June 2, 2017: It is “almost legendary” wrote Marcos Paseggi, a contributor for the Adventist Review. Nearly five decades ago John D. Freeman operated a small business in Michigan and was an active member of the Adventist Church. He wanted his family to go on a short-term mission trip and learn the value of service.
Freeman also had a private pilot’s license and owned an airplane, so he recruited friends who were pilots and over Christmas vacation they flew in 28 young adults to build a church building for the Eight Mile Rock Adventist congregation in the Bahamas. This resulted in him organizing Maranatha Flights International. Maranatha is the New Testament Greek word for the second coming of Christ.
In 1989, Maranatha Flights merged with Volunteers International and the new organization moved its headquarters to Sacramento, California. It has become one of the largest independent, Adventist charities. On the last year of record (2015) it reported $10.2 million in fund raising and projects on government paperwork as a tax-exempt nonprofit in the United States.
In 2015 it had 41 employees and mobilized 2,207 volunteers with about $1 million of projects each in South America and South Asia, $2.2 million in the Caribbean basin and $2.6 million in Africa. The projects included construction of schools, clinics and churches, as well as drilling wells to provide local water supplies.
Freeman died May 22 in Salem, Oregon, at 95 years of age. “It takes a special kind of person to begin something; take an idea and bring it to life,” Don Noble, the current president of Maranatha Volunteers International, was quoted by the Adventist Review last Friday. “That’s who John Freeman was.”
The featured photo shows a school constructed by Maranatha Volunteers International.