The Greatest Exchange, a cultural exchange program for college-age women from Kazakhstan, hosted a Night of Celebration last Friday, Aug. 10 at Waypoint Church in Nocatee to celebrate the end of another summer and thank all those who continue to make the program possible.
“This is so much more than an exchange program,” The Greatest Exchange Founder Kelly Ray said. “This is really a family that we’ve all been a part of. And I’m so blessed, because Greatest Exchange was just something that God grew organically and beautifully, and it cannot be done without all of the people in this room.”
A nonprofit founded in 2014, The Greatest Exchange immerses young Kazakh women in American culture for 10 weeks each summer, during which they live with host families and work as camp counselors for local organizations such as Crosswater Community Church, Julington Creek Plantation, Serenata Beach Club and Bartram Academy. At last Friday’s event, this year’s participants had the opportunity to express their gratitude to their sponsors, hosts and employers and share with them the lessons they had learned from their experience.
One of the more powerful testimonies of the night came from Marija, a young woman who confessed that, although she had never been a religious person in the past, she had since come to know God through the love and kindness she received over the summer.
“Seeing how open you were, how much you trusted in all of us in opening your houses and your hearts for us, and how much love you had for all of us, it changed my mind,” she said. “Now I want to be the one who shares love. Now I want to be the one who gives love to people. Now I want to be the one who talks about Jesus and tells about him to other people. That is my purpose; that is my goal when I go back to Kazakhstan. I want to share about this great summer with all of my friends, my family and with strangers, because I will open my heart to them as you did for me.”
The building of such loving, trusting relationships, Ray added, is what makes The Greatest Exchange such a life-changing program.
“To those of you that financially sponsored girls to come here, or those of you that opened up your hearts and your homes, you have made an eternal difference,” she said. “We’re so grateful for the opportunity to serve, and this is so much more than what you’re seeing here, because so many lives are going to be transformed forever.”