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Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast   >>   All Episodes

Caring for the Least of These

Air date 05/06/2015

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Author Lorie Newman describes how serving those less fortunate than ourselves can become a regular part of our everyday lives in a discussion based on her book, A Cup of Cold Water in His Name: 60 Ways to Care for the Needy.

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Episode Transcript


John Fuller: A "Focus on the Family" listener shared this story of how someone anonymously met her at a real point of need.


Woman: I was a single mom of three. I was making breakfast in the morning and I remember feeling so sad, because I made pancakes and there wasn't any syrup for my children's pancakes. And I remember praying and just, you know, kinda lamenting to God my situation. And later in the afternoon, we found a bag of groceries on the porch. In the very bottom of the sack was a bottle of syrup. And it still makes me cry and it's been over 20 years ago, but I always remember that story of God's faithfulness and He knows our heart.

End of Clip

John: And it just takes a small thing, a little bottle of syrup that was left for this woman and her children and what a wonderful story and it really does reflect God's heart for those who are downcast, who are heavy of heart. And today on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly, we're gonna hear about ways that you can make a difference, a small perhaps, but significant difference in someone's life. I'm John Fuller and Jim, this is gonna be a real practical program.

Jim Daly: It will, John and I think, you know, there's those practical ways to put an arm around somebody. I love that grocery story. I mean, that must have, as a mom, lifted her spirits, not just for that day, but for so long, just to see that bottle of syrup, like you said.

But I can remember, you know, not having a mom dad, being that orphan kid, even a person just expressing kindness toward me, it felt like an avalanche of love, even though to them it probably felt like a drop, maybe not even noticed, puttin' an arm around me at a church service and saying as a 15-year-old boy, "You know, God's got His eye on you." And the difference that, that made. We never can overestimate what some small little act of kindness can do for a person's spirit. So, I am excited about today's program and we're gonna share some very practical ways to express things to people around you and I can't wait to get into it.

John: Yeah and there's a real heart of listening to God's nudge along the way here. Our guest is Lori Newman and she's a wife, a mom of eight, a speaker. She's written a very wonderful book called A Cup of Cold Water in His Name: 60 Ways to Care for the Needy.


Jim: (Chuckling) Lori, let me say, welcome to "Focus on the Family."

Lorie Newman: Thank you. It's good to be here.

Jim: You know, at first we say, "60 ways," okay, I'm already tired. You're not talkin' about wowing people with a number. There are probably thousands of ways that a person could express God's love to those around them.

Lorie: Absolutely and so many of us hear, "Help the needy; help the needy. Help the poor. Do this. This is what we should do in our Christian walk." But I wanted to write a book that was practical, that gave literal ways that people can jump right in and start helping the needy in their everyday life.

Jim: Well, and like in the Christian community, we so often get these metaphors. And the "cup of cold water," I've used it here to express how Focus wants to be there to help people, to give them not just recovery, but inspiration in God, etc. When you did this, why do we need a book to tell us how to show acts of kindness to people?

Lorie: Well, in this world we can get overwhelmed with those numbers. Nineteen million right here in America are considered the working poor, 1.1 billion with a B lack access to potable water. Every five seconds a child dies of hunger, not tuberculosis, hunger, lack of food. And if you think about those numbers, you can get completely overwhelmed. But Jesus rarely calls us to masses of humanity. And my focus in this book is Matthew 25:40, a very misquoted verse.

Jim: Why is that?

Lorie: "Whatever you've done unto the least of these, you've done to Me." That is not what that verse says. It says, "Whatever you've done to one of the least of these, you've done it to Me." Whatever you've done to one, the smallest act of kindness, even a cup of cold water done in His name just to one, it's done to Jesus Himself.

Jim: Let me ask you this. Why and we struggle with this, the boys and I'll be goin' to the local grocery store, runnin' an errand for mom and sure enough, there'll be somebody on the corner with a sign that says, "Need help, out of a job." And I'm always struggling with, okay, I don't know if these are the guys that in the newspaper they're talkin' about, that are workin' day jobs, but also doing that or it feels awkward now. And the boys are asking me, "Should we help 'em? What do we do?" Why are we in that position where we don't know when to help?

Lorie: It is awkward and sometimes even at the corner when you pull up in your car, do I make eye contact? Do I not? Should I stop and help? It is hard to know, but a little idea that I give in the book that you can do today, is to buy little bitty gift cards, $5 gift cards from McDonald's or Walmart. You know, there's a McDonald's on every corner in America.

Jim: Yeah. (Chuckling)

Lorie: And be ready with those in your wallet or in your purse and in the cup holder in your car, to hand those out. That way, you're not giving out cash to people on the street and not knowing what they would do with it.

Jim: Let me ask you this, because I have thought about that. I've talked to my boys about that, but there's like there's a lingering in my heart and I guess in some ways it's coarseness. You know, I've just become a bit thick-skinned about that, but to keep a handful of those around, you know, for what, those 20 bucks.

Lorie: That's right, price of a bag of dog food.

Jim: Is it better to err in doing that, especially modeling it for your kids, rather than saying, "Well, you know, I read an article in The Wall Street Journal, these people might be rippin' us off?

Lorie: Absolutely.

Jim: I mean (Laughing)—

Lorie: Absolutely.

Jim: --that's what a lot of people will talk about, you know, because we don't know. But it's better to go ahead and make the mistake of helping somebody—

Lorie: That's right.

Jim: --rather than holding back. Is that what you're saying?

Lorie: I absolutely agree with that 100 percent, yes, especially teaching that to your children.

Jim: Well, now we started with an example that probably is most difficult, although it's also the most prevalent. I think people on the corner, that's become in some ways a business. You know, we do want to help people in that way and they're looking for help.

But you had an experience reaching out to something that breaks my heart. When I went to school, living in foster care, I didn't have a lot of lunch money. I didn't get lunch money. So, often I then say, "You got a nickel? I want to buy a cookie." I know it shows today, John (Laughing), but I didn't have money for lunch in seventh grade, eighth grade. I mean, and I don't know why, you know, I didn't get lunch at home, but you also talk about feeding the hungry when you first became a teacher. (Laughing) That relates to me. What happened?

Lorie: Well, whenever I was in college studying to be a teacher, I remember one of my professors saying, "Always keep a jar of peanut butter and crackers in your desk drawer."

Jim: Now there's practical—

Lorie: You just—

Jim: --advice.

Lorie: --never know.

Jim: Yeah.

Lorie: And I thought to myself, okay, I'll take that advice, tuck it away. And I taught in a very affluent area, thought I'd never need that, but I did what she said. I kept a jar of peanut butter and crackers in my desk drawer.

And sure enough, there was a little boy, came to school every day and he was a little fuzzy in the mornings with math and that sort of thing and about six weeks into school, someone brought in some cupcakes. Mid-morning I let the children have those cupcakes. And boy, he did great on his math that day.

And I called him to my desk when everybody went to recess and I said, "Did you eat breakfast this morning?" "No, ma'am." "Do you eat breakfast any mornings?" "No, ma'am." Found out with some more prodding, there was very little food in the home. So, every day at recess, it was our little thing. Everybody would scoot out to recess and he would come to his drawer and get some crackers and peanut butter and that was just our little secret and that would kind of pep him up for the rest of the day.

Jim: Your parents had a heart for service and I think in that environment, you encountered hunger at a young age. Describe what happened and how it impacted you.

Lorie: Well, I was probably about 10- or 11-years-old. My dad was not home from work yet and my mom was cooking at the stove. My brother and I were sitting at the kitchen table and we were doin' our homework. And we lived way out. I mean, we lived at the end of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere; cow pastures surrounded us.

So, whenever our doorbell rang, it was not a comforting sound. I'm not even sure that I knew we had a doorbell until it rang that night and the sun was setting and it was getting dark and our hearts dropped to the floor. We went to the front door and there on the other side of the door was a man dressed like one of the hoboes in my storybook, almost frightening a little bit, like he hadn't bathed in a long time, dirty clothes.

My mother did the unthinkable. She opened the door to this man and I will never forget what he said. He fell to his knees and he said, "Ma'am, I am so hungry. Could I just beg you for food?" And my mother went and got a plate of food that she was cooking on the stove and gave it to him. Wanting to protect us, she did shut the door.

Jim: Yeah.

Lorie: But my mom and my brother went off and did their thing. I stood at the front window, pulled back the living room curtains and I watched this man inhale that food, just scoffed it down in probably 10 seconds flat. And my heart broke for the first time for someone who was hungry. I'd never seen someone who was truly hungry, truly in need and I watched that man walk off down our dirt road into the silhouette of the evening, but his silhouette has never left my heart.

Jim: Wow.

Lorie: Every time I see someone in need, I think about that man. I don't know where he came from. I have no idea, but the impact he made on me, I'll never forget that.

Jim: Lori, let me ask you this. Why in the Christian community have we become so hard of heart with this? I mean, it's such a beautiful story. But again, we tend to begin to rationalize. Someone knocks at the door. Oh, my goodness. He doesn't look right. He doesn't smell right, whatever it might be and I'm guilty of it, too. I would've said, "Jean, what in the world are you thinking? You could've put the kids in harm's way." That shows an utter lack of trust for God, doesn't it?

Lorie: In those moments, you have really got to trust the Holy Spirit. You've just gotta be walkin' with the Lord and say every day, this is the difference. Every morning, "Lord, open my spiritual eyes to the needs around me." And it's no coincidence that people are where they are in their workplace, in their neighborhood, wherever they are. No one can influence the needs in that sphere of influence like they can. God has put you where you are for a reason. There are needs around you. And it's not just the man at the soup kitchen or knocking on your door, begging for food. It could be in the pew beside you at church.

Jim: That's so true and we gotta keep our eyes open and try to fight the human tendency to scoff at it—

Lorie: Right.

Jim: --and shake it off. Do something is what—

Lorie: Absolutely.

Jim: --you're saying. Let's get to the practical nature of it, 'cause your book, A Cup of Cold Water in His Name is so filled. I mean, it is60 Ways to Really Reach Out and Touch People. So, let's get down to some of that. What are some of those small ways in this area of hunger? You've talked about the $5 gift card that you can hand out. What are some other things that we can do?

Lorie: Well, the book is broken down into the five areas in Matthew 25—feeding the hungry and thirsty, inviting the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and ministering to the prisoner. And in that area of hunger, there are so many ways that we can help. And the book is also broken down into simple ways, kind of medium ways and then very deep ways that you can go if you've got some more time or some more resources.

You can anonymously leave, just like the story we heard, I have a friend, who when she was a little girl, her mom was a single mom and one Wednesday night, they came home from church and there was a cardboard box—

Jim: Yeah.

Lorie: --full of groceries right there. But here's what brought her mother to tears. It wasn't just groceries. At the bottom of the box, there were fun foods for the kids. Someone had thought about those children and you know, when you're a single mom and the kids at the grocery store say, "Oh, mom, can we have this? Can we have that?" There's just usually not money in the budget for that.

Jim: Right, those are the luxury items.

Lorie: Absolutely, those "fun foods," I like to call them. Someone had bought fun foods just for those children. That's something that you can do with your children. Hide in the bush and then watch when she comes home and see what happens. Be little ninjas about it. That would be just something fun for you to do with your family.

Jim: And you know, so often we're just saying, "Well, the church can do that" and we don't engage it. And that's another way to do it. Go to your pastor and say, "Who can I help in the church?

Lorie: Absolutely.

Jim: And I'm sure they'll have a list of people.

Lorie: Through that benevolence, you're right.

Jim: It's really moved me to do that. The other benefit of something like this is your kids seeing you do this and them participating in it.

Lorie: Right.

Jim: It gives 'em a different heart for the needy, doesn't it?

Lorie: It does. It begins to mold and shape their heart into a heart like His.

John: I think it's interesting, Lori. You're talking to folks, a lot of whom get this. They understand. But some of our listeners, their kids are a little isolated. I mean, my kids have never been around truly needy people in our community beyond a few special projects. So, it's a little challenging for you. I mean, you're trying to bump me out of my comfort zone, it seems.

Lorie: You have to get out of your suburban neighborhood and you might want to go downtown, serve at a soup kitchen with your children. They really do need to see that it's not "us and them." That we are all God's people and God wants us to touch the hearts of people who are truly needy.

But another way that my family and I have helped and this is under "stranger" in the book. And sometimes strangers are in the pew next to you and they may need some help, as well. We have a wonderful couple in our church who were never able to have any children of their own and we have sort of adopted them.

And while they're not needy in that they're hungry or thirsty, they're needy in that, we come along and help them mow their grass. We come along and check on them every day. We call them. We Invite them over during the holidays. We love on them and we have considered them our "grandfriends" and that's something our whole family does together and it's not easy.

We used to travel to Georgia when we lived in North Carolina and bring them back up to our home in the mountains and that was not easy to do, because the wife is in a wheelchair, but our children pick up the pace with that and they help us and that's somethin' that we can all do together.

John: Well, I hope as a parent, you're catching the vision here for ways that you can kind of instill an open heart and a giving heart in your children and if you don't have kids, I hope you're challenged and inspired, as well, to do these kind of simple things that Lori's talking about. Lori Newman is our guest on "Focus on the Family" today and her book, A Cup of Cold Water in His Name, you can find more about that at

Jim: Lori, we've talked about a few things here, gift cards you can hand out. Don't over analyze where a person's at. Just do it in the name of Christ. Say something about it. Let's move it to now things you can do, which I think your mom had this situation, where I thought it was beautiful what she did with an elderly woman from the church in bringing her flowers.

Lorie: It was actually a very dear friend of hers who was dying of cancer and I was a little girl at the time. I would sit in the living room while my mother would visit with her and she always brought her flowers, always. And she would tell her, "I want you to enjoy these flowers while you're here." And she knew she was dying and she knew that she had a very short time on earth and my mother would always say to the nurse as she left, "Now put these in some water and I'll be back in a few days to bring some more. I won't be sending any flowers to the funeral, because I want her to enjoy these while she's here."

And here's me, little girl, sitting in the living room, hearing all of this and that's just another way that God used those early experiences to mold me and shape me to have a compassionate heart like Him, but it also shows us that our children are watching when we do small things like that. There is no small thing done to a needy person that God does not see.

Jim: Do you think, Lori, the pace of life, 'cause I'm thinking of this and I get excited. I read the book and I looked at the ideas and I'm thinking, oh, my goodness. I could've been doing this for the last few years with Trent and Troy. I just didn't think about it. The busy pace of life, how do we slow down and let God get our attention to say, buy groceries for a single mom. You know, buy a $5 gift card for the homeless person on the corner. It seems like it's too easy to fall into the excuse of ah, I'm just so busy. It's not what God wants us to say, is it?

Lorie: That's right and we are busy these days. We really are and that's okay, but we have to be intentional about helping the needy. We have to say each morning, "Lord, show me someone in my sphere of influence." If it's a single mom at your workplace, you can bet she's struggling. Do somethin' for her. Send her flowers anonymously. Take those groceries. Whatever it is the Lord lays on your heart, don't say I'll do it next week; I'll do it tomorrow. Do it. Be intentional about helping the needy.

Jim: Lori, also you talked about something close to our heart here at Focus on the Family and that's the pregnancy resource centers, being able to do something for them. They're so typically underfunded and stressed to meet the needs of the local women in their community. And you know, we certainly lift them up through our efforts here at Focus with actually free resources like booklets and other things that they use. I think we give away about three to $400,000 of materials to the pregnancy resource centers every year and Option Ultrasound machines that we help sponsor in these clinics, but in a more practical way and perhaps in a simple way, you can do something. Talk about that.

Lorie: Absolutely. Today you can organize a baby shower for a crisis pregnancy center, very easy.

Jim: How does a person do that though? Jean and me, how do we go about doing that?

Lorie: Well, you could probably ask Jean about that, because I just bet you she has been to a baby shower.

Jim: She's been to many.

Lorie: And if you know what a baby shower looks like, how …

Jim: John, do you know what it looks like?

John: Actually yes.

Jim: Okay, good (Laughter).

John: For one of our kids—

Lorie: There you go.

John: --there was a baby shower and it was sufficient to say, one time.

Jim: Okay, good. That was a test; go ahead.

Lorie: If you can go to the grocery store and buy a cake and you can send invitations or put a little blurb in your church bulletin to say, "Hey, we're gonna collect formula, new clothes, diapers, diaper bags, gently used cribs and other baby items. We're gonna collect those on a Wednesday night during the prayer service. Bring them to room so and so. It's that easy, maybe have a cake, some refreshments, not even a cake if you don't want to, but have a baby shower. If you give one to a new mom, how about give one to a crisis pregnancy center. How easy that and—

Jim: And really—

Lorie: --what a blessing.

Jim: --you can contact them to find out who needs that—

Lorie: Right.

Jim: --kind of touch of love.

Lorie: And they may need some more specific things, a certain type of formula or that sort of thing and you can definitely get in contact with them. I assure you, they will say, yes, please, that is a welcome thing for us.

Jim: Now you are, I can't believe this, but you're a mom of eight.

Lorie: I am.

Jim: And you are very youthful (Laughing).

Lorie: Thank you.

Jim: Talk about your kids. You saw this as a young lady, a girl with your mom, showing you so much of this love to people. What have you done with your kids and how have they responded?

Lorie: Well, my children's ages range from 22 all the way down to 8 months. So, I have one in just about every area of growing up, literally one in every department at church—college (Laughter) all the way down to the nursery.

And we've done lots of things together. We have gone on downtown mission trips together. My older children have all been on mission trips themselves with mission organizations and it thrills my heart that they want to do that. My oldest daughter is headed to the Philippines again this summer. We like to work together to serve and like I said earlier, that one couple that we serve is probably our biggest thing, that it's just an ongoing mission for us.

And let me say, when you have adopted children, especially from another culture, I have two children that are adopted—one from Haiti and one from Liberia—that are sandwiched in those other six biological children, that is an ongoing mission that is right there within your family.

Jim: Yeah (Chuckling).

Lorie: It's a mission trip you bring into your home always.

Jim: Well, and the benefit of that again is exciting your kids to do acts of service and giving them that experience and I think so many are missing it because of the busyness again, but stop and think intentionally, which is what you're saying.

The ultimate, I think rightful sacrifice, I say that, but I say that in the right way, is that adoption process. I mean, that's giving your home, your life, your children--

Lorie: It is.

Jim: --opening them up to others, in your case, two other children. Talk about that process and the impact it's made on you.

Lorie: I will never forget sitting down with a wonderful man in our church who was a psychologist. And he did our psychological evaluation for our adoption when we adopted our little girl from Haiti. And he put the pen down during the interview and he sat back and he said, "Lori and Duane, your family will never be the same. You will have a different family when you adopt this child and it will be a good thing" and it has been.

But she has so changed all of us and you know, I tell people that I have eight children, two of them are adopted, but I just can't remember which ones they are. And of course, they're of color, so it's obvious which ones they are, but I really do forget.

When we first went to get that little girl from Haiti, when we were standing on the porch in Pétionville, Haiti, we were leaving that morning and we climbed into the car and all the orphans were waving goodbye to their little friend and she climbed up in the back and waved goodbye to all of them. [It] nearly broke my heart and I knew when I got home, I had to do something. I got on my face and said, "Whatever it is, Lord, I have to do something."

And an orphan ministry at my church was birthed from that and it's grown and grown and grown--nothing that I did, just a mom saying, "I've seen their faces. I've seen it and I have to do something" and He did it through me.

Jim: Well, and what you're talking about here is so beautiful. It is the act and it doesn't have to be a big stadium; it's the one-on-one—

Lorie: That's right.

Jim: --as you've noted in Matthew, it's helping that one that's right in front of you. And in your case, you now moved that to help many who are without a mom and a dad. We do that here at Focus on the Family with Wait No More, with foster children, as well and just to encourage people to consider, not for everyone--

Lorie: That's right.

Jim: --but you can come alongside and do relief or respite, as it's called, to give these foster parents a break for the weekend and you can pack lunches. You can help—

Lorie: That's right.

Jim: --them. I think they say that an adopting couple, it takes about five to make it a healthy circumstances, it takes about five other couples to come alongside them—families to come alongside them—

Lorie: Right.

Jim: --to relieve them of some of the pressure of that. So, if that's something you want to do, certainly come to Focus on the Family. John, you'll give those details, but I would encourage people to consider it.

In the end, Lori, as we wrap up, the bottom line is, acts of service, acts of kindness, it's just like Jesus said. It's like, the more you give in this area and the areas that we've talked about, the more alive you feel. And it seems to me, one of the challenges we have within the church is the reason we are not alive—

Lorie: Absolutely.

Jim: --is because the enemy is trapping us—

Lorie: Yes.

Jim: --in the traps of this life, rather than doing these things and seeing God work and leading someone to Christ and seeing a tear fall from a single parent mom's face, because it was exactly what she had prayed for that morning and you actually ended up fulfilling God's heart for her. That's where your faith comes alive and you feel it and you experience it--

Lorie: That's right.

Jim: --and you want to do it.

Lorie: Think about the last thing that Jesus did before He left this earth. He got down on His knees and He washed the feet of His disciples. He knew what was about to happen, but He got down on His knees and served and that is what He calls us to do.

Jim: Well, that's so good. Let's shake the cobwebs off. Your book, A Cup of Cold Water in His Name is as practical as it can get, 60 Ways to Help People, with all the information, websites, ideas, thoughts, addresses, how to contact organizations, prisons, I'm sure to help with writing letters. All of that is right there in a real handy can-do book. So, thank you for being with us.

Lorie: Well, thank you. It's been a pleasure.


John: And you have so many practical ideas about reaching out and serving those around us and I hope you've been inspired by Lorie and that you'll want a copy of A Cup of Cold Water in His Name, which, as we've mentioned, has dozens of service ideas, some of which you've probably never thought of, like anonymously sending flowers to someone, to a single mom perhaps or offering a ride to that elderly neighbor that just needs a hand. This'd make a great reference book, as well, for your church library and so, find details about it at

And according to recent research that we've done, over the last 12 months, Focus on the Family has inspired and equipped over a million people to stand up for the helpless, those who have no voice in our culture, including the preborn child and the orphan. Now we do this in a variety of ways, but let me tell you just a bit about our Wait No More events. They're designed to help you learn more about foster care and the opportunity for you to be involved, perhaps even as an adoptive parent. One woman named Bethany and her husband recently attended one of those Wait No More events and she shared this heartwarming response to us.

She said, "It was informative, honest and God-glorifying. We appreciated hearing from the hearts of so many who were touched by adoption and it was great to have the agencies there to answer all our questions. We're still praying and making decisions, but we're more confident than ever that adoption is part of God's plan for our family. Thank you for encouraging us to open our hearts and we can't wait to see how it unfolds."

Now that really reflects our desire to see children adopted, especially those who are in foster care and available. They need forever families and you can learn more about it by attending a End the Wait event and by making a donation to Focus on the Family, so we can provide those and other helpful resources to families.

And today when you make a generous contribution of any amount to this ministry, we'll send a copy of Lorie's book, A Cup of Cold Water as our way of saying thank you. Make that donation online or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for joining us and inviting you back next time for more trusted advice to help your family thrive.

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Lorie Newman

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Lorie Newman is a freelance writer and a public speaker who frequently addresses audiences at Christian retreats and ministry events. Lorie's articles have appeared in publications such as The Huffington Post, On Mission Magazine, Hearts at Home and Proverbs 31 Woman. She has also authored a book titled A Cup of Cold Water in His Name. A former elementary school teacher, Lorie is now a homeschooling mom of eight children. Learn more about Lorie by visiting her website: