orthodox christian

30 Years - The Beginning by Father Nicholas Androchow

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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 God these 30 years are just the beginning.

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.

Exponential Growth
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. 

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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.

Striving for Good By John Touloupis

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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.

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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.

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