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The Famine Blog

The Seduction of Data


By Travis Hill

in love with mathWhat if we boiled everything in ministry down to numbers? What if we were able to extract all of the data from every program, every student, and run some fancy algorithms to determine the growth of our student ministry? Maybe we could convert students into three-digit numbers and only refer to them that way.

While this sounds absurd, it’s almost reality in many corners of a teenager’s world, because we live in a world driven by success instead of community or relationships. And unfortunately, many of our churches have fallen into the same routine as the world, being inundated by numbers.

We have been taught (and not necessarily by our bosses) that empirical data of growth is one of the most important signs of health. It’s the world, our upbringing, society and culture around us that teaches us more is better and the person who dies with the most toys wins. We know why we fall for it. We see that we are ahead and we want to stay on top. We see that we are so close to being the best and we want to do better to get up there.

I had a serious problem with 30 Hour Famine this year, and it wasn’t Famine’s fault; it was mine. We have always done well with the Famine, raised enough money over the last six years to help a bunch of kids to eat, but this year we were in relation to other Famine groups. I thought I wanted to know this information; but I was wrong. I truly didn’t need to know. Why? Because it turned into a numbers game for me. I struggled with finding God in the relationships. I struggled with realizing the impact we were having. I struggled to help celebrate each and every student who participated in the famine, donated their time and effort and money, and went hungry so that others could eat. It’s easy in our brokenness to lift up the students who raise hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and forget the students who raised $30 by scraping and saving and begging.

And this is where I had to check myself partway through the Famine. I wanted to be “it” and let my name be spread among the masses. In Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus, he spends some time camping out on the idea that our culture has made us want to be relevant instead of effective, how we should be seeking the approval of the masses instead of the love of God. In it he says, “The desire to be relevant and successful will gradually disappear, and our only desire will be to say with our whole being to our brothers and sisters of the human race, ‘You are loved.’ The gospel is not a success story; it is a love story.” 30 Hour Famine is not a story of dollars and cents; it is a story of a group of ragtag students doing everything they can to impact the world around them.

Nouwen says, “We have been tempted to replace love with power.” May we not let the power of money, or worse, the power of what we think what we are doing is right, to replace the utmost reason for what we’re doing, to love and nurture and provide students and others around the world a way out of the messy culture we live in.

Watching Famine Participants Grow Up


By Ross Carper

carper.stacerFor us youth workers, it is ALWAYS good to use simple formulas for each situation, no matter what… right!?!

Well, here are the super-duper easy things you can do when one student is deeply impacted by the 30 Hour Famine (or some other experience of connecting our faith in Christ with seeking justice for the poor). This list will make the task of “missions experience follow-up” as easy as hitting the snooze button!

Step One

Walk alongside the student in an imperfect, on-and-off mentoring relationship for the majority of the next decade.

Step Two

Totally blow it by failing to call the student back several times as they are going through college. Phone tag happens a lot during this stage, with the student engaged in the exciting busyness of college and you focusing on the students who are currently in your group and your own growing family. Freak out a few times when you realize your failure to balance all of these relationships.

Step Three

Be completely astounded by the grace the living God pours out upon you and the student and your relationship, allowing new mentors to invest in his/her life, while still maintaining a deep closeness between the two of you. Have intense phone conversations and talks over coffee when the student is back in town. These will be messy… big stuff about relationships, careers, and the adventures we can have as broken people trying to walk with a loving God who is making all things new through Christ.

Step Four

Be grateful when you look up and notice that the student is a grown-up in the best sense of the word. Marvel at how God shapes people, moving them from goofball-who-ruined-tonight’s-small-group-session to goofball-who-loves-God-and-wants-to-seek-justice-vocationally.

Step Five

College is over, and it sometimes feels like the roles have been reversed. The student is the one who seeks you out for quality time as he/she prepares spiritually for two years of community development work in a small West African country. Be astounded at the humble posture of the student’s heart as he/she moves toward this new stage—not looking to be a savior or a missional thrill-seeker but simply a humble human looking to give and receive God’s love in a new place. Give him/her books that are important to you. Write and say things that are true about how you are honored and blessed to be an ongoing part of his/her life.

There you have it! Five simple steps of follow-up when a student is deeply impacted by an experience like the 30 Hour Famine. Repeat as necessary!

Okay… I wrote this post for three reasons. First, youth workers get sarcasm. Second, you know what to do with students who are impacted by these things. It’s not a formula, and you’re probably already doing it. Be encouraged to keep doing it, leaning on God’s grace and remembering that you are not the one transforming this student’s life. You’re both being transformed by the same God who is using you symbiotically in one another’s lives. Take the long-road view of relational discipleship with these students, recognizing that you can’t do this with every student in your program (because they aren’t all open to it and you simply don’t have the capacity).

Second, I wrote this because my heart is full. My friend Stacer—the real-life student I was thinking of when I wrote these “simple steps”—just left for the West African country of Benin for a 27-month Peace Corps stint. The time we had together before he flew away is something I’ll never forget, and I’ll soon find out how much postage to Benin costs. We basically think of Stacer as a part of our family, and look forward to seeing how this next chapter shapes him.

Seeing the Impact of 30 Hour Famine in Action


by Sean Garner

I tend to be a doubting Thomas kind of person–this faith thing can be hard! Trusting in something that you cannot see makes those choices in life more difficult. For example, if I’m raising money for the the 30 Hour Famine, how do I know it’s really feeding those in need.

The amazing thing about how the 30 Hour Famine works is that your church can see the impact of World Vision as YOU head out in to the world on your summer mission trips. For the past two weeks our ministry has been serving in Haiti–caring for the least, lost and needy and guess what we saw?!?

world vision warehouseWe saw a warehouse full of food from World Vision that will be used DAILY to feed those who are most in need. Boxes of food from the 30 Hour Famine was being served to families and children who were desperately in need of daily bread!

Can you imagine being able to share that with your teens this year? That the 30 Hour Famine isn’t just some “theory” or “charity” but that your effort to raise money goes directly to those who need it most around the world- and people have SEEN it.

That’s a cause that you can begin planning for today. It’s a movement that impacts thousands of ministries around the world to feed those with the most need.

Jesus told Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe” and I can encourage you to do the same thing. Through a random encounter in one of the poorest countries in the world- we walked into the 30 Hour Famine in action! There’s no need to doubt- your effort is being used for God’s glory in tangible ways around the world.

Guatemala: Hungry for Education


Adam McLane, The Youth Cartel

This week I’m working with our international short-term missions partner in a small Guatemalan village perched on the side of a volcano.

On Friday, I spent the morning with a local tour guide in the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, a place that was once the capital of much of Ce tral America before an earthquake forced a resettlement to present day Guatemala City in the 18th century.

On the tour I learned that Antigua is a tourist bubble from “the real Guatemala.” Within the 10 blocks in every direction of the city’s park is relative affluence. To me, Antigua feels like the Central American version of some Western European cities. There are nice places to eat, fancy hotels, galleries, and an endless supply of small shop/outdoor markets to explore.

Within this bubble the unemployment level is low, the literacy rate is high, kids stay in school, and relatively few children experience malnourishment. If you only visited Antigua you’d get the idea that Guatemala has few problems.

You’d be wrong.

Guatemala is just behind Haiti in some measurements of poverty in Western Hemisphere. What about food security? 1.8 million of Guatemala’s 15 million people are food insecure. “Guatemala has the highest national level of chronic malnutrition (48.9 percent) in the Western Hemisphere and one of the highest in the world.” Source

How does this happen? (This is my lament!) Like poverty anywhere, the situation is full of complexities. But here’s some generalized information I’ve gleaned. First of all, there was a 36 year civil war that ended in 1996. Source So, there is an entire generation of adults who grew up amid conflict, where survival was more important than things like education or building a small business. “National data from 2004 show that less than 60% of the population aged 15 to 24 has completed at least six years of basic education, the lowest average among other eighteen Latin American countries.” Source That contributes to an inability to get a good paying job. And since a lot of impoverished people don’t have access to their own land to farm, they end up working partial seasons on other people’s farms as migrant workers for wages below the nations minimum wage of $450 per month. To make matters worse, the school year is built around old cash crop seasons, not the new ones— sugar cane and coffee. Consequently, the cycle of poverty continues on to the next generation when parents have to take their children out of school for three months to pick coffee. As one theory ascribes, “we see across all developing countries over time a strong inverse relationship between fertility and per capita income, and fertility and life expectancy.” Source

I told you this was complex. And I’ve only just scratched the surface.

So what can we do?

I believe you and I, youth workers, are part of a significant solution for long-term change in places like Guatemala.

I’m here this week helping to connect American churches to Guatemalan churches. I don’t pretend that one church is better than the other, I’m just convinced that both of our churches are stronger when we stand in partnership with one another, building the Kingdom together.

Next, things like the 30 Hour Famine provide a dual purpose. First, the Famine raises money that makes a significant difference in the lives of families in Guatemala. World Vision doesn’t just help with food security issues… They address the whole problem, helping to end the cycle of poverty and build infrastructure for things like education and agricultural development. Second, the Famine changes students perspective. It builds a connection with global issues like food security that’ll impact them for life.

Let’s get involved together. These are big, complex problems. But we serve a Great, Big God who isn’t intimidated by complexities.

Helping Short-Term Missions Have a Long-Term Impact, Part 2


Shawn Kiger


One of my favorite things in youth ministry is short-term mission trips. I love planning them, getting students excited about going, and leading them. I love the Christian community we create within our group while we are on the trip: serving together, cooking and eating together, playing together, and basically doing life together has a huge impact on us as a group. The other day (in part 1 of this article), I wrote about some of my preparation steps. Now let’s talk about the trip itself.

My favorite part of youth ministry is the time I spend with youth on mission trips. I love to see plans come together; but more importantly than that, I love getting to spend so much time with my students and getting to see them stretched and growing. During the trip, we constantly talk about why we’re doing this and how we can do this in our everyday lives. We have worship each evening where we share scripture verses on loving others. We talk about our day and where we saw God at work. Then I connect it to something they can do at home.

I also try to plan for them to meet people that live their lives serving others. I point out to them the people that run the soup kitchen and ask them to share why they do it with our group. I pull in college interns from the organizations we partner with, so my students begin to see that they could do the same thing when they’re in college. We ask the food bank director to share why they do what they do. This enables the students to see real people who have chosen to be in service to others as their career. Over and over, we’re asking “why?” so that my teenagers wrestle with their own motives, connecting the dots with their beliefs.

Once we get home, the work doesn’t end. Follow-up is always hard in the summer. The students are going on vacations and working summer jobs. So I try to plan a couple of days during the summer to do something in our community that was similar to what we did on our mission trip. This summer we are working with the homeless in Washington, D.C., and I have planned to work with some of our local homeless after the trip. That way the students can see that they can serve and love others like Jesus talked about, not just once a week somewhere else, but they can really do this everyday of their lives. And if they choose to do so, they can even make a career out of it!

And all of this we connect to our experience of the 30 Hour Famine, before, during and after the trip, as well as connecting back to the trip when we’re in the middle our Famine. What I’ve seen is that this sort of intentionality helps students connect both the missions trip and the Famine experience with their everyday lives in deeper ways.

Helping Short-Term Missions Have a Long Term Impact, Part 1


Shawn Kiger

shawn-shade-teaching-1000One of my favorite things in youth ministry is short-term mission trips. I love planning them, getting students excited about going, and leading them. I really like going somewhere new each year to experience new things and see God at work in new places. I love the Christian community we create within our group while we are on the trip: serving together, cooking and eating together, playing together, and basically doing life together has a huge impact on us as a group.

But I don’t want the impact on the students to just last that week or weekend. I want it to help change who they are and how they view the world. If I can do that, we’re not only making a difference in a community for that week, but my students have the ability to make a difference for the rest of their lives.

I haven’t perfected how to do this, and I’m still learning and changing my approach. But I thought I would share a few things I do during short-term mission trips in the hope we can all get better at this together.

I begin the process by being very intentional about where we choose to go, and what we choose to do. Whether I choose to join a mission organization that plans everything for me, or to plan my own trip (which is what I’m doing this summer), I think it’s important to think about both the long term impact on the students as well as the impact on the community where we’ll be working. I want to choose a place that has a great impact in the community, but also provides ways for our students to learn the reason we do missions, through worship and other educational opportunities.

Once I choose a location for our trip, I begin the process with the youth themselves. I try to not just advertise the trip, but talk with them about why we’re going. I educate them about where we’re going (even to those who are not going to be able to go) and the people we are going to be working with. I lead Bible studies on loving others and how to do that in their everyday lives. To help the trip have the biggest impact on students, I have to begin preparing students’ hearts and minds long before we load up all the sleeping bags in the church vans.

On Thursday, we’ll post part 2 of this article: Making the Most of the Trip Itself.

Be Flexible


Nikki Myers, 30 Hour Famine team

study tour postI had my first grey hair when I was 9 years old. No lie. It’s unclear whether this was a direct cause of stress, but my family would argue so. To say that I worried a lot as a kid is an understatement. Each time we drove to a new place I was convinced we were lost. When the refrigerator got a little sparser than I felt comfortable with, I feared we were out of money, out of food, and soon to be out of house. When a sports team lost I would cry because I worried they would get in trouble by their coach. My family tried to assure me- we weren’t lost, I just hadn’t been here before. We still had some money- mom and dad just hadn’t been grocery shopping. And well, some of us will just never be competitive.

I still struggle with worrying about things. I have taken this to the Lord and asked for peace, which He is often gracious with, but I also know I have a tendency to take control, to over plan and to think too much. Thus, flexibility is not my strong suit. However, as I prepare to lead this years’ 30 Hour Famine Study Tour, I impress the importance of flexibility to our team. We had our first team video call today and there were two big takeaways. 1. Be flexible and 2. Leave your expectations at home.

Neither of these are easy things to do, let alone when you go to another country…with new people…and not a lot of idea of what you will be doing. However, there is a certain level of excitement with flexibility because it creates space to let the Lord work, to be surprised and amazed.

That is one of my prayers for our Study Tour team this year. The agenda is intentional and very full, we will be meeting incredible people, visiting food and community projects and hearing stories about how efforts like 30 Hour Famine have helped improve the lives of families and children. We are a small group with the privilege to see World Vision’s work in the field and with that comes the responsibility to report that information back to you. A responsibility we don’t take lightly. And so, we will be coming back with stories told through blogs, pictures and videos. But we will also leave space for the surprises, for the unexpected adventures. As I think back to my time last summer with Team Ethiopia it was some of those unexpected moments that stand out so strongly and I am excited to leave space for that on this trip as well. To be flexible, to be open and to see how the Lord uses this trip for each student (If you haven’t read Abby’s story from Team Burundi already, you should!)

Thank you for joining us on this adventure and we would covet your prayers for safety, unity and spirits of flexibility. Follow 30HF on Twitter and like us on Facebook to stay posted and follow along on the trip!

Motivate for Results


By Tess Cassidy, college student

tess2Every year in my youth group, there are students that walk up with a check of $30 written by their parents. They’re meeting the baseline fundraising goal of 30 Hour Famine, but nothing more. This can be disappointing from the fundraising standpoint, but we should all be excited these youth are participating regardless of the reason, right?

So much focus of the Famine is on the actual 30 hours. This is important because this is the part that transforms students’ lives. This internal transformation can’t be overlooked, but the global transformation through fundraising can’t be overlooked either.

So how do we motivate students to not only look forward to the 30 hours but to get excited about fundraising and making a global impact?

I have a bit of a unique spin on the Famine: not only have I been a student experiencing the 30 Hour Famine, but I have also been the student leader for my youth group 3 out of the 6 years I have participated. I’ve been on both sides: being the student that leaders had trouble motivating and being the leader troubled with motivating students.

So how exactly do we get students to get fired up about fundraising? Even though I am passionate about the 30 Hour Famine and World Vision, I still struggle with fundraising. It can be uncomfortable and awkward. This can easily discourage students even if they might want to fundraise. As leaders, we have to be intentional about motivating!

The first, and easiest way to motivate students to get excited is for you to be enthusiastic about the 30 Hour Famine. Talk about the Famine in front of the entire group as well as talk to individual students. (They have a better chance of reacting if you specifically go out of your way to target them.) In order to be the best role model possible, you need to not only be enthusiastic, but also be actively fundraising yourself.

Second, use 30 Hour Famine’s resources to help motivate. Throw a Famine Kick-Off Event. Show video clips from Famine’s YouTube channel in the weeks leading up to your Famine event. Show students the impact a dollar has in a world of poverty. Have Famine veterans in your group talk about their experience and the impact we all have the ability to make. Another option is to find out if there is a Study Tour participant (like me!) nearby to come and share how they visibly saw the change your funds are making (contact Nikki Myers, the 30 Hour Famine Outreach Coordinator, for more information).

Competitions or rewards are an excellent way to get students engaged and interested in fundraising. Get creative! Set a group goal first, then brainstorm with your group about how you’ll reach it? Maybe you have a prize or reward if your group hits your goal. This year one of the leader of one of the top Famine fundraising groups committed to her group that she would kiss a pig on the snout, in front of all of them, if they reached their goal. Yup, she ended up kissing a pig.

Fundraise girls versus guys or tribe versus tribe. (This would mean signing up for tribes when students register for the 30 Hour Famine.) My youth group chose girls versus guys: whoever raised more got to sleep on the comfy furniture in the youth room; whereas, the losing group had to sleep in another room on the hard floor. If you choose to compete in fundraising, create an incentive for the winning tribe as well as individual tribe fundraising goals.

To keep tabs on the girls versus guys competition this past year, we started a paper chain around our church fellowship hall. There were pink and blue links each worth a certain small dollar amount. The students could keep track of who was winning as well as the whole congregation—buying a link for their side of choice! This not only inspired students to fundraise on their own, but it also got the entire congregation involved.

To inspire tribe or gender-group morale, designate a few minutes at each weekly youth group leading up to the Famine to allow each tribe to meet and brainstorm fundraising. Students can encourage each other, hold each other accountable, as well as come up with fundraising ideas to implement as a group.

Whatever you choose, MOTIVATE your students! Every aspect of the 30 Hour Famine is great, but don’t forget the main reason we do it: eradicating world hunger one dollar at a time.

Continuing the Famine in College with Famine for One


Abby Lewis, Student at UCLA

abby lewisMany people can look back and pinpoint the moment when their life changed. For many, that moment includes high school graduation or wedding bells or the cries of a newborn child. For many, that moment occurs well into adulthood. For many, that moment is joyous and celebrated.

My “moment” occurred four years ago. I was crying hysterically in the back of a van in the hills of Burundi. I was 16 years old.

I first went hungry six years ago. My youth group was doing the 30 Hour Famine, and I signed up by default. I had participated in all my youth group’s events and this was going to be February’s event. I raised the obligatory $30 and came to the event ready for a fun weekend with my friends. However, I soon learned that my fun weekend with friends was going to be more challenging than I thought. Just a few hours after arriving, my stomach started growling and there was no food in sight. I hadn’t eaten in eight hours and I was ready to do just about anything for a big bowl of pasta. Finally it was time for bed. I grabbed my sleeping bag and was headed up the stairs to the youth room couches when I was called back down. A room was opened and our “shelters” were piled up in a corner for us to grab. That night I “slept” in a cardboard box. Throughout the next day, I was tired and sore from sleeping on the cold floor. I kept fixating on how hungry I was and that in turn, made me feel hungrier. I found myself wondering why I was going hungry at all.

It all made sense to me after we made a visual representation of why we went hungry for the weekend. We put our handprints on paper representing the number of children who died each day from preventable causes, like hunger and malnutrition. We had been learning statistics all weekend, but I had probably been too focused on my own hunger to hear about others’. However, after imprinting 5,800 handprints on a length of paper that wrapped around the entire sanctuary of my church, I paid attention. Each handprint with five fingers represented five children under the age of five who would die THAT DAY. 29,000 children under 5 died of preventable causes such as hunger or malnutrition during the short time I went without food.

It shocked me, and I immediately felt the need to do something. That’s when I realized the reason why I was going hungry. It was to create awareness about the enormous issue of world hunger that was largely unknown to most of the members of my community. After breaking my fast (with a big bowl of pasta), I felt energized to do something. Within the week, I told everyone who would listen about my experience and what was going on worldwide and raised another $150. This was the birth of my passion to end world hunger and it only grew from there.

Two years later, I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Burundi on the 30 Hour Famine Study Tour, which is designed to show student fundraisers like me how the funds are being allocated abroad. While there, I saw how the money raised by teenagers in the US and elsewhere is used for food, healthcare, education, clean water, and community development projects in struggling communities abroad. I witnessed unimaginable poverty and suffering alongside indescribable happiness and resiliency. I saw up close and personal stories of triumph and success stemming from the money that was raised by young people like me.

As we piled into the van to leave one of the communities, I laid my head in my lap and sobbed. I wanted so passionately to make things better for these communities. In this moment, my life changed. I knew that I would never again have the opportunity to be ignorant to the plights of those around the world that suffer everyday from such simple things like hunger. I knew that I wanted to devote my life to helping people who are suffering under the snare of poverty. I knew that I had found the passion that would define my life.

Going hungry changes you while changing the lives of others. My first Famine experience raised awareness about the 29,000 children under 5 who died from preventable causes like malnutrition each day of that year. That number has dropped to 18,000 in recent years due to efforts like 30 Hour Famine and individuals of all ages taking part in the fight to end world hunger. I have seen the progress firsthand and my sincerest wish is that our generation lives to see the day when no child dies from hunger.

As a college student, I want to continue being actively involved in making a difference. And that’s where Famine for One comes in. I can change the lives of others by participating in World Vision’s newest program, Famine for One. I’ll fast, raise awareness, and raise money to make a difference in the lives of children who suffer from hunger. If you’re a youth worker leading 30 Hour Famine, the new Famine for One is a fantastic opportunity for your college-age students, especially those who did the Famine as teenagers, to continue involvement!

Learn more about Famine for One here, and pass this link along to all your past Famine participants.

Abby is a student at UCLA studying International Development. She has raised over $10,000 to help fight hunger through World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine youth program and has traveled with World Vision to Burundi. She now speaks at conferences, churches, and schools on behalf of World Vision to help spread the word about the fight to end world hunger and encourage engagement. 

Still Hungry After All These Years?



Matt Williams

So, our youth group has about 9 months until our next 30 Hour Famine.  Normally, we would not even be thinking about the Famine for another 6 months.  But when we do our 2015 Famine, our youth will, God willing, celebrate some milestones during the event.  So, we have been contemplating ways to mark these milestones when we do the Famine in February.

One idea we had to mark the milestones is inviting all of our youth group “alumni” who did the Famine to return for some activities and our closing Eucharist service.  The 30 Hour Famine we do now was started and shaped by the young people that began it fifteen years ago, so they should be with us to celebrate.  Just think, the young lady who introduced the idea of sleeping outside in cardboard boxes as part of the Famine could come back and share her Famine experiences with the middle school students spending their first night in a box.  Or the blessed few who have been on a World Vision study tour could come to share how their experiences shaped the people they became ten years later.  The “Famine Reunion” seemed like a good idea, but I was not sure if the alumni would be interested.  After all, they are in college or working jobs all over the country.  Would they come back for a Famine with youth they didn’t even know?

So, I floated the idea with a few people.  Some were college students back home for the summer, and some were young adults working in nearby states.  And the resounding answer was YES!  They loved the idea of a reunion with a purpose, and the chance to encourage today’s youth group in their Famine.  But even more interesting was the question that many of these youth group alumni asked: if I come, can I do the Famine too?

How exceptionally cool is that?  They didn’t want to just come back to see old friends and reminisce… they wanted to once again do something to fight global hunger.  They liked the idea of looking back at what they helped to accomplish, but they also wanted to look forward and tackle the work that remains to be done.  These 20- and 30-somethings still had the hunger to do something about hunger.

While I don’t know exactly what our next Famine while look like, I know we will be inviting our youth group alumni back for the event.  And whether they come to the event, or just get re-connected through Famine for One, I am gratified to know that their passion to do something to fight hunger from their youth group days still burns in them now.  It is just more evidence that the Famine changes lives…but in this case, it is the Famine participants who remain changed!