Step into life in the Rio Grande Valley where two cultures become one. The U.S.-Mexico Border is the perfect place for your South Texas mission trip because it gives your team a chance to experience both American and Mexican culture in a unique way while connecting with immigrant families from Mexico and Latin America who are working hard to build a new life in the United States.
Mission Trips in Rio Grande Valley are designed for you to serve alongside the local church just five miles from the border—a place often overlooked by short-term volunteers en route to Mexico, yet a community with real needs in our own backyard. Your team will give in practical ways through work projects and outreach with the church, while also learning about real-life struggles of what life looks like for immigrants and local churches. The hospitality of our partners will warm your hearts as they share their lives and stories with you.
Will your team come to the border willing to listen, learn from immigrant families, and serve on South Texas mission trips in 2023 and 2024?
Work projects are organized to support the needs and vision of the community and designed to connect team members with real needs in the Rio Grande Valley.
The needs are always changing on the border. In the past few years Mexico has been affected greatly by violence due to drug cartels. This unrest has caused many Mexicans to immigrate to the U.S. in order to avoid the violence. Your team will work alongside local community leaders who are striving to make a difference in the lives of immigrants. Practically you may be involved in work projects that are helping to further the mission of our partners at IGLESIA MISIONERA CRISTO VIVE. Teams will also participate in meeting practical needs such as serving at a local Respite center, providing food & support to immigrants in transition. Teams may also participate in various outreaches such as working at Food Banks, Boys & Girls Clubs & more.
You will work in colonias with a diverse group of people and circumstances. Team members will have the opportunity to share their lives through service, prayer, and time spent with the families and children they come to work among.
*Experience Mission works closely with local leaders to identify work projects and ministry opportunities that address authentic needs within the community. We ask that you come with a servant's heart and willingness to adapt to the unique qualities represented in each location. Opportunities can vary significantly from one week to the next. Your team may work at one location or serve at multiple locations each day. Due to the changing needs of our community partners, we cannot confirm your specific daily activities until your team arrives.
In this community, connecting with the local children through children's ministry happens some weeks but not all weeks. In the event that your team will participate in Kids Club, Experience Mission will provide the curriculum for your team's use.
On your mission trip to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, your team will be serving alongside the local church in Las Milpas, a colonia, 5 miles south of the city center of Pharr, Texas and 5 miles from the United States-Mexico border. Being right on the border, the Rio Grande Valley is home to a high population of Mexican-American families.
The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) or the Lower Rio Grande Valley, refers to the eight-county region, informally called "The Valley," an area located in the southernmost tip of South Texas. It lies along the northern bank of the Rio Grande River, which serves as a partial boarder between Mexico and the United States.
Las Milpas is located within Hidalgo County. According to the U.S. Census data, Hidalgo county is the second poorest county in Texas, one in every three households living in poverty. In Hidalgo County, there are areas of wealth, but in most areas, like in Las Milpas, there are other riches, but not in terms of economics.
Since this area is mainly composed of Mexican-American families who immigrated to the United States, a high percentage are considered Roman Catholic. In Mexico, Roman Catholicism is the main religion with 83% of the population identifying with Catholicism. Since Texas is a part of the strongly socially conservative Evangelical Protestant "Bible Belt," 64.4% of families in the state as a whole are considered Evangelical Protestant. This results in a highly concentrated population of Roman Catholics in South Texas, with the rest of the state being generally more evangelical in background.
Las Milpas was established in the 1960s as many colonias were. In 1962 it had multiple dwellings, platted streets, and a church. By 1976 the community had 77 dwellings and about 424 residents.
In a period before 1987, the larger community had almost 5,000 residents. The community received media coverage that used it as an example of the lifestyles of residents in American colonias during the mid-to-late 1980s. In 1987 the City of Pharr annexed the community, with some residents of Las Milpas opposing the annexation.
In 1990 Las Milpas and Hidalgo Park, another colonia, had a combined population of 4,178. By 1995 the community had 12,000 residents. Chris Kelley of The Dallas Morning News wrote that year that Las Milpas "helps make the case that Pharr is the most distressed city in America."
Lynn Brezosky of the Associated Press wrote that Las Milpas and Pueblo de Palmas, around 1997, "were Calcutta on the Rio Grande, poverty-stricken places that became filthy, stinking, disease-ridden expanses awash in mud and sewage whenever it rained heavily." By 2007 the community grew to over 17,000 residents and many illegal immigrants in the community became U.S. citizens and began applying political pressure to the federal and state governments to get aid for the community. Brezosky wrote that Las Palmas's "transformation into a proud, largely well-tended community" was "an immigrant success story."
Each morning, there is time set aside for devotions and quiet time. This is a valuable time and we strongly encourage everyone to spend it with God journaling their thoughts and experiences as the days unfold. EM will provide a physical or printable devotional journal.
Our staff will lead a time of debriefing and a short devotional in the evening (what we call "Evening Gathering") and it is always a great addition to have musical worship. Our programming does not include musical worship as we can't guarantee that our our staff will have this ability. Please let us know if you have anyone who sings or plays guitar on your trip so that we can help to coordinate the musical aspect of worship when able. If teams aren't able to help in the area of music, it may not be a part of the trip.
Teams in South Texas will stay at a local camp, church or a guest home. This varies depending on your team size and the time of year you come. Plan to bring along air mattresses and sleeping bags.
There will be showers available either where teams will be staying or at a facility nearby.
There will be bathrooms where your team will be staying. Most work and outreach sites will have bathrooms as well. For those that do not, teams will need to take mid-day breaks to use a public restroom.
Teams will have access to water at the home and at their work and outreach sites. Teams should plan to bring refillable water bottles to stay hydrated at work sites
There is electricity available to teams where teams will be staying, as well as at most work and outreach locations.
A wonderful team of local cooks will be preparing and serving your meals. Breakfast and dinner will be served buffet-style, and your team will pack your lunches.
Your team's transportation to, from, and while in South Texas is NOT covered. You will need your vehicles throughout the entire week to transport your team to various locations for work and ministry.
Using a school bus as your main mode of transportation while in this community is not an ideal option. 15 passenger vans or smaller are your best choice for transportation while in South Texas.
Check out EM's current Covid Guidance
Experience Mission has specific policies regarding team registration and withdrawal. Please refer to the document below for specifics.
All volunteers on a week-long EM mission trips to South Texas must be part of a team of at least 10 people, with at least one team member age 21 or older to serve as the Team Leader. Not part of a group? All young adults ages 18-30 are eligible to apply for EM's IMMERSION program.
What age group can you accommodate in South Texas?
Yes! We can accommodate Jr. high/middle school students as well as high school students, college students, and adults. For more options for jr. higher, view all of our trips for jr. high students.
How much do South Texas mission trips cost?
The cost for this trip in 2023 is $559/person. This includes all lodging, food, staffing, and trip-related expenses.
Will we cross the border during our trip?
At this time we do not allow teams to go across the border. If this is something your team is interested in doing, please talk about it with your mission trip support representative.
What seasons do you offer South Texas mission trips?
Mission trips to South Texas take place year round! Don't see dates that work for you? Contact us to set up custom dates.
Do you offer spring break trips in South Texas?
Yes! We do offer spring break trips to this location. For more spring options, check out our spring mission trip locations for more options.
What will volunteers do on a mission trip to South Texas?
Ministry in South Texas is both relational and work project-based. You will work very closely with the local church to meet the needs of the local community through construction, soup kitchens, delivering goods, and running Kids Club.
Will we work with children in South Texas?
Most likely, yes! Kids Club is an integral part of ministry in this community. A couple of months before your trip, you will receive all the curriculum so that you have ample time to prepare.
What paperwork is required for this mission trip?
Each team member will need to fill out a team member registration form and liability waiver, and all adults are required to pass a background check. Your mission trip support representative will contact you if any other paperwork is required.
Where will my team stay in South Texas?
Teams will stay at a local camp, church or a guest home. Plan to bring along air mattresses and sleeping bags for added comfort! Showers will be available on site or at a facility nearby.
How does transportation work during South Texas mission trips?
Transportation is entirely up to groups to arrange. We recommend 15 passenger vans and smaller. We don't recommend relying on buses as a mode of transportation for this trip.
When would my team need to arrive?
Check-in is between 3 and 5 PM on the first day of your selected trip. Our staff will be awaiting your arrival. You can expect dinner and an orientation meeting that evening as well.
What should I pack for this trip?
A packing list will be available to you once you register for the trip.
Does EM have any Covid requirements for teams?
We ask that teams bring 1-2 masks/person and 2-4 rapid tests in the event that someone on your team becomes sick during the trip. Outside of that, we simply recommend that teams follow current CDC recommendations regarding travel, testing, and what to do if you're exposed or get sick. View EM's Current Covid Guidance
Have more questions about Experience Mission trips? Check out our general FAQs, or call our support team at 888-475-6414.
Only takes a minute! Simply choose the community and trip dates you’re most interested in—no commitment necessary.
We’ll personally follow up with you this week
Answering your questions and walking you through the process of finding the best trip, registering your group, and preparing to serve together.
You and your team serve on a cross-cultural mission trip!
Organized and led by EM field staff or local partners, your trip will bring encouragement and light to people in difficult circumstances, as you learn what it means to care for all people, whoever and wherever you are.
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You must have a group size of at least 10 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 10 members. Please view the Small Teams tab on each Community page or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.