By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (ANS – December 10, 2017) — It was chilly early evening in Albuquerque, and close to sunset — not a time to be out walking the streets of Albuquerque lugging heavy backpacks.
However, that was exactly where my wife Elma and I saw three guys. Two put their luggage on the ground, while another gave his back a quick rest by placing their belongings on the outside tables of a coffee shop.
It was for times like this and more that carried $5.00 fast food gift cards. I rolled down the window and offered the guy closest if he would like one. He quickly said he would, blurting out “Now?”
“Absolutely,” I said. He went into a little happy dance and pointed out his two friends. They came over and we also gave them one each. Their strength seemingly quickly return (doesn’t that happen to you at the prospect of a good meal), they thanked us and went on their way.
They probably thought Christmas had arrived early, but if it had for them we felt the same way for us.
I was thinking that Christmas means many things to different people. To some it’s a time of joy and thankfulness, while to others it means commercialism and gifts.
After that experience, I wondered what the season means to our Joy Junction guests, so we posed this question in writing to some of them.
“With Christmas getting increasingly closer, how are you feeling? Can you resolve to be the hands and feet of Jesus – and make a real difference in the lives of those around you – or will it just be another holiday to be “endured” rather than “enjoyed?” If you resolve to make a difference, how will you go about doing so?
There were a variety of responses, all of which were worth reading
One individual wrote, “I am well pleased that Christmas is getting near.” It helps me to show love and peace to all because of Jesus Christ, and just remembering how Christ was to all his people. By me being kind, it will bring love and peace to all people I am around. It (helps) people come together for the remembrance and to have Christ’s Love in all people. This (makes) everyone’s holiday very loving … ”
Another person commented that while they’re looking forward to the holidays, they’re missing family and the opportunity to spend time together. However, they resolve to make a difference nonetheless by “sharing the word of God with people and being happy and humble.
“Just being someone filled with love and filled with the Holy Spirit – someone who others can come to when they are hurting and in pain or sad.”
Stephanie noticed how fast Christmas seem to come around each year. She said her first emotion is one of frustration because of the upcoming Christmas advertisement barrage.
“It is the focus of the world that worldly possessions and going in debt is what Christmas is about. Then sadness sets in knowing that they forget that it is when Jesus came to earth as a little baby to fulfill God’s plan that he would give His life so that we might have eternal life if we believe.”
However, Stephanie wants to share the love of Jesus with those who are lost and hurting. She is committing to pray daily, read the Bible, and share it with others.
She wants to “Let my actions match my words and my character be the same whether, I am surrounded by people or alone. I want people to see Christ in me, not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Frederick said that Thanksgiving this year was better than he had expected, as he didn’t have to fight with his addiction.
“I wasn’t using or worried about using. This Christmas will be awesome. I don’t have money for gifts, but I would rather be with my family. My family’s love is better than all material things. I am still waiting till I know I am ready to help others. I will do what I can.”
One woman said she wants to be sober for the rest of her life.
She added, “I know I made mistakes … in life, and I truly want to turn my life around and become what God has planned for me in my life … I have faith and I believe in God. I know He will guide me in the right direction this year. I am willing to change, and I will do it.”
Kate isn’t as excited as she once was. “Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth the effort.”
However, she added, she celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, in her own way by reading the Bible on her own.
On a more positive note. “I will try to hand make something special for a few people who I have become close to and trusted.”
Someone else said she will “be focusing on my kids and allow God to be first in my life, like it says in Matthew 6:33. ‘Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.’”
Another person said she doesn’t like the holiday much because she lost her daughter during the time, and that leads to depression.
She continued, “Being a transgender is the hardest thing in life. I try to solve my troubles by going to my God, so He can help me. Being around people who have been in the same path can help me get out before I go back. Being in this shelter is helping me to become a better person, and be able to help others. I know I will be able to help others in the LGBT community. Thank you for everything you guys have done for me and everyone.”
Someone else poignantly commented, “I can say I’m very happy to be back here at Joy Junction. This is the only safe, holy place that I have known since I have been here in New Mexico for two years.
This time around in my life is a very traumatic change. I have made a solid decision to fully surrender to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I plan to resolve to make a difference by staying grounded and focused on God.”
Joy Junction Christ in Power life recovery program teacher Marcos Atwood Marcos also weighed in.
“I will make a difference by allowing my Lord to change me first, then others will see Him in me, and give Him glory.”
Photo captions: 1) Christmas illustration. 2) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds.
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds, who was born in Bournemouth, UK, is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. One of his more recent books is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on the book are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. His latest book is “Two Hearts One Vision.” It is available at www.twoheartsonevisionthebook.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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