Forty-one students from Andrews Academy spent ten days of their holiday break serving on a project in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Dec. 31, 2023, to Jan. 10, 2024, with Maranatha Volunteers International, a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [Photo: Lake Union Herald]

Inter-America

Students Give Their Vacation Time, Build New Church Structure for Growing Adventist Congregation in the Dominican Republic

Over 40 students from Andrews Academy partner with Maranatha to provide a stable venue for worship

United States | Sidney Needles, for Lake Union Herald

In early January 2024, a group of 41 students from Andrews Academy in Berrien Springs, Michigan, spent ten days of their holiday break serving on a project with Maranatha Volunteers International, a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The group laid block walls for the Agape Adventist congregation’s new church building in the southeastern region of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from December 31, 2023, to January 10, 2024. After years of worshiping in whatever available space they could find, the 45-member congregation is grateful and excited to finally have an official church building of their own. “The church said we were an answer to their prayer,” said Gina Pellegrini, project coordinator for the team. “They were really grateful and thankful that things worked out for them to be able to have [a church building].”

In addition to construction work, student volunteers led community outreach efforts. They hosted a five-day Vacation Bible School (VBS) program for local children, which saw a turnout of about 50 kids each night. While the group of highschoolers taught kids about Jesus through songs, crafts, and Bible stories, other students shared the Gospel with adults during a five-night evangelistic series for the local Adventist congregation and surrounding community.

Every other year, Andrews Academy students travel somewhere in the world to serve a community in need. The school collaborated with Maranatha on past trips, until the number of students signing up began to dwindle and the COVID-19 pandemic limited travel options, explained Pellegrini. After arranging trips independently for several years, Andrews Academy gained enough student interest to team up with Maranatha once again this year. Pellegrini appreciates Maranatha’s construction projects because they give teenagers the opportunity to see the tangible results of their hard work. “There’s some satisfaction in building something from the ground up,” she said.

Students on this trip shared Pellegrini’s opinion, enjoying the fulfillment of hard manual labor despite sweltering temperatures. When offered a day off from the jobsite to prepare for that night’s VBS program, one group of students turned it down. They had already prepared their portion of the program and chose a day of physically demanding blockwork instead. “They didn’t want to take a day off. They wanted to stay at the jobsite. I have not experienced that before,” remarked Pellegrini.

For senior Marco Sciarabba, the most impactful moment of the trip was when he heard the story of how the church started from a small group of people in the upstairs of a house. “The trip made me see the power of prayer in a real-life example,” he said. “It gave me a new perspective on how important prayer really is and also proved that God is so good and that He will provide always; all we have to do is have faith.”

Maranatha organizes mission trips for private volunteer groups, like Andrews Academy, and teams that are open to join. These groups build churches, schools, water wells, and other urgently needed structures around the world. Since 1969, Maranatha has constructed more than 14,000 structures and more than 2,200 water wells in nearly 90 countries.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division website.

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