For those of you interested in hearing more about “Foreign eXchange,” read on for details. Then comment or email if you have questions or would like to get involved. For those of you who have already signed up, keep in mind that we need your letters a.s.a.p., and we’d like to have your gifts by March 1.
By now, you’ve figured out that our church has a thing for Guatemala. Hardly a week goes by without some reference (an announcement, a story, a flier, a fundraiser, a picture on the screen) to Guatemala. And why not? We talk about it because it’s a part of who we are. It’s part of the way we live. It’s what we do as a community of people following Christ and serving in His cause. True, we could be helping AIDS victims in Africa or prostitutes in Asia, but, for some reason, God keeps taking us back to orphans in Guatemala. He’s put the orphans there on the hearts of the people of eXchange. So we raise money. We give money. We pray. We sell pizza. We buy pizza. We fill bags with coloring books, crayons, and sidewalk chalk. We go to Guatemala. We take pictures. We tell our friends, and then we sign up to do it all over again.
And now, we’re doing even more. Foreign Exchange is our chance to rock some orphans’ worlds. Think of it like a sponsorship program (like World Vision or Compassion) but without the monthly fee and with a personal connection. Think of it as your chance to make the unloved and unwanted boys at Eliza Martinez and San Gabriel feel things they may never have felt before, things like love and feeling special. What’s more, you don’t even have to go to Guatemala! All you have to do is choose an “amigo,” write letters, tell him about yourself and your family, pray, and send small gifts. The goal is to do whatever it takes to let your friend know that there’s somebody out there who is absolutely crazy about him. Sound interesting? Read on for details.
What exactly do I have to do?
Pray. We’ll periodically give you suggestions relating to your boy or his orphanage, but the best thing you can do for him is to pray regularly for him and his situation.
Get to know your friend and let him get to know you. Tell him about yourself—what you do for fun, what kind of books you read, your favorite food—and ask about him. Remember when you were in elementary school and you had a pen pal? It’s kind of like that. Congratulations. You just got yourself a new pen pal.
Be flexible. There is an incredibly high turnover rate at Eliza Martinez and an even higher one at San Gabriel, which is used like a juvenile detention center. In August, a group from eXchange took a picture of seven boys at San Gabriel. When they returned in October, only two of the seven boys were still around. To accommodate this, we ask that your first few notes and letters be very generic. Address your boy as Amigo (“friend”) or simply start your letter with hello (or hola in Spanish). That way, your letter can be given to a different boy if your boy is no longer around. A good rule to follow: if the boy you choose has been at the orphanage longer than a year, there is a good chance he’ll be sticking around.
Give small gifts. The goal here isn’t to overwhelm your friend with material goods or make the other boys jealous. The idea is to let him know you’ve been thinking about him. Try to keep make your gifts small enough to fit in a pencil box and under $10.
Tell your friends. There aren’t enough boys at the two orphanages for everyone at eXchange to be hooked up with a boy, but we’ll be having drives to collect group gifts and asking eXchangers to help pay for the delivery of all our gifts and letters (i.e. pay for the extra suitcases going down with the teams). There’s also a waiting list for when new boys come to the orphanages.
What don’t I have to do?
Habla español. Although we’d like the letters to the boys to be written in their language, we’ll help you out by providing you with Spanish phrases to use in your letters or do the translating for you. However, if you know Spanish (or are comfortable using an online translator), by all means, go for it! It doesn’t have to be perfect. The boys will get the idea and appreciate your effort.
Send money or big gifts. Don’t worry; there’s no monthly fee or even a one time donation. The emphasis here is on relationships.
Go to Guatemala. Of course, if you want to go and meet your boy face-to-face, that’s cool, too. Email Jody (jody. elslager @ gmail. com–no spaces) for info about upcoming trips.
“As one wise observer put it, ‘Children need more than food, shelter, and clothing. They need at least one person who is crazy about them.’”
Quoted in Dr. Gary Sibcy and Dr. Tim Clinton’s Why You Do the Things You Do: The Secret to Healthy Relationships