2015’s 30 Hour Famine

This was the third year our youth group participated in World Vision’s 30 hour famine.  The 30 hour famine is a program developed for youth groups to fast from food for 30 hours to raise money to feed hungry children around the world.  It’s a great program on multiple levels.

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It teaches kids about hunger.
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Prior to the 30 hour famine, my kids’ biggest food-related issue was that I expected them to eat vegetables.  During the fast, they can drink juice and water, but they actually get a taste (just a taste) of what it’s like to go to bed hungry. What it feels like to have your energy wane because they’re hungry.

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They also have an opportunity to learn about the impact of hunger and poverty around the world.  World Vision’s program includes Tribe, a survivor-type game youth groups can adapt for their own needs.  It has thoughtful and fun games that teach about hunger, education, water security, economic independence, and inadequate access to health care. This year’s Tribe focused on Ethiopia, and we learned some really cool facts about Ethiopia’s history and culture.

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Finally, the kids have a chance to make a difference.  Instead of leaving kids with a lot sad statistics, World Vision invites them to raise money for their programming around the world.  They also encourage youth groups to engage in a local project to alleviate hunger in their own areas.

Our service time for the past two years has been packing non-perishables to be given out at a food bank near our church.  The director gives us a brief talk about the breadth of neighbors in our area who need food assistance.  The kids also have a chance to imagine what their own meals would look like if their pantry had in it only the staples we packed that day.

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Obviously, I’m not a youth pastor, but I didn’t have to be to adapt this program to our small church.  I couldn’t have run it without the parents who participated, but I think we all learned something new. World Vision has two weekends when large numbers of students around the country participate.  This February weekend worked well for us because Lent is a traditional time for fasting.  Last year, we participated in the April weekend, but the first year we chose our own date in July.  If you’re looking for a flexible project for your youth, I highly recommend the 30 hour famine.

30 Hour Famine: 2014

2014 was our church’s second experience with the 30 hour famine.  I learned different lessons this year and am not entirely sure what the youth got out of it, but I look forward to hearing from them as they process the lessons they learned.
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Last year, I co-led the famine with a youth leader.  He suggested the famine to me the same week I “discovered” it myself, and his leadership was enthusiastic, faithful and competent.  Hoping to replicate that experience, I prayerfully chose two youth-leaders I thought would be good co-leaders. It didn’t work out that way, and the date (right after Easter, coinciding with several local Proms and multiple school events, on heels of my friend’s death) was a challenge.  Ownership makes a big difference. On top of that, I was on call the night before and ended up going into the hospital at 6 am for a delivery.  Not only was I hungry and caffeine-deprived, but I was late.
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What I learned: don’t delegate critical pieces of the famine to a youth leader unless they ask.  Don’t leave your own planning to the end. Our little church’s culture is pretty last minute: even Saturday morning, I had only a vague idea of how many students I would have.  I let that serve as my excuse for delaying my own planning, and then I ended up scrambling in the haze of grief and fatigue.

We began by working together at a local food bank, packing 300 bags of pantry staples to be distributed during the week to the food bank’s clients.  By far, this was the highlight of our famine.  The food bank coordinator taught us about hunger in our own neighborhood. The kids worked enthusiastically. None of us was really hungry yet, and everyone had a sense of humor.

From there we went back to the church, where we flooded the church’s kitchen and office because of a pipe that had cracked in one of the late freezes this winter.  By this time, we were getting hungry and tired and a little crabby and I’m not sure anyone got anything out of our Bible study.  Thanks to you and others, our youth group raised $1200 for famine relief.  That’s enough to feed 3 children for a year through World Vision’s hunger-relief programs.  Praise God!

Sometimes our work isn’t going to bring us the high of a transcendent experience.  Sometimes our work is to walk faithfully, if slowly, toward Jesus.  And I think that was accomplished, by his grace.

30 Hour Famine

Last weekend our church’s youth group did World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine.  It is such a well-run program on WV’s end.  They mailed us all the materials (including a comprehensive leader’s guide), called me in advance to see if I had any questions, and then called me afterwards to check in.

11 youth (ages 8-18) and 5 parents completed the fast.  WV suggests a juice-and-water-only fast, but as we had so many kids who were younger than their 12-and-up suggestion for participation, we had a few folks fasting at different levels.  I was blown away by the kids’ determination to complete this fast.  Owen and Moriah did the just fast as suggested by WV and were not willing to compromise on it when I asked if they needed a little something.

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We began our fast at 5am (which meant my kids woke up early to eat a little something before– and I to have my tea!).  The participants met at the church at 4pm, where we did a few of the WV devotionals, prayed, learned about hunger across the globe, and then cooked dinner for 8 homeless guests staying overnight in the church.  We made tacos, cut a watermelon, and served ice cream sandwiches. This service was one of the harder parts of the fast.

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Admittedly, one of my goals was to challenge our youth to do something hard.  (This will be my M.O. as I work with our youth.)  And WV suggests a service project.  Given the various ages of our youth, I wanted something that could accommodate a wide variety of skill levels.  Taco bar did that.  Hats off to Mikey who realized we could shred the cheese with a slotted spoon, since I hadn’t thought to bring a cheese grater.

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One of the participating dads brought a board game to play, and that was a good low-key activity for part of the fast.  Our group time concluded with more of the World Vision materials and a Bible study led by Mikey, our youth leader.  We decided as a group to designate the money we raised (almost $800) for wherever World Vision needs it most urgently. When we left the church that night, we had finished 15 hours of fasting and had 15 left to go.

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The following morning, everyone was dragging a little.  I had anticipated that Owen & Moriah would ask for food and I would have to remind them that we were fasting.  But they didn’t even ask.  I could see that they were hungry and tired, but they were committed.  What a joy to see commitment– in the face of something hard– in my children!

It was, according to Owen, “The longest church ever.”  And communion, according to Moriah, was “The Best Communion Ever.”

Thanks to all who prayed for us and gave to World Vision.  The kids are still talking about what they learned.  I hope we’ll do it again next year. this time during the national fast (usually in April.)