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As you embrace life and ministry in Cuba, Costa Rica, and Belize, you’ll discover a deeper understanding of culture, politics, the struggles of indigenous people, and how local Christians reconcile their faith with traditional beliefs. Don’t just be a tourist, but become a true part of la familia as you work on the farm, volunteer in local schools, take salsa lessons, and do outreach through the church.
The IMMERSION approach is a different way of doing mission trips. It forces us to slow down, set our agenda aside, and allow local people to take the lead. We’re not here to change people but to serve alongside and learn from them. Inevitably, this focus on relationships allows us to share our faith in meaningful ways.
In each community, you will be challenged to grow in your Spanish language skills through private tutoring, group classes, and basic language materials provided by EM. As you work to improve your language skills, you’ll see relationships deepen. At the end of your six-month journey, we hope you can truly say, "Todos somos hijos del mismo Dios." (We are all children of the same God.)
What are the upcoming dates for this program?
MAY 20 - NOVEMBER 8, 2019
Dates for each community are still being finalized, but here is a look at the basic itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Fort Wayne, IN, for training and team building.
Serve in the U.S. for two weeks and then travel to Haiti, Jamaica, and Belize fulfilling specific objectives in each community. You will spend approximately 5-8 weeks in each location.
4th to Last Day: Return to the United States for debrief with the team.
Final Day: Schedule your travel home.
How can I communicate back home?
If you choose to do so, you will be responsible to provide your own equipment for communication (i.e. mobile phone, computer, iPad, etc.) However, you are not required to bring or purchase these items. With the exception of the times when you are traveling to remote regions, there will be several locations where you will have access to the internet for communication with friends and family back home.
What special training is included?
Your term will begin with a week of training and team building in Fort Wayne, IN. You will participate in a curriculum that has been developed by Experience Mission specifically for the IMMERSION program. It will be a relaxed yet purposeful time to get to know your teammates, prepare spiritually for the trip and start talking through the program objectives.
Will EM provide a detailed packing list?
Once your spot on the team is secured, you will have access to a detailed packing list as part of your MyMission profile on the EM website. Plan to spend an additional $300-600 on gear, equipment and immunizations for your trip.
What is included in the cost of the trip? Extra costs?
All airfare, housing, food, and project costs are included once team members arrive in the start location for the program. Team members are responsible to arrange their own transportation to and from the start location. Team member should also plan to spend additional money on gear, immunizations, and personal items for the trip. EM recommends that team members also purchase supplemental traveler's insurance if their current medical insurance does not cover international care. The cost for medical insurance could be anywhere from $80-300 depending on the length and type of policy.
Is the $500 deposit refundable?
No, unfortunately we have a very strict policy and the deposit is non-refundable because it helps us re-coop some of our staff hours that we have already invested into the program on behalf of team members through servicing and set-up.
I'm worried about fundraising. What have other team members done in the past?
Up to this point, we've never had a team member commit to a program and then not be able to participate because of finances. It's amazing how God can provide when we roll up our sleeves and get creative. We've heard some incredible stories of team members who have been worried about finances and then were able to raise the money. (Read the story of Mallory & Sam or Karis) Also, make sure you check out EM's Fundraising Guide (link below). We've tried to put together helpful tips and resources to get you started. The best advice—have a plan and get started as soon as possible! We'll do our best to support you and be flexible with payment plans, if needed.
Are there any scholarships available for team members?
No, unfortunately at this time we are unable to offer any scholarships for the Immersion program. We encourage all team members to get creative and enlist the support of their network in order to raise the money needed for the term. Check out EM's Fundraising Guide, which has some ideas to get you started.
Can I get college credit for participating in the program?
Every college and university has different requirements for obtaining credits. In the past, we've had team members get foreign language credit (3M Costa Rica program) or independent study credit (6M Africa program — study on agriculture and study on music's impact on culture). The EM staff is happy to sign-off on any paperwork, as long as your university approves us as facilitators and the trip meets their requirements. We're happy to talk about this more in depth, but it typically begins with team members meeting with their academic advisor. Of course, any cost for the credits would be your responsibility.
How often will I be able to communicate with home?
We typically tell team members to expect to have access to the Internet on a bi-weekly basis. However, it could be more often or less often depending on the exact location.
What if I have a personal emergency and need to talk with someone at home?
If you have a personal emergency and do not have access to the Internet or your own phone, our EM team leader will allow you to use their staff phone to communicate with family. Please be prepared to help cover some of the cost for the call since they will be using a pay-as-you-go phone plan and EM can't be responsible for the high cost of international calls for every team member.
What is the application process?
We try to keep the application process pretty simple, but we want to have time to get to know you better and also answer all of your questions. Typically, the process begins when you fill out an interest form. One of our staff will contact you to answer your initial questions and then set up a User ID and password for you. That will allow you to log-in to an online mission center where you can fill out an application, upload a photo, and submit four references. After we've had time to review your application, we'll contact you for a follow-up Skype call. Once we give you a final answer about your spot on the team, we'll give you 14 days to make a final decision and pay your $500 deposit. Of course, if you need a little more time, we can be flexible. But we've found that the quicker we can move you through the interview process, the more time you'll have to fundraise and prepare for the trip!
Are there any qualifications required for joining an Immersion team?
Yes, there are some key things that we look for when choosing Immersion team members.
1. Team members should be between the ages of 18-30.
2. Team member should be committed Christians with a desire to grow in their personal faith.
3. Team members should be up for the challenge of Immersion—willing to live a rugged lifestyle and embrace a new culture, able to build healthy relationships with teammates and the community, able to thrive away from normal life and support system, in good physical, mental and emotional health.
What is a typical team size?
A typical team size is anywhere between 10-15 individuals, although we will take up to 20. We usually have more girls than guys, but every team is different!
Do I need a passport?
Yes, you will definitely need a passport for international travel. Please note that some countries consider a passport with an expiration date 6 months after the scheduled departure to be invalid. For example, if you are leaving the country on January 6—a passport with an expiration date sooner than July 6 the following year may not be acceptable. Check your passport date and notify EM if you have any concerns. If you don't have a passport yet, we recommend that you apply for one as soon as possible to avoid any rush fees or stress later on.
When will I get a detailed itinerary?
A final itinerary will be given to the team during the last conference call, approximately 1-month before the start of the program. However, you will know the start and end date of your program during the application process. Most trips begin with 5 days of training and end with 3 days of debriefing with EM staff—more specific instructions for arrival and departure will be given to team members during the first conference call, approximately 3-months before the start of the program.
What if there is an emergency that affects the entire team? What will we do?
If there is an emergency that affects the entire team (i.e. natural disaster, political unrest, increased crime, etc.) then the team leader will be equipped to get the team to a safe location as quickly as possible and arrange transportation to leave the country if needed. If this happens, each participant would be responsible to contribute to the cost of re-booking his or her own ticket. EM has taken extra precautions by enrolling all Immersion teams in STEP (Safe Traveler Enrollment Program) through the U.S. Department of State. By enrolling in this program, EM will receive any urgent travel updates for U.S. citizens in the region where the team will be traveling.
Is EM part of a specific religion or church denomination?
Experience Mission is a Christian organization, although we aren't connected with any one church or denomination. Our staff members all have a personal faith and do our best to live it out daily.
How does EM share the Gospel?
EM strives to share the message of Jesus in a way that is highly relational and respects each person's story and journey. Delivering this message of hope drives everything that we do, but we think it's especially important to partner with local people who can continue the process of growth and discipleship. You can read more about how we choose to live out our Christian faith on our programs.
What kind of training does EM provide?
During the first week of your trip, you'll participate in daily sessions with the EM staff which have been designed specifically for the Immersion program. Our goal during training is to start opening the box, re-examining our faith, or more specifically—our pictures of God, Self, Others and Creation. We believe that poverty exists because of brokenness in one or more of these four relationships and that our understanding of each of these relationships affects how we live our lives. It changes the way that we do missions. It changes our attitude when we wake up in the morning. The training week will include discussions, team building activities, worship, and plenty of time to get to know your teammates before launching into service together.
Will this program help me grow spiritually?
We definitely hope it does! Our goal is that you'll take ownership over your personal growth and that we can help where needed, encouraging you to continue to come back to the ideas and questions from the training week. Almost every IMMERSION team member has come back from the program with new insights about their faith or what God's plan is for their life. We think there is something incredibly powerful about disconnecting from technology and "normal" life to simply serve others, learn, and understand more about how to live out your mission in the world. You'll be responsible to help shape your own experience, but we'll also try to push and challenge you in new ways.
What kind of food can I expect to eat while in the community?
Foods in the communities are usually very simple. Although there will be plenty to eat, there may not always be a great variety. Rice, beans and in-season fruits or vegetables are most common. You may also get treated to coffee, and tea. In some African communities, you will eat homemade bread and papa or pup. Chicken and fish are the two most common meats, but are usually not served with every meal. In most locations, there are small shops where you could splurge for a Coke or snack item.
What kind of organizations will we be working with during the term?
Throughout the term, you'll have the opportunity to connect with a variety of ministries, churches and leaders. EM typically partners with churches, missionaries, schools or non-profits in the community. Our goal is to support pre-established, on-going ministries. We think it's a great way to encourage our local partners in the work they are already doing instead of taking over or coming in with our own agenda.
What will a daily schedule look like?
The daily schedule can look different from day-to-day or week-to-week, depending on what is happening in the local community. You'll have the opportunity to be involved in relational ministry throughout the day, as well as the occasional work project. You may lead a VBS with your teammates, tutor at a local school, attend a church service, participate in a Bible study, work in your host family's field, do laundry in the river, go to the market, play soccer, carry water from the spring, prepare meals with your host mother, or look after the children. Each day brings something new and we hope that you'll embrace the new experiences and do your best to fully immerse in local life!
How does EM choose the host families?
Our local partners (pastors, church leaders, etc.) help us identify trusted host families in the community. All host families are eager to have team members in their homes, but they are usually just as nervous as you are! Remember that this is a cross-cultural experience for them, too. Although sometimes we divide team members into pairs, it is possible that you will be placed as an individual in a host home. Usually, all families are within a short distance of one another so you will still be able to connect with teammates during the day at ministry sites.
Experience the unique challenges and beauty of life in Cuba from bustling Havana to rural farm towns. You'll discover the home church movement; entire communities of people who are living out their faith through tight-knit relationships, authentic worship, and meeting the needs of their neighbors. You'll be inspired by the way people are thriving and you'll be challenged to look at your own faith in a fresh way.
Originally a British colony, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language, while many people still speak Spanish in day-to-day life. Although the economy is heavily dependent on the exportation of natural resources, many people provide for their families through agriculture. There is a strong Mayan influence in the culture, especially in the more rural villages. Team members will live in a small village in the Cayo District of central Belize, working alongside several churches and local pastors.
Two hours outside of the capital of San Jose, this small Spanish-speaking community sits right on the edge of the Costa Rican rain forest. Families here live on farms and raise many animals, so team members have the chance to milk cows, herd cattle or harvest Yuca. Life is simple but beautiful, challenging you to slow down and be a part of community life through the school and church.
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We are passionate about seeing people make missions a lifestyle, not just a one-week or six-month experience. IMMERSION gives young adults the chance to go, but also the challenge to come back and make a difference in their home context. We’re proud of the growing network of young adults who are choosing to live boldly. As you consider joining an IMMERSION team, ask yourself, “Who will I become?"
“Experience Mission has become a second family to me; a home away from home. Like so many of us, I was looking for meaning, purpose, and a chance to grow like I couldn't on my own. IMMERSION gives you the opportunity to expand your cultural perspective, expound on your ideologies, and experience the freedom of living outside your comfort zone. But most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to love people across cultural boundaries and in new ways.
I came on IMMERSION hoping to make some big life decisions. But instead, I got confusion. The beautiful thing is, it left me more open to what God wanted for me instead of what I wanted. Starting this fall, I will be attending a Bible college and pursuing a career in ministry! It started with a click of a button. Requesting information about the IMMERSION program.”
Worried about the cost of an IMMERSION program?
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Each IMMERSION participant is also provided with their own Sponsorship Profile on our website to tell their story and raise funds for their trip!
As a friend or family member of someone considering an IMMERSION program, we know you have questions. Here are a few of the most common questions about Experience Mission and the IMMERSION program. Please note that many of these details (and more!) will be discussed with team members during the application & interview process, during pre-trip conference calls, or are already listed as resources in their personal Mission Center. Parents, we encourage you to talk with team members and review the information together. Chances are, they have the details and answers to your questions somewhere already. Thanks for your input into this decision! It's an exciting journey ahead.
Can you tell me more about when the organization started, where you work, and your mission?
Experience Mission is a Christian non-profit and was founded in 2003 during the height of the short-term missions movement by EM's Executive Director, Chris Clum. The organization has continued to grow each year, striving to live out an intentional approach that not only allows people to go and serve, but also respects the dignity and voice of the local people. We believe that partnership is key to healthy development. Each year, we send volunteers to work in both domestic and international communities, facilitating trips for volunteers ranging from one week to six months. In 2016, over 3,500 short-term volunteers and over 100 Immersion team members served with Experience Mission.
The IMMERSION program began in 2011 out of a desire to see young adults live out their faith in a radical way—through cross-cultural relationships and service. Around that same time, EM also launched its Education and Micro-loan initiatives, making a bold decision to support international students and give away 100% of all donations made through the program. Through the development of Immersion and the Initiatives, we feel that we are able to truly live out our three focuses—Volunteer Mobilization, Leadership Development, and Community Empowerment.
But I've never heard of Experience Mission.
Yeah, we know. As a relatively young organization (started in 2003) our work isn't always well-known. Although we are developing more partnerships with Christian conferences, universities and denominations, much of our marketing focuses on our online audience. We trust that the right volunteers and partners will find us and share our desire to be people of hope in a broken world. You can read Our Story for more details.
Is EM connected with any one church or denomination?
Experience Mission is a Christian organization, although we aren't connected with any one church or denomination. Our staff members all have a personal faith and do our best to live it out daily. You can read more about the EM Missions Approach and Philosophy here. EM strives to share the message of Jesus in a way that is highly relational and respects each person's story and journey. Delivering this message of hope drives everything that we do, but we think it's especially important to partner with local people who can continue the process of growth and discipleship. Feel free to read more about How We Share the Gospel.
Are donations toward this trip tax-deductible?
Since EM is a 501c3 non-profit, any donations made through the EM website or any checks mailed to the EM office are tax deductible. Donors will receive a receipt for tax purposes, outlining their contribution. Often, donors who are making monthly donations or a large one-time donation may appreciate the opportunity for a tax write-off.
What fundraising resources or scholarships are available to applicants?
EM is not able to promise scholarships to Immersion applicants, but occasionally we receive a donation for this purpose that can be applied to a team member's account. However, these scholarships are rare and reserved for team members who have had in-depth conversations with our staff and can demonstrate real financial need. We encourage all team members to get creative and enlist the support of their network in order to raise the money needed for the term. Check out EM's Fundraising Guide, which has some ideas to get team members started! After they pay their initial $500 deposit, each team member is also given access to an EM Fundraising Profile, which allows them to share their story, collect online donations, and easily track their progress. The benefits to using the EM Fundraising Profile instead of a 3rd party account (like GoFundMe) are:
1) All donations go directly into the trip account without fees, whereas other websites can charge anywhere from 3-8% per donation.
2) All donations made to EM through the Fundraising Profile (or checks) are tax-deductible and can be set up as a one-time or monthly contribution.
What is the refund policy?
EM provides each team member with a Payment & Refund Policy that is specific to their term. The process typically starts when team members pay a $500 (non-refundable) deposit to secure their spot on the team. From that point, there are benchmarks each month (starting at 150-days out) when more payments are due. The goal is to have 100% of the trip paid for 30-days before the start date. If a team member chooses to back-out or switch to a different trip, EM will determine the non-refundable amounts depending on when the team member notifies us of this change. We must stick closely to these policies because we are making real investments and commitments based on having a certain team size. The loss of even one team member can create a lot of challenges and may also mean that we have turned away other applicants based on their commitment to us.
What happens if EM cancels a trip?
If a trip is cancelled by Experience Mission because of the minimum team size not being met, safety concerns in the community, natural disaster, etc. we will provide the team member with other options during the same timeframe and transfer any available funds to the new trip. If a team member cannot find a location that interests them during the same timeframe, they will be offered a credit to be used toward a future Immersion trip within 24-months of the original program.
How long has EM been working in these communities and do they work with trusted partners?
Depending on the specific location, EM has been working in a community anywhere from one year to thirteen. We work with local people who are often pastors, non-profit managers, missionaries, school teachers, or indigenous leaders. These local leaders work closely with our full-time staff and the Immersion team leader to identify host families, select ministry sites, place volunteers in classrooms, navigate cross-cultural barriers, and determine safety guidelines. We couldn't and wouldn't do ministry without our local partners! Not only do they allow us to be a part of on-going, lasting change in the community, but they also help our team members truly immerse in the local culture by opening up opportunities for practical service and real relationships.
How reliable is communication and how often should we expect to be able to connect with team members?
As a general rule, we typically tell team members to expect to have access to the internet every other week. However, it could be more often or less often depending on the exact location. Internet is usually the best form of communication (most reliable and inexpensive) vs. buying an international phone plan. Facebook, email, iMessage, and blogging sites are easily accessible. Skype is sporadically available depending on the strength of the signal. In some locations, wifi is extremely limited, but there are local cafes with hourly usage fees and community partners who have access to share. Team members are permitted to purchase international cell phone plans, however, it is usually much cheaper to buy an in-country phone upon arrival and then use pay-as-you-go credit. Any team members planning to bring a U.S. phone and use local SIM cards should note they may need to contact their service provider in the U.S. before leaving in order to have the phone "unlocked" for service from other providers. Otherwise, the SIM card will not be able to be activated. Most team members choose to simply keep their phone on "airplane mode" or turn off the cellular data during the trip and use their phone to access wifi whenever possible.
Will I receive updates from EM throughout the trip?
In regards to travel, we encourage you to go by the mantra that "no news is good news." Our staff will be in communication with the team and inform you if there is an emergency, but otherwise you will not receive updates about delays, flight changes, arrival times, etc. Please trust that our staff have the resources to assist team members if they encounter any issues and we will make sure they get to their final destination. We have encouraged all team members to keep friends & family in the loop, but please know that in some locations their message to you may not be immediate. Again, this is not necessarily a cause for concern. They are in good hands, but simply have limited communication access. We encourage all family and friends to "Like" EM on Facebook and keep an eye out for posts on the Immersion Blog as a way of receiving periodic updates throughout the trip!
What happens if there is an emergency at home and I can't communicate with a team member directly?
EM has a set up a 24-hour emergency line for the official emergency contact to access if there is an issue at home. This line is available to you if you are unable to get in touch with a team member directly. After receiving your voicemail or talking with you, our staff will relay your message to the field as quickly as possible. Please note that this line should only be used for true emergencies (i.e. severe sickness, death in the family). Do not call the emergency line for travel updates, health questions or to casually enquire about the trip.
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Your online account will allow you to access donation receipts and allocation information. After you complete your donation, a temporary username and password will be emailed to you.
You must have a group size of at least 6 members to join this trip. Please view the Small Team trips or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.
For most trips, you must have a group size of at least 6 members. Please view the Small Teams tab on each Community page or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.