For a group that recruits and places Seventh-day Adventist missionaries around the world, it was only natural the Secretariat Department of the Adventist World Church would get into the mission field themselves. John Thomas, director of one of the department ministries, Adventist Volunteer Service, says it was a call employees felt strongly. “Our staff told us, ‘We are always sending missionaries but never get to experience foreign missions ourselves.’”
Since the office is a mix of elected officers and hourly personnel, schedules rarely align to allow this type of opportunity. However, G. T. Ng, Secretary of the Adventist World Church and department head, asked for a trip to be organized. In June, the group set their sights on the small island-nation of Dominica, where Maranatha Volunteers International has been helping rebuild after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Thousands of structures were destroyed or damaged, including 28 out of 34 Seventh-day Adventist churches.
Twelve Secretariat staff and eight family members traveled to Dominica to help construct a new structure for the Beryl Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was totally demolished by the storm. Without a church, the 70-member congregation has been meeting in the pastor’s home for worship. A new building will be a relief after cramming into a living room for the past year.
“It was satisfying to fall into bed at the end of a hard day’s work, knowing I had contributed to building the new church walls,” admitted executive assistant Susan Marcellino. “It put a smile on my face to imagine the completed church, filled with joyful people singing hymns.”
Besides laying block walls, volunteers held children’s programs and evangelistic meetings. They also distributed donated items like school supplies. The deepest impact felt was in personal interactions. The team worshipped with a local congregation on Sabbath and brought communion sets to donate. They discovered the church had been praying for a way to acquire a set; they were supposed to observe communion the following Sabbath, but didn’t have the supplies. Now, God had provided a communion set–an answer to prayer.
Laurie Schmidt, an administrative assistant in the department, knew the trip would be more than construction, and she brought her two teenage girls to experience the condition of Dominica. “I wanted them to experience missions,” explains Schmidt. “The people were so appreciative and my girls also learned how fortunate we are at home.”
As the team headed home, they wished they could do more. Dominica is still in need–many volunteers left their personal clothes and shoes behind. However, the experience prompted a renewed focus within the Secretariat Department to embody their mission. Staff became the missionaries they so often interact with in their daily work.
The trip also provided quality time between staff that doesn’t happen in the office. Often employees are busy with their own assignments and don’t interact as much as they’d like. “We all worked really hard together,” says Schmidt. “No one was complaining. We were there on a mission! And there were no levels of authority like at work. We were all God’s people doing God’s work.”
Upon their return to the office, Secretariat Department staff began asking when they would go on their next mission trip. “Working with Maranatha on this trip was a real blessing,” says Thomas. “All the [Maranatha] personnel were great to work with and did all they could to make things go smoothly. Our department has the highest regard for [Maranatha’s] work and how you do it!”
This is the second time Maranatha has assisted in reconstruction efforts in Dominica. In 1979, Maranatha helped to rebuild schools in the country after Hurricane David. David was a Category 5 hurricane that made landfall on Dominica; Maria and Irma were Category 4.