Keep Doing Your Thing—Because It Isn’t Just a Thing

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

VRoss Carper, Director of Junior High & College Ministries, First Presbyterian Church of Spokane

We often think of the 30 Hour Famine as a thing. It’s something we do. For youth leaders, it’s this thing: an important part of our yearly calendar that teaches faith in action. For students, it’s this thing: a season of growth and creative service toward an exciting goal. For parents, it’s this thing: lots of questions (You’re asking our students to do what? Why? Where does all this money go?)—all of which slowly give way to engagement and steadfast support.

For these groups and others, the 30 Hour Famine is a very good thing. But at its heart, the Famine is not a thing. The 30 Hour Famine is people—people who are worlds apart, being empowered to change their communities. This struck me last year when I had the honor of traveling to Malawi with a small group of youth leaders whose students are (like mine) deeply committed to the Famine. I’ll never think of the Famine the way I did before my journey. During the brief week in the friendly southeastern African nation known as “the warm heart of Africa,” I met several Malawian people whose stories I’ll never forget.

One of these people is Essau Mwendo Phiri, a large, grinning man who is most accurately described as jolly. Essau is from a rural part of Malawi; he serves as the chief of his home village during frequent visits home from his more modern life in Lilongwe, the capital city. As World Vision’s National Food Security Manager, he is an expert in food security issues who has spoken at conferences all over the world. We were privileged to have him travel with us for three days.

In the field, Essau wears a tan safari-style vest with the words “Farmers First” printed on the back. He was as quick to explain his main goal as he was to dance joyfully with rural villagers. “My focus is to help rural farmers gain a more businesslike mindset.” He referred to the large majority of Malawi’s population who are subsistence farmers—those who grow their own food. “We can change the hardware we give farmers—better seeds, tools, and the like—but to be most effective we must change the software,” he said, pressing a finger to his temple to emphasize the point.

Basically, Essau wants to convince Malawian farmers to seek out new training and techniques from World Vision and others, and create plans to expand the variety and yields of products their farms sell. This creates new income for Malawi’s families to feed and educate their children, and often sparks new hope that leads to spiritual transformation as well. A deeply committed Christian, Essau sees spiritual renewal as a mission that goes hand in hand with meeting physical needs.

Watching him put his mission into practice was a joy. When we visited a village that uses old cornstalks to grow and sell delicious mushrooms through a new World Vision project, he entertained everyone with his infectious laughter and belly-shaking dance moves. But he is no mere cheerleader; he’s an expert motivator. Essau has that rare ability to turn a moment with well-placed wisdom. When he becomes quieter, people sit up straight, lean in close, and listen. At one such moment, the group fell silent, nodding in agreement as he challenged them to quickly expand their enterprise—to not just be happy with the progress the mushroom business has achieved. He then explained a strategy that could result in a new commercial market for their product. Strategy, reinvestment, growth. Such wisdom is not a handout, but the empowerment of a growing business led mostly by the strong women of the village.

This is the 30 Hour Famine: Essau and countless others helping people in their own country have the best tools and the right mindset to rise above hunger and live the full lives they were created for. As I remember that specific village now from my kitchen table, I find myself praying for swift growth in the mushroom project, and for this blessing to continue to help feed and educate the children we met there.

Think of it: at this very moment, across the globe, your Famine funds are doing amazing things. Small mud and thatch huts are being turned into hot houses for growing mushrooms. A low spot on a family farm becomes a pond for fish farming. Between the fishponds, new citrus trees are planted. A village works together on a new method of composting, which greatly increases their harvest. A family’s dairy cow is the difference between their children eating once a day and eating two or three times. In a thick forest, honeybees swarm around several structures, making highly profitable honey for their owners. Our group visited village after village, seeing how these businesses are making communities and families stronger. We heard specific stories of how these opportunities are causing malnutrition rates to go down and education ages to go up. This is how we fight hunger. Stories like this happen because of the Famine funding you work hard to raise.

So keep doing your thing, and be encouraged to do it with even more energy than before. I know I am. But remember, the 30 Hour Famine isn’t a thing. It’s big Essau grinning as he dances to the song a woman named Dorica is singing—a song about how World Vision and her fish pond have transformed her family’s life. It’s Tabitha, a girl of twelve from the same area, having food and education because of the proceeds from that fish pond. It’s a community of students going beyond just an event by learning to live a sacrificial life. A life that loves God and loves our neighbors—near and far. That’s the 30 Hour Famine.