Sunday, June 24, 2012
A Mailbox Missionary
But sometimes there are unexpected-and hateful- letters in the shelter mailbox!
By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- While we didn’t start off that way, many of us who stay working for non- profits very long turn into mailbox missionaries – which can be conveniently shortened to the letters MBM. But what, you may ask, is an MBM?
Well, a MBM was once defined as someone who goes to the mail every day knowing that the continuance, expansion or otherwise of the work that he or she does, for the most part depends on the funds that arrive (or not) in the mailbox. (I’m not negating the Lord’s provision. It’s just that God’s supply is often delivered through the United States Postal Service). No mail means no money. No money and the bills pile up. Continue that to its logical extension and you're soon out of business.
Because Joy Junction Homeless Shelter doesn’t receive any government money, for us to take care of as many as 300 homeless people every night means that we have no other recourse but to directly and indirectly ask the community in which we operate (through mail, broadcast media and the Internet) for funds to help us continue our ministry of compassion.
Sometimes that has interesting results when community members don’t always understand that just like death and taxes, the poor and the consequent bills that come with running a large homeless shelter, are always with us.
A number of years ago I was asked if I was “the guy who's always on TV asking for money.” Well, what did they expect? Joy Junction has a $2.5 million annual budget, all of which must be privately raised.
Now in addition to our regular operational costs, we’ve launched a much needed capital campaign to renovate and expand Joy Junction. The total cost for this new adventure will be about $8 million. If you’d like to know more about this exciting step of faith, please go to www.togetherwecan.joyjunction.org
While I strongly believe in the Lord’s provision – Joy Junction is now well into its 26th year of operation – He also expects us to let the need be known. After all, how can people give unless they know what situation we’re facing?
Sometimes that has interesting results - - like when we go to the post office box needing scores of responses but only see a dozen or less letters responding to our plea for help.
However, the work of Joy Junction continues. Husbands, wives and families are still being fed and sheltered; souls are being saved and lives transformed. You can read the stories of some of these wonderfully transformed lives by going to www.joyjunction.org.
In addition to checks, the Joy Junction mailbox brings us some encouraging letters. Many thank us for the work we have been privileged to do for over a quarter century.
Then Alice wrote to us a few days ago and shared a poem she wrote about homelessness. She said she endured the experience a number of times.
Here are a couple of lines of her poem. “Homelessness has rarely happened to me by choice or by will but by circumstances I could not control or foresee.”
I think every homeless person could agree with that.
Sadly, all the letters we receive are not encouraging. A few are plain shocking. While I try and be positive, I think it’s sometimes worthwhile to share some of the more bizarre comments we receive at the Joy Junction mailbox.
One angry person scrawled, “Tell them to get a job. Tired of supporting lazy people, food stamps etc.” That individual needs to read Alice’s poem.
I hope this person never needs help. I’d like the opportunity to sit down with this individual and explain the harsh realities of living on minimum wage.
Living from paycheck to paycheck is especially problematic if your brakes need fixing or the air conditioner dies in your house, and you have a landlord who’s shown an ongoing reluctance to take care of such issues!
Then how about not being having even a minimum wage job? Back in the early 1980's I was living in Florida and unemployed. I recall looking for loose change between the seats on my old Dodge Dart so I could scrape up enough money to get a local newspaper to scour the classifieds in search of work. It was a desperate time in my life.
Then there are the “lazy people” (apparently dismissed by the letter writer) who have some form of serious depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and the list goes on. They can’t work. Apparently they should be denied the ability to get even a small amount of food stamps.
If you should happen to be living on the streets, how do you get a job without a phone, address, shower, and a change of clothes? “Getting a job” isn’t quite as easy as some angry souls so simplistically make it out to be! This isn’t their grandparents America!
Another letter writer was so angry and so misled. That person’s comments read, “Send all the illegals back to their own countries, so our children and grandchildren and homeless can find jobs.
“We’re being invaded by illegals from all over! Guadamala (sic), China, India, Peru, Iran, Venezuela, etc. I know. I work around them every day. They get free medical, free college education and food stamps. They shouldn’t be allowed drivers licenses!
“By the way, I am (a) Hispanic who came to this country when it was legal!”
It’s easy to dismiss people when you lump them together as a group. “The homeless, “ the illegals,” “the gays.” Doing so takes away their individuality and allows you to not think of them as precious people with souls made in God’s image.
What would this angry person suggest we do with all the “illegals” and their children, some of whom have never known any life other than living in the United States? Send them back en masse to their country of birth? And how should we identify them? It could take the issue of profiling to a whole new terrible level! Simplistic “solutions” are never that simple!
Hatred, bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, prayer support, encouragement and checks. They’re all in the Joy Junction mailbox. Thankfully, the prayerful and financial support from members of our wonderfully giving Albuquerque community dramatically outnumber the few “negative Nellys” who sometimes feel obliged to let us know what they think.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.