Shattered Expectations by John Touloupis


I didn’t think my Spanish was good enough. 

I didn’t think I could find the energy to lead groups while mixing concrete all day. 

I didn’t think I would be able to survive some days on eggs, rice, and peanut butter. 

I didn’t think I had the time to switch between serving as a normal intern to trying to capture the spirit of Project Mexico and the St. Innocent Orphanage. 

I was so wrong. 

Even though my Spanish isn’t great, it’s good enough to get by down here. While the work on the site is certainly hard, I found the drive to stay positive and help motivate my groups to push through the scorching Mexican sun and complete the hard days. I learned to love my morning breakfast tacos of huevos and frijoles (eggs and beans), my peanut butter sandwich lunch breaks on site, and I’m still working on the rice thing.

Somehow, I found time on the worksite to quickly snap a few pictures here and take a couple videos there to help share the essence of our work with the rest of the world. Overall, every expectation I tried to diminish before arriving a little over two weeks ago has been completely shattered.

For starters, my fellow interns helped me settle into a rhythm as we bonded in the first days over little things like favorite Netflix shows to binge watch, past Project Mexico experiences, and our lives back home. As we grew more comfortable, so did our friendships, diving into deeper topics such as our faith, mission, and purpose as we all partake in a truly unique internship unlike any other. For that, I’m grateful to my boss Erik Swanson for taking a chance on a college student from Ole Miss with only one home build under his belt. As I finished my first ever build last summer, I talked with Erik about the possibility of returning not just as an homebuilding intern, but as a homebuilding/social media hybrid combo.

I pitched to him photos, videos, blogs, and even floated the idea of a documentary. 

Armed with a list of ideas, unwavering optimism, and a camera I’m still learning to master, I set out to accomplish as much as possible this summer. Lo and behold, only a couple days into my new job, Tina Cooper the Volunteer Coordinator informed me that a documentary filmmaker named Adam Roberts was on his way down with a group of young teens from Nashville. Tina wanted me to help Adam in anyway I could while documented his team's build in Mexico. My job ranged from coordinating interviews, filming sound bites, or simply giving him a heads up on what’s going on or good content to look out for. 


Building Hope will highlight the importance of the youth’s need for strong, Orthodox mentors while also showcasing the positive aspects of putting our faith into action through service projects like Project Mexico. 

In my previous post, I wrote about my struggle with putting things I cannot control in God’s hands. When I get anxious or nervous, I like to be in total control so I can see things done my way. This summer, I wanted to learn how to let go of things and put more trust in God. Only two weeks in the Lord blessed me with an experienced documentary filmmaker to not only ease my burden and responsibilities, but also to help make my dream of sharing Project Mexico with the world come true. 

It’s incredible how some things just work out when you put your trust in the Lord.