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The best gifts are often disguised.

Growing up on a farm, there was always work to do – weeding the garden, cleaning out the barn, caring for the animals. It was just standard. You didn't think about playing until your work was done. One of my first paying jobs – and one of the toughest jobs I ever had – was hauling hay. The bales were heavy, the hours were long, but I was up to the challenge because my parents had taught me how to work. Today, I realize that was a tremendous gift.

As the cover story makes clear, joblessness and homelessness are interconnected. People need money to live. If they can't find a job, they're either going to be forced to depend on others or go without. Additionally, people who have struggled with addiction issues need the tools to keep their job and personal life in balance. Otherwise, work itself can become part of the problem – driving up stress levels, damaging relationships, and increasing the desire to escape.

Work is meant to be a good gift – not a hated chore, not a consuming obsession, not a definition of personal worth. God created us for a purpose – to glorify and enjoy Him. For most of us, that involves some type of work. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do," Ephesians 2:10.

Work brings a number of rewards: a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves; the opportunity to engage our minds, bodies, talents and skills; satisfaction in a job well done; and the ability to provide the necessities for ourselves and those we love. Our desire is for the majority of people leaving our shelters to find meaningful work, but again, the obstacles for our residents are significant. That's why we've boosted our support in this area through a new department: Vocational Advancement.

More than 20 local businesses are already partnering with us to provide real-world job experience and training to the men and women in our Recovery programs – just one more example of this community collaborating with the Mission to impact the poor and help them become God-dependent, contributing members of society. Thank you for being part of this significant work.

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