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The Famine Blog

When Only Lament Makes Sense


By Adam McLane

to-lamentMost mornings, I get up, have a cup of coffee, pop on my headphones, and sit down to write.

My morning routine makes sense to me. Writing is easy for me. I enjoy it. The blinking cursor of my word processor greets me and I quickly fill a page with new words.

Writing every morning brings sense to my day. Most days make sense.

But today doesn’t make sense.

The cursor blinks at me waiting for words to flow; they don’t. They won’t.

I sit in a comfortable chair, feeling the cool Pacific breeze drift through my house, the wafts of freshly ground coffee fill my nostrils confirming that a new day has started.

Yet today words pile on top of one another, they don’t make sense.

The alarm sounded but darkness pushed away the sunrise. The familiarity, the expectation of what can happen today was replaced by news, reactions, assumptions, presumptions, and questions.

Nine people are dead in a church shooting in South Carolina.

1100 miles South and hundreds of thousands of Haitian immigrants, many who have been in the Dominican Republic for generations, face deportation. (Read World Vision International’s call to not separate undocumented children who “look Haitian” from their parents.)

I grasp to make sense where there is none. I seek comfort in words that won’t come. And so I’m left, staring at the blinking cursor, asking God to make sense of what doesn’t make sense.

Did you know this wordless feeling has a word?

Lament – /ləˈment/ – (noun) a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. (verb) to mourn

On days like this all I have is lament.

To care is to lament. To pray is to lament. To listen or read is to lament. To hear and see is to lament.

So today, all I have to offer is this prayer of lament:

Great God of love, your creation weeps.

Hear the cry of the voiceless.

See the pain and injustice perpetrated on your children.

Bless those who grieve and mourn the broken kingdom on Earth.

“It’s the Holy Spirit’s role to convict, God’s role to judge, and ours to love.”

We ask that you help us to love.

We release the resentment and bitterness we hold towards people who have hurt us and our friends.

Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.



The Tides of Balance


By Tash McGill

balance-tidesWhere I live in the world, it’s getting cold right now. Snow is starting to fall, people have been stocking firewood. Where most of you live, it’s getting warmer. In fact, Summer is here.

I sometimes think of Summer as a demanding girlfriend that drags all the heat and warmth over the other side of the Earth as it suits her but it’s not hard to imagine Winter as a bit of a bully, encroaching on the sun with cloud and darkness and eventually pushing the warmth right away. This push and pull is the earth’s way of constantly balancing herself.

In Physics class, you learn fast that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. Then in Chemistry class you learn how to balance the reactions of chemicals to one another to achieve a desired result. It’s called equilibrium. No matter how small the molecules or large their force, every push creates a pull.

We sometimes long for balance, the point of equilibrium between the action and reaction. We like to think of balance as a peaceful place, we make it a virtue when we talk about people being well-balanced.

Sometimes, Winter feels like everything is out of balance for me. While the sun is out, I’m busy indoors with work that demands my time and when I want to play or need to rest – inevitably it’s dark, raining or the sun just doesn’t want to come out. When it starts out, Summer feels like balance – there are plenty of daylight sunshine hours to work, play and to be warm. It doesn’t take too long for the shine to fade a little. I’m sunburned, tired from constantly socialising and cash-low from vacation costs. Summer doesn’t always offer that perfect peace.

Perfect balance is always the smallest moment. Those few days in Fall and Spring when the sun is still warm and the earth rich enough to feel alive. Balance is a state you move through, when the forces and reactions are equalised for just a moment.

The tide demonstrates this even better than the seasons with unceasing regularity. It’s always coming or going, only ever finding the mid-point between high and low on it’s way between the two.

So perhaps balance isn’t the moment after all. Perhaps true balance and moments of peace are found in being tuned into the rhythm of the push and pull. Understanding the rhythm of the journey. That the seasons we leave behind and the seasons we lean ahead into will in fact, return to us again – in different stages, different places.

Balance is not the moment where everything feels perfect, it’s the way we lean into the rhythm, perfectly in time.

Be You!


By Mark Oestreicher

Misty Forest TrailYouth workers who pretend that they have the Christian life all figured out are boring! Let’s face it, none of us want to follow someone who thinks they have anything all figured out; we want to learn from people who are on the same journey we’re on, a journey of messiness and incompleteness, of bumps and turns and twists and surprises. In short, we want to learn from people who live with honesty–people who live out the truth of their own journey in front of us.

For you to be a youth worker who lives with honesty, and for me to be a youth worker who lives with honesty, we have to live, speak and act boldly–whether that means a boldness of knowing or a boldness of unknowing. See, honesty and passion are closely linked. And when I live in truth (the truth of my real story with God), I live a passionate life, and honesty naturally leaks out in my interactions with students. When I do this, I become more “attractive” to real students (unfortunately, not more physically attractive!). The truth of Jesus alive in my life is attractive!.

I can’t stand it when I see youth workers trying to be hip, trying to be cool, so students will like them. And part of why this bugs me so much is that I used to be like that: I tried so hard to be the kind of cool adult I thought teenagers wanted.

But somewhere along the road of youth ministry, I discovered that my uniquenesses–the things about me that make me different than you–are a massive strength in my ability to connect with teenagers. And I saw this in other effective youth workers as well.

As you ramp up face-time with teenagers over the summer—particularly at camps and missions trips and other summer programming—commit to embracing your uniqueness; and commit to being your honest and authentic self, warts and all.

How Do We Talk About Poverty With Students?


By Ross Carper 

foggy beach with young boyOne of the best things about youth ministry is the fact that every student I interact with is in a different place. Every student. I’m a Junior High Pastor, so they’re all 7th and 8th graders; but this season of life means I’m dealing with a vast range of developmental stages—from 7th grade boys who still play with action figures to 8th grade girls who act like they’re 23.

But there’s something else aside from brain chemistry and puberty and abstract thinking capabilities. There’s the nurture factor—the physical, emotional, and spiritual landscape in which each student has been raised. They’ve all had different amounts and types of exposure to the Christian faith—at home, at church (or lack of church), in conversations, friendships, and in media of all types. And the same is true for how each student thinks about poverty.

Over the past few years, as we’ve engaged in 30 Hour Famine and other local service projects and regional mission trips, we’ve felt the need to pay close attention to how we talk about poverty, and particularly about people who are affected by it. As staff, volunteers, and students, our community has needed to develop and maintain a shared vocabulary and mindset.

In my setting, many of our students are from materially affluent homes. The last thing I want is for our justice-oriented work to perpetuate harmful stereotypes or foster a savior complex within these students. If those we serve become an afterthought to us—just the “less fortunate” we help to make ourselves feel great, then we’ve dehumanized humans, which happens to be the root of injustice. Yikes.

We’ve tried hard to model something different through the ways we talk—not in an overbearing, “PC-police“ way, but by proactively framing the work we do with empathy and humility, and by gently correcting students who (often unintentionally) use demeaning language. It’s crucial to add this layer of teaching to promote dignity, empowerment, and the equality that comes from all humans being made in the image of God.

I have a favorite resource that has shaped our church’s language and thinking on poverty. The Chalmers Center’s book When Helping Hurts is quite helpful, and their website offers content that has often helped me prepare to speak to students.

As we attempt to shape disciples who love God and love others, we need to teach deeply about both our view of God and our view of others.

Evaluating Your Youth Ministry


By Shawn Kiger

The schools in my area just let out for the summer a little over a week ago. Summer mode has begun in our church! Our youth program stops meeting weekly and we turn to week-long mission trips and local events. I also have turned my day to day work into summer mode. What that means for me is that I take some time evaluating our school year ministry. I look at what went well and what might need to be changed. I talk with the youth and get their thoughts. I also talk with parents, volunteers, and our sr. pastor. Through these conversations we are able to look at the ministry from many perspectives and evaluate how we are doing. Numbers are not our main motivator, but I do believe they can give insights into our ministry. So I look at all the attendance numbers:

  • How many did we average each week?
  • What was the average number of times a youth would attend?
  • Were there certain times of year that attendance was down or up?
  • How many total youth participated in the ministry for the school year?

Then, I compare these numbers to the previous year to see how we are doing.

After I take all of the information I have gathered from the conversations and from the numbers, I begin to look at changes I might like to make for the next school year. I research what others are doing by reading books and blogs. I talk to other youth ministers and run ideas past them. I pray for our church, community, and God’s plans for our youth ministry to be heard. Finally, after I have come up with some ideas, I talk to my sr. pastor and volunteers to get their thoughts on the changes. That way when September rolls around and the start of a new school year begins, we are ready and everyone is on the same page.

Typing this entire process out makes it seem like a long one, but I begin the conversations before the school year ends and continue the evaluation process and planning for next year throughout the summer. Sometimes we change very little, and sometimes we change a lot. We, as a staff, also do similar evaluations and planning for the church as a whole.  I believe constantly evaluating what we are doing helps us to make sure we are best reaching teenagers in our community for Christ. How do you evaluate your ministry?

Meet Team Peru!


We are so excited to announce the members of our 2015 Study Tour to Peru! We had so many exceptional students apply for this opportunity (shout out to all that applied), and it was difficult to narrow down the applicants to a small group, but these 7 students exemplify what it means to be world changers. They have worked hard to fundraise for 30 Hour Famine and be agents of change in their own communities. We are excited for them to represent 30 Hour Famine when we travel to Peru in August. You’ll be hearing a lot from them as they report back on what a difference the funds YOU have helped raise are making in the lives of children and families in Peru.

Team PeruWithout further ado (drumroll, please)… Meet Team Peru!

Deanna, CT

Deanna is about to start her senior year, and she loves to travel the world. In fact, she’s already been to 13 countries! She’s outgoing and motivated, and we’re excited to see how she helps bring our group together.

Jaime, TX

Jaime is a genuinely happy person, and he’ll add a lot of joy to our trip. A couple of things we’ve learned about him are that he makes a killer guacamole (we might have to judge for ourselves) and can make a cool frog noise without opening his mouth (that should be useful).

Kate, IL

Kate is a high schooler who loves the color yellow, wakeboarding, skiing, and working backstage in theater. She let us know in her interview that if she were to go to Hogwarts, she would be sorted into Hufflepuff, which we think is pretty rad.

Michael, NJ

Michael is a fun-loving guy who loves to spend time at the beach and has a strange fear of centipedes (why do they need so many legs?!). He also loves to write. We think he’ll be great at writing about the projects we see and people we meet in Peru to share with all of you!

Michaela, OH

Michaela is incredibly nice – she loves doing small things for people that can make a big difference in their day. She also loves animals, and at one point her family had 19 animals in the house at once! We can’t wait to see what interesting animals Michaela will meet in Peru…

Suzanne, OR

Suzanne is a driven and caring soon-to-be college freshman who aspires to study ministry and theater. She loves giraffes and the color blue, and is pumped about getting a chance to head to Peru before she starts college this fall.

Tanner, WA

Tanner is headed to college this fall, where he’s excited to study music, Chemistry, and Spanish. He loves to collect vinyl records, sing, play the violin, and run. Tanner is also an amazing fundraiser and is excited to see what some of the funds he has raised have gone towards!

Tips for Successful Short-Term Missions


By Brian Mateer

Short-Term MissionsI love short-term mission trips.  I love being a participant and I love leading them.  A well-planned and executed mission trip can be a beautiful blend of education, serving others and transformation for both participants and leaders.  It can lead to deeper exploration of outreach and can also make a tremendous impact in communities where the mission is happening.

A poorly planned and executed trip does little more than make us feel good about ourselves and can be detrimental to areas and organizations we are intending to help.

I’ll own it.  I’ve been on, and I’ve led both wonderful short-term mission trips and also some not so good ones.  I have learned a lot over the years and vow not to make the same mistakes.

As the school year is coming to a close many youth leaders are turning their attention to summer mission trips.  Here are a few tips I have learned over the years to help make your summer mission trip awesome:

  • The number one priority for missions is to share the love of Christ to others
  • Plan and prepare thoroughly
  • Spend plenty of time prior in training and educating your students in what they should expect
  • If your mission project takes you to another country or across your city, learn together about the cultural context you will be working in
  • Encourage flexibility
  • Partner with established and reputable organizations
  • Debrief daily as a team
  • Adopt a servant attitude
  • Point out where God is moving and invite others to share where they have seen the same
  • Treat whomever you are in ministry with as an equal
  • Remember when the trip is over the experience, learning and ministry continues
  • Make sure to follow up with the team well after trip is complete
  • Encourage taking “next steps”

Following these guideline will help to ensure a meaningful and impactful mission trip for all involved.




By Emily Robbins

I finished up summer planning this past week.  I’m finding that I have gotten more relaxed with summer plans since I moved to a new church two years ago.  My motivation is more about the relationships with my youth than scheduling lots of things to do.  It’s how I hoped ministry could be at this point.  It has just taken me a few years to move out of expectations of busy-ness.

When my summers were consumed with youth ministry busy-ness, I found that I would often lose sight of how God sees me.

Repeat after me:

I am beloved.   

So… right now know this, even if you…

  • haven’t planned a thing for the summer yet.
  • LOVE your summer plans but aren’t sure the youth will show up
  • planned something but already have parents, youth or other staff complaining about your plans
  • aren’t sure what summer plans are
  • are questioning your call to ministry these days
  • aren’t sure you make enough money for the work you put in
  • are exhausted because of personal situations
  • are new to ministry
  • have had half of your youth back out of the mission trip just yesterday

…remember that  you are good enough.


Ministry has its ups and downs – filled with peace and uncertainty and hope and mystery and heartbreak and beauty.  And somehow many of us in ministry let our insecurity drive how we serve instead of our beloved-ness.

It’s pretty amazing and exhausting to be a youth worker.  So remember your own beloved-ness and give yourself a break.

And have a great summer!

No Food and Limited Food


No Food and Limited Food

Matt Williams

There is a dimension of global hunger that easily resonates in the minds of the students doing the 30 Hour Famine: no food is a bad thing.  One of the reasons it resonates is because of the photos and information shared by World Vision.  All you have to do is see the images of a starving child feebly trying to eat some Plumpy Nut to understand the devastation of hunger.  Another reason it resonates is because of the fasting the student undertake themselves.  They experience how quickly the lack of food starts to impact their bodies after just 30 hours, and it makes it easy for them to feel for others with no food.

But here is a concept that is harder for students to grasp: limited food can be a bad thing too.

After returning from a World Vision trip to Ecuador, I naturally shared stories and photos from my trip with our youth group so they could better understand all the different ways their Famine funds were used.  After sharing some pictures from one village high in the Andes Mountains, one student with a very puzzled expression looked at me and said, “I don’t understand… those people don’t look like they are starving.”

She was right.  The people that we met and the kids that we played with were not starving.  There were no distended bellies.  There were no desperate parents.  There was no stack of food bags waiting to be distributed.  My pictures were very different from what this one student expected to see, and she was not sure how she felt about that.  It was not until I shared the menu from the “feast” that the local villagers shared with us that the student began to understand.

To celebrate our visit a feast was prepared, and people from many villages brought things for the feast, just like family members coming to Thanksgiving dinner or a big reunion might do in the United States.  We were each served two types of potato, and half an ear of corn.  There was an onion and herb “salsa” and a dish of beans to share.  And as honored guests, we each had a small piece of salted meat.  This simple fare was the best these villages could muster.  And frankly, our bellies were full: eating two potatoes has that effect!

Yet the people in this region survived on that menu: corn, potatoes, beans and onions.  Day in, and day out.  Not much more.  It was enough to prevent starvation… but not malnutrition.  You can live on potatoes, but it is not a healthy diet.  We took another look at my photos, and I asked my students to look again at the pictures.  Then they started to see things they missed before: the fact that our team from the United States was much taller and stronger than the local people; that the local people exhibited evidence of past injuries that did not heal well; that many of the kids had signs of eye and skin problems.  And that is when they began to understand that limited food is a bad thing too.

I then shared the work that was being done in World Vision to help communities like the one I visited.  For these villages, World Vision can identify new crops that will thrive in the region and add nutritional diversity.  World Vision can introduce chickens, goats, and other livestock to bring a stable supply of eggs and milk.  In short, just as World Vision can intercede to fight starvation, they intercede around the globe every day to fight malnutrition and hunger-related diseases too.

So as you are undertaking your 30 Hour Famine, remember that you are doing far more than fighting the urgent starvation that comes from having no food.  You are helping people to find and develop healthy and sustainable foods for the long run.  And it is this sustained effort in villages in Ecuador and Thailand and Mali and elsewhere that we will one day be able to eliminate hunger around the globe.

In the Midst of Wolves


By Travis Hill

Wolf HowlSometimes the world can be overwhelming. Like any other “job”, ours as pastors, youth leaders, high-capacity volunteers, or interns goes through the same highs and lows as any other.

But there is a unique challenge in what we do: our work often leads us to weariness; and we feel when we are weary (or the event or program didn’t go as well as it could, despite our planning) the business of ministry often ends up in the way of communion with others and God. And then we feel ashamed, that we’re not good enough or we should move on to something else.

Do you ever stop to think why the turnover rate for youth workers is so abysmal? Is it simply that churches are hiring subpar youth workers? Or are youth workers simply being run off by church politics and unspoken expectations? Of course there are numerous factors, but couldn’t one of them be this tension: when we feel dissatisfied with some aspect of our ministry or internal lives, we run? I think so.

Yesterday, I came across this statement from St. Ignatius of Loyola, I would rather have God’s servants remarkable for virtue than for numbers, and manifest rather by the reality of their service than their repute for it. And while St. Ignatius seems to be speaking specifically of numbers of people, what if he isn’t? A major internal revolution that has hit me over the last few years is the idea that God’s not about numbers, but about hearts. And not hearts in the “let’s all turn to Jesus” way, but hearts in the way of “overflowing with love that slowly infects the corrupted world around us, changing it from the inside out.” What if St. Ignatius is telling us that it is more desirable to be a virtuous, remarkable youth worker than one who is constantly going, beaten down and worn out, frazzled beyond measure and on the verge of quitting?

These thoughts remind me of this passage from Luke 10:1-3, After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

We have been appointed to go forth and proclaim this revolutionary love of God. We are few, but the lives we have changed through out efforts in the 30 Hour Famine are incalculable. Rely on that. See the incredible smiling faces of the students who finally get to eat on hour 30. Imagine the faces around the world, standing in the midst of the wolf known as world hunger, as they experience the problem being slowly chipped away. It’s not perfect, and we’re nowhere near finished yet, but we are the few laborers. And through this, we are in the midst of wolves ourselves. Don’t worry about numbers; be concerned with hearts. Don’t fret about programming; fret about life-change. Be blessed, so you may be a blessing to others.