You may have driven by the “30 Hour Famine” banner at the United Methodist Church and wondered what it meant.
I drove past it and thought about my big breakfast and my kitchen full of food. I recalled delicious Thanksgiving meals, and then drove back to the banner.
I hardly go three hours without eating something, how could someone last 30 hours? Why would they?
I came home, read the website and called Kelsi Walker.
Kelsi, director of children and youth at United Methodist, said their youth group has repeated the 30-Hour Famine experience for four years. She explained that the Famine is not the typical youth group activity, but it is clearly one of the most significant ones.
“It’s powerful. The kids were all really excited about it,” Kelsi said. “They didn’t even get too cranky, and it’s really easy to get cranky when you go for 30 hours without eating.”
Every year hundreds of thousands of students worldwide participate in the “30-hour Famine” to learn about world hunger and raise funds to help feed the hungry. According to World Vision, nearly 8,000 children younger than 5 die daily due to hunger.
Students participating in the Famine experience hunger firsthand to better understand the effects of poverty. Participating churches receive all the needed resources, information, and fundraising packets from World Vision International, which serves close to 100 million people in nearly 100 countries.
Kelsi said about 75 students in grades 7-12 participated at United Methodist, including their youth group, friends, and students from the University Methodist Church in Irvine. Students raised support by selling T-shirts, getting sponsors, going door-to-door for donations and doing odd jobs. They raised more than $4,000, which World Vision will use to feed starving children.
“The kids put a lot of effort into getting the word out.” Kelsi said. “They wanted to raise money, but they also wanted to speak out about world hunger for those who can’t.”
The students were split into five tribes, representing five areas in Haiti affected by the 2010 earthquake.
“Everything was done so the kids really felt like they were in Haiti.” Kelsi said. “They took the name and characteristics of someone from Haiti. For example, if the boy represented was sick, our student wore two jackets for the 30 hours to feel like he had a fever. If a person was hard of hearing, ours had to wear earplugs the whole time”.
There were many different activities, games, and hourly juice and water breaks.
The students also built shanties – cardboard homes – to house their tribe.
“It rained that night,” Kelsi said. “It was hard enough for them to imagine living in cardboard houses, but it really hit home when it rained. We let them to bring their shanties inside to stay warm and dry and talked about the fact that many people around the world don’t have that luxury.”
This was the first Famine experience for John Paul Mohr, a 7th grader at CdM. He found it exciting and impactful, but also sad to realize the extent of world hunger.
“It makes you want to get up and do something,“ he said. “I felt like God’s helper, we were doing what He wants us to do.”
CdM freshman James Sprake described his first Famine as very fulfilling.
“I’m definitely doing it again next year,” he said. “’Don’t be afraid to step out of your shell and make friends with people who need a helping hand.”
The fast ended uniquely.
“In the past we’ve broken our fast by having communion at church, but instead we closed by eating together with a group of homeless people in Santa Ana.” Kelsi explained. “It rained there too. The kids decided to start collecting coats for the homeless.”
That experience was a highlight for Sabrina Roy, freshman at CdM, who participated last year.
“Not only were we feeding them, but we got the chance to talk to them and hear their stories.” She said. “It was eye opening. Doing the famine has inspired me to give and think of others before myself.”
This was the third Famine experience for Kacie Kline, a CdM freshman. “It completely made me reevaluate the way I live and to be so much more thankful for everything I have, a house to live in and a family that loves me,” she said. “It affected my connection with God because I lived out my faith by serving and loving others in need.”
Kelsi and the students hope their experiences encourage others to find ways to serve.
“Through service, we learn what it means to have a relationship with Christ. God is love and we are called to serve and love others.” Kelsi said. “These are small glimpses of what it means to be the Body of Christ.”
Cindy can be reached at [email protected]