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St. Luke Gives A Hearty Ole'to Project Mexico
by Luke Kopulos

In an altitude of more than 20,000 feet, the taste of a sugary but ice cold soda quenched my thirst and for a while my nervousness. A certain question which I had asked myself numerous other times in my life had popped up again on the long flight to San Diego: what was I getting myself into? I still was clueless about the answer.

Approximately two weeks before my father had re-minded me. I was headed to San Diego, then to Tijuana, Mexico to meet up with a group called Project Mexico. My father had previously contacted the people of Project Mexico arranging my pickup upon arrival at the San Diego airport. The thought of doing missionary work in a foreign country far away from home scared me for a while, but gave me a sense of curiosity at the same time.

Project Mexico is an established ranch and orphanage that houses young boys from the ages of eight to sixteen. Located on the outskirts of Tijuana, it contained all the natural beauty of a Pacific coast city but is surrounded by poverty. Each year, many groups come down to Project Mexico to help out with specific jobs around the orphanage during their week stay.

In addition, during their week at the ranch the group also builds a house for a needy family in Tijuana. I was lucky enough to be part of one of these groups of about 25 people this past year. Everyday, after rising early in the morning we ate breakfast and went off to the "worksite," a designated place where we would build the house. When we got there we were met by the family for whom we were building the house.

As the week progressed we developed relationships with the family, as well as some of the neighborhood kids. By the end of the week these relationships became more and more meaningful.

The building of the home took five days. In those five days we poured cement base, framed in the wooden walls, and put on a roof. The walls were then stuccoed and tar and shingles completed the roof. The finished house was about 20 feet by 30 feet. On the last day of building a sense of accomplishment was floating in the air touching every member of the group. The family for whom the house had been built was emotional, and this sentiment in turn made us feel the same. It was truly a great gift in their eyes, first having nothing but a few pieces of plywood with a tarp over them then a house with windows and a door.

I learned a lot from this experience. Sleeping in tents, working long days, and even being able to use my Spanish helped me to become a better person, I believe. I learned the customs of a different country, its struggles and a way to help its people. Perhaps the best thing of all, though is that I had fun doing it, although at first glance the picture may seem to record only four people, actually many more are there. Everyone who built the house is present in spirit. All the people who worked to enable us to do that job are there. The picture tells me that I can make a difference in the lives of others, all I really need in life is the basics not the extras, not the cherry on top of the ice cream.

So what was I getting myself into, I known now exactly what that was, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

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