As 2023 came to a close, a 41-member group from the Tryon Seventh-day Adventist Church in North Carolina traveled to southern Peru on their first Maranatha Volunteers International trip. The team’s primary goal was to lay block walls for the Cabana Adventist congregation’s new church building, a much-needed upgrade from the tiny mud structure the 30-member congregation worshiped in previously. In addition to block work at Cabana, volunteers painted the nearby Cabanillas Adventist Church building, which Maranatha constructed in 2005. Project leader Jonathan Rowe cherished the opportunity to serve those in need and engage with the local community throughout the nine-day trip. “It’s an amazing experience, just walking away knowing you’ve helped someone. It’s a very rewarding and rich feeling to give of your own time and talents.”

Beyond their construction efforts, volunteers engaged with the local community by carrying out a five-day Vacation Bible School (VBS) program and pop-up medical clinic. Nearly 80 children attended each VBS session to sing songs, make crafts, and learn about Jesus. The medical clinic also experienced an impressive turnout. “They had a line about two blocks long,” Rowe recalled. Working as efficiently as possible, volunteer healthcare professionals treated roughly 100 patients each day. Rowe remarked, “Our team did a really good job. You know, it was run just like a doctor’s office.”

While one of Maranatha’s last projects of 2023, this was a trip of firsts. Not only was it the Tryon Church’s first-ever Maranatha mission trip, but the majority of volunteers had never been outside of the United States or flown on an airplane. Having served on four Maranatha projects previously, Rowe was relieved when his group’s cautious uncertainty was replaced with an appreciation that matched his own. “We had people in our group who have never flown on an airplane before. We had a lot of scared people who had never been out of the country. And the overwhelming response was just, ‘Wow. I’m so glad I went.'”

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, work 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 work as conditions improved.