By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
It is hard to believe the shelter I founded turned 31 this year, and turning 60, that I’ve spent almost half my life at what has obviously now become a lifetime calling.
Looking back, it seems just like a short time ago that I came up the driveway of our 52-acre property wanting to reach out to homeless families with food, shelter and the love of Jesus Christ.
We’re currently sheltering as many as 300 people nightly, and providing more than 16,000 meals each month from a fully licensed kitchen.
Born in England, I emigrated to the U.S. in 1978 with $50.00 in my pocket and a one way ticket. I ended up homeless in mid 1981 and early 1982, and in that same year “landed” in Santa Fe. It was there where God brought some amazing people into my life, who encouraged me and helped me begin my first ministry. My calling to work with the homeless began to emerge.
In 1986, I left Santa Fe, took a few months off and moved to Albuquerque. There I ended up starting Joy Junction, never envisioning the scope of what it would become.
The vision I had was for a refuge where the entire family unit could stay together at one of the most difficult times in their lives. I wanted to ensure that husbands and wives had the support of each other, and could provide more support for each other and their kids than they might otherwise be able to if split up.
I had no idea what adventures, struggles and trials would lie ahead. The full story is told in my book “From Destitute to Ph.D.,” but here are some of the highlights.
The shelter grew quickly in the following four years, but quite often, unmanaged and fast growth can be the downfall of an organization of any kind, whether a ministry or not. Our bills were exceeding our income and we nearly folded. Due to God’s grace we stayed afloat.
During those first years, I also worked a part time job to put food on my own family’s table, taught a regular Bible study at the shelter and tried to get the word about what we were trying to do.
In 1991, I felt it was time I went back to school. I tried a couple of summer classes at the University of New Mexico, and earned a bachelor’s degree with a focus on journalism in 1996 and a master’s degree in communication in 1998.
Along the way I also enjoyed a number of internships at various media in Albuquerque, as well as hosting a couple of radio shows.
Looking back, I can see how all these media experiences helped me better promote Joy Junction and the plight of the homeless. I have a deep appreciation for our local media. It is sad that reporters are routinely vilified and criticized but rarely praised.
In 1999, I was accepted to do a Ph.D. intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. I graduated in 2006, and my doctoral dissertation dealt with the way the media portray America’s homeless culture.
In ( about) 1999, I also met a fellow Brit by the name of Dan Wooding, the founder of a very unique news service dealing with the plight of persecuted Christians as well as aspects of popular culture. I have written for the ASSIST News Service ever since then, and have traveled to a number of countries reporting for them.
In my post Ph.D. years, the shelter continued to grow in budget and services offered. In 2009, due to the generosity of a local businessman, we added a mobile feeding unit we dubbed the Lifeline of Hope. It operates seven days a week 365 days a year, providing food, water and toiletries to people who can afford either a meal or a place to stay-but not both
In late 2006 I went through a divorce and was single for a number of years. In March 2015, I got married to my wife Elma. She is the love of my life, and shares the same passion as me for helping feed the hungry and house the homeless. Elma has quickly become an integral part of Joy Junction and is loved by guests and staff alike.
The future for Joy Junction has been looking bright, with numerous renovations in in the last couple of years occurring at our aging property. For the comfort of our guests we upgraded the air conditioning at our main building, replaced windows, and put in a new driveway to help make visiting our facility a much less “bumpy” experience.
In addition, in 2015 we demolished an old and unused chapel on our property to prepare the way for our now almost completed construction.
With the Lord as my guide and my wife at my side, I look forward to the next three decades helping the disenfranchised, marginalized, homeless and hungry. I hope you will consider joining us.