A Peaceful Demonstration of God’s Love: Engaging the public during 30 Hour Famine

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

carper.a peaceful protest.2Ross Carper 

The light bulb went off during a student leader meeting to brainstorm ideas for making our Famine season special and effective. Rab Greenup, a brilliant and beautifully quirky 8th grade guy in our group, noted that it was Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. He wondered aloud, to no one in particular, if we could emulate some of Dr. King’s practices during our 30 Hour Famine season.

“What if we did some sort of peaceful protest or something, like the marches and sit-ins Martin Luther King, Jr. led?”

The discussion moved forward after the group explored the idea, but as we talked later, the adult leaders became more and more excited about Rab’s brainstorm. In the weeks leading up to our Famine event, we crafted a way to publicly protest extreme poverty, hunger, and injustice in a way that our city would actually notice. The students became excited when we announced that our plan would unfold at River Park Square, a popular mall and movie theater downtown, on Friday night during 30 Hour Famine (the mall had agreed to allow our peaceful demonstration). The students were clearly energized by the plan, and shouted out more ideas, helping refine the protest and make it their own.

When the night came, each Famine participant donned a bright orange t-shirt that read WE WON’T STAND SILENT. We arranged ourselves in the mall’s main atrium in the shape of a peace sign, visible from the escalators high above. Our arms were linked as we faced out. In a twist of irony, each student also wore a piece of orange duct tape over their mouths, signifying the ways our most vulnerable global neighbors are often voiceless on the world stage. The students each chose a word to write on their duct tape—either something that they believe keeps the poor silenced (hunger, injustice, war, etc.) or something positive that the student was fasting/praying for (peace, justice, hope, freedom, love).

carper.a peaceful protest.1

Our high school work crew members were available to answer questions and distribute flyers that explained our effort and linked to our 30 Hour Famine website. There were envelopes and laptops and iPads ready for cash/check/online donations toward our goal. We had written a simple press release, and a local news station showed up to videotape the demonstration and interview Rab. The students were pretty proud of the brief report that was included on the late newscast of both the Fox and NBC local stations.

In all, our group stood still and silent and together for just 30 minutes of our 30 hour fast. In that half hour, we raised a few hundred dollars from passersby, and even met one woman who was moved to tears over the students’ willingness to fast and advocate for the sake of kids they had never met from across the world. At the mall and through the media, we also helped thousands of other people take a short moment to consider their global neighbors who are affected by extreme hunger. And we showed them the passion of a worldwide 30 Hour Famine movement of students who are loving God, loving neighbors across all boundaries, and fighting hunger through World Vision. For our middle schoolers, this was an opportunity to take a cue from the Civil Rights movement and do something simple, peaceful, and symbolic. The experience further reinforced that we can’t and won’t stand silent when our call is to speak up for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8).