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The Famine Blog

Once Upon a Time…


once-upon-a-time-30-hour-famineBy Luke Lang

Once upon a time we changed the world…

We came together on a humid, north Texas night in a church gym that smelled like sweaty corn chips.

It was a small group, but we were about to change things.

It was a lock-in.

Honestly, I wasn’t super excited.

I’m not a fan of lock-ins.

AND, we were doing a lock-in WITHOUT food!!

There would be no late night pizza or Mountain Dew fueling the festivities.

There would be… water, lots and lots of lukewarm bottled water.

We were doing the 30 Hour Famine with some students who usually couldn’t go 30 minutes without food.

It was an action packed night designed to keep students from thinking about the absence of Doritos.

We did some real life role-play; students drew cards that told them who they were.

They became someone other than themselves.

There is a liberating AHA in that.

They were each assigned a hurt or hurdle that they had to deal with for the next 30 hours.

Some were given a limp, some a backpack with rocks they had to carry everywhere, some blindfolds.

We became OTHER.

We built shelter from cardboard boxes.

We had really good intentions for a canned food drive. We loaded up the church van and set out in search of lima beans and potted meat.

But, our attempt to drive around town collecting canned food was thwarted by all the water we had consumed. We had to stop at a gas station or fast food place every 6 minutes for a bathroom break.

The Famine deposited some forever stuff in the lives of our students.

It gave students pause to SEE the other.

There is nothing like living in a box–even for a couple of hours–that forces you to look outside your everyday box.

They walked in the shoes of someone OTHER than themselves. It forced them to think and to feel.

Their hearts got bigger that day. They saw things they had never seen before, things that can’t be unseen.

It gave students permission to BE the other.

Walls came down.

(And not just cardboard walls).

Walls between US and OTHER.

Strange things can happen at 2:00 am when you’ve had no food.

Stomachs rumbled and so did emotions.

Students (and leaders got cranky).

And somewhere in the middle of the night, students started to let down their guard.

Real tears flow and raw stories are shared.

One of our students had been homeless and we had no idea. Several parents were out of work.

We discovered that WE were OTHER.

The world is forever changed when our perspective is changed.

It gets bigger and smaller at the same time.

Suddenly, the world is closer than you thought.

We walked away from the Famine tired and hungry and forever different.

There is a freedom in stepping outside of yourself that changes everything.

It changes you.

It changes your attitudes and perspectives.

It changes the world.

The world is changed when you see it with OTHER eyes.

Once upon a time we changed our world.



By Jake Kircher

called-30-hour-famineAs youth leaders and pastors, the aspect of being “called” comes up time and time again to talk about the specifics of where and how we are doing ministry. When I left my first church, I stood before the congregation and explained that I was no longer “called” to that church and it was time to move on. Then months later when I stood before my new church, I explained how God had now “called” me to them. No doubt, this is probably something you have seen and heard numerous times from pastors or ministry leaders, and there is a good chance you’ve probably done it yourself.

But what if the way we use calling like that has nothing to do with the Biblical idea of what it means to be called?

More so, what if using it that way actually has a negative impact on our students and congregations?

The more I have wrestled with the idea of calling in my life and searched the Scriptures and what it has to teach on the topic, the more I have come to the conclusion that the answer to both of those questions is yes.

Two of the most frequent Greek words translated as calling in the Bible are klētós and klésis. Both are roughly translated by Strong’s Dictionary as, “Divinely called- focuses on God’s general call – i.e. the call (invitation) He gives to all people, so all can receive His salvation.” If you go and read the entry in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on “called” it will tell you the same thing: being called by God has solely to do with the invitation he extends to be in relationship with him and then the opportunity that we have to help others respond to that same invitation. Period.

More so, looking at Romans 11:29 Paul writes that, “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (NIV) In other words, our calling has been extended and it’s not going to change. It doesn’t shift from church to church, or town to town, and it doesn’t end in one place and then start somewhere else. It’s the same no matter where we are or what vocation – secular of ministry related – we have.

So what’s the danger of using the terminology of “called” the way we do?

First, as youth leaders and pastors, using “called” like this can undermine the fact that everyone has the same exact same calling to the Gospel. By not directly teaching people to understand that God has called everyone to participate in the work of his Church, we allow people to think that being called is something special and unique. This a-ha moment where God leads someone into a specific ministry role in the church, whether for a season as a volunteer or vocationally. We’re then left living out our “calling” to the church we’re serving at, meanwhile hoping and praying others will receive their “calling” so we can have some help. No wonder the role of pastor is said by some to be one of the most stressful vocations to be had today!

Second, looking at calling as the specifics about where we are serving and what we are doing, can actually destroy our ability to live into our true calling, as The Navigators put it, “to know Christ and make him known.

At my first church, I was working 80-hours a week (not being paid for all of them!) between three different jobs and my wife had to work a job she hated, all to make ends to meet because, “I was called to that church.” Meanwhile, in our first year of marriage and living at that pace, I began to watch my new marriage fall apart and realized that I was seriously burnt out emotionally, physically and spiritually.

The fact is, my dedication to honoring my “calling” to that church left me with no energy to pursue my own relationship with God. Truth be told, being on empty meant I had nothing to really give the students I was working with either. Nor was I helping my wife deepen her relationship with God or share her faith with others in the ways that God had gifted her as an artist. Neither of us were actually honoring our calling, all because we were so focused on the “fact” that God had “called” us to this specific church.

Now, don’t get me wrong, God leads (key word) us to jobs or situations from time to time that aren’t easy. But Paul’s expression of being content whatever the situation has more to do with taking life as it comes, not the situations we choose to put ourselves in to. More so, he actually writes to Timothy saying, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” If your current role (whether you’re a volunteer or in a paid ministry position) is leading you or your family to reject your relationship with God and/or detracting you from truly helping others connect with God, you can rest assured you’re not “called” to your specific role; and maybe it’s time for a change so you can better live out the calling that truly matters, the one that won’t change no matter what.

Tell the Truth


by Mark Oestreicher

Slide1I recently came across this quote from my old boss, friend and mentor, Mike Yaconelli (Mike was something of a godfather to modern youth ministry, and the founder of Youth Specialties. He passed away in 2003.)

“What characterizes followers of Christ is that we tell the truth…. We talk about all of life. We’re not afraid that teens will see life as a struggle every day—and that it will always be so. Most of all, we point them away from us and toward Jesus…. What’s so disturbing about youth ministry today, however, is how little truth telling there is. I’ve been in youth ministry for 40 years, and I wish I could have some of those years to live over again. Oh, God, forgive me for causing your little ones to sin. Oh, God, help me to learn from my mistakes. Oh, God, in spite of me, cause all of your little ones to run into your arms. Oh, God, help us all.”

Maybe it’s with the best of intentions; but we youth workers have a tendency toward dishonesty, if we’re being honest. This is paradoxical, since we’re often the one ministry in our church most committed to honesty and authenticity (teens will not stand for less). But it’s often tempting to sugar-coat things. It’s easier, at times, to tell partial truths that preach well.

Easy answers and partial truths don’t lead to a sustainable faith.

That’s a fantastic aspect of the 30 Hour Famine: it takes an honest look at complex issues and doesn’t simply offer a band-aid.

Let’s commit to live honest lives alongside teenagers. Let’s talk honestly about the joys and struggles of the Christian life. Let’s help teens develop a robust faith in a complex world.



Your Intentions Determine Your Actions


Your Intentions Determine Your ActionsBy Tash McGill

At the end of each day, I ask myself 5 questions.

  • What happened today?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • What am I hoping or praying for?
  • Where did I excel?
  • What did I learn?

I’ve started writing the answers to these questions in a journal at the end of each day.

Writing it down helps me to see patterns, to see where I’m growing, to see how days are being shaped by my thoughtfulness about them.

But there’s more to it than that.

My intention, about who I want to be and how I want to live, becomes easier to recognize in the actions of my day to day life. And in reverse, I’m able to see where the actions of my life are not in alignment with my intention. What I am grateful for and what I learn each day is helping chart my course towards my life being completely aligned with my purpose or my intention.

Why does that matter? Well, your intentions are more powerful than you realize at times. If you lose sight of your intention, it becomes easy to get lost in the mundane and end up feeling disconnected. From the life you want to live and from yourself.

I’ve recently changed jobs to one where I can be more aligned to my purpose in my day to day life. Already, I feel more connected to myself again and I can feel the momentum of my learning, my strength developing and my sense of vision.

So examine whether or not your intention is clear. Can you put it into words?

Then pick up a pen tonight and ask yourself those five questions.

Is your intention clearer?

Keep asking the questions. Keep answering.

Refine your intention and let it refine your actions.

Patience and Youth Ministry


patience-youth-ministryBy Mark Oestreicher

Patience is often difficult for youth workers.

EVERYTHING in youth ministry unavoidably takes time.

Well, maybe that’s an overstatement. There are a few things that don’t have to take time:

  • Ruining your reputation
  • Destroying trust with a student
  • Making an enemy out of a parent

But most things in youth ministry – at least the really good things – take time and patience. Maybe that’s because God is maddenly patient. I mean, I’m really glad God is patient when it comes to my stuff, my sin, my brokenness, my growth. But if I’m honest, I sometimes wish God cared a bit more about speediness when it comes to transforming teenagers. Sure, there are the occasional overnight 180 change stories we pass around.

But most change takes time. Most transformation – at least the good God-stuff – takes place as a journey of subtle shifts. Most passion develops gradually. Most insight isn’t acquired in a flash. Most commitments, while they may appear to happen all at once the last night of camp, are a long series of fits and starts that gradually settle into resolve and a deeper knowing.

No question about it: pretty much all the really, deeply good stuff of youth ministry requires patience, because God doesn’t care much about speed. One of my primary prayers for youth workers is “God, give us patience.” God, give me patience.

30 Hour Famine Leader Profile – Brett Shoemaker


By Brien Bell

bell.leader profile.brettBrett Shoemaker is a twenty-year veteran of youth ministry leadership who, until just over a year ago, had served as youth leader and youth director in churches in Spokane and Puyallup, WA. In the fall of 2014, Shoemaker and his family traveled about 700 miles south to the city of Sacramento, where he was ordained and installed as the youth pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church. One of newly-ordained Pastor Brett’s first big “events” with the Faith youth program would be the 30 Hour Famine, the 20th year for Faith’s involvement. I talked to Brett a little bit about what it was like coming into a new place and stepping into a very important weekend, for everyone involved.

When did you first hear about World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine?

Having been in youth ministry for over 20 years, I have had various experiences with the 30 Hour Famine. We had done it alone with our church, with several others, skipped a few years, and engaged with semi-randomness. Upon arrival at Faith Presbyterian, it was like a re-awakening. The consistency and passion with which the leaders of Faith Youth led this event year after year is remarkable, and wonderful to see the kids respond and really know and understand what is coming with very little promotion.

What was your first experience at Faith with the Famine like? What did you do, what did you learn, etc.?

As the Youth Pastor, I had a big hand in setting up the logistics of the event, but I was amazed at the level of energy put in by volunteers to make all of the extras happen, from huts for the tribes and decoration, to games and icebreakers and service projects. I learned a great deal simply by being a part of the event as a leader, but also gained more insight (along with the kids) about the reality of poverty around the world.

What’s one way that you were challenged by the 30 Hour Famine?

My daughter got sick in the middle of the night, cutting out my own sleep, and I was sad to have to take her home, wanting her first experience to be a good one. I was further challenged though, that she returned in the morning to join in the work projects because she really wanted to take part and make a difference.

Is there anything from that first experience that will shape how you approach the 30 Hour Famine going forward?

I am hoping to build on the momentum and awareness that is already built within this group and church. My hope is to involve other adults and use this as a great way to connect our kids with others in the congregation that they don’t already know in some way.

Why is the 30 Hour Famine important, to you and to the youth you serve with?

It is not only important, I think, but critical, to have opportunities (aside from leaving the country) to really understand poverty on a global level. Even in the church, this is one of the few chances to really focus on the issue and watch the hearts of kids catch fire to want to change the world where they can.

Fundraising Ideas With a Twist


fundraising-ideas-with-a-twistBy Adam McLane

I have to be honest. Fundraising isn’t one of my gifts. I’m really awkward at it.

I find that my best bet for making it less awkward is to take something people are already familiar with and add a little “Adam Twist.”

Here are eight ideas you can try as you get ready for this year’s 30 Hour Famine.

1. Not-So-Silent Auction. You know the old stand-by, the silent auction. You get people to donate items (gift certificates, vacation property, access to private jets, you know… the norm) and then people submit bids. At the end of the night the highest bidder takes home the item. In this twist you’ll give a teenager a megaphone or access to the churches social media accounts to make as much noise and have as much fun with selling each item as you can. Make up a “silent” number… if a bid reaches that number, the item [and the noisy teenager] is silenced.

2. Exclusive Alumni-Only Dinner. You know the pancake breakfast or spaghetti dinner? Well in this twist you’ll make youth group alumni the special guests, actually the only guests! Get people of the church to pitch in and pay way too much per person. When your alumni come, ask them to share life updates, what God is doing in their lives, etc.

3. Speed Non-Dating. Host a fun social event for your entire church community. Invite everyone on a Sunday morning to come back on Sunday night for an event you run a lot like speed dating, just with the intent of people getting to know one another. (Um, don’t forget to invite the students!) Charge $10 to get in and presto, instant cash for food security around the globe.

4. Hire-a-thon. Take over part of a Sunday morning service to get people in your congregation hiring teenagers for jobs around their house or around town. That’s right, it doesn’t just have to be at their house! Someone can donate money to have your group do graffiti removal or park clean-up or anything like that.

5. Pop-Up Family Dinner. Wouldn’t it be cool to have family dinner served at your favorite park, after a soccer game, or somewhere else special? Charge families $100 to get a pop-up dinner put together by the youth group. Kick it up a notch by bringing some entertainment, board games, etc.

6. Singing Telegrams (and Insurance). Offer singing telegrams to people in your congregation and make them CRAZY! (Costumes, dancing, etc) For people who don’t want to have a singing telegram show up at their place of business… No problem, sell insurance for $20 per week!

7. VIP Parking. Sell VIP parking at your church. Sure, it’s a little odd. But have fun with it by offering red carpet service to the highest bidder. The more ridiculous the better.

8. Double Your Star(Bucks). Challenge your church to match their coffee purchases for a week in donations to the 30 Hour Famine.

Meet Riley, 8th Grade 30 Hour Famine Leader

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 9.12.23 AM

Riley a long time ago.

By Ross Carper

Meet Riley. She’s an 8th grader at Cheney Middle School near Spokane, Washington. She’s getting ready for her second year doing the 30 Hour Famine. Last year, she was one of the top fundraisers at her youth group (SHIFT_jrhi at First Pres Spokane). This year, don’t bet against Riley making even more of an impact (you can support her here). In fact, she’s stepping up as a student leader, helping make the Famine season a success. Here are some more facts about Riley, in her own words:

Riley is a big fan of…

“Being active, hanging out with friends, crushing my older sister Zab at ping pong after Sunday school, and reading (Harry Potter is my fave).” [not from Riley: she is also a big fan of making sassy comments to her youth group leaders.]

Her favorite parts of Scripture are… 

“Esther. It’s a story from a time when women weren’t given as much respect or many leadership roles, and yet she still had a big impact on a lot of people. I also love Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ and John 8:12: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Her plans for the future are… 

“I don’t really know. I want to help people, but I’m not sure what that will mean. I feel like it would be really cool to travel and serve and see different places. I’m really looking forward to the Easter Project, the spring break trip our high school group makes to serve in Tijuana, Mexico. Beyond that, I’m not too sure. But that’s fine for now.”

Q: I know that during your childhood, your family spent six years living in Thailand. Did you have any experiences there that helped you understand hunger or poverty in a deeper way than you would have otherwise?

“That experience helped me be more open to cultural differences. My best friends were Thai/British/Australian, and really from all over the place (I went to an international school). Our family had a nanny who lived in a refugee camp for people who fled from the violence in Burma, and she took us to visit there when I was 9 or 10. The people staying there had food to eat, and the living conditions were okay, but it definitely was not easy at all. It opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone has the comforts some of us take for granted. It was really hot, and there weren’t enough fans, for example, and a lot of people were sleeping in one room on the floor, and stuff like that. And I realized there are many places in the world where conditions are far worse, without food and water.

“I remember some friends of ours were from an organization called the Free Burma Rangers. Their mission is to bring help, hope and love to people of all faiths and ethnicities in the war zones of Burma. Even though I was just a kid, their mission has stuck with me. They would bring medical care and try to help those affected by the violence there.”

Q: Was there any culture shock when you moved back to the U.S.?

“At first, and even now, I was always noticing how white and non-diverse my school is, and people often don’t care about things going on that are so far away. They can’t imagine life outside their own experience, and that is hard to see.”

Q: Last year was your first time doing the 30 Hour Famine, right? What was your experience like?

“It was really cool for me to experience what other people go through each day, even though it is on a much smaller scale for us. And I raised nearly 600 bucks! The main things I did was sending out the SHIFT_jrhi Famine support letters to my family and friends letting them know about 30 Hour Famine and what our group was doing, and also my friend Meg and I walked around our neighborhood for a couple hours asking if people wanted to help out. It was pretty easy to make a big impact for kids who are facing real challenges.”

Q: What fires you up the most when it comes to motivation for the 30 Hour Famine?

“Making a difference in kids’ lives in places where there is a real threat of death is what motivates me the most. If we can do something that is actually part of preventing kids from dying, that is definitely the biggest motivation I can think of. Just because someone was born in a place without as many resources, they should never be at risk like that.”

Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing the Famine?

“It’s a really cool experience, and even of you just raise a little bit of money, it can affect a child’s life. It’s a great cause, it’s super fun, and you don’t really even get too hungry because you’re busy serving, playing, singing, and stuff like that.”

Q: How has actively serving the poor become a bigger part of your faith? 

“My whole family and I go to City Gate one Saturday every month, and that has become a regular and fun experience for us (City Gate is a local meal ministry for homeless and low-income residents in downtown Spokane). And I always look forward to the local service overnighters and other mission stuff we do at SHIFT_jrhi. I feel kind of closer to God when we do those things, and it just feels good to get the focus off of myself and just be about others for a while.”

Fundraising Idea — Link Up!


fundraising-idea-link-upTess Cassidy

Feeling a bit competitive?

In my youth group, we were always up for a little friendly competition– especially when it was boys vs. girls. We were even more into it when there was a lot at stake: the youth room to sleep in, complete with futons and seven foot sack bean bag chairs. If your gender lost, you had to sleep in another room on the hard floor. There was a lot on the line.

When Famine fundraising started, so did a paper chain in our fellowship hall. Each link represented a $10 donation, and each link was either pink or blue to match the “teams”. At youth group, participants added links for the amount they fundraised the past week.

We wanted to get more than the youth involved in our competition– we wanted the entire congregation participating. Since the paper chain was quickly wrapping the fellowship hall, everyone saw the growth of it (and who was winning). Adults, youth, and children asked questions about the craft surrounding the room. Each Sunday, the pastor would update the congregation on the status of the competition and encourage all to donate. This usually included a bias recommendation, but hey, who doesn’t have a side? After the service, people could buy a link for the team of their choice!

Here are some reasons to do it:

  1. Everyone loves being a kid again by making a paper chain.
  2. Competition is fun– especially if there’s a good incentive.
  3. The entire church sees it.
  4. It’s easy to get involved! Just $10 to the team of your choice.
  5. You can do this in addition to any fundraiser event you have.

You can easily change up some variables to suit your group. Do tribe vs. tribe instead of boys vs. girls. Change the value of a link. Reward the winning group by being able to break the fast first. It’s up to your group! If you have a big fundraising event already (such as a carwash, fundraising dinner, etc.), this can easily supplement it and donations can go towards chain links. Compete against each other, but in the end you are all competing for a greater cause: ending world hunger.

Meet Micah Estelle, 30 Hour Famine Leader


hauge.MIcahBy Brad Hauge

Micah Estelle is just 19 years old, but his involvement with The 30 Hour Famine is already extensive and varied: multi-year participant as a middle school student, accomplished fund-raiser, and the unanimous choice for “best maker of Tang during juice breaks while volunteering as a high school student.” The 30 Hour Famine is a big deal at the church Micah grew up in. Every year after the holidays, “Famine season” kicks in for the middle school ministry at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, WA and serves as what Micah describes as “the focal point for everything we do, from fund raising together, connecting all of the messages at youth group back to poverty and justice, and creating energy and excitement for the upcoming event itself.”

I’ve known Micah for years (not only was he a student leader in the high school ministry I lead, but my sister babysat him back when he was in diapers) and am proud to watch him now spend every Tuesday evening as a volunteer with the middle school ministry where he’s about to get his first taste as an official Famine leader with dozens of hungry students. Below is a taste of the fun and meaningful conversation we recently had regarding all things 30 Hour Famine.

Thinking back to your own 30 Hour Famine experiences when in middle school, does anything stand out as a particularly transformative memory or moment?

One year we set a goal to raise enough money to “stop hunger for a day.” Basically, we learned that somewhere between 21,000-25,000 people die every day due to hunger-related issues, so we wanted to raise at least $21,000 to metaphorically stop hunger for a day.

That year each of us had been assigned a World Vision “kid” that we’d be supporting over the weekend. We were given their name, a picture, and some background info on their life. I remember so vividly at the very end of the weekend as we broke the fast and our leader let us know if we had met our goal, and if it wasn’t for us stopping hunger for one day these kids could have died. They had taken the pictures of the kids assigned to us and put X’s over their faces to represent the amount of children that could still die tomorrow.

The symbolism was super raw, but also good motivation. We had done so many incredible things and were empowered by that, but it also served a huge reminder how much more there is for us to do.

Was the idea of fasting for 30 hours ever daunting as a kid? 

Yeah, it was definitely a challenge. But the way we do The Famine (with months of preparation, fundraising, community building, and service), we had so much determination to follow through that a little bit of hunger wasn’t going to stop us.

You then volunteered to help work behind the scenes and support The 30 Hour Famine as a high school student. What sorts of ways were you asked to help serve in that capacity?

My main role was to make sure the kids had enough juice and water to drink to stay hydrated during their juice breaks. Basically it was kitchen duty. Which is really quite simple when there’s no food to prepare! I’d also help out with the scavenger hunts, service projects, small groups—whatever was needed.

We didn’t fast alongside the kids one year. I remember a few of us made a midnight Taco Bell run. We tried to be intentional about not eating in front of them or letting them know we were eating. But they could smell it on us or something, because they could always tell!

What a punk! Outside of Taco Bell runs, did being present in a service role for those middle schoolers have any lasting impact on you?

At the time, I didn’t really have a relationship with very many of the middle school kids prior to that weekend, so it was an interesting perspective to have the opportunity to just step back and watch them have their first big interaction with poverty and hunger.

It was pretty great to see this mass of kids respond to the call to be the people who clothe the naked and feed the hungry—to watch them do it and live out this close connection between what Jesus was talking about and literally going out and doing it. Seeing them take Jesus’ actual words and live it out was an incredible thing for me to witness.

That’s a great perspective to bring up—the power of seeing kids connect with a newly expanded worldview, a Christ-centered worldview, even if you don’t know them well. Which brings us up to present day. You’re about to begin your first 30 Hour Famine in a leadership position with middle schoolers you do know.

I’m so excited to be in the middle of and experience like this with them. I’ll get to see guys in my small group raise money, serve in soup kitchens, be immature, have their worldview expanded, create friendships, be educated and see how it all connects together in real, life giving ways. Knowing the guys in my small group I’m equally excited to see their little dance celebrations once they find out how much money they’ve raised!

Now seven years after your first 30HF experience, is this still a valuable thing for kids to experience?

It’s incredibly valuable! It broadens the idea that charity often starts at home or the local community, which is great—but we’re exposed to that a lot through our church. So to have a season of the ministry not focused just on our local community but the entire globe—it’s an incredible to thing to see them start to realize there’s more to this world outside of their school, Spokane, or even our country.

It’s critical to help give them a sense of the bigger world and all that’s at play. [Talking about poverty and death] can be a harsh reality for someone that young to realize, but they’re ready and prepared for it. I know they’re ready because they’re able to respond to it in incredible ways. Ways that are very good.