By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
What makes the “other heart” of Joy Junction beat with such a resounding passion for the needy?
It continues to say, “Though a kiss may be the end result, it should never be the reason.”
That’s the way it happened for my wife Elma and I. We’ve now been married two and a half years, and savoring every minute. It all started with the “kiss of hearts.”
I first met Elma “virtually” on eHarmony.com in early 2013, and then in person in Oct. 2013 during a quick trip to Israel.
During that same visit, I also produced a number of stories from Israel, Bethlehem and the West Bank for the ASSIST News Service, for which I have been a volunteer correspondent for many years. (My academic training is in journalism, communication and intercultural education).
Prior to that meeting, we had talked by phone and corresponded by email daily for a number of months.
It quickly became obvious to Elma and I that we have much in common.
We are both Christians, and love to help the poor, hungry, marginalized and disenfranchised. What better choice for a life partner than that? We got engaged in Bethlehem, and returned to Tel Aviv a few days later.
When it was time to leave Israel the following week, tears flowed. I realized that I was truly in love, and had met the woman with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
During the ensuing months we continued to talk daily, usually for between 90 minutes and two hours at a time. I spent more time with Elma on the phone than I had with anyone else in my life.
I am so appreciative for a cheap Internet based telephone service I found which allowed us to talk for less than two cents a minute.
Of course, that was all we could do. We couldn’t go out to see a movie or take a walk on the beach.
However, that time we spent talking laid a great foundation for a strong relationship. Most married couples don’t spend that amount of time communicating, and when I would sometimes tell friends how long we had talked they would look at me in amazement.
We talked about every subject conceivable, including sharing what we imagined our lives together would be like in the years ahead.
But in addition to being an obvious spiritual gift, from where did Elma’s compassion come in a human sense? I had never met anyone in my life who is as moved by and interested in bettering the plight of the needy, hungry and disenfranchised as Elma.
I knew that her life growing up in the Philippines was far from easy. Her parents, while both hardworking farmers, often struggled to make ends meet.
Elma said they had three meals a day “most of the time,” but when her parents got sick, finding the necessary funds to go to the doctor was a challenge.
Those hardships helped instill in Elma an ongoing desire to work hard to help ensure she had a better life, as well as being able to help her family and other people in need whom she encountered.
Elma’s parents always reminded her to be kind and compassionate to the less fortunate. She said, “Both of them had a big heart. They always helped others, even when we only had enough for us.”
Fast forward to Elma becoming a care giver in Israel. Due to the wages available in the Philippines (a typical wage may be a dollar an hour or a little more), it’s a common practice for many Filipinos to spend a lot of their working life outside the country and send much of their income back home to support family.
The ensuing almost two decades she spent in Israel, Elma said further helped mold her to be the person she is today.
She was able to meet some needs. She said over a decade ago, her sister who is a pastor of a church in a rural area of the Philippines told her about a woman who was in immediate need of an operation in her right eye or she would probably end up going blind in both. Despite the offer of a free operation, additional funds were needed to make the procedure a reality.
Thinking about the need, Elma was unable to sleep until she gave she had saved to allow the operation to happen.
Three years later while visiting the Philippines, Elma met the woman – who thanked her for the generosity which allowed her to live a normal life.
“Her story opened my eyes, by being sensitive to other people needs.” Elma said. “It was so scary for me to think if I didn’t pay attention when the Lord is leading me to help that woman, she have been blind by the time I met her in person.”
However, she continued, “Though I learned to love my job and was contented with my life, I knew there was something more out there God had in store for me, but I had no clue what it was.”
In late 2012, Elma said she was deep in thought asking what she wanted for the rest of her life.
The answer was clear. She wanted to be in a ministry that fed the hungry with three meals a day, helped the poor and homeless, and ensured that youngsters could go to school with the school supplies they needed.
Elma said she knew that this was a very ambitious goal, but she was also aware that nothing was impossible with God.
She said, “All I could do was pray and ask God to lead me to the direction where He wanted me to go. The best thing that happens when you just continue to delight yourself in the Lord, is that He will give you the desire of your heart.”
On March 27 2015, following an amazing adventure and a number of challenges, we became husband and wife. That story is told in my article, “Two Hearts- One Vision” as well as my book of the same name.
That’s been both challenging and rewarding.
“We both wake up thinking about Joy Junction , spent the whole day working for JJ, and the last thing in our mind before going to bed is still JJ.”
Elma added, “ We’re dealing with different kinds of people at JJ, but at the same time I never have trouble in understanding the needs of the people we serve. I understand exactly what our guests are dealing with. Many of our them are not hesitant to come and talk to me, and are so grateful that I am willing to listen and encourage them. I am humbled and honored to be one of two hearts with the same vision.”
Looking back, Elma said she is amazed at what God has done – and keeps doing – as am I.
She said she now understands why she’s always had a heart for the needy. “Everything I have experienced in my life prepared me for the ministry where God has put me. Now I feel whole and complete in my life.”