After a rough start to the year due to political unrest, Peru finally welcomed its first Maranatha volunteers in 2023. Forty volunteers from the Grand Rapids Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Michigan, arrived in the country on March 30 to construct the Nueva Jerusalen church, in Puno. 

Led by Judy and David Shull, the team worked swiftly to build the walls, finishing all the blockwork by the end of their mission trip. The volunteers, which included several students and parents from Grand Rapids Adventist Academy, also organized a Vacation Bible School program during the week, constructed 18 wooden pews, and funded and erected a new exterior fence for the property. They also paid for a new walkway leading up to the front doors. All the work for the property was completed in time for a joyous Sabbath dedication. 

“We are so thankful we went to build the church for this community. It was just awesome,” says Judy.

The new place of worship has been a lesson in patience and faith for the Nueva Jerusalen congregation. The group started in 1990 by meeting in a home. Eventually, they bought the current property, which came with a small adobe structure. Unfortunately, the building started falling apart. There were leaks and flooded floors during the rainy season, and eventually the integrity of the church was compromised. Jose Flores, one of the church leaders, said, “We needed another temple, no matter what… [this one] was about to collapse.” 

Then, in 2019, the congregation heard of Maranatha’s latest effort in Peru and were ecstatic to learn they were on the list to receive a new church. They tore down the building and prepared the property for construction. But just then, the pandemic hit, shutting down the world and all Maranatha projects. 

Peru was especially hard hit by the virus and suffered one of the highest mortality rates for COVID. The government also enacted strict regulations on the population, monitoring movement and banning travel in and out of the country. In the meantime, while Maranatha was able to start working in other areas in a matter of months, Peru sat waiting for more than a year. 

In June 2021, 29 volunteers headed to Peru for the first time since the pandemic. Since then, there has been a steady stream of volunteers. But in December 2022, the country faced a great deal of political instability. The situation caused significant disruption to parts of Peru, impacting the delivery of food and resources to certain regions. It also had ramifications for Maranatha, as seven volunteer projects were slated to take place in Juliaca and Puno, areas especially impacted by unrest. One by one, those teams canceled or were reassigned to the Dominican Republic–except for Grand Rapids Central. They decided to wait and see how things would unfold in Peru. Their patience won out as the demonstrations finally subsided. 

“I think waiting on the Lord, we were able to see His hand sheltering us as we went to serve other people. We were able to see what an impact the new church will have on the local congregation and their vision for growth,” says David. “Seeing their dream fulfilled, it just takes your breath away.” 

Since the protests were localized to certain regions, Maranatha’s in-country crew has been able to continue working in Pullcalpa, where crews are building churches. Local teams are also helping with projects that were originally assigned to volunteer groups but had to cancel. In total, Maranatha plans to build 100 churches in Peru in 2023.