During this holiday season, so full of giving and receiving material items, several families decided to give the gift of service by attending Maranatha Volunteers International’s annual Christmas Family Project. The 43-member team laid block walls for the Matinga Seventh-day Adventist Church building, near the town of Pisac, Peru. This modest neighborhood congregation outgrew their cramped, shabby worship room and is beyond thankful for the volunteers who spent their holidays building a larger, stronger structure to replace it. Throughout the ten-day project, family members of all ages experienced the satisfying strain of manual labor, the thrill of a new culture, and the warmth of friends made and familial bonds strengthened along the way.

Maranatha’s Family Projects are designed with all members in mind–even the kiddos. While teen and adult volunteers worked on the construction site, a handful of children, 12 and under, attended a “day camp” just for them. Youngsters learned about Peruvian culture while cooking local cuisine, making pottery, visiting a quinoa farm, trying fruits from a produce market, and petting llamas. They also participated in service efforts, like preparing baskets of food for widows and passing out fruit bread and hot chocolate to the nearly 50 local children who attended a volunteer-led Vacation Bible School program.

Maranatha’s Director of Television, Christina Lloyd, served as coordinator for this year’s Christmas Family Project. She brought her own family along on the trip and enjoyed watching her loved ones celebrate the holidays with service. “There’s just something special about stepping outside of the normal hustle and bustle of the holidays at home and spending that time serving others,” remarked Lloyd. “It was such a blessing to witness volunteers bonding with the local community and each other as well.”

From 2004-2006, more than 3,000 Maranatha volunteers landed in Peru, constructing nearly 100 churches and schools. In 2019, Maranatha returned to Peru at the request of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America. After several volunteer groups served through early 2020, the work was halted when the COVID-19 pandemic locked the country down in March of that year. Maranatha’s in-country crew and volunteers have since resumed the work as conditions improved.