February 13, 2024

Andrews Academy Students Serve in the Dominican Republic

In partnership with Maranatha, they laid block walls for a new church building.

Sidney Needles, for Lake Union Herald
Forty-one students from Andrews Academy spent 10 days of their holiday break serving on a project in the Dominican Republic. [Photo: Andrews Academy]

In early January, a group of 41 students from Andrews Academy in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States, spent 10 days of their holiday break serving on a project with Maranatha Volunteers International, a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The group laid block walls for the Ágape Adventist congregation’s new church building in the Dominican Republic. The 45-member congregation, after years of worshiping in whatever available space they could find, is grateful and excited to finally have an official church building of their own.

“The church said we were an answer to their prayer,” Gina Pellegrini, project coordinator for the team, said. “They were really grateful and thankful that things worked out for them to be able to have [a church building].”

In addition to construction work, student volunteers led community outreach efforts. They hosted a five-day Vacation Bible School (VBS) program for local children, which saw a turnout of about 50 kids each night. While this group of highschoolers taught kids about Jesus through songs, crafts, and Bible stories, other students shared the gospel with adults during a five-night evangelistic sermon series for the local Adventist congregation and surrounding community.  

Every other year, Andrews Academy students travel somewhere in the world to serve a community in need. The school has collaborated with Maranatha on past trips, until the number of students signing up began to dwindle and the COVID-19 pandemic limited travel options. After arranging trips independently for several years, Andrews Academy gained enough student interest to team up with Maranatha once again this year.

Pellegrini said she appreciates Maranatha’s construction projects because they give teenagers the opportunity to see the tangible results of their hard work. “There’s some satisfaction in building something from the ground up,” she said. 

Students on this trip shared Pellegrini’s opinion, enjoying the fulfillment of hard manual labor despite sweltering temperatures. When offered a day off from the jobsite to prepare for that night’s VBS program, one group of students turned it down. They had already prepared their portion of the program and chose a day of physically demanding blockwork instead. “They didn’t want to take a day off. They wanted to stay at the jobsite. I have not experienced that before,” Pellegrini said.  

For senior student Marco Sciarabba, the most impactful moment of the trip was when he heard the story of how the church started from a small group of people in the upstairs of a house. “The trip made me see the power of prayer in a real-life example,” he said. “It gave me a new perspective on how important prayer really is and also proved that God is so good and that He will provide always. All we have to do is have faith.”

Maranatha organizes mission trips for private volunteer groups like Andrews Academy and also opens up teams that anyone can join. These groups build churches, schools, water wells, and other urgently needed structures around the world. Since 1969, Maranatha has constructed more than 14,000 structures and more than 2,200 water wells in nearly 90 countries. 

The original version of this story was posted by the Lake Union Herald. Maranatha Volunteers International is an independent supporting ministry and is not operated by the corporate Seventh-day Adventist Church.