Project Mexico has three main goals: to operate St. Innocent Orphanage (a home for abandoned teenage boys in Tijuana Mexico); to build homes for poor families in Tijuana, who live in squalid dirt floor shacks; and to provide an opportunity for people of all ages, but specifically young people, to come and participate in the work itself and be blessed in the process. Operating St. Innocent Orphanage – taking care of the most vulnerable population of orphans in Tijuana – is a difficult task, but well known among supporters. You may not know as much about the homebuilding program, but The Order of St. Ignatius has also provided reliable support for the poor families in Tijuana in their times of need.
The end results of all of our hard work sometimes goes unnoticed for years, but be assured that we are helping to save lives on a daily basis, especially in the rainy season. Every winter, heavy rains are predicted for the regions of San Diego and Tijuana. Within a few days of the forecast, it is not uncommon to hear of children dying in the rain storms in Tijuana. Relentless downpours and powerful winds pound the area, toppling trees, shutting down schools, and canceling airline flights. Successive storms can include hail, torrential rain, driving winds, and lightning – making roads impassable and causing widespread power outages. When the media reports mudslides in California that wash away solidly-engineered homes built to strict building codes with the best construction materials possible, imagine what is happening on the hillsides of Tijuana, Mexico, where hundreds of thousands of people live in third-world poverty with only dirt-floor shacks for shelter. There, rain means the misery of being cold and wet, with nowhere to go to get warm and dry, and people – especially the young and elderly – die from the rains.
Ten short years ago in Wichita, Kansas, a group of Orthodox Christians wanted to reach out to struggling moms who had chosen to let their babies live. In addition to praying for them, we wanted to provide tools to help moms take their lives in a positive direction. The Treehouse was born.
Today, we have celebrated 15,755 birthdays and helped change over a quarter million diapers! Our goal is to practice our Orthodox faith daily in everything we do at The Treehouse, teaching moms that they are not alone in their struggles. We want them to know that, when their world seems like a very dark place, they have somewhere to turn for hope. We provide them and their babies with positive Christian role models and basic necessities, such as diapers, formula and an inexpensive thrift store. We offer, too, educational classes to nurture our moms so that their babies can flourish.
The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch and International Christian Charities (IOCC)
In the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13:1–23), Jesus explains to His disciples that the one “who receives the word on good ground is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Each year the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch makes a grant to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). This annual grant of $25,000 is much like the seed or word which falls on good ground. IOCC uses this “seed money” and leverages it with grants from governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and churchbased charities to bear fruit in abundance. Here are some examples:
by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, May 1967
“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with... ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at table. But when the disciple saw it, (they said) “Why this waste? This ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor. Jesus said... ‘She has done a beautiful thing to me. For the poor you always have with you, but you will not always have me.’” (Matt. 26:6)
Generally, there are two types of critics of the Church, both of whom see the Church imperfectly.
On the one side, there are the activists, whose idea of Christianity is almost exclusively that of social welfare. They see the need for action and reform at every level of society. Salvation as a goal is replaced by human improvement. Christianity is to witness to the world its concern for humanity.
The Church for the activists fails because it concerns itself with dogmatic Truths that are not “relevant” for “modern man.” The Church as an institution no longer “relates” to society; therefore, it must redeem itself.
At the other extreme are the contemplatives, who see everything in the light of eternity. This world is sinful and corrupt; it has always been so, and will be this way until the Second Coming. All this will pass, so there is no need to be concerned about world conditions… “God will provide” is their motto, so we waste our time getting involved in the world.
Giving is only truly giving if it is done in the love of Christ. We are told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, to love our neighbor as ourself, and to love one another as Christ has loved us. Giving for any lesser reason (to control others, to get glory for yourself, to escape false guilt) is a perversion of the gospel (see Galatians 1:7). These commands can be called Christ’s law of love. (Note that neither “law,” “rule”, “standard”, nor “precept” is a “dirty word” when rightly used and understood.)
St. Basil the Great said that this life is no accident, but is a training ground so that we rational beings may learn to know God. This is relevant to our stewardship of what we have, and to our giving, especially during the period from September through December, our annual “Giving in Stewardship Emphasis Season.” How shall we apply Christ’s law of love to our giving in Christian stewardship?
Let us review what we have considered together over the years. God’s word written, Holy Scripture, and Holy Patristics, our chief Orthodox sources, address three major topics in giving: motives, methods, and results. If we internalize what our sources have to say on these themes for our lives and our parishes, we will do well!
Before you roll your eyes, be glad that we have largely reviewed motives already. God loves us. For God so loved the world – us – that He gave his only begotten Son to the end that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). This is good news (gospel), and it is good news that motivates us to give!