How do we make a difference?
It is safe to say, that thousands of people have been impacted by Experience Mission, both directly and indirectly. By organizing mission trips, we have connected people together from all different cultures, backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses. Through this many individuals and families in underdeveloped communities have seen their lives improved and numerous volunteers have gained a life changing perspective. Hundreds of college students have been positively impacted as they develop leadership skills and cross-cultural awareness through mission internships. With the funds that have been raised and the volunteers that have been recruited, EM has completed many significant projects within communities. As a result of these activities, we have developed a growing network where countless relationships have been formed that have truly changed lives.
EM develops leaders by providing a quality college-accredited internship program for college students. EM interns gain invaluable training through real life experience. The interns are organized into teams of summer staff for each community, and they are responsible for leading the mission trips. Their tasks include oversight of all construction and outreach projects, facilitation of leaders meetings and evening programs, and implementation of EM rules, regulations and safety policies. A field budget is provided for each trip, and interns are responsible for all trip expenditures and record keeping. They develop relationships with local leaders and work with them to plan projects and ensure that teams remain sensitive to local culture. Through all of these responsibilities, they gain a life-changing leadership experience.
Dr. Bill Millard, Director of the Center for Life Calling & Leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University had this to say about the Experience Missions Internship Program:
"The Experience Mission internships have been one of the most effective experiential learning activities available to our students at Indiana Wesleyan University. They have placed students in real life situations with leadership responsibilities. At the same time, Experience Mission makes sure that these situations have a solid framework of support. The concept of sending interns out in teams enhances the success of these endeavors, while it also helps interns learn to lead in collaboration with others. These opportunities are valuable to students in just about any major at our university. As the chair of our Leadership Studies program, each year I highly recommend this opportunity to each of our Leadership majors and minors. This is a program that merits support and expansion."
Dr. Bill Millard
Executive Director, Center for Life Calling & Leadership
Professor and Chair of Leadership Studies Indiana Wesleyan University
From the outset, our vision has been to have significant impact within our partner communities, and all projects that have been completed are aimed at this goal. From small home repairs to larger scale community projects, there have been hundreds of EM projects that have impacted these communities and their residents. The goal in the next few years is to raise more funds and resources to assist community projects and programs on a larger scale.
Our assistance with building much needed bridges on the indigenous Bribri Reservation in Costa Rica is a great example of community impact. In 2007, EM staff and volunteers traveled by boat upriver to the rural village of Coroma where they found that a collapsed bridge was preventing children from getting to school and keeping ailing residents from receiving timely medical help. Responding to the call, EM volunteers completed a new bridge by the end of the summer. In the spring of 2008, EM staff and volunteers hiked deep within the jungle to the remote village of Alto Coen finding an even more treacherous river that divided this village. EM staff worked with local leaders to transport much-needed supplies into the village by gaining the written approval of the U.S. Secretary of State to send U.S. military helicopters to deliver supplies. The construction of the bridge was a long difficult process, but we recruited additional volunteers and raised more funding in the summer of 2009, and the project was finally completed in the summer of 2010.
With all the work EM volunteers have been doing, local media has taken notice on multiple occasions. In response to a huge need for toilet facilities, EM teams have constructed more than 52 outhouses in Jamaica. This work was reported by the Jamaica Observer in July of 2009. A volunteer team in Pearlington, Mississippi was covered by WLOX channel 13 news in Biloxi in the summer of 2009. In West Virginia, one EM intern made such an impact in the community that he was featured twice in a local newspaper.
In addition to the many work projects that have been completed, EM has facilitated countless relational connections between people of diverse backgrounds. We have provided opportunities for thousands of youth, college students, families and adults to step outside of the familiar and become immersed in a different culture. Through this both their perspectives and the perspectives of those they serve and partner with have been broadened, and both residents and trip participants are encouraged to return and contribute to their own communities. Perhaps the best examples of relational impact are our summer staff/interns. Many of these interns have been accepted by the communities as one of their own, and interns stay in contact with local community members long after their summer ends--sometimes for years.
There is a young Jamaican man in the rural village of Catadupa who works with EM teams each summer, and his story is an example of the power of relationships. It all began when he developed a friendship with an EM summer staff member. This young Jamaican man had lived a life of drugs and gang violence on the streets of Montego Bay and fled to the mountains after nearly losing his life in a street fight. It wasnt until he met the local pastor and developed a friendship with one of the EM interns that he turned his life around and began to serve alongside EM teams as well as in his local church. He summed up the significance of their friendship by saying of his friend, the EM summer staff member, [He] changed my whole life. It is impossible to quantify this kind of impact, but we believe thats what happens when relationships are formed with Gods love at the center of the interaction.