Joy Junction’s 30th Thanksgiving. Shelter Guests Give Thanks

By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction Inc.

Thanksgiving 1It’s almost “Thanksgiving” again at Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter.

It’s hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving Day will mark the 30th successive year we have shared the blessing of Thanksgiving with Albuquerque’s many homeless and abused women and homeless families.

I’m so thankful to the Lord and our wonderful family of donors for helping make this ministry of compassion possible.

Thanks to YOU, during 2015 we have been able to serve many thousands of hot and nutritious meals to hungry people, minister to many spiritually needy men, women, boys and girls in our chapel services and life recovery classes and provide thousands of nights of shelter to homeless people.

I wondered what difference Joy Junction really makes in the life of some of our guests. We asked a few of them.

One woman said, “ I am very thankful for Joy Junction and the Christ in Power (CIPP) life recovery program. If it wasn’t for the CIPP program, I would probably still be using and/or be in jail. CIPP is exactly what I need to keep me sober, learn how to have stability, and get closer to God.”

We say a hearty “amen” to that.

Another guest was also very appreciative for Joy Junction. She said, “It’s a safe, warm place where I can get fed every day and I’m not in harm’s way. I’m thankful for (CIPP) … I’ve been sober for nine months, and I’m planning on going to school after I graduate from Joy Junction. I thank God for that.”

That’s a great story, and our donors make it possible.

Another woman said she’s thankful for her three children, all doing well. She’s also grateful for Joy Junction.

There was more. She added, “I am most grateful for a bed to sleep in, three good meals daily, and most of all, being surrounded by caring, loving people. I don’t feel alone anymore. And, for what it’s worth, I will soon be 69 and I am realizing the value of friendship and kind words …”

She concluded by saying that she is also grateful for Joy Junction Resident Services Manager Denis Billy and Chaplain Gene Shiplet, from whom she said, “I am learning something new each and everyday.”

Another guest was also thankful for Chaplain Gene.

He said, “I’m thankful for ‘Chappy.’ When I first came to JJ and was accepted in CIPP, (Gene) told me that there was a whole staff of people here who would love me unconditionally. It had been so long since I’d felt the love and caring of a parent figure in my life.”

He added that he’s also thankful for “The safety and a soft place to fall here at Joy Junction. I’m not being sappy when I say this. I’ve never been homeless, and I was terrified of the idea of being on the streets of a major metro.”

At Joy Junction on Thanksgiving Day and the rest of the holiday season, as we provide special meals and activities for our homeless guests, we will be giving thanks to the Lord for all of His blessings. We are a faith-based ministry. We believe that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important component for homeless people in getting back on their feet again.

Many of our guests appreciate that philosophy, especially those who join CIPP.

One woman said, “The 12 Step Bible based program  has made a huge difference in my life. I know that I am a valued person to God, and I can be a better person and be productive only with God’s help and my submission to His will and His words.”

She added, “I am so thankful for being able to have the time to work on myself here at Joy Junction. I have found there are so many people and resources dedicated just for that purpose. I have been forever changed for the better, and am looking forward to more healthier changes in my life.”

A man commented, “I’m thankful for God and His precious son, Jesus Christ who died for our sins. I have salvation and forgiveness. I’m set free. I’m also thankful for the people of JJ and my loved ones that He’s blessed me with.”

This person said he is grateful for the various situations – good, bad and hard – he has encountered in his life. He said they have made him the person he is today.

And due to some situations, he added, “I was blessed with Joy Junction and the staff who help run it. This place helped me grow.”

But not everyone sees things the same way as we do.

For many people, “Thanksgiving”is not a time to give thanks to God.

Take, for example, these Thanksgiving “offerings” I found a number of years ago on America on Line, billed as “All the Essentials for a Stress-Free Holiday.”

Encouraged to “sit back and relax,” AOL surfers learned that they could find “advice on roasting a perfect bird, crafts for the kids, ideas for giving back, hints for handling holiday stress, tips for avoiding the travel crush and much more.”

However, if you didn’t go any further than the stress section, you’d have missed a lot. There were a couple of forums on this AOL Thanksgiving special, one titled “Thanksgiving’s Best and Worst,” and another giving surfers the opportunity to say what they were most thankful for.

I was curious to see what people loved and hated about Thanksgiving, so I went over first to Thanksgiving’s best and worst. I got an inside look at what was on the minds of some Americans that year.

Here are some examples of what I read. One forum participant wrote, “Thanksgiving is easily the most boring day of the year.”

Someone else commented, “Every year, my house (which is always neat and tidy) gets ‘trashed,’ even after I’ve told my in laws and their kids repeatedly to respect me and our house. My husband sits by and doesn’t say a word. I can’t turn them away, because they come from out of state and my husband thinks they do no wrong. I’m ready to move to Alaska where I know they’d never visit.”

However, just like our guests, some forum participants also remembered the essence of Thanksgiving.

One person wrote, “Someone wrote, “I am thankful for the Lord for giving me good health, all my children home and in good health and His mercy.”

Another person commented, “I am most thankful for allowing Christ to be my guide. I am also thankful for my mental and physical health. I give God all the praise.”

After all, that’s what Thanksgiving is really all about, isn’t it? In case you’re not sure how the day came into existence, here’s a quick synopsis.

It was way back in 1789 that President George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. This was the first ever presidential proclamation issued in the United States and read, “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer…”

However even back then, not everyone was in favor of this National Day of Thanksgiving. It took 74 years and President Lincoln to set things straight. In his 1863 proclamation, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

After describing America’s blessing, Lincoln wrote, “No human counsel has devised nor has any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Lincoln also encouraged his fellow citizens that while praising the Almighty for his blessings they also needed to exercise “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience … and to fervently implore the (intervention) of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”

Since that time, Thanksgiving has been proclaimed by every President. So as we get closer to Thanksgiving Day, take a moment and thank the Lord for the many blessings which we enjoy.

For more information about getting involved in Thanksgiving at Joy Junction, visit