How are we making a difference?
Since 2003, Experience Mission’s mission trips and programs have had an impact on thousands of people, both directly and indirectly. By organizing mission trips and IMMERSION programs, we have had the privilege of connecting people from all different cultures, backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses. This has always been done with the main goal of improving the lives of people who live in under-privileged communities and developing leaders to take on new challenges and spread the hope of Jesus in new ways. We have been blessed to see projects completed and lives changed, and we continue to see the power that building authentic relationships and sharing resources has to make a difference and share the gospel with our actions.
We put a large emphasis on developing leaders, and one of the biggest ways we do that every year is through our college-accredited, cross-cultural internship program. EM interns gain invaluable training through real life experience, leading and facilitating mission trips in communities around the world and in the U.S. We give our intern teams total responsibility over the mission trips that take place where they serve, from overseeing construction projects to planning meals and spiritual development time for the teams. This responsibility allows our interns to have a life-changing leadership experience that provides them with skills and confidence to take on more leadership roles after they have served with EM. Cross-cultural interns have gone on to work in other countries and with many other non-profit organizations, building upon a foundation built during their summer with EM. We get really excited when we see where our interns have gone and what they have gone on to do and accomplish.
Launching in 2012, our Immersion program is the fastest-growing EM program, sending out 10 participants in 2012, 45 in 2013, and an estimated 65 in 2014. Immersion is different than a week-long mission trip in that team members are able to live directly with community members and experience daily life within a community. They are given opportunities to serve the community as well, but much of the life-changing moments and conversations come person-to-person, building real relationships with people in under-privileged communities around the world. The impact of Immersion is two-fold. Team members come away with an eye-opening experience that will forever shape their future and what they know about the world, and communities are strengthened and encouraged the presence of the teams, who take a real interest in their daily lives and struggles, and share the hope of Jesus through their actions.
Completing Community Projects
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. Our goal is always to raise more funds and resources in order to assist in the completion of community projects and build up our programs on a larger scale.
An example of how EM has made an impact on a larger scale project exists in the remote villages of Coroma and Alto Coen, Costa Rica. In 2007, EM staff and volunteers traveled by boat to the rural village of Coroma where they found 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 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 the 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 the following summer.
In addition to the many work projects that have been completed for the benefit of local communities, we have also 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 our goal is always that both community residents and trip participants are encouraged to return and contribute to their own communities after the trip and time together is over. This is especially true with our interns and Immersion team members. Many leave the communities after being accepted as one of their own during their time of service and still stay in contact with local community members long after their summer ends—sometimes for years.