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This semester, as part of my masters work, I am in a grant writing class. In our class, we spend the entire semester going through the step-by-step process of writing an in-depth proposal on behalf of an organization of our choice. I’m lucky to be working with my friend Claire, who does flood relief full time through the Westminster Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program. So I am learning, learning, and learning all there is to know about Nashville’s current flood relief status. Let me tell you: we are far from recovered.

But there is one component of a well-written proposal that has been on my mind lately: The Need Statement. It is exactly what it sounds like — you must demonstrate that a need exists, telling your potential funder, “see how much we need your money?” So you ask yourself why this, why that, until you find yourself at the root problem. Without clearly demonstrating the need, the rest of your proposal will be unstable. This starting point is an absolute necessity.

The process of writing a need statement got me thinking about social issues in general — poverty, homelessness, illness, etc. So often, people of our generation want to “help.” We want to make an impact so we try to find ways to dive in and fix everything. Or we sit around and discuss what all the issues are and how they should be dealt with, but then we go about on our merry way.

How do we really make change? We back up and start with determining the real need. For example, it isn’t just hat impoverished people need money or a meal or a bed. They need a job. And how easy is it to get a job, even at a fast food restaurant, if you don’t have a social security card? Or if you are 16 and uneducated, without parents to guide you? And how easy is it for a teenager to go back to school if he’s been out and alone on the streets? So maybe the real problem, in this example, isn’t that impoverished or homeless people aren’t getting jobs — it’s that they need help applying. Is there job application assistance in your city? Could there be? This is just me thinking out loud…

But no matter what the important issues are to you, God calls us to help our neighbors. To identify need. To start small. To act on it. Are we acting yet?

‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘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: 35-40

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