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EM’s Missions Approach

Developing mutual trust, building mutual respect, and maintaining human dignity.


The Model for Mutual Influence

No one wants to be changed by someone else. No one wants to become someone's "project." Our goal is to see missions as much more than a one-way process. We desire to see mutual influence and mutual change. The EM Model for Mutual Influence was designed to help us understand how to work toward positive and mutual change.

We firmly believe the people we serve on mission trips are not our "mission project." They are valuable creations of God with so much to offer. While it may be obvious that change needs to happen in certain communities, we believe change needs to happen in us as well. This model seeks to show how this kind of mutual change can best take place. We believe there is a better way than forcing change or imposing our thinking, values, and beliefs on others.


1. Love & Accept

vs. Judging Others

As followers of Christ, we become a visual picture of God's love to those we come in contact with. We show His love by caring for people.

What does God's love look like?
What is our ultimate motive for caring, interacting and sharing our life?

When we start with love, we are able to resist our natural tendency to judge and change others. When we give RESPECT to another person as a genuine act of love, it allows us to accept them as they are: unique creations of a loving God. Our job is not to change people, but to love them. Once we change our focus from judging others to loving them, we are free from the need to change people and they are free from the pressure that comes from that expectation.

2. Listen & Learn

vs. Correcting Others

How we enter into new relationships in a cross-cultural setting is very important. We seek to listen and learn, which begins with an intentional focus away from our own personal interests, values, and faith, and toward the world of another. This builds TRUST.

How do they see life?
How do they see the world?
How do they see faith?

Our job is not to teach people, but to learn alongside them. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

3. Serve & Partner

vs. Directing Others

Servanthood is love in action. And we serve others best by partnering with them, recognizing what they have to contribute, and how our collaboration will bring a better, longer-lasting result. This maintains the DIGNITY and sense of worth of all involved.

Our job is not to take care of people, but to serve in partnership with them. We hope to have the attitude of the Apostle Paul, who said, "I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now." (Philippians 1:4-5) and saw others as his equals, "As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you." (2 Corinthians 8:23)

Result: Mutual Change

As we demonstrate love and respect for people, the diversity of our lives creates opportunities for reciprocal learning, growth, and life change. We have something to learn from everyone once we set aside our personal judgments and cultural prejudices that were once used to determine a person's worth.

Our job is not to change others, but to change ourselves. By understanding the importance of respect, trust and personal dignity, our hope is to avoid forced change and push toward an the influence of growth and change that is mutual among all people involved.


Personal Dignity

Is it possible to serve others in a way that causes more harm than good?

At EM, we seek to serve others in a way that is sensitive to their personal dignity. We never want to enter a needy community with the attitude that we are somehow "superior" to residents there simply because we were born into circumstances that provide easy access to employment, food, shelter, and education. It is always important to take time and consider how those we intend to serve might perceive our actions.

We go to a community to share our time, love and resources with the people there, to work alongside them as brothers and sisters and to spread Christ's love. But we must always keep in mind that when serving people with desperate needs, it can be very easy to make them feel that we're only serving because we have pity on them (making them feel small) or because we want to feel good about ourselves (to make ourselves feel big).

The people we serve alongside persevere in the face of extreme hardships. They are champions, and they should be treated as such. The only difference between us and them is our easy access to resources. Our goal is to develop relationships with mutual feelings of respect and honor. We must always be sensitive to our posture and our attitude so that when we do offer our resources, others feel the love, respect and dignity they are entitled to as God's children.

What steps can we take to remain sensitive to personal dignity?

EM projects are designed to encourage partnership between community residents and volunteers who come to serve. Every person involved is encouraged to be both a giving and receiving partner in ministry (see "EM Model for Mutual Influence" above).

In order to demonstrate that we really care, we must treat people with the genuine respect all human beings deserve and be sure they never feel like "targets." We must check our motives for serving. We must be on alert to perceive and correct any act of service that represses others or elevates ourselves.

We will not simply serve—we will be servants.

Wish to explore this further? Check out our blog post "These People" Have Names


Commitment to Excellence

Every service or philanthropic opportunity through Experience Mission meets set standards of excellence and quality.

This flows out of our love for God, care for all people and creation, respect for the experience of each person involved, and gratitude for the opportunity to come alongside people for a portion of their life and faith journey. Our vision has always been that all of our serving and learning opportunities to have a significant impact on the lives of those involved, and these standards help us ensure that happens:

EM’s Excellence & Quality Standards


Every opportunity to serve or give generously through EM meets a real need in the lives of all people involved.

A Focus on People

Every person involved in EM activities and programs is respected and cared for as well as they can be, as people are connected, unified, and challenged to grow together.


Each EM endeavor has long-term benefits, living into a cycle of sustained, positive change for communities, local community members, and visiting volunteers over time. Learn more about EM’s Model for Sustainable Change.

Preparedness and Training

Everyone taking part in EM activities or opportunities are provided the opportunity to adequately prepare themselves (or are being actively trained) to understand, participate, process, and grow through the experience in a positive way.


A Network of Communities, Leaders, Supporters & Volunteers

Poverty and hardship often exist because people lack connections to those with resources. Human nature is such that most people with excess resources are generous with their family and friends but are less likely to give without some sort of personal connection. This simple principle dictates that we can assist those in need by enabling them to build genuine relationships built on mutual trust with those who live in abundance. This is the amazing value of connecting to a network of communities, leaders, supporters, and volunteers like Experience Mission.

Mission Trip Volunteers

EM mission trip volunteers come from churches, para-church organizations, and nonprofits all over the U.S. and beyond. We consider it an honor to have partnered with over 35,000 volunteers—from all different church denominations and organizations—connecting them to each other and opportunities to learn and serve together. Without this growing group of people serving on mission trips, we would never be able to have the kind of impact we desire in the communities where we serve.

Full-Time Staff & Interns

EM's full-time staff and Summer Leadership Staff come from all over the U.S. and are passionate about helping people learn to love and serve others like Jesus. Our two headquarters in Seattle, WA, and Fort Wayne, IN, allow us to reach out to volunteers and supporters across the country and stay connected to community partners who have become friends and family across the U.S. and around the globe.

Partner Communities

In urban partner communities, we work with a number of local organizations. In the past, we have worked with: Union Gospel Mission of Seattle, Northwest Harvest Foodbank of Washington State, Habitat for Humanity, the Affordable Housing Initiative of Atlanta, Catholic Community Services of Seattle, Catholic Charities in Fort Wayne, the Root Cellar in Portland, Maine, and the Salvation Army of Atlanta, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Through our partnership with the Salvation Army, EM Mission Trip teams have touched the lives of hundreds of youth in Colony South Trailer Park in Atlanta's Lakewood neighborhood, and we continue to seek out ministry partnerships and opportunities to serve in other major cities around the U.S.

Urban Mission Trip Communities: Atlanta, Georgia; New York City; Portland, Maine; Lewiston, Maine; and Washington, D.C.

In rural domestic communities, we seek to work closely with a key community partner. In Appalachia, we serve with a number of wonderful local churches and organizations. On the Navajo reservation, we partner with local pastors and churches to identify projects and accommodate volunteers.

Rural Mission Trip Communities: the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico; Rio Grande Valley, Texas; Webster Springs, West Virginia; Pike County, Kentucky; and Jackson County, Ohio.

EM has had the privilege to respond to many natural disasters through relief mission trips. Following Hurricane Katrina, EM sent hundreds of volunteers to Pearlington, Mississippi; volunteer teams served Joplin, Missouri, and Moore, Oklahoma, following disastrous tornados, and the recent string of devastating hurricanes has EM volunteers serving all around the Gulf Coast and Caribbean.

Relief Mission Trip Communities: Houston, Texas; Panama City, Florida; and Puerto Rico.

Some of our longest-standing partnerships are international communities. In Costa Rica, we work with the Bribri and Cabecar tribes through relationships with the governing council and local churches, and we have also established relationships directly with some remote villages in the interior portion of the indigenous territory. EM currently partners with local churches in Petit Goave, Haiti; Catadupa, Jamaica; Talamanca, Costa Rica; Belmopan, Belize; and communities in Cuba. We work directly with long-standing South African missionaries to serve in African communities. In all of these international communities, we see the biggest potential for growth and truly seeing our philosophies of Mutual Influence in action. We are working to see the visions of these local communities become realities.

International Mission Trip Communities: Petit Goave & Marchasse, Haiti; Catadupa, Jamaica; Shiroles & Coroma, Costa Rica; Belmopan, Belize; Cuba; South Africa; and the Holy Land.

Explore Mission Trips by Region:
U.S. Mission Trips
Central America Mission Trips
Caribbean Mission Trips
Africa Mission Trips
Holy Land Mission Trips

Explore IMMERSION Mission Trips:
1-Month Mission Trips
3-Month Mission Trips
6-Month Mission Trips
Gap Year Mission Trips


Making a Lasting Impact

Our vision has always been to have a significant impact within our partner communities, and all projects are aimed at this goal. From small home repairs to larger-scale community projects, there have been hundreds of EM projects that have impacted our partner communities and their residents.

We have also facilitated countless relational connections between people of diverse backgrounds by providing opportunities for thousands of youth, college students, families and adults to step outside of the familiar and become immersed in a different culture. In these experiences, both their perspectives and the perspectives of the people they serve and partner with have been broadened., and our goal is always that everyone is encouraged to return and contribute to their own communities after the trip and time together is over.

Short-Term Mission Trips

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 underprivileged 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.


Missions Internships

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 for 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 underprivileged 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.