentially the message of the Gospel, to make the world a better place. God has come to save the world, to show all creation the path of light and love, to put an end to the curse of sickness, anxiety, and death.
Project Mexico is a ministry within the Orthodox Church to bring the message of God’s hope to the faithful and the afflicted. In the past six years our short-term missionary numbers have nearly tripled and the number of families annually who have received a home has more than doubled. The children impacted by the orphanage are experiencing a stability that is unprecedented. The Orthodox faithful living and ministering in Tijuana has hit record highs. Summer homebuilding interns are at full capacity.
Cautiously we give thanks to God for providing such results. I say cautiously because we need to keep our focus always on the ONE goal of salvation, not on the accounting of people being shuffled through. With all this in mind, we take to heart the Lord’s words...
“…open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35).
Project Mexico has the capacity to not only maintain this growth but to expand it significantly. The foundation has been provided through sacrifice, prayer and three decades of developing reliable infrastructure on our 16-acre ranch. Faithfully we persevere in doing God’s will. We pray to God that we are provided with the laborers and resources to continue and to grow the ministry of sharing the Lord’s compassion and love for the world.
Project Mexico and the St. Innocent Orphanage has 30 years of blessed history and with the Grace of God we will continue to labor in His Harvest for generations to come eagerly waiting for His glorious return.
This summer, in celebration of our 30 years of homebuilding, we’re launching our online community for home building alumni of Project Mexico! We recognize the importance of relationship and community to help us stay engaged and connected to the things that really matter. On projectmexico.360alumni.com members will share stories, photos and nurture friendships built during their service. Keep up to date with the latest news and information from the ranch and home building. Our goal is to help volunteers remain connected to acts of mercy before, during and most importantly, after their time building homes for families.
This Summer, volunteers are assigned to a group on our Alumni site along with all other parishes and volunteers from that week. Simply log in to activate your account. You'll have your own space to help finalize the last-minute details of your trip and connect with other groups coming out in the same week. You can share your experiences and stories and better yet, the ways in which God is moving you to live your faith in your own community.
None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful. - Mother Teresa
Organizing your own event? You can do it right here and share opportunities with other active Orthodox Christians all over the country.
At Project Mexico & St Innocent Orphanage, we want to keep the momentum going in whatever way you feel lead and sometimes all it takes is stepping out with a community behind you.
To sign up, contact email@example.com or set up your account below.
Alex was accepted to Hellenic College and began his journey recently.
Alex is a great inspiration for how supporting our School Buddies program can improve and change a life.
Check out this video shot and edited by John Touloupis.
School is just around the corner for our boys!
Please consider supporting their future through our School Buddies program.
Recurring or one-time donations can be made at 👉🏽http://weblink.donorperfect.com/schoolbuddy
I pulled out a greasy old aluminum pan and kicked on the stove. Searching the fridge, I finally found my eggs. I tossed a little bit of butter into the pan along with two slices of white bread. For the past two months, whenever I wanted a little alone time in Mexico, I cooked a small breakfast for myself. I found peace and harmony in the kitchen amidst the morning chaos as my nine roommates ran around brushing their teeth, checking tools for the worksite, and looking for missing work boots.
However, I wasn’t in the 800-square-foot intern house in Mexico cooking up my favorite breakfast meal, but rather back in my sweet home state of Alabama. There were no early morning shouts for keys to cars or people asking to borrow a pair of socks. Only silence and the sound of eggs frying in the pan.
I thought going home would be easy. I was wrong.
While I missed my family and friends dearly, I found comfort in my life in Mexico.
I got to go to church twice a day, a rarity for a college student like me. I spent time getting schooled in soccer by the boys on the ranch. A local man befriended me and helped show me the ways of construction, culture, and life in Mexico.
I saw poverty I’ve never seen before. People living in shacks made of scraps of plywood and garage doors. People living in holes on the side of the highway. Children with special needs peddling chocolate bars in the streets.
In the midst of all of this though, I saw some of the purest happiness I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ll never forget the excitement on a four-year-old’s face as we finished painting his new red house.
Words cannot do justice.
Each and every week when we started leveling the rocky terrain to pour a concrete pad we gave families hope. As I learned during my time in Mexico, we were not simply building homes, but building futures.
The houses we built for people like a loving grandmother, hard-working factory employees, or a mother trying to build a better for her four children were going to be more than a home to them. Not only did their new house allow them to stop paying rent on other's property, they now had a safe, secure place to protect them from weather, diseases, and intruders. Finally, the families had somewhere to build the rest of their lives.
I’ll never forget the joy a tough, young construction worker shared with me as we put the finishing touches on his roof one day. Through a crooked smile and soft tears in his eyes, he exclaimed how much he loved his new big house (Project Mexico houses are 13 feet by 26 feet).
Every single week, no matter the family, I saw tears of joy. They were tears of relief, comfort, and peace. While we served the families, they would serve us, cooking meals as an offer of thanks for our work.
It took seeing with my own eyes to learn happiness doesn’t come with material things. Since returning home, I have been living in a totally different world. But just because I’m home doesn’t mean my mission is over. I’m still learning the importance of our Orthodox faith to navigate these worlds.
While I’m not building houses anymore I know I’m going to take the importance of service and humble leadership I learned in Mexico and apply them to my life in the United States. I know just because I’m in a different world now doesn’t mean I have to change my lifestyle. The world is a pretty messed up place.
As Orthodox Christians, we should all strive to do just a little bit of good.
Opportunities for volunteering are now available
Two Ministries. Two Nations. One Hope.
After a beautiful month of building homes in Tijuana, Mexico, my fellow interns and I have compiled an essential packing list of must-haves for your trip.
We’ve been able to learn from first-hand experience and compiled what we believe to be the top five most important items to bring for your trip.
While not 100% essential, we think it’s good to bring the following:
- Sunglasses (preferably cheap ones, not your favorites)
- Sunscreen and Aloe (especially if you burn easily)
- Chapstick/Lip Balm
- Basic toiletries (you would be amazed by how many people forget soap)
- Chacos or Birkenstocks, a solid pair of shoes or work boots for build days
- Donations for the boys of St Innocent
Below are the Top Five essentials for your Mission work in Mexico!
Number 5: A Solid Hat
The sun in Baja can be especially brutal during long days on work sites. A good hat that covers your face and/or neck definitely helps keep the sun off of your face so you can maintain your energy levels throughout the day.
Number 4: Your Favorite Water Bottle
Like I said I said previously, it gets REALLY hot. Staying hydrated throughout your time on site and on the Ranch is absolutely crucial!
Number 3: Small Bills (No currency larger than $10)
During your trip, we may visit the city of Rosarito for lunch or dinner at the local taco shop, or for cool treats at an ice cream parlor. Most vendors don’t accept big bills, so having a couple of smaller bills in your pocket is always a smart idea.
Pro tip: If you can exchange dollars for pesos find the best rate with a simple google search and bring some!
Number 2: Snacks
After a long day of hard work, it’s good to have some of your favorite snacks back at the ranch. And even though the food on the Ranch is delicious, if you know you are the type of person who likes to snack late at night then definitely bring some.
Your fellow Interns will certainly be grateful if you remember to bring enough to share!
Number 1: Warm Clothes/Sweats
Yes! You read that right.
Surprisingly, the temperature drops into the 50s and sometimes as low as the 40s during the night. Also, the Ranch gets a cool breeze from the Pacific every now and then. Definitely have enough layers so you feel comfortable at night hanging and when it’s time to sleep.
All of us interns hope this list helps and we can’t wait to see you!
We're So Close!
We need to raise $4,000 for our annual family trip. These funds will help offset the costs of food, lodging and transportation for the boys and staff.
We are filled with joy and laughter when we are connected. Rest and recreation lifts our spirits. Our family trip is right around the corner and we've got a few things we could use your help with.
There are two ways you can help!
And now with Project Mexico's Amazon Smile account, .5% of your purchases will help support our efforts year round.
With your help, we can continue to grow and thrive!
The 7th Annual Arizona Walk for Missions took place Saturday, April 21, 2018, at Kiwanis Park, in Tempe, AZ. This is truly a Pan-Orthodox event. It is run by Pan-Orthodox Christians and supported by Pan-Orthodox clergy. This year’s attendance hosted 58 walkers, participating from eight different parishes from across Arizona.
Proceeds benefit both Project Mexico and OCMC.
This project began seven 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.
I was excited to represent Project Mexico this year. On the day of the walk, an opening prayer was delivered by His Grace Bishop Daniel (OCA) of Santa Rosa. Clergy in attendance included Fr. David Balmer and Fr. Deacon John Weiss, Sts. Peter and Paul, OCA, Phoenix; Fr. Michael Pallad, St. Haralambos (Greek), Peoria; Fr. Thomas Frisby, Exultation of the Holy Cross, (Romanian), Phoenix; Fr. Andre Paez, St. John the Evangelist, OCA, Tempe; along with Protaisa Laurel Frisby. Board Member, John Hrapchak represented OCMC. This was truly a beautiful day to share our ministries and participate in Pan-Orthodox fellowship while enjoying a 2.5-mile walk.
Arizona is an amazing place to visit in the spring. We encourage you to participate in next year’s Arizona Walk for Missions! Contact us if you or your community are interested in starting a walk for missions of your own. A huge Thank You to Antonia Adams Clement, lead coordinator and her committee, for their love and support.
Wow! What an incredible experience.
Here is a short video of the first group build of our 30th Anniversary year!