Step into life on the border, where two cultures become one. The Rio Grande Valley 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. The area has become an attractive corridor for immigrant families from Mexico and Latin America who are working hard to build a new life in the United States.
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 receiving from the local people as they extend hospitality and share their stories with you.
Will your team come serve along the border, willing to listen and learn from immigrant families?
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 US-MEXICO border, the RGV is home to a high population of Mexican-American families. For many decades short term mission teams crossed this border to travel into Mexico and in the last few years have left this area seemingly forgotten.
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, which separates Mexico from the United States.
Las Milpas is located within Hidalgo County. According to the U.S. Census data, Hidalgo county is the poorest county in Texas, with the lowest median household income in the state. 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.
For more detailed information, check out a recent Census Survey: Hidalgo County Poorest in Texas
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."
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.
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 home repair projects and helping to build a local church. 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 is an important part of what we do each day. Teams coming to this community must expect to participate in Kids Club. Experience Mission will provide the curriculum for your teams use. This Kids Club curriculum will be sent out to Team Leaders in the spring via email. Your team may be asked to participate in multiple Kids Clubs and avenues of ministering to children.
Teams will be responsible to bring the craft supplies needed for their specific crafts and should budget appropriately. While we do our best to make sure craft materials are cost effective, teams may feel free to augment any materials to make them more suitable to their budget. Experience Mission will supply scissors, staplers, paper hole punches and rulers. There are plenty of opportunities to connect with the local children through games like soccer or Frisbee. Tuck in a hackysack, football or jump rope as they are sure to come in handy!
Each morning, there is time set aside for devotions and quiet time. Experience Mission has devotionals/journals that are available for purchase or teams can supply their own. This is a valuable time and we strongly encourage everyone to spend it with God journaling their thoughts and experiences as the days unfold.
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.
AVERAGE DAILY SCHEDULE
3:00-6:00 pm Groups Arrive
5:00 - Leader's Meeting
6:00 - Dinner
7:00 - Orientation Meeting
8:30 - Team Time (a time for your group alone)
10:00 - Lights Out
7:15 - Breakfast
7:45 - Devotions and Quiet Time
8:15 - Group Prayer
8:30 - Teams leave for Sites
12:00 - Lunch
3:30 - Finish Work for the day
4:00 - Break and Clean-up
5:00 - Leaders meeting
6:00 - Dinner
7:00 - Evening Gathering (as a whole group)
8:30 - Team time
7:00 - Breakfast
7:30 - Cleanup/ Packing
9:00 - Pictures and Good-Byes
Teams in South Texas will stay in at a local church. Team members will be sleeping on the floor and should plan on bringing mats or air mattresses as well as a sleeping bag or light bedding and a pillow. Please bring single-wide air mattress only.
There will be limited shower facilities at the church where teams will be staying.
There will be bathrooms at the church 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 church 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 at the church where they will be staying, as well as at most work and outreach locations.
A wonderful team of local cooks, alongside your Experience Mission Summer Staff, will be preparing and serving your meals. Breakfast and dinner will be served buffet style, and your team will pack your lunches. Team members should plan to bring their own plate, bowl, cup and silverware for meals.
Your teams 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.
If you're interested in bringing your group on a mission trip, fill out this quick interest form! Our staff will be in touch with you shortly to help answer your questions. Also, many questions about trips to this community are answered under Mission Trip Details & Logistics above.
Experience Mission has specific policies regarding registration and withdrawal. Please refer to the document below for specifics.
All volunteers on a week-long EM mission trip must be part of a team of at least six (6) 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.
Mission Trips involve many details, and we know you probably have a few questions about EM mission trips.
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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.