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Whatever You Have Done to One: 10 Ways to Care for the Needy

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Whether it's across the street, across the church pew or across the world, all of us have the power to reach just one needy person.

"I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink." --Matthew 25:35

One evening around dusk, when I was 11 years old, a homeless man arrived at our door.
When my mother answered the door, he said, "Ma'am, may I beg you for food?" Without hesitation, my mother brought him something to eat.

Full of curiosity, I peered through the window and watched as the stranger nearly inhaled the food. Tears filled my eyes. I had never encountered someone who was truly hungry.

For those of us who can simply go to the grocery store and purchase food for our families, why not buy a little extra to donate to a local food pantry? Or perhaps anonymously leave a box of groceries on the doorstep of a single mother or widower?

"I was a stranger and you invited me in." --Matthew 25:35

In the small town where I grew up, there was a tiny country church with a tall wooden fence on the side of the property. On one side was the whitewashed church. On the other side was a shack suggesting extreme poverty. I cringe to think that the fence is indicative of what churches sometimes do within many communities. We can get so busy with our "holy huddles" that we fail to see needy people right outside our doors.

Consider organizing a work day for your church to go into your community and paint walls at an elementary school, take dinner to fire/police departments, or plant flowers at a nursing home.

And for those times when you encounter a homeless person, why not create "Bags of Hope" filled with items they might use, (bottled water, gloves, socks), and keep the bags in your car so you will be ready the next time you meet someone in need.

"I was naked and you clothed me." --Matthew 25:36

When I met Charise and her baby, Alicia, they were living in a Women's Shelter. Charise's greatest need was a good, steady job so she could get back on her feet and provide for her baby. But she lacked the professional attire needed to even pursue an interview for a job.
Consider donating a business suit to Careergear.org, DressforSuccess.org or the American Red Cross. They are a just few of the many charities that take donations of gently used business attire and give them to those who need them.

If you and your friends have children who have outgrown their clothes, consider starting a clothing closet where foster parents can come and get clothing free of charge for children in their care.

"I was sick and you cared for me." --Matthew 25:36

So many of us have been there -- a hospital waiting room. For me it was 2 a.m. on a snowy night in January. Our son, Marc, was in emergency surgery after a sledding accident.

Waiting for someone to come out of surgery is an anxious time for loved ones. A simple idea is to make care baskets for hospital waiting rooms. In a large basket, put items that you think will be used by family members confined to a waiting room: bottled water, crackers, notepads and Scripture cards.

Some families spend weeks at a time with a loved one at a hospital during a prolonged illness. Contact your local hospital's social worker to find such a family and bring them a special home-made meal or gift basket they can enjoy while they are away from home.

"For I was in prison and you visited me." --Matthew 25:36

Did you know there are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S.? Most people don't think of foster children as being "captive," but foster care can be a lonely place for many children. Many of them think that no one cares for them and that their lives don't have purpose.

One idea to get your church involved is to make beaded bracelets with foster children's names on them and give them out to church members (adoptuskids.org gives first names of foster children in each state). They can then pray for the child on their bracelet by name.

You can also teach life skills to foster children who are turning 18 and "aging-out" of state care. Many of them don't have necessary life skills such as sewing a button, balancing a checkbook or cooking a simple meal. Hosting a "Life Skills Day" at a group home is a great project for a church group.

"Whatever you have done to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it to me." --Matthew 25:40

All of us can help just one, because just one really does matter.

Lorie Newman is the author of 'A Cup Of Cold Water In His Name: 60 Ways to Care for the Needy' (Discovery House, April 2012). She is a speaker, writer, and busy homeschooling mother of seven children, including twins and two children who were internationally adopted from Haiti and Liberia. She is the founder of an orphan ministry, which enables over 250 impoverished African children to receive food, clothing, and education. She lives in Asheville, N.C.