Giving God’s Love: An Interview with Zachariah and Sophia Swanson of Project Mexico and Saint Innocent Orphanage

In honor of  Valentine’s Day, we are offering a series about those who return God’s Love to the community and the world through ministry and acts of service.

Today’s interview is with Zachariah and Sophia Swanson, graduates of Hellenic College-Holy Cross, who work as coordinators with Project Mexico and  St. Innocent Orphanage. They have been married since July 2014. 

Tell us a little about how the two of you met?

​​Sophia: Well my husband did most of the work. We spent three years in college together as good friends. The last year we became closer friends, but our relationship together as a couple began with his stunning words to me, “I love you.”

Tell us about your ministry and what is the most interesting part of it?

Zachariah: Project Mexico and St. Innocent Orphanage is a two-part organization. It is primarily an orphanage for Mexican boys (and one girl!) and secondarily a base for building homes in Mexico. Sophia and I are the work trip coordinators and are the only full-time staff needed for the home building aspect of the organization. We coordinate any groups who come to the ranch to help both during the non-summer months and during the summer. But of course the bulk of our work is making the summers happen when we build about 20 houses for families in our area. The most interesting part is the people. Everyone here at the “ranch”, as we call it, has truly become our family and we are also continually making friends in the local neighborhoods through our home building.

How does this ministry impact others: the participants, and the church?

​​​Sophia: A common feeling of the participants, after spending an intense week of hard labor while getting to know a family in a different culture, is of immense gratitude. Initially participants come down hoping to improve someone else’s life, but with God’s grace they leave feeling that they received more than they gave. And more than this, they share their labor and hearts with the locals who truly are our brothers and sisters. This surge of love and communion is a blessing from God.

Where do you see this ministry going short or long-term goals?

Zachariah: We hope to increase the amount of houses built during the non-summer months and generally increase the amount of work trips during these non-summer months. For the first time, we are going to build a house in the spring and hope to increase this amount next year.

Tell us about your roles in the ministry?

Sophia: Our position is split into two parts, one part is on the American side, the other on the Mexican side. We recruit volunteers to sign up for the summer build weeks and communicate with them as far as logistics and paperwork go. In addition to this, we design the summer schedules and programs for each build week. On the Mexican side of things, we select families to build for and prepare the worksites with materials and tools before the groups arrive.

How does your relationship as couple play into your work with the ministry?

Zachariah: The boys at the ranch watch every married couple and cannot help but make internal notes of what it means to be married. We want to be a couple that shows Christ through our love of each other.

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Sophia: This is our first job and home together. Because of this we are learning so much about each other and, in a way, how to dance together. I could never imagine doing this work without Zach; not only is the work extensive, it can often be heavy. To have another heart so close to mine sharing the burden is the best thing in the world.

How can readers assist in this ministry?

Sophia: In addition to joining us in the summer to build a house for a week, there are many other programs that people can partake in that help support us. Our boys can always use donations of food, school supplies, Christmas presents, etc. For a list of needed items, email us at homebuilding@projectmexico.org or visit our website for more information at projectmexico.org.

But more than any of these, PRAY FOR US + Prayer is what is keeping us afloat day after day. This place runs on prayers so please offer up a few Lord Have Mercy’s on our behalf.

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