We have been overwhelmed by the generosity shown us by all of you who have donated glasses and ordered from us since 2013! Thank you so much for your support.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve realized that the bulk of our orders and glasses donations happen between October and December. Due to the cost of advertising and keeping the website running during the many months when we aren’t as busy, we have decided to only open the site for orders beginning in October each year and run through the beginning of December. This will allow us to offer our custom missionary gifts and continue our humanitarian efforts in a more cost effective way.

We will keep you updated on our upcoming Glasses trips, and welcome your donated glasses anytime.

Thank you, again, for serving with us. Merry Christmas!


For those of you who want to save money on shipping, we now offer free local pickup in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah! If you live within a qualifying zip code, you will be able choose “Local Pickup” when you checkout. After we process your order, we will contact you to schedule a time for you to pick it up.

If you live outside the valley and would still like to pick up your order instead of having it shipped, just contact us by emailing support@missionaryexchanges.com. We will refund your shipping charges and schedule a time for you to come by.


Glasses for Peru Dr. JohnsonOur Glasses for Peru trip was a great success! I was humbled by the number of glasses donated by kind-hearted people, and was amazed by all the places the glasses came from. I received emails, Facebook messages, and packages of glasses from people I don’t know and have never met. It’s a beautiful thing when people hear of a need and just reach out to help.

In the weeks leading up to the trip we were blessed to have two eye doctors allow us to use their equipment to read the prescriptions of our donated glasses. This made the task of finding the right glasses during our clinics so much easier! I think it would have been practically impossible to meet the needs of the people who walked into our clinics if we had not known the strengths of the glasses we received. Special thanks to Dr. David Brockbank at Olympus Eye Associates and Dr. Jodi Johnson at Riverton Family Eye Care for allowing me to spend hours (and even days!) reading the prescriptions for our donated glasses. We truly could not have held successful clinics in Peru without your generosity.

In the end, we took over 1,200 pairs of glasses. We received donations of reading glasses, bifocals, prescription sunglasses, prescription goggles (for car mechanics, etc.), distance vision glasses, and just about every other kind of glasses you can imagine. And they came from all over – Tennessee, Canada, Alabama, Florida, California, Utah, and Maryland, just to name a few. It was a miracle!

Before wGlasses for Peru - Preparing Glassese came to Peru, a friend told us about a condition called Pterygium which is caused from spending a lot of time outside in the sun, wind and dust. To protect the eye, a layer of skin begins to grow from the inside of the eye near the nose. Left unchecked this layer of skin can continue to grow until it covers the eyeball and makes it impossible to see anymore. Sunglasses with 100% UV protection will help the condition to slow or stop growing completely (it can only be removed with surgery). Most of the sunglasses you see for sale in Peru do not have UV protection, so those glasses end up acting like a magnifying glass and making the condition worse. It’s better to not wear sunglasses than to wear them without UV protection. Jake (my son who lived in Peru for two years) told us that he never knew what the condition was called, but he saw it a lot, especially in a little fishing village where we were planning to hold one of our clinics.

Our friend also told us that almost all the people coming through his clinics had needed reading glasses. At that point, we only had about 50 pairs of reading glasses donated, and only a couple of pairs of sunglasses. This made me panic a little.

With this new information, we knew we needed lots more sunglasses and reading glasses. Thankfully, the Dollar Store has UV protected sunglasses and many strengths of reading glasses. With money we’d made selling missionary products on this website, we were able to purchase hundreds of pairs of sunglasses and reading glasses for our trip. In addition, we had a huge donation of sunglasses and reading glasses from our friend Tom Rush at Rush Plumbing, and we were delighted that Tom was willing to come to Peru with us and help with the clinics!

In the days leading up to the trip, we cleaned and packaged all the glasses. Many of the donated glasses came with cases, which was so great. We packaged the ones we bought in plastic bags to keep them from being scratched in transit. We also took some care packages to deliver to missionaries in the the five Lima LDS Missions and the Cusco Mission, as well as five laptop computers that were donated for us to give to a school in Huacho, Peru. Altogether, we had 12 large suitcases, and 6 backpacks. It was a sight!

The day for our departure arrived. When the boys got out of school, we loaded down our 12 passenger van (lovingly named the “Bumble” because it’s huge and white 🙂 and made it to Las Vegas in plenty of time for our flight.

We had an eight hour layoverGlasses for Peru in Mexico City, so after clearing all our bags through customs, we took a taxi to Teotihuacan (Pyramid of the Sun). After our adventure and a delicious Mexican meal back at the airport, we boarded our flight to Lima. Having taken the red eye from Las Vegas and spending the day hiking around, we all slept the whole flight to Peru and landed after dark. It was tricky getting through customs because they thought we were going to try to sell the glasses. Thankfully, Jake can speak Spanish and he was able to convince them (after a tense 30 minutes of interviews, combing through our bags several times, and them disappearing with Jake’s passport) that we were honestly giving the glasses away at free clinics.

We were met at the airport by several of Jake’s friends from his mission. They helped us get transportation to the house where we were staying, and a couple of them came with us to make sure we got there safe and sound.

 

Our first couple of days were spent visiting and attending church with people Jake had taught and become friends with during his missionary service. Then, on day three, we drove to Vegueta, about 2 hours north of Lima, for our first eye clinic. I loved this place! The town was small, humble and quiet. And the people were so friendly and appreciated the glasses so much. Two of Jake’s Peruvian friends and some very dedicated missionaries came to help us with the clinic. We couldn’t have pulled it off without them! We learned so much at our first clinic, which helped make the later ones easier.

We saw literally hundGlasses for Perureds of cases of Pterygium in Vegueta, I’m sure because it’s right on the water and most people either fish or farm for a livGlasses for Peruing. In the end, we gave all the sunglasses we’d brought with us to people in Vegueta who had some degree of Pterygium. When we ran out, we had to just educate the rest of them about the importance of wearing sunglasses with UV protection (and say a little prayer in our hearts that they would be able to get them). It was really heartbreaking to see someone so close to losing their vision from Pterygium and having no more sunglasses to give them. But there are so many happy stories too.

Our next eye clinic was in Ventanilla, a suburb of Lima. It was the most populated area we visited, and it was a VERY hot day. We didn’t have the rental car anymore, so we had to take two taxis with all the glasses – an adventure! Thankfully, Jake’s friends and two different sets of missionaries were there to help us. The city was so busy that it seemed like nobody could tell that we were holding a clinic. So Jared and Brig made a poster and put it out on the gate, then tons of people started coming in. Because it’s surrounded by businesses, there were lots of people who came in on their lunch and dinner breaks. It was Glasses for Perureally neat when we were leaving that night, to walk by shops and see people who’d come to get glasses working inside 🙂 Ventanilla was our busiest clinic, having served at least 400 people.

The last clinic was in Puente Piedra, another suburb of Lima. We had lots of help at this clinic, from Jake’s friends, people from the church where the clinic was held, more missionaries, and friends of from our daughter’s mission in Chile. This clinic was interesting because it was our third, so we had our system down and were able to get people through in really good time. But, being our last clinic, we were running very low on our distance glasses. And the tricky thing with the distance glasses is that we just had to take what was donated and had no way of getting more of any particular size, like we were easily able to do with the reading glasses. So the challenge in Puente Piedra was not having the needed prescriptions for the people who needed distance glasses. Don’t get me wrong, we were able to give away at least 50 pairs of distance glasses, but it felt like we also had to turn away several dozen people because we didn’t have what they needed. That was my least favorite part of the whole experience. The positive side was that we had plenty of reading glasses for everyone who needed them. And we were even able to leave what was left at the end of the night with the stake president who is now planning to hold a free eye clinic with his family, so they can give away the rest.

The thing thaIMG_6355t struck me the most about holding the eye clinics was how much we felt like God was helping us. From the very beginning when we were trying to figure out how on earth to give life to the idea we had in our minds, opening the mailbox day after day to find donated glasses inside, and finding places to have the clinics and people who were willing to help, to getting the glasses through customs and all over the place without losing or damaging any of them, and having exactly what so many people needed. I will share a few of the remarkable things we saw:

  • A woman came in with a severe loss of vision in one eye and perfect vision in the other. I remembered having found a pair of glasses like that when I was reading prescriptions at Dr. Brockbank’s office and wondering if I should even bother taking them because of the unlikelihood of finding someone who needed them. After searching through all my bags of glasses, I found that pair, and it was exactly what this woman needed. She had never had a pair of glasses in her life, and was finally able to see equally out of both eyes. I’d guess she was about 30 years old.
  • One old man in Vegueta made a real impression on all of us. When he walked in the door for his assessment, he couldn’t see where the eye chart was on the wall. I don’t mean he couldn’t see the letters on the chart…I mean he couldn’t even see where the chart was hanging. In addition to giving him a pair of sunglasses for severe Pterygium, we gave him the strongest pair of prescription distance glasses we’d brought with us. Within seconds of putting them on, tears started to trickle down his face as he said (in Spanish), “I don’t remember the last time I could see.” Then he read the first four lines on the eye chart 🙂
  • A family came in consisting of a grandmother, mother and son. Within just a couple of minutes we found a pair of glasses for each of them, and they were so excited and thankful that they stayed and helped us with the rest of our clinic.
  • A charismatic, hard working missionary came to help with one of our clinics. He didn’t speak English but was eager to do whatever he could, so we taught him how to do a simple distance eye exam. As he started helping with the eye exams for other people, he realized he couldn’t read very far on the chart at that distance (20 feet) either. So we did a quick check, determined he did need glasses, and the first pair he tried on were perfect for him! He was so excited and worked tirelessly for hours to help us find glasses that would make that kind of difference to someone else.IMG_6213Glasses for Peru

There are hundreds of stories like these, but the overarching similarity is that people came with specific needs and, 9 times out of 10, God was able to meet their needs with the little offering of glasses that we brought with us. It goes all the way back to one person hearing we were taking glasses to Peru, deciding they would send their glasses to me, those glasses being the exact pair that a person in Peru needed, that specific person in Peru showing up to the eye clinic, and the person helping them at the clinic finding that exact pair of donated glasses that was needed. I don’t believe there are coincidences in any of this. I saw God’s love right before my eyes, and I can never deny that each of His children is equally precious to Him.

I’ll sum up with an Glasses for Peruexperience from our last clinic, the night before we came home. A quiet missionary from Peru asked his companion to translate a message for me. He said, “Sister, I want to thank you for what you have done for these people in my country. Most people don’t care and don’t try to help. I will never forget what you have done today, and it makes me want to do more things to help other people. I welcome you in my country and in my home forever.”

I thank all of you who donated glasses and purchased from MissionaryExchanges.com. The project wouldn’t have happened without you! And I am so grateful for the opportunity that my family had to travel to Peru and make a small difference there. The things I saw, the people I met, and the experiences I had have changed me forever. This is only the first of many more “Glasses for Friends” trips!

Glasses for Peru Glasses for Peru Glasses for Peru Plasses for Peru Glasses for Peru Glasses for Peru


One of the things I found myself struggling with when my first two missionaries left was how to let them know I loved them and was thinking about them without making it sound like it’s more fun to be at home! Don’t get me wrong, I know they love hearing about what everyone is up to. But one day when my daughter wrote, “I wish I was there…..,” I knew I needed to take a different approach.

I don’t think my missionary daughter meant that she wasn’t loving her mission or anything (or maybe THAT particular day she DID mean exactly that, haha!), but telling missionaries every detail of family trips and outings, what’s going on in their siblings’ and friends’ lives, and about the newest movies, toys and gadgets could end up backfiring! None of us would ever want to cause our missionary to be distracted from the work, or especially become discouraged or homesick because they think we’re having a ton of fun without them.

Here are some suggestions for writing letters that won’t distract from your missionary’s most important work:

  1. Start by recounting things from their previous letter, and follow up on that. “You said last week that you were going to fast for ideas of how to involve the branch members in your teaching. How did that go?”
  2. Ask specific questions about their investigators (“Is John feeling stronger as he’s working to quit smoking? We’ve been praying for him.”).
  3. Ask if the ward had any fun activities, or if they received any strokes of inspiration during their companionship study. All of the things above tell your missionary that what they are doing and the things they write about are important to you.
  4. Share any ideas you may have received regarding things they mentioned previously. For example, “Dad and I were talking about John, and Dad said there was a guy on his mission who was trying to quit smoking, and receiving a priesthood blessing really helped him.” This lets your missionary know that their work and their investigators are just as important to you and they are to them.
  5. Tell them about experiences you had that relate to them (missionary work) in some way. For example, if you were asked by your bishop to reach out and fellowship a less active member who is struggling through a family challenge, tell them about your experience, and ask if they have any suggestions. “When bishop asked me to do that, I was so nervous because I don’t even know Sister Doe! Then I thought about you, and remembering that you approach people you don’t know every single day gave me courage. Will you tell me how you set people at ease when you are meeting them for the first time?”
  6. Share the things your family discussed during scripture study one day, things you learned from your own personal scripture study or church classes, or what your Family Home Evening lesson was about. This does a couple of things. First, it lets your missionary know you are doing the important things they are teaching about. And, it gives you an opportunity to share something that your missionary may need and wouldn’t receive in a different way. Instead of saying, “The tone of your emails lately makes it seem like you’re discouraged,” You could say, “During Family Home Evening, Jared gave a lesson on optimism and how being grateful for even the small things in our life can help us feel better about the future. Then we all wrote down 5 small things we were grateful for to share. Abigail said she was grateful for toothpaste, toilet paper, and ice because then you know you’ll have clean teeth, a clean bum, and a cold drink when you need it. We were all laughing so hard!” By sharing this sort of thing, you can send your missionary a little advice without it sounding like advice.
  7. Share a brief update of important things that happened during the week, but not necessarily all the fun things. For example, in my email this week I told my son that his high school football team will be playing in the state championship on Friday. But I DID NOT tell him that his siblings are taking off work and school, and we are all going out to lunch before going to the game together 😉
  8. Oh, and I almost forgot! This isn’t actually isn’t another idea for you, but just a bit of advice. Don’t take it personally when your missionary only rights four sentences, doesn’t answer any of your questions, and doesn’t send any pictures! I promise we’ve all been there (or will be). Just keep on keepin’ on 🙂 It’s so worth it!

I hope those things are helpful, and I welcome you to share your ideas and experiences in the comments below!


 

When I decided to start offering my favorite missionary related products to families, I really didn’t know where I was going with it. All I knew was that I wanted to share the information and products that have helped our family through the different stages of missionary service. So I began with the idea of setting up “Missionary Exchanges” as an online store and blog.

In the days after I came up with the idea, I learned there are lots of things I needed to do to set up a business and I began thinking through the logistics of everything. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty overwhelming and I considered giving up. But in the middle of all that craziness, I got a stroke of inspiration. I knew that the only way I could really feel great about putting energy into Missionary Exchanges is if the profit I made would go directly toward missionary work. With that as my strongest motivation, I started bursting with tons of great ideas!

So, the first thing we are doing with the profits from Missionary Exchanges is a project we are calling “Glasses for Peru.” Let me tell you about it.

My son Jake (returned from a mission to Peru this summer) 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 happen, haha!). 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 good price. UPDATE! If you would like to donate used glasses, please Contact Me (click on the link)! (And PLEASE make sure you ask someone in charge before you start raiding the Lost and Found!)

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!

(**UPDATE! To read about our amazing experience in Peru, CLICK HERE!)

Thanks for your help!