According to the US Department of Defense (DOD), there are currently over 1.3 million men and women on active military duty and more than 450,000 of those are stationed overseas. Many of these service members are assigned to perform training exercises and other duties at bases where they are pretty safe. These troops are ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice to wherever in the world they are needed. Some troops have been deployed to conflict zones like Iraq or Syria and others to potential hotspots like Niger or Somalia.
Chased by Lego knights and pirate ships, stalked by 6 foot tall dinosaurs, time-warped to the 1930s to carve Mt. Rushmore, paralyzed by the siren’s song of a Metropolitan Opera Soprano….. is this a crazy, alcohol-fueled dream? Nope. This is how I rang in an eclectic and delightful New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris in Morristown, NJ.
About 25 residents of the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home were seated around the central recreation area of the facility. It was just before lunch and I’d volunteered to join a group of them on a trip to see the Nutcracker.
Just across the Hudson River from NYC’s wealthy Tribeca area, the waterfront neighborhoods of Jersey City boast recently constructed high-rise office buildings and luxury apartments where one bedroom, one bath, 750 sq. ft. condos sell for over $800,000. Trendy restaurants, expensive gyms and swanky shops welcome new, mostly young, Jersey City residents, attracted to the beautiful skyline and proximity of NYC. But just a short drive a few blocks west and south, crossing under the NJ Turnpike /Rt. 78 Ext, which slices Jersey City in half, and another, much older Jersey City emerges. Here, the landscape is spattered with pre-foreclosures and foreclosures. Here, a 3 bedroom, one bath home over 1,500 sq.ft. can be secured for under $300,000. Here, median income drops from upwards of $80,000 to $35,000. Here you can find neighborhoods with poverty levels beyond 30% and unemployment levels upwards of 40%. This is a place where gunfire and violence are everyday realities. Team Walker exists here, in this shadowland, among these disadvantaged communities.
“Life is meaningless without purpose and hope”…. these were words spoken by one of the former residents of the Market Street Mission, sharing his story with our group of volunteers. His story was unique to him but also familiar to other stories of addiction – a progressive spiral that moved from drinking to marijuana to increasingly powerful drugs, along the way experiencing homelessness, jail sentences, a multitude of court-mandated rehab centers, isolation from family….
The ‘bottom’ – the turning point – is different for each addict. Unfortunately, for over 100 people in the U.S. a day, that bottom is death. For our speaker, the bottom came when a 30-bag-a-day cocaine habit ended with an epiphany after almost dying from another overdose. Eventually he ended up at the Mission’s Recovery Program where he found a place of acceptance, spirituality, hope and possibility.
Pastor Tim calls Christmas the season of light
and encourages us to find ways to shine bright
by sharing love and kindness to others in need,
And one way to do this is through doing good deeds.
So when Liquid Church held Feed My Starving Children’s Mobile Packing event,
my husband and daughter and co-workers went.
Sometimes participating in a charity can be super simple – like enjoying a charity dinner… which is what my husband and I decided to do for Thanksgiving. For us, it was an easy choice. Thanksgiving is typically just the two of us. Our tradition is to take the train into NYC, look at the holiday window displays, do a little holiday shopping at Bryant Park’s Winter Village, then have Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant (Blue Fin on Times Square has been our go-to). It’s a really fun tradition – the city is full of lights, energy and happiness, bright decorations and holiday music. Everyone is friendly and you’re surrounded by the excitement of tourists.