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
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.