Building Hope and Changing Lives (Ours and Others) in Mexico

“The Good Life. I am so thankful for the many theophanies a week at Project Mexico showed me, the greatest being a better understanding of what “the good life” is,” noted former Project Mexico intern Theodora Veronis. “A few days on this beautiful ranch is a condensed version of what life should be. It’s a life beginning and ending with prayer, yet including hard work, struggle, good conversation, laughter, sharing meals, caring for others, watching sunsets, dancing, praying through it all, and most importantly, loving deeply and fiercely. A good life is simple—one free of too much entertainment yet filled with wholesome moments. It’s a life where you admire those you surround yourself with and are proud of who you are becoming. It’s Christ centered and focused on doing His work. A week at Project Mexico encompasses all of these important ingredients for a good life.”

This description of Project Mexico summarized why our church family just completed our ninth trip to Tijuana, Mexico to build a home for those in need. This year we sent 24 people from our Church Family. Nineteen were a part of our 24 member team that spent a week sleeping in tents at Saint Innocent Orphanage while traveling to a worksite each day to build a very simple home for a special Mexican family. Simultaneous with our church team was another team of 26 young adults organized by Panayiota Veronis. This team included five from our Church Family. These two teams of 50 were a part of the overall 120 volunteers who built five homes this past week.

We even had the special blessing to be a part of building the 400th home by Project Mexico. Imagine, 400 families have received a simple, sturdy and secure home, over the past 30 years, and our church has now helped to build nine of those homes!

I researched our trips over the past 14 years and realized that 54 different people from our Church Family have now participated in Project Mexico, many of whom have gone numerous times. Our Church has also made it possible for another 93 people from outside our church family to join our groups since 2008. Think about that. Our Church has sent 147 different people down to build homes for Project Mexico. And everyone of these people has discovered the joy of sacrificing and serving others. Truly, this experience can change one’s perspective on life and has been a life-giving experience for many of its participants!

“This is the sixth time that I have gone on one of these trips,” Panayiota Veronis emphasized. “It has played such a formative role in my life from the time I was 12 years old that this year I wanted to do something different. I organized my own group of 26 young adults, who all came from Hellenic College’s CrossRoad Program and from the Metropolis of Boston Camp, so that they could experience a life-transformative event as I have experienced. All my teammates were of an age, between 19-22, when many of us are trying to figure out the meaning and purpose of life. I wanted my friends to discover the incredible joy of service and giving, something I’ve discovered over the years through Project Mexico.”

Listen to these comments from other participants:

“We helped to transform the lives of a dear Mexican family, Ramona and her two children, by giving them a stable home. Yet at the same time, all of us who went to Mexico were transformed and changed by what we experienced.”

Project Mexico was the best trip of my entire I hope to take every year for many years to come.  This trip brought new friends and old all together in a way I could have never imagined. The people in Mexico are beautiful and kind and alive in my heart forever. I’m so thankful for all we have and realize how fortunate we are. There’s too much positivity to express in a few words!” (Diane Hicks)

I longed to go to the Project Mexico since our church first began going. Every summer I heard stories and looked forward to the days when my kids would become teenagers and I could go with my them. There are so many highlights in this week-long journey - from crossing the border, to traveling through bumpy, dusty roads, to setting up camp, to the beautiful morning and evening prayer services, to meeting with our Mexican family and starting work, to watching the progress of the house each day, to the unbelievable interns that were always ready to help in any way possible, to finding a new bestie and sister in Diane and so much more. The highlight of the week was when Father Luke and Father Nick blessed the house and we gave them gifts – a rug, a blanket, flowers, a Bible, a prayer book, and then the keys to the house. We could see the warmth and love of God in the family’s tear-filled eyes; their hearts filled with gratitude and love. We were all crying. We experienced a Divine moment. I will have to remind myself of those moments when I feel sadness, despair, or disappointment. We are never alone because Christ is with us always and we should never feel alone because we have each other. That brings me to my second highlight. Having spent a week together with 25 people from our Church, I feel I know everyone a bit better, I feel like we know each other struggles a bit more, I feel like we have grown in love for each other. I feel like our bond in Christ is stronger because of this experience and I feel that there are not many places that help you strengthen that bond more than Project Mexico. (Evis Jordanoglou)

This was the most impactful and inspiring thing I have ever been a part of. It helped me see life in a different way and appreciate everything I have much more. I developed special relationships with my team members, the people in Mexico and especially with the family for whom we built a home.”

The house blessing was my favorite part of the trip, without a doubt quite emotional. To make someone else’s “dream” come true by simply providing simple shelter. As much as Ramona may be grateful to us for what we provided her and her family, I’m just as grateful to share this experience with her. This experience has taught me many valuable life lessons, strengthening my faith, growing my patience, helping me to reflect on all of my blessings and making me a more humble man. (Majd Sbat)

I sit here and wonder - how could these Mexican families be so loving, kind, and generous? They have very little to their name, they live in scrap pieced shelter, they struggle to afford the basic necessities of life (food, water, etc.) and most of them know that this is likely going to be their permanent state of life. However, these struggles have not “ruined” them - they are not bitter, mean, or cruel. Instead, they radiate love. After reflecting on this, I realized how I’ve viewed these people as poor, yet in truth they are richer than most of us because they are so immensely rich in faith. I will always carry this in my heart and whenever my own faith is weak, I will remember Ramona and these families. (Anisa Oparaku)

I learned that the Orthodox Church is alive, well and active and much greater than the local Greek Orthodox community to which we tend to limit ourselves. It was so encouraging to be working along so many different Orthodox Christians of like mind. I also thought about how much more we can be doing to help others. We went to Mexico and gave our time, but the long-term missionaries and the interns at Project Mexico are doing so much more and they need our support to continue to do their work. They are giving up so much to serve long-term – giving up their time with their friends and family, giving up many comforts. I realized how very important it is for us to continue supporting them with our encouragement and resources. Overall, the experience was incredibly rewarding. I went there to work the stupid out of my young teenage son...and I ended up getting just as much out of it as he did. The experience really opened my eyes to the needs not only of the impoverished in Mexico but of all people. It made me incredibly grateful for all I have. (Scott Usechek)

Project Mexico gave me a deeper perspective and appreciation for Mexico and the Mexican people. Going there was a reminder of the reality of people not so far from us. It impacted me in a very strong way. (Bradley Curving)

We left the comfort of the world in the United States for the discomfort of a far simpler week of service. At the end of the week, however, we came to realize how uncomfortable we are living in the comfortable modern world and how blessed it is living in service to your brothers and sisters in Christ. (Michael)

I was so touched when Ramona made lunch for us. They must have spent so much money on us, money they don’t have! Yet that was their way of showing hospitality. What a lesson we all can learn from!

“Project Mexico remains a highlight for me and our Church Family because this cross-cultural experience provides such a powerful opportunity that challenges us to live out the two great commandments of our faith – to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Everyone comes back more grateful for all we have in life, more oriented toward helping others, a bit detached from all the materialism of the world, and  discovering what love of God and what yearning for His kingdom is all about.” (Presbytera Faith)

Thank God for the holy work of Project Mexico and the Saint Innocent Orphanage. We thank all of you for praying for us and supporting this mission. And we deeply thank God for the opportunity and blessing we have had as a church family for participating nine times over the past 12 years, to take part in such a special work.

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