Seeing Lives Transfigured

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a worthy person in need of your help?

Kevin and Paul

Kevin and Paul

There are many such worthy persons—precious people shaped in God’s image—in Baja California, Mexico who need your help today. They will also help you, as they help remind you of your purpose on the earth. Twenty five boys make up the heart of St. Innocent Orthodox Orphanage. Each one of them is unique, worthy of your care. At the orphanage, each receives food and shelter; they also acquire life skills and a deep love for God. The orphanage is run by Project Mexico, and it is located in Rosarito, just 15 miles south of the US border at San Diego. St. Innocent Orphanage is a place of transfiguration, restoring all those who live and work there, as well as all those who visit and volunteer.

I have traveled to many places—the Poli, Oxford, London, Ochrid, Sophia, Patmos, Athens, and Guatemala City’s Hogar Rafael Orphanage. I have lived in Thessalonika, and, from there visited Mt. Athos four times. I have seen the Holy Light fall on Holy Saturday at the life-giving tomb of our Savior in Jerusalem. All of these are very special, some of them speak to us beyond words. However, Project Mexico’s St. Innocent Orphanage has a very unique grace about it. This ministry started in faith 22 years ago, and its founders, Greg Yoga with his wife Margaret, have kept the ministry alive with faith, love, perseverance and the grace of God.

At Project Mexico, one finds committed people of prayer doing the best they can with what few resources they have. Wonderful, dedicated, and very talented staff—some working as unpaid interns—face new challenges every day. Madi Franck, the always cheerful Work Trip Coordinator, is from Sts. Constantine and Helen parish in Palos Hills, Il. John Cosby, the amazing Director of Operations, is an American who grew up as the child of missionaries in Mexico. Assistant Director Geoff Bray—a man of many hats and many talents— is from Saskatoon, Canada. The several interns include Tim Morley from Irvine, CA, Joel Schaefer from Post Falls, ID, and Deanna Polan, also from Saskatoon. Other staff members work in the US office as well at the orphanage, but I didn’t have opportunity to meet them all during our past Holy Week when I was welcomed as part of the family. The work being done by these stewards is truly glorifying God. It’s an amazing thing to see, and very humbling.

If you, too, would like to experience the Orthodox Church in action, join me in marking July 12-18, 2011 on your calendars to partner with Project Mexico and build a home for a needy Mexican family. This trip will honor the memory of the beloved Archbishop Job who recently and unexpectedly fell asleep before he was able to participate in this, his requested retirement gift.

During this short week, we will build small, but strong and safe homes to take care of indigents currently living in shacks pieced together by cardboard and tarp. And you’ll see and hear for yourself what the Church in action looks and sounds like. We will stay at St. Innocent Orphanage and help beautiful human beings in need of assistance. At the end of each work day, we’ll return to the orphanage grounds, greeted by many smiling faces. When they are not working the fields, studying in class, doing other chores, or playing soccer, they may be found drumming with much gusto in the music room or praying in the quaint but beautiful San Inocencio Chapel where they come into the Holy Altar with awe, fear of God, and with love, chanting the “Senor, ten piedad”—Lord, have mercy—and Trisagion prayers with all their hearts.

You may agree with what I learned long ago growing up in San Antonio, that such as these can make the best Orthodox Christians because they don’t focus on tomorrow. They live for today, for right now. They feel they shouldn’t worry about mañana (tomorrow) when they have today. They gather around their tables with gratitude and enjoy every bite of food. They laugh, sing and work hard, undeterred. And as the chapel there has no pews, they stand— how they stand, even little children—for hours during long services such as Holy Thursday’s 12 evangelia /Gospels.

What can one take from a work trip to such a place? All I know is that I returned to my family in Kalamazoo, MI a new man, thankful for people such as Fr. Alex and Pres. Pearl Veronis who covered my expenses to St. Innocent Orphanage, and who consistently look to place God’s gospel, love and people before anything else. There really is hope for the Orthodox Church on our continent and while this hope can be witnessed in many places, one of them is certainly south of the border at Project Mexico and St. Innocent Orphanage.


A priest of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), Fr. Evangelos (Angelo) Pepps is available to assist anyone in any ministry from services to talks, workshops to consulting, especially to attract Youth, college students and resources to your community. To learn more about Share The Faith Ministries begun with the blessing of three visionary hierarchs, visit www.sharethefaith.net. Fr. Angelo’s regular podcast “OYA (Orthodox Youth on the Air)” will soon be heard at www.hellenicheartbeat.com. To contact him, call 269/492-4344 or write fre@sharethefaith.net. To sign up for the highly meaningful July, 2011 work week, see http://www.midwestdiocese.org/news_100317_2.html.

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