Ten years ago, a group of church members from SuCasa Collegedale Spanish-American SDA Church formed another congregation known as Ooltewah Hispanic SDA Church. For the past eight years, the group has been renting from the Ooltewah Methodist Church.
During that time, one of the church leaders asked the congregation’s pastor, Juan Antonio Sandoval, if they could contact Maranatha Volunteers International to help build a church facility on three acres owned by the congregation.
Maranatha “spreads the Gospel throughout the world as it builds people through the construction of urgently needed buildings,” according to its website. But Sandoval doubted the organization could help the church because the project is in Tennessee, a domestic location.
“My initial reaction was ‘no,’ because [I thought Maranatha] only [does projects in] Third World countries overseas,” said Sandoval, who is going on his third year as pastor of the Ooltewah church. “I didn’t know [Maranatha] did projects in the United States.”
However, Sandoval’s reservations subsided after he and some church members attended a Maranatha meeting for donors and investors. He asked the ministry’s representatives if they were able to build in the United States, and they said “yes.”
In fact, Maranatha was working on a pilot program to create a blueprint for what building a church would look like in the United States, Sandoval learned. So, he went on the Maranatha website and filled out an application for building a church facility. From there, Maranatha developed an architectural plan, which was eventually approved by the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
According to Sandoval, the three acres were purchased in 2016 for $160,000. There was a house on the property, and church members originally planned to convert it into a church building. However, the house required significant renovations.
“It needed $30,000 worth of remodeling,” Sandoval said.
Because of the cost, he and other church members thought it would be best to demolish the house and build an entirely new structure. After obtaining conference approval, the church chose the medium size model offered by Maranatha. The congregation then set out to raise funds, which presented some challenges.
“We were fundraising, and then we started to gather quotes from contractors,” Sandoval said. The amount needed seemed daunting because of government requirements.
In Hamilton County, anyone who wants to build a structure needs a general contractor, according to Sandoval. So, he asked conference leaders for a recommendation, and they found a general contractor who not only understood the project but was willing to help the church save money.
The contractor looked for plumbers, electricians and various other laborers needed to build the church, Sandoval said. He advocated on behalf of the church, and the quote was a fourth of what was originally quoted.
One of the biggest blessings was having Maranatha volunteers, as every person is there on a volunteer basis.
“There are people from Maranatha who are fully committed,” Sandoval said.
A normal Maranatha project entails signing up and only working for a couple of weeks on the project before volunteers leave. Because of COVID-19, people volunteering on the Ooltewah church project had some time to stay longer.
Sandavol said they expect to be done by early next year and that many volunteers are staying until the project’s completion.
“These people [have] been here since the summer and they’re going to be here until the end of the project,” he said. “They have been living on the church ground in their own trailers and will be here to see it through.”