Ministry

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.

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.