Here are our final numbers for 2015! We had 508 participants on 37 Merge trips last year. That is only a 0.3% increase over our numbers for the last CHIC year of 2012, but it is an increase! Of course this comes after two years in which Merge grew 16% and 18% respectively. Overall it was the 6th smallest year in Merge’s 23-year history. However it was the fourth-largest CHIC year ever for Merge.
Our top states for sending Merge teams were California, Minnesota and Kansas. California and Minnesota have been one of the two top states for Merge every year since 2010. In fact Minnesota has been in the top three 17 of the last 20 years. This is the first time Kansas has been in the top three since 2011.
Merge actually had its first-ever trip participant from Sweden. A young man went to La Villa, Texas, on a Merge SEEDs trip last March.
Mexico was the country that received the most Merge participants, followed by Ecuador and Guatemala. Mexico has been a top-three country for Merge since we started in 1993. Ecuador has been in the top three 4 out of the last 6 years. Guatemala has been in the top three all but four years since Merge started going there in 2001.
Overall Merge sent teams to 11 countries, including our first team to Uruguay in seven years. Argentina and Brazil received the most Merge participants in our history. We are excited about the interest in teams going to these countries.
As usual the most popular people ministries were children’s programs, but also very popular were outreach events, women’s ministry, youth programs, school education programs, English conversation classes and health related ministries. In fact 2015 was the largest year ever in which teams presented health workshops on various topics, trained people in first aid, and gave treatment in various clinics. It was also the largest year ever for women’s ministry. Ten teams were involved in various forms of women’s ministry, including Bible studies, cooking classes, crafts, counseling, day-spas, and more.
Newer types of people ministries for Merge teams included marriage workshops which were incredibly well attended, prison ministries, mentoring programs, tutoring, grief workshops and even our first surfing outreach.