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The Lifeline of Hope’s Incredible Journey

Seven days a week, Joy Junction’s Lifeline of Hope mobile feeding truck, makes its way around Albuquerque to a variety of locations frequented by the homeless and near homeless.

Jeremy Reynalds with the Lifeline of Hope

Lifeline stops range from the usually chilly West Mesa to motels where people have to often make a conscious choice between paying for a room, to a lot in an economically challenged area of SE Albuquerque. We’re now feeding as many as 6,000 meals a month, all given with a smile and a healthy dose of God’s love.

With the Lifeline of Hope now well into its second year of operation, I thought it would be good to take a quick look back at how the Lifeline ministry came into being and the adventure associated with its acquisition. (This account is from my book, “Homeless in the City.” You may purchase a copy at www.homelessinthecity.com).

Before the Lifeline

In late 2009, in a Joy Junction publication, we mentioned a desire to run a lunch wagon that would be filled with coffee, soup, sandwiches, and other food with which we could bless the homeless. The plan was for the wagon to visit areas frequented by the homeless and provide a lifeline in the form of food, drink, and prayer. This Lifeline of Hope would say, “someone cares,” in a tangible fashion to those using its services, and it might even save a life—or more.

A few days later, I received an e-mail from Summit Electric CEO Vic Jury, a local businessman and a very dear friend of Joy Junction. He said that he had gone online and found something on Ebay that may work for us. I took a look and was immediately excited. The vehicle looked like it was everything we needed to make our vision a reality.

However, the vehicle was in Florida’s West Palm Beach. I thought and prayed and sensed that the Lord wanted me to personally go and pick up the vehicle. I mentioned this to the donor, who immediately responded that if I was sure I wanted to do this, he would pay for my air ticket. What a wonderful blessing!

A few days later, along with a former employee from Joy Junction’s corporate office who kindly offered to come along with me, we set off.

Those three days were truly a whirlwind of activity but also provided an opportunity for me to reflect on the Lord’s goodness—both personally and to Joy Junction.

Day 1: The Journey Begins

Sleep eluded me for much of Monday night, as I lay there tossing and turning, waiting for the alarm to go at 4:45 am, signaling it was time to get up and catch the 7:10 plane for Florida.

I stumbled out of bed, took two aspirin to ward off the painful rumblings of an approaching headache, forsook my usual chai latte, and turned on the shower.

After a relatively deserted road and a much quicker than usual trip to the airport, I arrived at a packed airline ticket counter, where I met my colleague.

There was a quick trip through security, and then time for a quick stop for chai (and a piece of ham and green chili quiche). The lady serving me the chai looked at me and said, “Oh, I didn’t think you’d have time to travel.”

A little taken aback, I answered, “I’m on the way to pick up a donation for Joy Junction—a lunch wagon.”

“Oh,” she answered. That was it, other than a comment that my quiche would be at the microwave. Oh, the joys of being known!

We made our way to the line for the plane. The adventure was beginning. Our plan was to get to West Palm Beach to pick up the lunch wagon and drive north to Tallahassee before we stopped for the night.

“How far is that from West Palm Beach?” I asked my colleague. “Five or six hours,” he said quite cheerily, without even blinking the proverbial eye. Oh, the joys of youth!

Boarding the plane, I told an ever cheery Southwest flight attendant I was hoping for lots of jokes.

“Maybe singing,” he said with a smile.

A few minutes later, we were airborne for the first leg of our journey, which would take us through Houston and Tampa on our way to West Palm Beach.

The flight was smooth and uneventful, but just as we were nearing its conclusion and I was thinking the flight attendant had let me down on his promise of singing, he burst into song, singing something like, “We love you, you love us, we’re much faster than a bus. Marry one of us, and you’ll fly free.”

I love Southwest Airlines humor! It continued just prior to the next leg of the flight, with one of the crew asking people to hurry up and get all the formalities disposed of so we could take off. He said his wife had just called, and his mother-in-law was getting through security. He wanted the plane in the air before she made it, he said. Most of the passengers laughed.

The Houston–Tampa leg was pretty smooth, and I passed the time by reading a captivating but equally horrifying book by Nick Reding titled Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town. I recommend it—the book is horrifying but a real eye-opener.

After a quick layover in Tampa and time to take care of some e-mails and phone calls, we boarded another plane for West Palm Beach.

Making my way up the aisle, I couldn’t help but hear a one-sided portion of a conversation I was trying hard not to overhear.

Speaking on his cell phone rather loudly, a man was saying, “I’m fifty-two; I don’t do drugs, and I don’t want kids.”

Hmm, I wondered. Now we’ve got that taken care of, tell me how you really feel? I wondered about the other half of that conversation.

The flight from Tampa to West Palm Beach was short and uneventful, and about forty-five minutes or so later, we touched down. Even walking through the air-conditioned airport, the humidity was apparent. While I love mountains and the ocean, humidity is definitely not for me.

Walking outside the airport, where we were met by a dealership employee who gave us a ride to the truck, I was assaulted by even worse humidity.

We arrived at the dealership a few minutes later and saw the lunch wagon. It was beautiful. A few minutes later, we were introduced to the general manager, a man not shy about sharing his faith.

He asked us about Joy Junction and how I began the shelter in 1986. He listened attentively as I told him. As I shared with him what the lunch truck would be used for, he seemed delighted. He initially believed, I think, that we would be selling food as a profit-making enterprise. His mouth dropped when I told him what we had in mind.

After signing all the papers necessary to transfer ownership of the lunch truck to Joy Junction, we were on our way. We prayed, ask for the Lord’s blessing, and my colleague started driving.

Tuned into a variety of country stations (each of which seemed to fade out of range quickly) to help ensure we stayed alert and awake, we pulled about two hours later into a services area with some relatively healthy food. My colleague had a wrap, and I somehow ended up with another piece of ham quiche—but minus the green chili.

We finished eating and made our way out to what the dealership staff had called our “747” lunch mobile. I agree. It is beautiful!

On the road again, and another couple of hours till Tallahassee. I offered to drive, but my colleague offered to take the wheel again—for which I was admittedly grateful. It gave me the opportunity to write again. We kept driving!

Even while sitting in the 747 and rolling toward our hotel, ideas were beginning to swirl in my mind about how we could best bless the homeless with our new acquisition. We already had a staff member who was very interested in being involved in the lunch truck operation. How exciting!

We continued driving, and I kept on answering e- mails and writing. I also checked on some of the early Albuquerque municipal election results by going to Facebook. My life without Facebook and BlackBerry? Did I even have one?

As we drew the remaining fifty or so miles to our hotel I felt grimy, my legs were aching, my back hurt a bit, and I just wanted rest. How grateful I was for a motel room, a clean bed, and a place to stay.

It made me think of why we were doing this cross-country jaunt in the first place—to make living easier and perhaps save the life of someone by giving them life-sustaining water or coffee and some hot, nutritious, and encouraging food.

How thankful I was for this wonderful donor who had purchased this vehicle, and for the Lord who continues to sustain this amazing ministry!

A few minutes later, we pulled into our motel and checked in. I thanked the Lord for his goodness and collapsed into bed!

Day 2: The Incredible Journey Continues

It was day two of our marathon trek before we hit Dallas.

Note to the TSA folks. If you unscrew liquids in my suitcase, would you please screw the cap back on so they don’t spill all over my suitcase? Thanks!

It was 9:30 am in Florida—7:30 back home—and time to get on the road.

As I stepped out of the hotel, it was so humid that my glasses fogged up. This was so just not me. I couldn’t wait for Albuquerque!

However, a chai and a sausage piadini (a wonderful sausage and cheese creation nestling on delicious pastry unfortunately no longer offered by Starbucks), would have to suffice for now! They did, and as I made my way back through the lunch wagon to the parking lot, it was such a relief not to wander directionally challenged around the parking lot in search of my little Pontiac Vibe. It would be next to impossible to miss this beautiful vehicle.

After asking the Lord’s blessing on the day and our travel, we took off! My colleague was again happy to drive for a while, so while he did, I e-mailed and took care of “JJ” business from the BlackBerry—my international mobile office!

As I did so, I was listening to the words of the song “Live Like You’re Dying.” Yes, it’s country, and while it may not have been written with that intent in mind, what a biblical theme. How much of the way we live would we change if we knew we only had a short time to live? I think there might be some significant changes.

We had a basically uneventful morning and pulled into a Chick–fil-A for a quick lunch. It was good, quick, and cheap. We then made our way over to Jackson, Mississippi, where the truck needed feeding.

Pulling into a gas station with heavily barred windows, my attempts to pay at the pump were met with a computer-generated message telling me to see the attendant. I did just that, but when I offered him a credit card, he said somewhat tersely, “We don’t take no credit cards.” We didn’t stop to inquire further. We just thanked him and went a few hundred feet across the street to a station that did.

Then we set out again. Next stop was for coffee and a couple of other small purchases. I used my VISA debit card and was very surprised when it was denied. A call a few minutes later to my credit union revealed that the credit function of the debit card had been uniformly disabled for all members in about six states due to data that had been compromised somewhere and somehow earlier this year.

Fortunately, I had an alternative method of payment. While I later learned the debit function still worked, it took a call to the credit union to find that out. Another on-the-road adventure.

We plowed (well, drove!) on. We were driving I20 west to Dallas, so somewhere west of Shreveport and about 170 miles east of Dallas, we stopped for supper. It was fast food, because we didn’t want to stray too far off the highway.

I had buffalo wings with honey mustard sauce, a small fries and a coffee—the smallest cup of coffee I had ever seen. It looked like it contained about six ounces, and that’s being generous! It made me laugh though.

A few minutes later, we were on the way. Dallas, here we come! What a whirlwind trip this was. As usual, my BlackBerry kept me in touch with everything and everyone.

Close to our hotel and very tired, it was an encouragement to see the Soulman’s Barbeque Restaurant with a “Jesus is Lord” sign.

A few minutes later, with the help of the GPS on the BlackBerry, we pulled into our hotel. My colleague and I checked in and headed off to our respective rooms.

I thanked the Lord for yet another day to serve him and collapsed into bed.

Day 3: The Incredible Journey Concludes

On our final day, I knew we needed to do two things: pray and visit Starbucks.

While talking to the barista in Starbucks, I told her that I was on the way home to Albuquerque. Another employee overheard me and said she loved Hatch green chili. She’d never been to New Mexico, but friends regularly sent her chili.

I left with my chai, happy that she’d been reminded about New Mexico and hoping that maybe I had, with the Lord’s help, made her day maybe a little better.

The day passed pretty uneventfully, with the two of us sharing the driving. I e-mailed prolifically when not driving. Running Joy Junction is a job that never ends, and it is definitely not boring.

Late afternoon we arrived at Amarillo. It would be hard not to pay a visit to the Big Texan, home of the free seventy-two-ounce steak (make that more like a roast) if you devour the gargantuan delight and sides in an hour or less.

I’d been there a number of times, but my colleague had never visited. He had a (much smaller than seventy-two ounces) steak, while I settled on a heart-stopping, artery-clogging chicken fried steak. Both the food and the service were excellent.

Coming out, we were assaulted by bone-chilling temperatures, which made me thank the Lord for the safety of a warm truck and the promise later of a warm and safe house and a comfortable bed in which to rest.

I was unaware of the homeless situation in Amarillo, but I breathed a quick prayer for the Lord’s blessing and protection for those homeless souls who, for whatever reason, would have no place to stay that night.

We again “fed” the 747 and started off on the last leg of our long and tiring, but nonetheless fulfilling, journey.

A short while later, we were in New Mexico—with a food truck—a very tangible lifeline for the homeless. It was so good to be home again and enjoy the beautiful sunset as we got closer to Albuquerque. I so much appreciate New Mexico, where I have spent more than half of my life.

Hope and Help for the Hungry in Downtown Albuquerque and Beyond

The Lifeline of Hope launched its mission Sunday, November 8 2009, at 1 pm at the corner of First and Iron and then made its way to a number of other locations. It was stocked to serve about one hundred fifty on its launch.

Now we typically feed as many as three hundred meals on a typical Sunday at the various locations mentioned at the beginning of this article, and hundreds more during the other days of the week we serve.

I am still very excited about this ongoing outreach, something so needed in this difficult economy, but I’m counting on you to provide financial and volunteer support. That will allow our successful continuance and expansion. Will you help us?

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