Anything, from the loss of a job to a divorce, could send someone who has never been without a home into a spiral that ends in homelessness, whether temporary or chronic. The thought of experiencing homelessness can be crippling for some. The good news is that there are programs to help you, like those at Joy Junction, get back on your feet. If you are in danger of experiencing homelessness, check out these programs: Read the rest of this entry »
By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
Uncivil discourse. We’re an angry bunch, aren’t we?
It’s now been blared all over the nation that hundreds of demonstrators marched in downtown Albuquerque on a recent Sunday to protest deadly shootings by the police, including that of a schizophrenic homeless man who was killed after a standoff with officers.
Images of police in riot gear and clouds of tear gas have floated their way nationally through TV screens, online and newspaper pictures to consumers nationwide and internationally.
One recent article in an Indianapolis newspaper was headlined, “In Albuquerque, police are doing the shooting.”
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has now also been fully investigated and officially excoriated by the U.S. Dept of Justice, and outside consultants as well as a deputy chief of police have been brought in to make things better.
The DOJ concluded that APD “has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force, including deadly force” (http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/04/10/140410-doj-apd-findings-letter.pdf)
Both pro and anti APD demonstrations have attracted major amounts of news coverage since the deadly shooting of James Boyd, 38. It was Boyd’s killing that seemed to push an already frustrated community over the edge. However, according to some local media accounts, the numbers of those attending demonstrations are on the decrease. Our attention span seems sadly short these days.
As the Founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, I felt that I had some responsibility to speak up (although I had already given comments to the DOJ at their request some time ago), but felt I couldn’t add much at this stage to the polarizing public discourse.
However, I did feel comfortable stating on Facebook when asked my thoughts, “The publicly released video appears to indicate a problematic shooting, but I hesitate to place myself in the position of the officers who were there at the scene.
“However, my infrequent experiences over the years with APD (Joy Junction is in Bernalillo County) and other law enforcement agencies indicate that much more mental health training and deescalation is warranted.
“In addition, the entire mental health system needs a serious overhaul. We have become so concerned about violating the civil rights of the mental ill by failing to institutionalize those in serious need of such a move that some of them may be dead because of it.”
That was about as far as I was going to go until I saw this comment on someone’s Facebook status update.
It read, “The homeless man has been in and out of jail and court many times for battery and assault and sliced and persons face with a knife. He had two knifes in his hand when he was shot. All this information is public knowledge, and maybe the three hours the cops were in the hills before the video and trying to get this man down was (justification) for their reaction to shooting him.”
Wanting to be measured, thoughtful and civil in my response, I wrote, “The whole issue is tragic, but its root goes far deeper than just this incident. Police need more training in dealing with the mentally ill, and our entire mental health system needs reform and resuscitation. Over the almost 30 years I have been in Albuquerque at Joy Junction I have dealt with countless good officers, but have also witnessed a few times of deliberate escalation and incitement. “
I then referred to Congressman Tim Murphy, who has sponsored H.R. 3717 “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” (http://murphy.house.gov/helpingfamiliesinmentalhealthcrisisact)
The person who wrote the initial statement responded in a tone that was not really measured, thoughtful or civil, “Sure, Jeremy, this all makes sense … We give cops motor homes with couches in them. Invite the criminals in for a little talk. Give them warm milk and cookies. After a few hours, then and only then decide if they should shoot them. I’m in!”
I hope this individual is never afflicted with mental health issues, as he apparently thinks they’re all criminals!
The most shocking response came from someone who identified herself as a former employee of a well known and respected homeless agency here in Albuquerque. She wrote, “ …I know that people who are off their meds are dangerous. It is our duty to try and get them back. I track but if they refuse then they are subject to what happens and that is …they pose a threat and you know that damn well …. Face that mentally ill people need to be treated medically and if they chose not to, they risk what their condition yield.”
I hope that this woman also never suffers from a debilitating mental health issue such as schizophrenia. Her comment was shocking.
However, other than the public comments I posted above, I wasn’t planning to say anything else for a few weeks in the hopes that we all may have a better understanding of what went down and what was in the minds of the officers who shot Boyd. That was until this comment was posted Saturday evening on Joy Junction’s Facebook wall. “Why haven’t you guys said anything about #JamesBoyd?”
However, one thing could be helpful. What do the homeless think about the tragic shooting? One of our staff asked a few of our guests. They had a mixture of reactions. and here’s what they said.
Angelica felt that APD used excessive force, but said that they only had a split second to make a decision.
Brent also thought the police used excessive force, and Chad believed they should have used non lethal methods.
John thought that while various city leaders didn’t want the “COPS” show to be filmed in Albuquerque (even though the discussion has been over the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Dept and not APD), for fear of bad publicity, this incident went national on both print and TV media, and got many hits on YouTube as well. This was far worse than anything that may have been generated by COPS.
I liked what one of our staff said, “ … A man is dead and police actions are being questioned. At this point in time we aren’t able to change what happened, but we can learn from it and try to avoid this situation again by educating APD with the right tools for the right job. So let’s pray for (that).”
A promotional announcement for KOB TV News read by veteran anchor Tom Joles summarized how I felt.
Joles read, “When our community doesn’t feel like it’s ours any more, when there’s anger and frustration, we need to remember what we value about our lives here and look for answers calmly with dignity and respect …”
To which I say a big “Amen.” Training, education and civil discourse (as opposed to rudeness, sarcasm, wild demonstrations and teargas) would be far more effective in ensuring that this sort of tragedy never gets repeated. Who’s in?
People who are experiencing homelessness face many challenges, both emotional and physical, that make it even more difficult for them to get back on their feet. Some of the challenges that those who are experience homelessness are facing include: Read the rest of this entry »
At Joy Junction, we operate independently of government funding. Instead, we rely on the donations that we receive from the members in our community. Since we rely only on community donations, we know how far every dollar goes to help support our mission. Every dollar counts towards our goal to end food insecurity and homelessness in Albuquerque. Read the rest of this entry »
All of the guests that we welcome at Joy Junction are experiencing homelessness or food insecurity. Unfortunately, many people we receive are also suffering from additional problems, such as drug or alcohol abuse. In order to give these people the ability and skills recover and to thrive after they leave our facility, we have implemented an optional Life Recovery Program that any guest has the ability to complete. Read the rest of this entry »
Rubber Bullets and Teargas on the streets of Bethlehem and a Wonderful Engagement Celebration in Tel Aviv
By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
Along with hundreds of people from all over the world, I left Bethlehem a few days ago, where I was covering the third Christ at the Checkpoint Conference for the ASSIST News Service (ANS).
Working with ANS and covering stories of this type is a natural extension of the ministry that I feel God has given me to help and bring light to the oppressed and marginalized.
It was a wonderful experience.
After the conference was over, I spent a few days in Tel Aviv with my fiancé Elma Cabug, where we also celebrated our engagement dinner with some of Elma’s church family.
While you can read all my official reports on ANS, this is the “back story,” sometimes referred to in journalistic terms as “reporter’s notebook.”
I left Albuquerque for Washington’s Dulles Airport on March 8, after just having returned from Washington’s Baltimore Airport about 36 hours before.
There for the previous few days I had taken part in an annual legislative summit organized by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, of which Joy Junction (the homeless shelter in New Mexico which I founded and direct) is a long time member.
Knowing I would only have a very short window at home before leaving again, I had half gotten things ready for Israel before leaving for Washington.
After a whirlwind few hours in Albuquerque, 3 a.m. Saturday morning came quickly and it was time to make my way to the airport. I had a few hours layover in D.C., which I put to good use doing some work for ANS.
The journey to Munich was uneventful until we landed and I powered up my Blackberry, expecting to be able to check emails and update Facebook and other social media for Joy Junction. That didn’t happen, on either my phone or my Netbook-even after rebooting both devices a number of times. All I got was a notice saying there was no service.
A call back to my service provider in the States provided the answer. I had neglected to tell them about my German layover, so while my devices were set to function in the Middle East, some additional tweaking needed to be done for service in Europe. Yeah!
“So sorry, sir,” the cheerful representative said. “We’ll have you up and running in a few minutes.”
Good to his word, that was indeed the case. My adrenalin returned to its normal level. I boarded the plane sending emails while in line, and was soon on the way to Israel. Just after 2 p.m. Sunday Israeli time (6 a.m. Albuquerque time), I landed in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.
It was so good to be back in Israel, where I had been a few months previously, and not only to know that I would be covering a very important conference, but get to see Elma again as well.
After making my way through Israeli immigration, I made my way to the airport entrance where I found a cab driver I had booked in advance. We started the journey to the beautiful hotel facility where the conference was to be held.
I checked into my room, and took a few moments to breathe. It wasn’t until beginning to unpack that I realized I was very short of shirts. I only had three, including the one I was wearing. The perils of a very quick turn around and a more than slightly hectic schedule this month.
Still, I really can’t say I didn’t like it. I don’t know for how many months I could keep up the pace, but at least for the moment it was good. While the lack of shirts was annoying, I decided I wouldn’t let it get to me. I’d just get more.
After cleaning up, I made my way through the very cavernous hotel to where dinner was being served that night.
At my best I am directionally challenged, and that’s in places I know. This hotel posed a special challenge.
However, once I found where I was supposed to be going I met some delightful United Methodists from Oklahoma who were there for the conference. The food was delicious, as was all the food I enjoyed while there. The Middle Eastern diet is so good, and a lot more healthy than much of the usual American fare.
After dinner I was exhausted, and the pillow was calling my name. Sleep that night was good and much needed. I got up late the next morning, had some Turkish coffee (my favorite) and did some pre conference interviews with anyone willing to talk to me.
I was just enjoying supper, when someone tapped me on the shoulder.
It was a pleasure to run into Isam Ghattas, director of Manara Ministries in Amman, Jordan. I met Isam some years ago, while in Jordan for ANS.
We caught up a bit, and I also enjoyed meeting his wife. What an amazing couple!
Among a variety of other things, Manara helps some of the refugees who have flooded into Jordan from neighboring countries. They could use our ongoing prayer and financial support!
A little while later the conference opened with a word of greeting from Rev. Munir Kakish, president of the Evangelical Council in Palestine. He said, “As a religious group we are unable to practice our civil rights … Our council prays for peace and justice to rule our land.”
World Evangelical Alliance CEO Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe also greeted delegates. He began by requesting official recognition of his group’s member churches from the Palestinian Authority, adding “I will bring the same message to Israel later this week.”
He concluded by saying, “My hope and prayer is that as evangelicals we can be on the leading edge of peace, so that in coming years there may be a new bridge of peace.”
Geoff is a delightful man, and I agreed wholeheartedly with his sentiments. He has such an important position, but is so approachable and down to earth.
After the opening session concluded, I went outside. Outside the hotel, Monday evening traffic was quite busy, but there was nothing visible occurring out of the ordinary. Traffic flowed well, and people walked in and out of a local grocery store buying necessities. It could have been anywhere-almost.
However, just a few hundred yards from the hotel was a quiet reminder of what the conference is all about.
A sign read, “Warning. This is illegally occupied land. State of Palestine.”
This is an area where ongoing tension bubbles just beneath the surface and sometimes spills right over.
Teargas and rubber bullets on the streets of Bethlehem
The reality of the tense Middle East situation was brought right home for me and all the other conference delegates Tuesday.
At the end of the morning session, a conference organizer said those interested in eating lunch at the nearby Bethlehem Bible College (organizers of the conference) needed to take a back door from the hotel, as there was an “incident” (that was I believe the word he used), occurring outside.
I ran out to see what was going on. Bethlehem’s main street was permeated with choking tear gas and rubber bullets when the Israeli army faced off against stone throwing Palestinian youth.
An observer told me there were about 100 young people involved, upset about what they believed was the killing of at least two Palestinians by the Israeli army (IDF) in the few days prior to the conference.
There may have been more than two, and the reason for the killing was disputed depending on which side you listened to.
A Times of Israel story said that according to a Ma’an News report, while driver Fidaa Muhye Addin Majadlah was killed and passenger Ibrahim Adnan Shukri was seriously injured after their car went off the road and flipped over, it may not have been by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
The Times said while a Palestinian security source had initially told news service AFP that IDF forces had fired on the vehicle, the news agency retracted the story after Palestinians notified them that “their information on army gunfire was incorrect.”
Youth were also reportedly upset about the killing of a judge by the IDF Monday at the Allenby Crossing. While a preliminary IDF investigation said that that an IDF soldier felt his life was in danger, Palestinians weren’t buying it.
According to a story by Gili Cohen and Jack Khoury for Haaretz, the Jordanian government sent a sharply worded statement to Israel Monday following the killing. The border terminal is operated jointly by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It is the main border crossing for Palestinians from the West Bank traveling to neighboring Jordan and beyond, and a crossing point for goods between Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
Officials in Jordan told Haaretz the government is under pressure to conduct an in-depth investigation, and that the issue would be discussed in parliament.
A conference participant speaking on condition of anonymity told me killings were not “a reason to retaliate. It was senseless,” she said. “Walk away. Be a bigger man. Isn’t that what this (Christ at the Checkpoint) Conference is all about?”
However, Rev. Ashraf Tannous from Beit Sahour Church, had a different point of view. Tannous told me, “When we are killed and humiliated without reasons, we have the right to say we’re mad about what’s going on.”
Tannous said the afternoon demonstration was a “normal thing.”
“Whenever Israel attacks the Palestinians and kills someone, this is what happens. These people are telling the world by throwing stones that we are people who want to live in the land.”
According to Tannous the “Zionist country is trying to damage and distort the image of God in Palestine.”
He added, “We are all created in the image of God. No one is better. We are all included.”
Tannous told me he had a message for Americans. He said, “Come and visit us and see what’s going on. Never ever judge the situation without living it. There are Christians here who need you.”
I stayed outside the hotel as close as I could to everything going on. Hotel security ushered us back in (or attempted to do so), and I appreciated their concern for our safety.
However, I felt compelled to observe first hand. The tear gas was thick at some points and while I didn’t really want to inhale its obnoxious fumes, in one sense I did. I “needed” to see what it felt like.
Just a few short whiffs were enough. It made its way to the back of my throat, stung my eyes and gave me a headache. An ambulance made its way past the hotel down the street. I heard that a Palestinian youngster had inhaled too much of the teargas and needed medical treatment.
Regardless of your political viewpoint on who’s “right” and who’s “wrong,” can you imagine living like this? I was told that situations like this are a pretty regular occurrence in Bethlehem.
I went back to my room, took some aspirin, drank some coffee and started writing the story on the incident for ANS.
More conference sessions came and went, and while many of the conference detractors ascribed an anti Semitic tome to the conference, in reality there were a multitude of viewpoints, including speaker Dr. Bill Wilson, the current president of Oral Roberts University.
While presenting a good message he was, I thought, not a good judge of his audience when he told everyone that he felt safer since the wall, or checkpoint, was built.
While that may have been true for him, I question whether this was the time or the place to say that. As I recall, a low torrent of disagreement rippled through the audience when he said those words.
Wednesday afternoon I visited a long time friend in Bethlehem, Alexander Hotel owner Joseph Canavati, where I stayed at last year in Bethlehem, as well as for a few days a number of years ago.
Joseph has always been so gracious to me. He set me up with a couple of interviews last year that included a visit to one of Bethlehem’s hugely overpopulated refugee camps, Camp Aida.
It was so good to reconnect again with Joseph, wife Ivonne and son Joey and enjoy Turkish coffee.
I asked Ivonne if she had any idea where I could get some shirts, thinking she would direct me to a local store. However, she was kind enough to give me some, which lessened my predicament and ensured that I wouldn’t be a (smelly) distraction to those around me!
Well, back to the conference where on Thursday I got to hear, report on and interview Pastor Bob Roberts, who energized delegates right from his opening words. He was also gracious enough to give me a one on one interview.
Roberts is the founder and senior pastor of Northwood Church, near Dallas, TX.
Roberts covered a number of issues. Here are some of the highlights.
He said, “We’ve got freedom of the press, but we own the press.” Roberts said while he loves his Jewish friends, he also loves Palestinians.
When he asked conference delegates how many of them love Israel and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, there was loud applause. Eschatology was next on the agenda.
Roberts apologized to Palestinians here, saying his heart breaks for their suffering. Again, my reason is not to criticize one side or the other. I am for Jesus and want to see peace in the Middle East.
However, the argument I have heard several times doesn’t hold water, if you think about it. Proponents argue that “the Palestinians” (usually said in a derogatory tone) are getting an enormous amount of aid — with the implication being that as a result our responsibility ends.
Well, if the aid is indeed being provided, it doesn’t appear to be filtering down to those most in need, so I would maintain that our responsibility continues. We can’t regard the plight of thousands of Palestinian people as collateral damage – can we – while we bask in our love for Israel, and glibly say that God is fulfilling His plan.
The week flew by and it was soon time to join Elma for a few days in Bethlehem. I couldn’t wait to see her, as while we have talked together daily, we hadn’t seen each other in person since late Oct. 2013.
However, there was one more “adventure” in store before I left Bethlehem.
I needed to get some money out of the ATM located in the hotel lobby. Two of the bills I got were 200 shekels each (almost $58.00). I did the transaction without a thought and put the bills in my wallet.
It wasn’t until a couple of days later while attempting to buy something in Tel Aviv with Elma that a clerk looked at them and said both bills were fake. The paper was much glossier and of a lower grade than the genuine article.
I would never have thought I’d get fake money from an ATM. Well, I will know to check next time! Friday afternoon through Monday evening was a wonderful time of reconnecting with Elma, and a time to recharge our batteries.
The highlight, though, was an engagement dinner for us on Sunday night with a number of friends from Elma’s church family (including her pastors) in Tel Aviv. They went out of their way to embrace me and make me feel welcomed and loved. I most definitely did!
So that’s the notebook! Both Elma and I would appreciate your prayers for God’s continued blessing on us, and a multitude of other details that need to come together as we prepare to get married soon and begin a new life together in him.
At Joy Junction, we provide food and shelter in Albuquerque for as many as 300 people every day. That level of service would not be possible without the continuing support of the people in our community. We accept donations year-round at Joy Junction in order to maintain the services that we provide to those in Albuquerque who are experiencing food insecurity or homelessness. Read the rest of this entry »
Since 1986, Joy Junction has been working hard in the Albuquerque community to provide food and shelter services to those who are experiencing food insecurity or homelessness. We feed as many as 300 people every day at Joy Junction. We would not be able to provide the services or the support programs that we offer without the dedicated efforts of the volunteers. Consider volunteering at Joy Junction. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
Imposing Biblical morality on non Christians.
Just imagine! You’ve lived with your significant other for years and you have children together. Neither faith nor marriage has played a big (even small) part in your life. You’re making it-but barely-until job cutbacks and an eventual layoff result in you being evicted from your apartment.
It’s a crisis. You’re referred to a local rescue mission, which tells you that you’re not allowed to sleep with your common law wife because you’re not married.
Or you are married, but like many couples you don’t have a copy of your marriage license. The same scenario occurs as the one I’ve just described and you end up at your local mission. You’re not allowed to sleep with your wife due to the absence of a marriage license. Seriously, how many of us carry it around in our wallets or within easy access?
Both scenarios just add insult to injury. Sadly, they’re all too common. But let’s focus on the common law husband and wife scenario.
After hearing a peripheral discussion of this issue at a Christian conference I attended, I wondered what was more Christlike and loving.
Is it to deny combined family shelter to a non Christian common law married couple, or offer them shelter together- understanding it’s problematic (and some would say) non loving to legislate Biblical morality on non believers?
For a quick snapshot and an unscientific look at this, I posed the question on both Joy Junction’s and my Facebook pages. It didn’t take long for the issue to take off.
Some people were strongly in favor of shelter without judgment, with Tosie saying that “Love and helping without judgment is Christlike.”
Sean wrote, “I can say with unwavering conviction that Christ would have met their physical needs by providing them with shelter.”
Sean said that most people in this difficult situation are going to expect to be denied help by a Christian organization.
He added, “Frankly they’ve probably been turned down before. But when they find one that doesn’t turn them down and welcomes them – they encounter the living breathing love of Christ. And that changes people.”
David agreed, saying “Remember, Jesus healed a group of blind men. One said ‘Thank You.’ Jesus didn’t revoke healing from those who didn’t thank Him. Bless and don’t curse. Teach and preach Christ crucified in love; don’t deny food and shelter. Love hopes all things and bears all things. If an unbelieving common law couple needs help, it is not appropriate to issue church discipline.”
However, Garry had a different perspective, writing that “Those who seek help should accept it on the terms of the provider. It is that way everywhere.”
That was too much for me to pass up, so I asked him whether those terms were “correct and charitable.”
Garry responded, “It depends. If the help is offered to all under the same terms then yes. Why should additional burden be placed on the provider?”
Travis jumped in, saying he didn’t find it “Biblically” charitable “to deny God’s Word and allow sin to go unchecked.”
He said he does understand the need for sheltering the homeless. “My heart breaks for them too.”
However, Travis added, “As believers we must seek to honor the Lord and His Word above all else.”
He continued, “Does the Word tell us to call people to repent of their sin? Or does it tell us to act as if there is no sin at all?”
But which is the greater “sin?’ To allow an unmarried couple to sleep together or fail to give them shelter because of that fact? Which action is honoring God most-or least?
After all, the Bible says not to lie-but it also says not to kill people. Noted Dutch resistance hero Corrie ten Boom lied to the Nazis when she was asked if she was hiding Jews. As a result, Jews were saved. Should she have told the truth? To do so would have resulted in lives being lost. It is not always so easy to immediately ascertain what God’s word requires in situations like this.
Magpie said she believes in minimizing suffering.
She added, “I also read the Bible front to back, was baptized in a Christian Church and have a personal relationship with God and Jesus as everyone does. I do not remember Jesus punishing any of the sinners. Actually, I recall Jesus loved them all and tried to share the enlightenment (just as Buddha did) with them. People who are on the street need shelter.”
Magpie said if a shelter insists that people attend church or follow certain rules while at the shelter, they are free to do that, as it is their shelter.
However, she continued, “Wouldn’t it be a more compelling recruitment strategy to simply help them as Christians without any investment in whether they become Christians or not, or even if they even believe in God? The point is that the shelter is helping people in need — that in itself is God’s work.”
She added, “Do you think Mother Teresa insisted that the sick in her care believe what she believed? No. She simply tried to alleviate their suffering. Period. In that she was following God’s plan for her, doing God’s work.”
Magpie said that’s summed up in what Jesus said, to love others as we love ourselves.
R.C. Sproul Jr. responded, “Indeed He did. But are we always loving our neighbor when we keep them comfortable in their sin? Would you, Magpie, buy a drunk a bottle out of love?”
Now there’s a question, R.C. Is alcoholism a “sin” or an “addiction?” I’d have to say that after serving New Mexico’s homeless for more than 30 years, I believe that alcoholism is an addiction.
Inappropriate use of alcohol often begins in an attempt to mask the often unbearable realities of day to day living. It then quickly escalates into an addiction. How many of us have experienced some of the agonies encountered by troubled souls prior to plunging into the ultimately unsatisfying bottle of booze?
Cynthia said, “Love is what God through Jesus is teaching. Love the sinner, not the sin. Give them shelter and show them love and change hearts one at a time.”
Erika said that our commission as Christians is to love. She added, “We know there is only one judge and that isn’t us. When Jesus walked the earth He helped all, including the ones living a life that was frowned upon back then and even now. I have no doubt that our Lord wouldn’t deny shelter, food or water to anyone. My hope is our acts of love leave a profound impression upon those we serve.
Christopher seemed to sum things up, saying “Shelter them. God will deal with the details.”
To that I add a hearty “amen.”
At Joy Junction, we are so grateful to be able to serve the Albuquerque community, especially those who are experiencing food insecurity or homelessness. Unfortunately, we currently do not have the facilities that would enable us to serve community in a larger capacity. In order to meet the needs of our community, we are proposing an expansion project to create more resources for our guests and their families. Read the rest of this entry »