“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” -Matthew 25:40
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” -1 John 3:17
Since moving nearer to the city this summer, we have had several opportunities to connect with individuals that are in need, less fortunate, and/or homeless. Those opportunities have really stirred a desire to be more intentional in practical service to this community. As you can see from the image above, Charlotte contains 20% of the entirety of North Carolina’s homeless population. If you have ever strolled down Tryon, the main road through uptown Charlotte, on any given day, you can be sure to find many homeless individuals sleeping on benches and looking through garbage for remnants of food. This is a huge and very apparent need in our city. At our previous church, we assembled care packages for those less fortunate in downtown Charlotte and then kept some in our cars for those standing at stoplights. Delivering these packages and getting to know the stories of the people we were privileged to interact with was an immense blessing to us; I hope it was even more so for the recipients.
I know it is easy to drive or walk right past someone in need thinking, “well, I don’t know if they mean well or if they are dangerous”, “what if they use this money [if you give money and not goods] for something bad?”, “I have nothing to give” or even “I’ll do something next time”. I do this more than I would like to admit. I recently went to a seminar where the speaker shared a wonderful quote when talking about the story of the Good Samaritan, saying, “we should not approach those less fortunate with the thought of ‘if I stop what will happen to me?’ but rather ‘if I don’t stop what will happen to them?” Such a simple but convicting thought. Why are we so concerned with ourselves that we miss the easy chances to provide for those that have been dealt a lesser hand? 1 John 3:17 (above) smacks me right upside the head every time I read it…in the best of ways. It awakens me to the reality that serving others, loving them well, and showing them Christ’s character is our job, our duty, and should also be our joy. Imagine what things would look like if each of us more intentionally loved those less fortunate with the intense and genuine love of Christ through practical offerings?
Below is the list and cost of each item that went into making just 10 bags to hand out. I started small just to give a glimpse on a manageable project for one person. You will also see that I included laminated reference cards for the Urban Ministry Center to provide more consistent and comprehensive services for them instead of just a few items to last a few days. I would highly suggest getting together with your small group, church, friends, or family if you want to undertake a bigger movement to serve the city your in. This is not just Charlotte, the least of these are everywhere. Let’s serve them!
**These are “winter packs”, aimed toward cold weather needs. During warmer months you might want to include more water, body wipes, deodorant, etc. There are so many ways to make these. Reach out to your nearest shelters or homeless ministries to get a good idea for what the homeless community in your area might specifically need**
10 Bags for the Homeless and Needy
12 fruit pouches: $3.00
24 individually wrapped hand wipes: $2.28
10 protein bars: $4.30
5 pairs of gloves: $7.50
20 pairs of hand-warmers: $10.00
12 to-go kleenex packs: $4.00
17 gallon storage bags: $1.74
10 sticks Chapstick: $6.36
10 pairs socks: $8.50
24 pack bottled water: $2.43
Travel size hand lotion: $9.70
Materials for reference card: $10.49 (pack of 10 sheets–used 6)
Total costs (including leftovers to keep in the car): $70.30
Approximate cost per bag: $7.00
$7=two days of your Starbucks fix, one meal at Chipotle or at most fast food places, less than a Spotify subscription, less than Netflix….think about it.
The opportunity to intentionally love, serve, and give to someone in need: PRICELESS.