May 26, 2017

Classrooms for Graceland

Julie Z. Lee, Maranatha Volunteers International

This week, John D. Freeman, founder of what today is Maranatha Volunteers International, passed away in Salem, Oregon, United States, at 95. Below is one of many mission stories that shows the impact this Seventh-day Adventist supporting ministry is having around the world, thanks to its church and school construction, and its water well drilling projects in several continents.—Adventist Review Staff

The classroom is noisy. A cacophony of chatter has overtaken the space, but the teacher just watches and listens from up front.

His students, dressed in blue uniforms, are bent over their wide-open books. They are reading out loud, each at their own pace. The noise is not idle jabber; the kids are serious about school, and they are here for an education.

But today school is about to be interrupted by even more noise.

It begins to rain. Not a light drizzle buta hard downpour. It pounds on the corroded roof, sending trickles of water into the classroom. Wind screams through the hillside campus, flapping the corners of the metal roof that have long lost its grip on the beams. It is loud. Deafening.

Suddenly, class is dismissed and an ocean of children spill out of the classrooms and into the streets toward home. Teaching under such conditions is impossible, and school is cancelled for the rest of the day.

This is a scene from the Graceland Seventh-day Adventist School in Mizoram, in northeast India. Unfortunately, cutting class short is a frequent occurrence, especially during rainy season. The existing facilities simply cannot handle the weather.

“The buildings, the doors—all these have become rotten. And you can see holes all over it, in the walls and in the doors. It is no longer safe for the students,” says Biakthansanga Renthlei, president of the Adventist Church in Mizoram. Decades of heavy rain, wind, and termites have eaten away at the structures.

Graceland has managed to expand part of its campus and provide new classrooms for half the school. But the primary students are still meeting in the original buildings—or rather what’s left of them, and there are no funds to repair the structures.

“The most urgent need we have now is a building,” says Renthlei. “Classrooms. Good classrooms, safe classrooms for our students, where they can learn in peace and get their education to the maximum.”

More than 300 students attend Graceland. The majority of them are not part of the Adventist faith, and school has been an important part of sharing the Adventist message with new families. Renthlei is worried that the crumbling facilities will eventually shrink enrollment and its positive influence in the community.

So Renthlei and his team prayed for a solution. Then they contacted Maranatha Volunteers International. Less than a year later, help was on the way in the form of 17 volunteers. And from that day on, the history of Graceland Adventist School would never be the same.

You can watch the outcome of Maranatha’s intervention in the Graceland project by visiting the media section of

This story was originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Maranatha’s The Volunteer.