by Guest Blogger - MM Shannon Avery
I remember the day clearly…
My oldest son had been serving in South America for almost fourteen months, and his brother
was really struggling in his absence. They were best buddies, confidants, partners in crime :) I’d
been praying and wondering what it would take for my younger son to snap out of his gloomy
Then one day a missionary name tag arrived in a dirty, crumbled envelope from Peru. That name
tag, and the letter that came with it, changed everything.
My elder told his brother about the joy he’d found serving the Lord and the people of Peru. He
explained that his name tag had gotten too worn out and he’d received a replacement, but he
couldn’t bring himself to get rid of it because it symbolized the love, sweat, and tears that he was
so grateful to have been able to experience. He said his name tag represented what was most
important to him in the whole world – the Lord, His gospel, and eternal families.
The day my elder’s name tag arrived in the mail was a turning point for my younger son. It was
simple, but it changed things for him in a powerful way. That tag and what it meant was
motivating and inspiring. Most of all, it was a little reminder of his brother that he could look at
every day, confirming for him that their time apart was worth it!
(Fast forward about 8 weeks… : )
As Christmastime came around a few months later, I was trying to come up with a meaningful,
inexpensive gift for our family members who'd supported our missionaries during the year. Some
of them contributed to our missionaries’ mission funds. Others wrote encouraging letters and
emails. I really wanted something unique that would represent this special time in our family,
and that would let them know how much their love and support meant to our missionaries and to
Remembering how much my elder’s name tag had meant to him personally, and what it had done
for my son at home, I decided to design a name tag that could be hung on a Christmas tree, given
as a gift, and kept in a special place in the home of any family with a missionary.
As you can probably imagine, the name tag gift was a hit! Our missionaries' grandparents, aunts,
and uncles loved them! My friends with missionaries asked me to make name tag ornaments for
their families too. Now, here we are at the second Christmas season since creating the missionary
name tag ornaments, and I have people I’ve never met contacting me to ask if there’s any way I
can make them for their families! I even had a grandma ask if I would make one for each of her
returned missionary grandchildren so she could have a "missionary tree."
With how much people have enjoyed the ornaments, I decided I would offer them on a website
dedicated exclusively to missionary families. And I'd also offer other products, advice, and
information that I've found helpful along the way. So that's how the idea of
MissionaryExchanges.com was born :)
Now, here's my very favorite part of all this, and the reason why I didn't give up when I realized
how much work it was going to be, haha! All of the profits from Missionary Exchanges will go
directly toward missionary work. Every penny. That is my promise.
So, the first thing we are doing is a project we are calling "Glasses for Peru." Let me tell you
My son Jake (the one who sent his name tag home in the mail) was telling us about how excited
people were when the missionaries would give them FREE scriptures :) But many times when
the missionaries would return to teach them, they would not have read their new scriptures....not
because they could not read, but because they could not see the words on the pages! Jake
explains that the number of people who need glasses in Peru is staggering. As a family, we
talked about how much we would like to help them out, but we just didn't know where to begin
(you can see, this is a recurring theme with us...great ideas with no idea how to make them
But then, a few weeks later, Jake was talking to a man in the temple about how we wanted to
figure out a way to offer free eye exams, glasses, and scriptures to needy people in Peru, and the
man told him that he's done that before! He told Jake the kind of machine we'd need to figure out
the strength of the glasses people needed, and he told Jake where to get the glasses in bulk for a
Jake is working with the stake presidents he met in his mission to figure out places to do the free
eye exams. And because missionaries have a requirement for service hours, we will work with
the mission president to involve the missionaries in helping with the distribution of glasses and
scriptures to those who need them. Win-Win for everyone!
Our first trip to Peru is scheduled for the middle of January, after their summer vacation and
before it starts to get cold there. I'll post updates on our progress as we work out the details.
So there you have it! MissionaryExchanges.com is my labor of love. We only have a couple of
products and blog posts right now, but we’ll grow! I welcome you all to visit the site and take a
look around. We also have a Facebook page and a pretty lame Pinterest account, LOL! Please
“Like” and “Share” if you feel inclined. The more people who know about us and like our
products, the more people we can give the gift of vision. Thanks so much!
Merry Christmas, you wonderful missionary mommas! Your sacrifice is so precious ♥
Thank you so much for your support! The first batch is in the mail!!