Frequently Asked Questions about Friends Across Borders

These questions have been asked by people inquiring about or participating in our programs. Please send other questions you may have so we can add them to the list.

What will we do in a FAB program?

FAB provides more than a short, hands-on service experience. We offer opportunities for engagement and interaction with communities. Our participants meet and learn from local people and grassroots groups. FAB trips include a variety of activities such as lectures, liturgical celebrations, artistic and other community events and celebrations, and time for reflection. We focus on getting to know the culture, the reality, and the people Maryknoll Lay Missioners serves as well as learning about the lives and works of MKLM missioners through visits to their ministry projects.

You mention Maryknoll Lay Missioners projects. What types of projects?

Maryknoll Lay Missioners serves in a variety of ministries and services to the poor. We work in health specific programs such as primary health care, mental health, health education and rehabilitation, and nutrition; education, formal and informal; sustainable development, leadership training, promotion of women and children, ecology, legal assistance and a variety of pastoral works. Getting to know the range of ministry projects in which Maryknoll Lay Missioners are involved is a rich experience.

Will we serve in one or more of these projects?

As Maryknoll Lay Missioners we commit ourselves to three full years of service after eight months of preparation. We know that service requires a longer commitment. We consider these immersion/service-learning and short-term mission experiences a “taste of mission.” We share with you our experience and work by providing an opportunity for you to interact with and meet the communities that MKLM serves.

What does spirituality have to do with Immersion, Service Learning or Short-term Mission?

We’ve witnessed again and again that when we receive the warmth and hospitality of people living in conditions of poverty who share with us their lives and faith perspectives, we experience a deep connection with them – and with the suffering Body of Christ. We are challenged to speak out at home in prophetic witness against the structures that enable injustice in the countries that we visit, and to discern the ways in which the Spirit is calling us to respond with compassion to the needs of poor people in those countries.

Do the local people get anything out of the encounter with us?

People who have been working in this field continue to “sit with” this question. It’s a question which must always remain in the forefront during our trips. People we’ve visited thank us for coming to visit them as much as we thank them for hosting us and opening their lives to us. When we have asked members of the visiting communities what message they had for us, they have responded, “Well, it’s a message of friendship. We are all sons and daughters of God and we just have to find ways to eliminate these barriers which separate us.” We are committed to relationships of mutuality. Friendship implies a commitment to each other which is expressed in concrete ways. We hope that our trip participants will discover ways to stay connected with Maryknoll Lay Missioners and the people we serve. We also hope that the Spirit will guide each in a life response to work for improved conditions of life and overcome poverty for all people in the world.

Do I have to be Catholic to join FAB programs?

No. Friends Across Borders is open to people of all faiths and denominations. However, it is important to understand that Maryknoll Lay Missioners is a Roman Catholic missionary organization and some of the trip components are based on the Maryknoll charism, Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic liturgy and prayer forms. All are welcome!

Where are the overseas sites where FAB experiences are developed?

The overseas sites are the six regions where MKLM lives and serves: Kenya and Tanzania in Africa, Cambodia in Asia, and Bolivia, El Salvador, and Brazil in Latin America.

Is language a requirement?

It is not necessary to know the local language for the immersion trips but of course it is a plus. Translation is always provided. Basic skills in language are required if you are part of a Service Learning group or if you do a short-term volunteer/discernment experience.

Is there an age limitation?

Yes, Immersion Trips are designed for adults, 21 and older. However, families with children of 10 yrs. and up are also invited as a long as the parents participate. Service Learning trips are designed for college students, teachers and chaperons. Short-term volunteers/discernment experiences are designed on a case-by-case and children will be invited only to places where there are families in mission.

Do I have to be a United States citizen to participate in the FAB programs?

Yes, you need to be an American citizen or a US resident to participate in FAB programs.

What is my financial obligation?

You are responsible for your transportation to the country (planning, scheduling and purchasing) and the in-country package cost. All expenses while you are in the country: room and board, travel, cultural presentations, etc., are included in the in-country package costs.

Is the cost of the program tax-deductible?

No, the cost charged is a service fee and it is not tax-deductible.

Do you provide scholarships?

No. Maryknoll Lay Missioners doesn’t have scholarship funds available.

How may I support Friends Across Borders ministry?

FAB accepts multiple forms of support including promotion of the trips via word of mouth, presentations, church talks, and financial support. The most consistent way of supporting Maryknoll Lay Missioners is to become a sponsor by signing up for an ongoing debit donation for the amount and frequency of your choice.

Is my gift tax-deductible?

All financial gifts are fully tax-deductible according to IRS regulations. Maryknoll Lay Missioners will provide you with an annual tax letter.

What immunizations are required?

Each country has its own specific requirements. We suggest that you contact the CDC or your own physician and/or a travel doctor to check the required immunizations.

Can I get a certificate or a letter for my participation in a FAB program?

To obtain a certificate or letter, contact the FAB manager and a certificate or letter will be provided. In previous years the Mission Office of an archdiocese coordinated a program of college credits for teachers from a local college who participated in a specific Immersion Trip.

What type of orientation would FAB provide?

FAB will provide an orientation via conference call. In some situations and depending on the proximity with the participants, there may be face to face meetings. We also provide a country and trip-specific booklet of information for each participant.

How should participants prepare for their FAB experience?

There are several ways of getting prepared for your FAB experience:

There are several ways of getting prepared for your FAB experience:

  • Read about the culture and current conditions in that country.
  • Learn what you can about the various projects that you will visit or in which you will serve.
  • Get in touch with your own motivation for wanting to make this trip. What has brought you to this experience? What do you hope to discover or learn from it? How open are you to realities that are unknown and different?
  • Take time for reflection and prayer. If possible, share your plans with your parish or faith community, asking that they accompany you with prayer. We encourage you to be in touch with them while on the trip and share with them about your experience upon your return.

What are some of the benefits and or challenges of going on an immersion, service learning or short term mission experience?

The two major benefits are the cultural and spiritual growth of the participant. You will learn about a different culture through art, music, dance, stories, rituals and celebrations as well as lectures and reflections on different topics, themes or areas such as education, health, ecology, women, children and other sociocultural realities. You will also learn some common words in the language of the local people in order to communicate on a basic level with them. You will learn through walking, praying, eating and working with the local people.

What happens after I participate in a FAB program?

There will be a follow-up conference call to debrief the trip. FAB will also provide a variety of resources and suggestions for processing the FAB experience. FAB will invite you to be part of the Maryknoll movement in different ways.

How do I get emails about FAB programs?

If you would like to be added to the email list please contact the FAB manager. She will send you periodic emails.

What will be the living arrangement for immersion trips?

During the immersion trip program there are three different options: Maryknoll houses, retreat houses and hotels/hostels. We usually use two of the three options depending where the immersion trip takes place.

What is the length of an immersion trip?

From one to two weeks.

How can students find about mission activities and experiences?

Many mission organizations serve here in the United States as well as overseas. Knowing the mission, vision, values, and history of the various service/volunteer organizations can help you to choose the organization that will best fit with your own needs and interests. Learn more about MKLM on this Web site.

What will be the living arrangement for service learning trips?

We usually have three options: Retreat houses, hotels/hostels, and family housing. We usually use two of the three options – for example, offering half of the program at a retreat house and the other half, staying with families. When a group is large, we may offer only one lodging option.

What is the length of the service learning experience?

From one week to one month.

With which colleges and universities has MKLM collaborated regarding service learning and short-term mission programs?

We have received groups and individual students from many different universities: Notre Dame, Marquette, Ohio Dominican, LaSalle, Villanova, St. Louis, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Regis, Seattle, Holy Names, etc. Usually most of the planning has been done by Maryknoll Lay Missioners and the plan presented to the university. The university or the student provides the necessary funds for the particular program created for them.

What will the living arrangements for short term mission experience be?

There are different possibilities for living arrangements, depending on the country. We will provide family living arrangements wherever possible. In some mission sites there will be a community living arrangement. The last option is hostels/hotels.

What type of short term mission service can I do?

Service includes opportunities within our five areas of ministry: health, education, civil and human rights, sustainable development and pastoral ministry. Visit the ministry page of this Web site to see what we do.

What is the length of the short term mission experience?

From one to three months.