In early February, 48 volunteers from across the United States served on a Maranatha Volunteers International project at the Ciudad del Cielo Adventist School in the Dominican Republic. The team picked up where a previous group of volunteers left off, laying a portion of block wall for the campus’ Education and Evangelism Center (EEC). This large structure will house an assembly space, surrounded by eight classrooms, two administration offices, and a set of bathrooms. When completed, the campus will include the EEC and boundary wall that crews and volunteers have already begun building, a large church to hold 500 people, and beautiful landscaping.

The group spent most of the project’s ten days doing construction work at the Ciudad del Cielo campus. But they also served the surrounding community in a couple of other ways. Volunteers led a four-day Vacation Bible School program, which saw an attendance of roughly 80 local children. Team members also helped lead an interactive health lecture. One volunteer, Rebecca Meert, enjoyed teaching its 30 attendees about cardiovascular health and leading them through a quick workout. “The kids and grown ups were laughing and having fun,” she recalled. “It was rewarding to see everyone having fun and bonding over exercise.”

Ciudad del Cielo means “City of Heaven” in Spanish. This fast-growing neighborhood in Santo Domingo boasts 80 Seventh-day Adventist congregations but lacks an option for Christian education. Church leadership in the region believes that a school could make a significant impact on existing Adventist membership, as well as anyone seeking a values-based education. The Ciudad del Cielo campus project is dedicated to Darrell Hardy, Maranatha’s late vice president of construction. It was one of the last major projects he worked on before passing away, unexpectedly, in November 2022.

Maranatha has a long history of working in the Dominican Republic. In 1980, after the destruction of Hurricane David, Maranatha constructed 160 houses here. In 1992, the Dominican Republic was the site of a watershed moment of growth for Maranatha, when the organization coordinated the construction of 25 churches over 70 days. Dubbed “Santo Domingo ’92,” it was the first time Maranatha concentrated on one place for multiple volunteer projects. Later efforts occurred in 2003 and 2013, and in 2022, Maranatha returned once more.