For Secretariat, the department at the Adventist world church headquarters that recruits and places Seventh-day Adventist missionaries around the world, it was only natural for the staff get into the mission field themselves.
John Thomas, director of Adventist Volunteer Service, one of the department’s ministries, says it was a call that employees felt strongly. “Our staff told us, ‘We are always sending missionaries but never get to experience foreign missions ourselves.’”
Since Secretariat employees are a mix of elected officers and hourly personnel, schedules rarely align to allow this type of opportunity. However, G. T. Ng, executive secretary of the Adventist Church and department director, asked for a trip to be organized.
In June 2018, the group set their sights on the small island nation of Dominica, where Maranatha Volunteers International (MVI) 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 building for the Beryl Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was leveled by the storm. Without a church building, the 70-member congregation has been meeting in the pastor’s home for worship. Worshiping in a new building will be a relief for members 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,” said 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 in the community. They also distributed donated items such as school supplies.
Participants shared that the deepest impact they felt was in personal interactions.
Laurie Schmidt, an administrative assistant in Secretariat, knew the trip would involve more than construction, and she brought her two teenage girls to experience the conditions in Dominica. “I wanted them to experience missions,” Schmidt explains. “The people were so appreciative, and my girls also learned how fortunate we are at home.”
As the team headed home, some commented that they wished they could do more because Dominica is still in need. Many volunteers left their clothes and shoes behind. According to one participant, however, the experience prompted a renewed focus within Secretariat to embody their mission. On the trip, staff members had become the type of missionaries they so often interact with in their daily work.
The trip also provided time for staff to spend time with each other that doesn’t happen in the office, participants said. Often employees are busy with their assignments and don’t interact as much as they’d like.
“We all worked really hard together,” Schmidt said. “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 staff began asking when they would go on their next mission trip. “Working with Maranatha Volunteers International on this trip was a real blessing,” Thomas said. “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!”