The Volunteer Summer 2020

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VOLUNTEER A Publication of Maranatha Volunteers International

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How Maranatha is continuing to build community during a pandemic



Julie Z. Lee Editor Heather Bergren Managing Editor/Designer Dustin Comm Writer

UNITED STATES HEADQUARTERS: Maranatha Volunteers International 990 Reserve Drive Suite 100 Roseville, CA 95678 Phone: (916) 774 7700 Website: Email: IN CANADA: Maranatha Volunteers International Association c/o V06494C PO Box 6494, Station Terminal Vancouver, BC V6B 6R3 CANADA All notices of change of address should be sent to the Maranatha Volunteers International United States address.

Maranatha spreads the Gospel throughout the world as it builds people through the construction of urgently needed buildings.

PARADISE, CALIFORNIA, USA As a member of the kitchen crew, Lynette Holm, from Oregon, happily slices tomatoes for an upcoming meal on Maranatha’s second Paradise Shed Project. Holm has been on plenty of mission trips overseas, but this was her first Maranatha experience. While it was an unusual circumstance because of COVID-19 requirements (masks, distancing, and new cleaning processes) and because of another fire that broke out in the area during the project, Lynette said it was a good experience. “It was a lot

of fun,” she says. “I enjoyed all the ladies that I worked with—we made a lot of food!” Indeed, a team of 18 women worked together to feed about 100 volunteers a day. Cooking such a massive volume of food meant working long hours that could start at 5 a.m. and stretched into the evening. Being on the kitchen team is always a demanding job and the most important. After all, where would the rest of the volunteers be without the delicious meals for which Maranatha projects have come to be known?


Photo by Susan Woods

About the Cover: Sam Aleksic is all smiles while on a renovation project at Pacific Union College in California. He is one of the hundreds of volunteers who have been able to serve in the United States during the pandemic. Photo bywJulie Z. Lee




I remember walking through a small village in India years ago. A tiny lady grabbed my arm and held it tight. Her strength and intensity scared me a little. She was barefoot with three toddlers hanging on to the remains of her dirty sari. An infant was bouncing on her tiny hip. There she stood in front of her house made of cow manure, in the middle of a village made entirely of cow manure. She was stunning! If she had been born into different circumstances, she could have been a movie star or a model. But here she stood, in this cow manure village, intense, strong—an island of power in the middle of chaos. “I want to go there,” she said. “I want to go to this city they talked about last night, this Heaven city. Is there a train? How long does it take?” Her words shocked me. What? She wants to get on a train and just ride the rails to heaven? It was all very real to her. “I want to go to this Heaven city.” “Yeah, me too,” I thought. Don’t you? Right now, many of us are feeling the chaos of being out of our comfort zones. And maybe that’s part of our own personal “mission trip” for the time

being. We don’t even have to go outside of our own house to experience change or adventure. Chaos is almost knocking at our front door, eager to come in and disrupt what little peace we have left! I want to go to this Heaven city! Every week at the Maranatha staff meeting, we hear stories of people coming to God all around the world. They are searching for truth. They are searching for an anchor. They are searching for love! They want to go to that “Heaven city.” So, what is Maranatha doing right now in the middle of this pandemic to help them get there? What are we doing in the middle of this strange “mission trip” that has taken us all out of our comfort zone? We are doing the same thing we have always done: We are moving forward. God is NOT telling us to stop. We need to keep moving forward. We need to keep building schools and churches and wells while there is still opportunity. Because even though a water well may not seem like a Bible study, it can save a life. And didn’t Jesus address the physical before addressing the spiritual? And while a school may appear

humble and unassuming, it can bring about powerful change. Education can be the “magic carpet” to a better life. Education can change an entire society. Education can lead one to God. And while a church may look basic to some of us, it is a whistle, a flashing light, a flag. It calls, it screams, it quietly whispers: “We believe in God—right here! On this spot!” Like a flag waving strong in the middle of chaos, the church itself marks the presence of believers. It’s saying, “You will find believers here, right here. Come and see the God we have found. You can trust Him. He is dependable. You will find yourself falling in love with Him. We did!” That’s what God is doing with Maranatha, right now in the middle of a pandemic. “I want to go to this Heaven city.” The Heaven city isn’t far away. Do you feel it, friend? Let’s help wave the flag and find that train! Laura Noble works in donor relations for Maranatha. T H E V O LU N T E E R SUMMER 2 0 2 0 | 3



A snapshot of volunteers and projects in the mission field.

UNITED STATES Nearly 200 volunteers constructed 118 storage sheds in Paradise, California, braving extreme heat and smoke from nearby wildfires. The sheds will allow survivors of the 2018 Camp Fire to keep their belongings safe from weather and theft.

INDIA Happy church members use the new water well at the Nakti Seventh-day Adventist Church. 4 | THE VOLUNTEER SUMMER 2020

KENYA Maranatha’s drilling crew hits water for another grateful community, totaling nearly 30 wells in Kenya so far this year.

BRAZIL President of the Adventist Church in Pernambuco, Pastor Otimar dos Santos (left), and local pastor Daniel de Paula (right), celebrate the installation of a new Maranatha water well and tank at the Nova Chã Seventh-day Adventist Church.

KENYA In August, Maranatha’s drilling team provided a clean water well to the Maasai Development Project Education Center.

INDIA Crews are nearing completion on the new campus of the Jingshai Mihngi Adventist School. Currently, nearly 500 students learn in dilapidated sheds located directly next to an open sewer line.

UNITED STATES Volunteer Robert Fuller of Tennessee prepares the floor of a men’s dorm room for renovation at Pacific Union College in California.

ZAMBIA In August, our One-Day Church crew built a new structure for the Tundura Seventh-day Adventist congregation. T H E V O LU N T E E R SUMMER 2 0 2 0 | 5

News + H I G H L I G H T S

More than 70 people joined Ultimate Workout on Zoom, Maranatha’s first virtual mission trip.



ach year during the month of July, Maranatha usually welcomes 100-200 teen volunteers for Ultimate Workout, an annual mission trip for high schoolers. However, because of COVID-19, this year’s physical project was traded for a virtual one. “It was frustrating to cancel our project in Peru, but we had a few meetings with our volunteer leaders and decided to move forward with a virtual experience,” said Maranatha’s director of volunteer services, Lisandro Staut. “As we would do in the field, the project focused on service and spiritual development.” More than 70 people joined a series of online meetings which spanned two weekends. Each program featured fellowship, prayer, a spiritual challenge, and discussion. During the week, teens 6 | THE VOLUNTEER SUMMER 2020

were encouraged to get creative and safely volunteer in their own communities. These volunteers served in a variety of ways, like writing letters to nursing homes, sending donations to shelters, and completing yard work. “For returning volunteers, it provided a way to reconnect and strengthen the bonds of friendship that were formed on previous trips, as well as reconnect with Christ through service,” said Maranatha’s long-time Ultimate Workout coordinator, Rebekah Shephard. “For new volunteers, it was an introduction to Ultimate Workout, and many ended the week-long experience excited to join Ultimate Workout next year in Peru!” Next year’s Ultimate Workout will

be from July 15-25, 2021. Volunteers will build two new churches in an area outside Lima, the capital of Peru.



lthough international travel is currently limited, a group of Maranatha volunteers recently completed a project at Blue Mountain Academy in Pennsylvania. Volunteers braved extreme heat and humidity to renovate part of the girls dormitory by installing flooring, constructing closets, and applying fresh paint. Although the group was smaller than a normal North America project, they were able to finish 17 rooms over the course of their time on campus. Because of COVID-19, extra safety measures were in place like face masks, social distancing, and daily temperature checks. Still for many, it was a chance to experience some semblance of normalcy amidst the changes the pandemic has rendered. “People were glad to be out of their houses, away from news, and it made a difference for people, especially the first

timers,” said volunteer Jeanice Riles. “It wasn’t a normal project, so we tried to let them know this isn’t quite how we do it. But people were so thankful to just be ‘out.’” Despite the unique circumstances, familiar themes emerged from past projects. Bonding between the volunteers still happened as they worked

together to overcome challenges and meet the end goal. “It was amazing we were able to accomplish the things we did, with the size of the group we had,” said volunteer Ernie Riles. “It seems like God always sends the right people to do the right things. God was in this project.”



or decades, a Maranatha convention has been a welcome tradition in the Fall. This year, due to COVID-19, the event was replaced by a special two-hour television broadcast event. On September 19, “Mission: Maranatha-Virtual” featured a line up of special videos focused on the work that has been taking place in 2020, during the pandemic. The program also shared volunteer testimonies and past musical performances from Wintley Phipps. Similar to the physical event, Maranatha also offered a free online seminar for those interested in Planned Giving on Friday, September 18. After the main broadcast on Sabbath, people were invited to join a “Virtual Lobby” on Zoom. The event welcomed people to chat and ask questions to Maranatha staff and country directors from around

the world. The program aired on 3ABN and Hope Channel. The entire broadcast is also available for watching, on demand, on our website, YouTube, Facebook,

and The Maranatha Channel on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and the app on iPhone and Android.

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Maranatha’s first mission trip during COVID By Julie Z. Lee


d Jensen was skeptical. By the time the scheduled Milo Adventist Academy project, in Oregon, was set to take place, the United States would have been three months into the coronavirus pandemic. Certainly restrictions had loosened in some areas, but there were enough hotspots in the country to keep Jensen doubtful that the Maranatha project would actually take place. “You know, I went on a project in February to Alabama. Then, I had three projects lined up in April and May. But they were all—those months were totally blocked out,” says Jensen, who is a Maranatha board member and has led multiple North America projects in the past few years; he was scheduled to lead Milo, too. “And I thought, they’ll probably block out June, too, because the outside statistics of COVID infections and all were going a little crazy. I fully expected this to never happen.” “But then nobody was saying no,” says Jensen, who is cautious and methodical by nature. “Nobody was saying no.”

“People come in full faith and trust that Maranatha does a quality project.”


ust 67 miles from where Jensen was at home in Corbett, Oregon, mulling over the pros and cons of a project during COVID, Leroy Kelm was getting antsy at home in Salem. Kelm, a retired missionary and contractor, is not one to sit still; in fact, he admits he’s terrible at it. Much of his


Volunteers line up distanced and masked for a group photo. As the first project during COVID, Maranatha implemented a number of new safety measures for the participants—none of which hindered the volunteers’ energy to complete the renovation work at Milo.

T H E V O L U N T E E R S P R I N GPhoto 2 0 2by 0 Ed | 9Jensen

Photo by Lisandro Staut

Photo by Lisandro Staut



Photo by Ed Jensen


post retirement life has been spent on North America projects with Maranatha, and the last few months of sheltering in place had practically been torture. “I get bored and depressed, and I need to get out and do something,” says Kelm. He wasn’t the only one. Kelm is part of a tight-knit group of volunteers. Many of them travel from project to project, treating each as a mini-reunion of sorts. And most of them share Kelm’s DNA for needing to stay active. Kelm was slated to lead construction at Milo, and he was anxious to get out and serve. “I did call a few people and [asked] ‘What do you think?’ And they said, ‘Well, I’m getting bored. I need to get out and do something. So let’s get out and do it. So most of the people are really receptive about getting out and [getting] something done,” says Kelm. For Maranatha, the situation was more complicated than providing a cure for cabin fever. After all, every Maranatha mission trip had been postponed or canceled since mid-March. International trips were postponed indefinitely due to travel restrictions from various countries. But in the United States, certain areas were opening up—including Douglas County in Oregon, where the project was supposed to take place. “We knew that volunteers were itching to get out and serve. And of all the places we could go, Milo is isolated. It’s in the forests of southern Oregon and fairly rural,” says Kyle Fiess, vice president of projects for Maranatha. In other words, if Maranatha was going to step back into coordinating volunteer projects, Milo—with its naturally quarantined environment—would be the perfect place to start. So in May, Jensen and Kelm made a site visit to the campus to assess the situation. In the meantime, the team at Maranatha headquarters continued studying the county and state guidelines for gatherings, researched best practices for COVID safety, and carefully crafted a plan for Milo. “[People] come in full faith and trust that Maranatha does a quality project, and that we’ve got this thing figured out. I don’t know if I’ve got it all figured out, but I will follow protocol, and do the best we can,” says Jensen. The project was slated to start on June 9, 2020, with 50 volunteers.

“We knew that volunteers were itching to get out and serve.”


f Jenson was worried about running a safe project, he couldn’t have been better prepared. From the volunteers registered for Milo, Jensen had a physician and four retired nurses. Four of the five medical professionals joined Jensen’s medical team. Unlike most projects, where the medics are on hand for the rare injury


Photo by Ed Jensen


or headache, this group had a detailed plan to decorating, refinishing cabinets that are starting implement and monitor each day. The process to look rough,” says Dave Allemand, project started as volunteers entered the main dining hall manager at Milo Academy. for breakfast. “We have eight major buildings on the campus “In the mornings we take the volunteer’s oval proper, plus 13 lawns we mow, plus we have a temperature, and they use hand sanitizer,” says 400-acre property—plus the junior camp. And we Arlene Wickham, a retired infection control nurse have one maintenance person that takes care of all with 30 years of experience, from McMinnville, that,” says Allemand. Oregon. “We do it again in the evening. We According to Allemand, Maranatha’s help each record [whether] they passed. We want to have summer has been critical to helping keep up with a trail for if Douglas County health department all the necessary improvements, and he’s grateful does show up, we’ll have proof that we’re the volunteers were able to make it this year. monitoring and tracking everybody.” “We really want to thank Maranatha for coming The team also marked off spots on the floor because without them, it would take a lot longer where people stood in line for food, which was to improve our campus. And every year we can served to them by masked volunteers. Chairs at see improvements. But it improves much faster the tables were limited in number and separated and much better with Maranatha’s help for two to create distance between each person, unless weeks. Because 50 people in two weeks can do a you were part of the same family. High contact lot more than one person can do in 52 weeks,” he areas, including tables and chairs, were disinfected says, laughing. regularly. Masks were required for all volunteers when not eating and when indoors—even during hile the masks and social distancing didn’t worship. Many in the group stayed in their trailers slow down the work, some volunteers felt or RVs; the others stayed in private dorm rooms. it changed the vibe of the North America project. For the most part, everyone adjusted easily to Projects in the United States and Canada draw a the COVID protocol, and volunteers focused large contingent of retirees who choose to travel on the work at hand. It was Maranatha’s third from one project to the next, fitting in half a renovation project at Milo, and there was much dozen mission trips a year. Therefore, each trip work to get done. is filled with more familiar faces than complete “So the scope of the project this year is two strangers. As a result, the camaraderie is strong house remodels, and our oval [covered walkway] and hugs are an important part of the culture—a that keeps our students dry in the wintertime culture that was somewhat being stifled because from the wet rains is being re-faced and re-sided so that it doesn’t rot away and doesn’t fall away on of COVID. “We can’t go up and hug somebody. I’m us. So that’s a big plus. There’s a lot of renovating a hugger and I love to hug people and say, going on in the girls dorm rooms. Painting,



1 Arlene Wickham checks the temperature of first time volunteers, Ernesto and Josefina Davis. 2 Participants stand six feet apart while waiting to grab their meal. 3 Sharon Kelm (center) and Julie Kamada (right) bring snacks to Ken Sheldon. The snack team regularly visited the work sites to provide volunteers drink and treats. 4 Volunteers work on rebuilding one of the staff houses, a major job that involved tearing the original house down to the studs.

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Photo by Ed Jensen


‘Welcome!’ This is my family. And that’s been a little tough for me,” says Kelm. It may seem trivial in light of all the good work the volunteers accomplish. But the social aspect of each project fulfills, in part, a very important facet of Maranatha’s mission to build people. And Kelm, who has been on 34 projects with Maranatha, sees the act of “building people” as an important part of his job as a leader. Says Kelm, “You know, I guess, as I’ve traveled and met people and talked with people, there’s a lot of people who come to Maranatha who are broken. They have broken families. They have broken relationships. And there’s just a lot of stories out there that when they come here, they’re accepted. Nobody judges them from what their past was or where they’ve been or what they’ve come through. They just love them and say, ‘Hey, you’re part of our Maranatha family.’ So people, when they come here and experience for the first time what Maranatha does here, it just becomes very special. And they say, ‘Wow, I’d like to come back.’” This was certainly the case for Wes Wilson, a retired general contractor from Etna, California. Wilson says he’d long wanted to go on mission trips with Maranatha, but it hadn’t been feasible with work and family. Then, Wilson went through a period of challenges and devastating loss when his wife passed away. As he adjusted to a new chapter in his life, he remembers watching Maranatha Mission Stories. “I was watching 3ABN quite a bit, and what’s her name—Hilary Macias—she was on there. And she would promote Maranatha and ‘you need to come’ and all that. And it was kind of like the Lord was saying, ‘Yeah, you better go.’ I put it off, and I watched another one, and it got more stringent, more urgent. [I said,] ‘Okay Lord, I’ll go,’” recalls Wilson. So he loaded up his car with tools and drove toward his first Maranatha project, in Vancouver, Washington. But the closer he got, Wilson got cold feet. He asked himself, “Oh wow. Boy—do I really want to do this?” It’s difficult to imagine a grown man getting anxious about joining a group of adults in construction work, but Wilson isn’t the first person to admit a case of the nerves on their first mission trip. Jim Frei, from Winnemucca, Nevada, had a similar reaction upon driving to his first Maranatha project—he actually turned his car around and headed home before regaining the courage to turn back. Frei says that what calmed his nerves was when a volunteer approached him within minutes and welcomed him with a big hug. Coincidentally, Wilson’s very first friend on his very first Maranatha project was Frei.

“The part of feeling included with people is a big part of the human experience... people who join Maranatha, you become part of the group.”


Photo by Ed Jensen

“I finally found the place and drove in and started working. And [Frei] walked up, and he gave me a big greeting, gave me a big hug. Told me a lot of his story,” says Wilson. “I like the fellowship and the friendship. And the more I worked, the friendlier I got, and I enjoyed the work.” Since then, Wilson has been on eight projects with no plans to stop. He believes that the spirit of Maranatha is antithetical to what’s happening in the world with COVID. Whereas the coronavirus has isolated people, Maranatha is bringing people together in a meaningful way. “The part of feeling included with people is a big part of the human experience… people who join Maranatha, you become part of the group. You make friends with them. They treat you as an equal and welcome you at every step of the way,” he says. And even though the rules hampered the style of Maranatha projects at Milo, they didn’t dampen the spirit of what Wilson experienced on his first project and ever since. One evening after supper, Kelm surprised volunteers Claudia and Wendell Bobst with a special cake and sparkling cider for their wedding anniversary while fellow volunteers cheered in celebration. Twice daily worships still included shared testimonies and reflections on faith. Conversations thrived during mealtimes and work, even through distance and masks. Everyone knew the names of the first-time volunteers on the project, so they could ensure they were always included. “I read an article that said, we don’t social distance, we physically distance. So we can come together socially, safely,” says Michelle Buenafe, a



Photo by Ed Jensen


Photo by Lisandro Staut

physician from Arizona, who brought her three young sons on the project as a way to safely serve during COVID. “We can come together and do these works together while being safe. We don’t have to live in isolation right now. We don’t have to live in isolation, ever.” Given the slow development of a treatment or vaccine for the virus, it seems that masks and social distancing could remain part of the mission trip equation for a little longer, depending on the situation. But while hugs are discouraged, human connection is not. So Maranatha will continue to push forward, carefully planning projects wherever and whenever possible. “I believe that it’s important to maintain some semblance of [normalcy] even amid a pandemic,” says Gary Smith, a retired nurse and painter from California who has been on more than 30 projects. “Needs don’t go away just because there’s a pandemic, and many projects have already been cancelled. So I think it’s important to make a start somewhere and get out there and start... stretching God’s promises and calling on Him to say, ‘Lord, we want to continue this organization and continue our volunteering, and go ahead and step out in faith and do the work you’ve called us to do.’”


1 A crew works on the covering over the main walkway of campus. Many of these men have served on multiple North America Projects together. 2 Volunteers put the finishing touches on the exterior of a staff home. 3 Lynda Hardwick enjoys the sunshine as she helps with weeding and landscaping. 4 Volunteers work on renovations in the girls’ dormitory, including sewing curtains.

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Maranatha’s local crews sustain the work during the pandemic By Dustin Comm Photos provided by Maranatha staff


top a hill near the town of Jowai, India, in March 2020, one of Maranatha’s local crews was hard at work on the Jingshai Mihngi Adventist School. The school is in desperate need of a new campus; it is currently situated next to an open sewer line in ramshackled buildings. Despite the horrendous facilities, Jingshai Mihngi attracts many students from the local community because of its high test scores and caring staff. Yet, for years, families have been patiently waiting for a better setting and infrastructure for their children. Now, their dreams were becoming reality, as work was underway, led by site leader Braj Pal. Pal has worked for Maranatha in India since 2002, and he has worked on many projects like Jingshai Mihngi. But this one took a turn that Pal had never experienced. When COVID-19 began to lock down India, it included the crew’s work in Jowai. “I heard about it on the news,” said Pal. “Our prime minister announced that he would address the nation.” “I thought it might be locked down for one day or maybe a week. I was supposed to go home to visit my family in another state, but I had told one of our workers, ‘You go first, and I’ll take my leave after you.’” But the timing of the lockdown meant it would be months before Pal himself could return home. After shutting down construction briefly, the team asked local officials if they could get back to work, but they were denied. A couple days later, they returned, promising to adhere to safety measures like social distancing, wearing masks, and using hand sanitizer. Maranatha’s country director in India, Vinish Wilson, recalls local officials trying to understand the urgency of this project in the face of such an extraordinary situation. “The question was asked to us, ‘Why are you in such a hurry to start this work?’” says Wilson. “And we said, ‘The day this lockdown ends and school is open, these kids will not have a proper place to go to school.’ We showed them pictures of the old school. So the leaders saw these conditions, and we told them about the open sewer line, and they said, ‘OK, you can start working again, making sure that you maintain social distancing, and keep all of the norms and regulations in place.’” Also helpful in gaining permission was the crew’s decision to shelter-in-place at the work site. The new campus is removed from the main town, and the men worked, ate, and slept in the classroom buildings each day. “We cooked all of our own food,” says Pal. “We didn’t always get to have the most familiar food, but the principal brought us food, and we were thankful.”




Beyond living conditions, other challenges sought to derail the work, like large amounts of monsoon season rain, constantly halting the work. A cyclone passed through. “Almost daily rain for more than three months. Every day,” says Pal. With interstate travel restrictions, construction materials didn’t arrive for months. These same restrictions prevented the workers from traveling to their home states to be with their families. Some were stuck at the school for months. As the site leader, Pal was away from his wife and two young children for more than half a year. “I knew they were safe at home, but one time there was a snake in the house, and I felt bad because there was nothing I could do.” Faith pushed Pal forward through these trials. “Sometimes we didn’t know what would happen, we didn’t know much about COVID-19, and we were isolated at the work site. But we prayed every day.” Because of the dedication and determination of Pal and his team, the new Jingshai Mihngi school campus is nearly complete. Across India, our local crews overcame unique challenges, safely and responsibly, constructing new churches and drilling water wells throughout the pandemic. Soon after work resumed at Jingshai Mihngi, our crews in the state of Kerala received permission to continue constructing churches, and water wells followed. As interstate travel restrictions eased, church materials were transported to the state of Tamil Nadu for construction. Wells were drilled in Tamil Nadu, the state of Jharkhand, and in the Sundarban Islands, where materials must be brought in by boat. Around the world, after an initial pause at the start of the pandemic, other Maranatha teams began working too. Many of them, like Pal, were separated from their families for months as they sheltered in place to continue the mission. In Côte d’Ivoire, our local crew completed a church in Anan, as well as a church and classrooms in Abbebroukoi. They are now constructing a new secondary school in the town of Niangon. In Kenya, our local crew received permission to continue the transformation of the Kiutine Adventist School. They added new landscaping, additional facilities, and a campus church. At the Kajiado Adventist School and Rescue Center, our team constructed secondary school classrooms, dormitories, and bathrooms. One-Day Church and well-drilling crews were allowed to travel into the bush and have constructed more than 60 churches and drilled 30 wells so far in 2020. And in Zambia, our team has been sheltering



in place at the Emmanuel Adventist Secondary School, constructing a three-classroom building and a girls’ dorm. In 2020, our One-Day Church team has constructed more than 50 churches and 100 communities have new wells in Zambia, providing life-giving water to all. Around the globe, our teams’ dedication to the mission has been unwavering throughout this historic time in our world. Looking back on Maranatha’s own history, one can see a similar thread of resolve in our founders–people so devoted to the mission, they made personal sacrifices and lived uncomfortably at times. In 2020, our field staff have embodied this spirit of steadfastness and resolve, and because of them, the mission has not stopped in these countries. In fact, it is flourishing, even in the face of the pandemic. Maranatha will always be synonymous with volunteers–they are the heart and soul of our mission. But the next time you’re praying for the Maranatha, keep our crews in the field at the top of your list. For years, they have proven to be the behind-the-scenes backbone of Maranatha’s work, and during this pandemic, they have stepped up and out in faith to continue sustaining the mission.


1 Maranatha employee Braj Pal is reunited with his family after nearly seven months apart due to India’s COVID-19 lockdown. 2 Maranatha’s well-drilling team in Kenya. 3 Part of Maranatha’s construction team in Côte d’voire in the fabrication shop. 4 The Jingshai Mihngi crew sheltering in place on the construction site in India. 5 The team sheltering in place at the Vakkad Seventh-day Adventist Church in India.

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THE CONTINUALLY GROWING MISSION IN INDIA Maranatha’s early work in the country is still making an impact By Julie Z. Lee Photos provided by Maranatha staff


t’s a request that Don Noble, president of Maranatha Volunteers International, will never forget. In 1998, Maranatha Volunteers International was considering a major project in India, and Noble met with the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in India, to discuss the possibilities. “He said, ‘Hi, I’m Ron Watts, and I have a request. I would like Maranatha to build 10,000 churches for us,’” remembers Noble. “I’d heard some of these types of requests before, and usually what happens is that they’re just pulling this stuff out of the air, and it’s not well researched or thought through. So I said, ‘I tell you what. Why don’t you put that in writing? And then we’ll be able to analyze it more specifically.’” The next day, Watts handed Noble a note that stated his vision to have a million new members in the church—a goal that would require 10,000 new churches. Noble was intrigued by the idea and agreed to help. Soon after, Maranatha started working in India, providing places of worship and education. The project became so extensive that Maranatha even established a permanent office and team in the country. Twenty-two years later, India continues to be a major focus for Maranatha’s work. “We haven’t built 10,000 churches in India, but we’ve built over 2,000, and they have 1.1 million members. So that piece of the vision—dream that Ron Watts had—has been accomplished,” says Noble. India now has one of the highest Adventist memberships in the world. And even as Maranatha is about 8,000 churches shy of the 1 original request, the team is continuing to build churches as congregations have multiplied in direct response to the structures that were constructed. This year, Vinish Wilson, Maranatha’s country director in India, has been receiving reports from various areas where Maranatha worked more than two decades ago. The stories of impact have been remarkable for many areas. One of the first places that Maranatha worked was Haryana, a state where the population is predominantly Hindu and Sikh. In 1999, Maranatha started building churches in the state for an evangelism effort by Global Mission, a mission program of the Adventist World Church. That November, Maranatha organized our very first volunteer project in India in the city of Barara. The goal

“In a country of 1.3 billion people, so many don’t really have any idea at all of the salvation being offered by the God of the universe.”




was to build a new church for an Adventist group with exactly two members: the pastor, Sharan Masih, and his wife. Today, there are about 400 members at the Barara church. During special events, such as Christmas or the 13th Sabbath, there can be up to 1,500 people in attendance, sitting in the church and outdoors under tents. There are at least five established congregations, within a radius of three miles, as a direct result of the church, and additionally, there are 15 companies under the leadership of Pastor Masih. Another area where Maranatha worked was Western Jharkhand, located in the eastern part of India. Maranatha ultimately built 46 churches in the region. Today, not only are these churches thriving, they have also planted 103 daughter congregations. “Eighty percent of churchgoers in the Western Jharkhand Section are worshipping in Maranathaconstructed churches,” says Wilson. “As a direct result of the churches that Maranatha built in this region, Western Jharkhand Section is the first selfsupporting mission field in the Northern India Union.” The first Maranatha churches in the region were constructed between 1999-2000; Maranatha returned to the area in 2017 to build 16 more churches for the new congregations that grew from the original 46. In Eastern Jharkhand, Maranatha built 13 churches from 1998-2000, which established 42 daughter congregations. Then in 2011, Maranatha returned to the regions to build another 37 churches. But the churches had an even greater impact than increased membership; these


churches then helped to establish seven Adventist schools, which have educated more than 5,000 students over 21 years. “Today, we stand at the threshold of Jesus coming, and these souls saved and the ones which are going to be saved will stand as a testimony of what Maranatha has done to enhance His kingdom. Thanks is just not enough for what has been done for [Eastern Jharkhand],” said Alfred Kisku, president of the Adventist Church in Eastern Jharkhand, in a letter of gratitude to Maranatha. In 2020, Maranatha is continuing to build in India, even through the COVID-19 crisis. After a brief lockdown, the crew in India began working in rural areas with permission from local leadership. The work has involved the construction of a new campus for the Jingshai Mihngi Adventist School and multiple churches in Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu. Maranatha has also been working with contractors to drill water wells, a new effort that launched in India in 2019. So far this year, Maranatha has drilled 54 water wells (at the time of publication in September). Maranatha’s involvement in India is one of the longest continuous efforts held by the organization, and there are no plans to stop any time soon. “In a country of 1.3 billion people, so many don’t really have any idea at all of the salvation being offered by the God of the universe… why should we pull out of India when there are so many who still haven’t heard?” says Noble. “I think we need to be there. I don’t think God’s given us permission to leave.”


1 The Kolyani Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Jharkhand, was built in 1999. This year, we returned to Kolyani to drill a well for the community. 2 Members of the Barara Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Haryana, are meeting during the pandemic with masks. 3 In Bishnupur, West Bengal, crews have to drill a well by hand because of the soil. This is a process that can take several days. 4 Before COVID-19, the Barara church would fill to overflowing during a special worship programs.

T H E V O LU N T E E R SUMMER 2 0 2 0 | 1 7


Maranatha drills more than 100 wells in Zambia this year


By Julie Z. Lee Photos provided by Maranatha staff


ike in so many countries around the world, COVID-19 brought an abrupt halt to all activity in Zambia earlier this year, as local governments scrambled to assess the potential risks from the virus. But it was only a matter of weeks before Maranatha’s local crew was able to start working once more. Today, more than six months since the start of the pandemic, the team in Zambia has been one of the most productive, working on a school campus and constructing 52 One-Day Churches. The team also oversaw the drilling of 102 water wells in the first nine months of 2020. (Numbers at time of publication in September) The wells and churches have already been making a profound difference for hundreds of people in rural Zambia. Samuel Sinyangwe, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in northern Zambia, said the wells have drawn a great deal of attention from government officials and local village leadership. “Pastor Sinyangwe shared that tribal chiefs and village headmen were reaching out to the Adventist Church, expressing their gratitude for the water program that Maranatha is helping to implement throughout the country,” says Kyle Fiess, vice president of projects. “Their gratitude was coming from providing water for not only the people, but also for their cattle.” While clean drinking water for humans is vital, water for animals is also an integral part of a healthy community. Often, water—clean or dirty—is so scarce that families will lose their cattle, their source of income, during the dry seasons. “With the wells, they’re not only able to provide water for their community but they are able to sustain their livelihood and keep their livestock alive,” says Fiess. “It’s something they’re really grateful for and they’re expressing their gratitude to the Adventist Church, saying that the church

“Tribal chiefs and village headmen were reaching out to the Adventist Church, expressing their gratitude for water.”


WATER IS LIFE: 1 In Zambia, Maranatha raises funds for water and hires contractors to drill the wells. 2 The people of the Kashiba village stand proudly in front of their One-Day Church and water well, all provided by Maranatha donors. really cares about the physical needs of the people.” According to Sinyangwe, the local government is also grateful for Maranatha’s work in strengthening Zambia’s infrastructure through the construction of schools. Last year, Maranatha completed construction on a large campus called the Kabwe Adventist School. This year, crews have been expanding the Emmanuel Adventist Secondary School in Chisamba. The boarding school currently has an enrollment of about 300 students, in grades 8-12, with a long waiting list. The addition of new dormitories and classrooms will provide space for more students. As for the One-Day Churches, the structures are providing strong, efficient places of worship for the growing Adventist Church. Currently Zambia has more than 1.3 million members, and many congregations, particularly in northern Zambia where Maranatha is focused, have no proper place of worship.




Anyone can join a Maranatha mission trip! Check out our upcoming opportunities here or go to for the most updated list.






Oct. 26 - Nov. 11, 2020

Paradise Church Community Project


David and Susan Woods

Building sheds

Dec. 3 - 13, 2020

Côte d’Ivoire Project


Sheena Smith, Danny Poljak

School classroom construction

Dec. 23, 2020 - Jan. 3, 2021

Family Project Peru


Steve Case, George Alder, Luther Findley

Masonry construction, medical/ dental clinics, outreach

Jan. 6 - 15, 2021

Camp Kulaqua Project


Jeanice and Ernie Riles


Mar. 11 - 21, 2021

India Project


Loretta Spivey

School classroom construction, outreach

Mar. 18 - 28, 2021

Multiple Group Project 2021


Steve Case, Luther Findley

Church construction, medical/ dental clinics, outreach

Apr. 11 - 21, 2021

Camp Yavapines Project


Carolyn Houghton, Charley Chavez

Camp renovations

Apr. 14 - 28, 2021

Blue Mountain Academy Project


Betty Beattie-Chrispell, Ernie Riles

Girls dorm renovations

Apr. 15 - 25, 2021

Peru Project


Judy and David Shull

Church construction

May 2 - 9, 2021

Camp MiVoden Project


Doug and Melody Wheeler, Jerry Wesslen

Campus Renovation

Jun. 16 - 29, 2021

Kenya Project


Loretta Spivey

School classroom construction

Jun. 17 - 27, 2021

Family Project Peru


Steve Case

Construction, Outreach

Jul. 15 - 25, 2021

Ultimate Workout 31


Lisandro Staut, Rebekah Shephard

Church construction, medical/ dental clinics, outreach

Dec. 17 - 30, 2021

Family Project India


Karen Godfrey

Construction, outreach

T H E V O LU N T E E R SUMMER 2 0 2 0 | 1 9

An Oasis of Faith and Learning Photo by Jacob Nyaga


couple years ago, the Kiutine Adventist Secondary School campus had half the buildings and none of the greenery that you see in this photo. It was a brown expanse of dirt, where frequent winds would kick up tornadoes of dust. It was almost impossible to keep classrooms and dormitories clean. Today, thanks to the generosity of Maranatha donors, the Kiutine campus is a beautiful, lush sanctuary for more than 200 students. The school now has brand new dormitories, bathrooms, a kitchen, dining hall, and a water well. And with the new landscaping, campus dust storms are a thing of the past. According to school leaders, the improvements have given students much comfort in their daily life at school. As a result, their test scores and grades have gone up, making Kiutine an even more desirable place for families to send their children.




A look at how your support is making a real difference for communities around the world.


BEFORE The Kanguu Seventh-day Adventist congregation used to meet in a structure made of metal sheeting and sticks.


AFTER Maranatha recently constructed a One-Day Church to provide a strong shelter for worship.


Eight-year old Tayla Whitely first heard about the Kajiado Adventist School and Rescue Center from a chapel presentation at school. She learned how Maasai girls in Kenya run away from home to escape child marriages. She also learned how the rescue center becomes a new home for these girls who have nowhere to go. Inspired, Tayla went door to door in her neighborhood to explain the situation at Kajiado. She explained how Maranatha was helping by constructing new dorms, restrooms, and classrooms. Tayla sold her own handmade crafts at each house, with the proceeds going to Maranatha’s work at Kajiado. “The reason why I did it is because I like to help people in need,” said Tayla. Through her efforts, she contributed $18.30 to Maranatha’s work at Kajiado. Tayla is one of the many donors who are helping to build a brighter future for the girls at Kajiado. She’s also proof that age is no barrier to being a donor, and you’re never too young to start a legacy.. 22 | THE VOLUNTEER SUMMER 2020


This year, Maranatha is working in 10 countries to provide churches, schools, and water wells to communities in need. Here are a few programs that urgently need your prayers and financial support. KENYA

The local crew recently started traveling through the country once more to build One-Day Churches. This structure continues to be invaluable to the health and growth of existing congregations in rural Kenya. The invaluable gift of a steel frame and roof gives these groups a great head start on building a strong, lasting place of worship. Kenya is one of the few locations where we are constructing One-Day Churches, and this program needs more support. Sponsor a share for $1,500 or an entire church for $7,500.


Maranatha’s local team has been steadily working on various construction projects throughout the country. Two areas where the mission needs the most help in India is with churches and water wells. Our crews have been busy building churches in the states of Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand. We’re also rapidly drilling water wells in the same areas and the Sundaman Islands, where the soil requires the well to be drilled by hand. In order to continue fulfilling the numerous requests, more funding is needed for India projects. Churches in India start at $30,000 and water wells are $10,000.


I N 202 0



With the Anan and Abbebroukoi Seventh-day Adventist Churches completed and dedicated, Maranatha crews have started work on the Niangon Adventist Secondary School. This campus, located on the property of the local Adventist church, will not only provide Christian education, it will be one of the few secondary schools in the area. In the near future, Maranatha crews will also start work on more churches in Côte d’Ivoire. However both church and school projects need funding. Please make a donation of any amount to help keep this effort going.


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VIRTUAL CONVENTION Watch today, tomorrow, anytime! We couldn’t be together in person for our 2020 convention, so we put together a special “virtual” program, highlighting all the ways you’ve been sustaining the work of Maranatha. So watch the program NOW or anytime and be inspired on the ways Maranatha is sharing the love of Jesus around the world.

FEATURING: • Volunteer testimonies • Stories from Peru, India, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Brazil, USA, and more • Musical performances from Wintley Phipps WAYS TO WATCH: • The Maranatha Channel on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV • The Maranatha Channel app for iPhone and Android • • • Facebook


Travel into the mission field and see how God is leading ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference in communities around the world with our television program, Maranatha Mission Stories.


3ABN Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:00 p.m. Hope Channel Wednesday, 3:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ON DEMAND

The Maranatha Channel App Download our app at the App Store and Google Play. View all episodes online at Maranatha’s website. Find segments by using our online “Search” function. Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Download The Maranatha Channel to watch all current and archived episodes and other videos on demand. YouTube Go to to watch. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and automatically wreceive w w . m aupdates.

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