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The Famine Blog

Loving Yourself


By Jake Kircher

loving-yourselfA lot of time is spent in churches talking about the importance of serving others and giving of our time, talents and treasures. That message is often extra loud in the season we’ve just come through: amidst the Christmas season and celebrating the biggest gift ever given, many of us develop numerous ways for the teens we work with and their families to give of themselves.

Now, all of that is good…VERY good! We should be teaching teenagers to give and serve others. We should be helping people to consider others before themselves. However, the problem with this is that if we always give, and give, and give, and give, we will eventually find ourselves burnt out. No doubt, it’s a feeling that may have crept into your life this past month as church responsibilities increased to coincide with the Christmas season.

I have always found it very interesting to look at the greatest commandment as quoted by Jesus:

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself. (NLT)

That last word is one that often gets overlooked. Amidst the “love God, love others” reminder, we sometimes miss that fact that we are to love others in the same way that we love ourselves. So, what does this actually mean?

First, when you really get down to it, when we don’t love ourselves, our actions can quickly and easily become attempts to earn the love and affirmation we so desperately want from others. In other words, that act of service can sometimes be more about us than the other person. And when we’re empty and trying to be filled up, we’re really not giving much of anything to anyone.

Second, loving others as we love ourselves means that we are taking the time that we need in order to be filled up. Sometimes that means saying no to an opportunity to serve and give. Jesus is the perfect example here. A handful of times throughout the Gospels, Jesus stepped away from the healing and the teaching and the ministry in order to spend time in prayer and take time for himself. That’s not being selfish: it’s being smart and taking care of yourself so that you can in turn give more to others.

Finally, loving ourselves isn’t about what we have or can accomplish. Instead, it’s all about understanding our worth and value from the perspective of a Creator who gave up everything for us. That’s the heart of the season we just wrapped up; a God professing his immense love for us, not because of what we had done, but simply because of who we are. When we can fully understand that, we can have life “to the full” as expressed in John 10:10. The Greek term for “full” in that verse can be translated as overflowing; so full that it’s bubbling over the top. That is what it means to love ourselves; that we are so secure in our identity in Christ that we don’t need anything else but Jesus to fill us up.

And as you can see, when we can learn to fully love ourselves, we’ll have even more to authentically and lovingly give to others. As this New Year gets underway, take time to consider your own energy levels. Are you filled up, or empty?

When Things Go Wrong


Paul Martin
IMG_0002We had a great weekend on the mountaintop at our most recent fall retreat. Despite being down a team member, we pulled off all of our plans, had a great time of fun and felt God in moments of spiritual renewal. Our buses rolled out on time, headed for home, and I sent the first group text to our parents telling them of our arrival time. Then, the unexpected happened. Our second bus in our eight-vehicle convoy didn’t make one of the turns coming down the mountain.

What started as a slight miscalculation ended with the people hauler hanging at a very precarious angle. Suddenly, there was smoke and screaming where only moments before there were jokes and laughter. Students were scrambling out of the emergency windows and adult leaders were frantically helping them down from the bottom ledge of the bus. The right front tire was hanging about four feet from the ground.

IMG_0003That’s the scene I arrived at after a long, exhausting weekend. My first thought was how could this have happened?! As we regrouped, we began to understand the trauma we were facing. Students were stunned, or crying silently, or screaming hysterically. These are the moments when we learn the most. Here’s what I learned.


I met two of my adult leaders as I arrived, and we came up with a list of what was most important. The first thing we did was gather everyone, make sure they were physically unharmed, and pray. Thankfully, we didn’t have any injuries. Secondly, we took care of immediate needs. Our plan was to give space for those who needed to process what had happened. We also needed to occupy those who weren’t affected by this experience. We also needed to assess our travel plans and come up with a plan to get everyone home safely as soon as we could.

Make Assignments

When we knew what needed doing, we split up our team to best provide the help needed to our teenagers. Some of our leaders leaned more towards counselors in that time. Some just kept our youth occupied. Some took the task of finding food. I had three tasks. I talked to the camp director to make sure we could stay at the camp should we need to, and to see if there would be food. Food is a great comforter in these times. I talked with the travel company to establish a plan for getting us home. I also had one more task.


It has been this ministry’s policy that youth not bring cell phones on retreats. That meant, of course, that most of them had them anyway and were already contacting their parents. As much as I could, I wanted to stay ahead of any escalation of this event with parents. So I started texting through our group text ( and posting on Facebook. I posted a picture of what happened and explained that that no one was hurt and everyone was safe. I then started communicating every 20 minutes, even if we didn’t have any news to report. In anxious times, parents just want to be updated.


Even with this plan, I learned a lot. What was most helpful, though, was our team’s response to do what it took after a weekend of togetherness. Through it all, we stuck together. The investment in our leaders was apparent in their ability to help manage all of the cascading issues created in this incident. Most importantly, our group was reassured of God’s faithfulness through the whole situation. I know we can’t plan for everything, but I feel so much better prepared for another one of these times, should it come.

Happy New Year (almost) from 30 Hour Famine!


By Emily Robbins

Happy New Year from the 30 Hour FamineI experienced my first 30 Hour Famine when I was 19 years old.  I drove a couple hours to spend the weekend with my best friend in college and she was doing this thing called a Famine with friends from her church. It was also a lock-in.  I wasn’t really sure what I was going to, but I figured there would be guys there all night long!  How could that be bad??  I remember playing Frisbee and watching a video about a little kid who needed food. I also remember wanting to help.  I was moved by the Holy Spirit that weekend to want to do more for children in places that I may never visit.  It messed with me.  I have never been the same.

It is now almost twenty years later and that 30 Hour Famine experience continues to impact my life. I lead the Famine for my youth group every spring and watch them realize just how much we have and how easy it is to share.  We will never know what praying for children who don’t have food will do to the hearts of our teenagers.  We also won’t know how the money we collect helps children and family around the world.

I also have the opportunity to sponsor a little girl named Emily in Zimbabwe. She and I exchange letters and pictures periodically and I love seeing her grow up and grow stronger. I pray for her and she prays for me.  I love that I am connected to her. I love that she is teaching me about God’s grace and provision. I love that knowing her messes with me.

I pray that every one of you have multiple experiences planned for your teenagers in 2016. I especially pray that the 30 Hour Famine is one of those experiences!  If you have never participated before – expect to change and hopefully become grateful for what we have and never take it for granted.

If you HAVE participated before, please look at it with new eyes this year. Get excited!  Pray to experience it the way your teenagers experience it for the first time. We have the opportunity to impact them in a way that could still be messing with them in 20 years.  Who knew when I went to a 30 Hour Famine when I was 19 years old that I would still be involved. I choose to not eat for 30 Hours so that others can – over and over again: so much so that it has become a holy ground for me.

Christmas Week Pause


By Mark Oestreicher

Hey Famine leaders – we know what it’s like to be a youth leader at this time of year, on top of the craziness of your own to-do list for Christmas week. We want to invite you to take three minutes and fifty-two seconds to pause, and watch this video. Don’t think about how you can use it in your ministry; simply ponder the profound beauty of the true story these cute little New Zealand kids are re-telling:

Emmanuel. God with us. Jesus—the creator of the world—entered into the world as a baby. And this changes everything.

(Ok, now you can think about how you’ll use that awesome video.)

Meet Ekai


Seattle1You’ve probably heard that 2016 will bring a lot of changes to the 30 Hour Famine. In a survey we sent out last year, you told us that you wanted more videos, new activities, and a way to connect to the kids we go hungry for. We took that seriously and invited a small group of youth pastors out to Seattle this past summer to take all your feedback and really dig in to what that meant and what changes really needed to take place.

Many brilliant ideas came out of that gathering of youth pastors, but one idea in particular will allow the 30 Hour Famine to take on a new shape. We took this idea and ran with it, and you’ll see it firsthand it when you receive your kits for 2016. The idea is this: Re-structure the 30 Hour Famine event into “modules” that start with a video, then go into an activity, then a debrief. We are really excited about the videos that will usher this time. Through the videos you’ll follow one child from the field and experience what a day in life is like for him. We sent our videographer friend Max to Kenya to find the perfect person for this video series. We’d like to introduce you to him…


Meet Ekai.

Ekai is a 12-year-old boy living in Kakuma, Kenya. As you get to know him through the videos, you’ll learn how he spends his days, which usually involve school, soccer, and taking goats to pasture. You’ll learn what he wants to be when he grows up and what games he plays with his friends and siblings. You’ll learn about the food his family eats and how often they eat.

We pray that knowing Ekai’s story helps your students put a face to the big and sometimes impersonal issue of hunger. Our goal with this experience is for your students to see humanity there, to know that people who are hungry are just like us – they play and learn and have amazing dreams for when they grow up. They just lack a resource that most of us are so blessed to have access to.

So this year, we go hungry for Ekai and for the millions of kids out there like him, the smiling, fun-loving, full-of-potential kids who need some good nutritious food. We go hungry for 30 hours, but we’ll stay hungry for justice until this world is Hunger Free for every. single. person.  Are you in?

A Meaty Christmas


By Brad Hauge

meaty-christmasI am a fan of the Advent season. I am grateful to have both grown up in a family and a church tradition that emphasize participating in the holiness of this season and making space to expectantly wait. I love the tension that exists in the very idea that we are to wait expectantly. I love the aesthetics of the season: the candles, the songs, the decor, the congruent rhythms of bustle and silence, and the meditation on peace, joy, hope, and love. I love that we are reminded to slow down and ponder the meaning and implications of an incarnate God.

Incarnate is one of those very church-y words that many of us nod our heads at and pretend to understand when we totally don’t. Which also means the kids in our youth groups probably don’t have much of a grasp on its meaning either. So let’s take a moment and simplify this church-y word. The Latin word “incarnare” means “to make flesh.” (If you speak Spanish, you will recognize “carne” as the word for “meat.”) So when we say that Jesus is God incarnate, we simply mean that God was made flesh: that God became human.

My friend Jeremy Williamson once encouraged those of us who engage in Advent to do so in this way:

“As we take a month to ponder the meaning and implication of an incarnate God, I think it is a good time to start taking the notion of incarnation seriously. If God truly became a human, what did he teach us about being truly human? What does he still teach us? How are we to treat our neighbor? How are we to treat our family? How are we to treat ourselves? How are we to treat our worst enemy? These are all questions that lead us to ponder a love that is deeper and richer than we have become accustomed to.”

When we allow ourselves to see each other through the truth of the incarnate God, it must change the way we see each other. The way we see the other

When we allow ourselves to wrestle with the questions above, it forces us to not simply allow Baby Jesus to stay in the manger, but allow him to be incarnate with us today.

When we allow ourselves to embrace the mystery of the incarnation, we are allowing ourselves to realize that if God became one of us, being human is a sacred thing.

When we allow ourselves, truly allow ourselves, to see our own humanity as a sacred thing, it then forces us to see that the same incarnate God is making every other human a sacred thing.

May this season of Advent be a time we take the above questions, and their implications, seriously. May we be bold enough to wrestle with them and invite those to whom we minister to do so as well. May we keep these questions in front of us not just during the season of Advent, but also during your season of The 30 Hour Famine; the transformative implications will be as compelling then as they are now.

If we believe that God came down in the human form, then being human is a sacred thing. May we treat each other as though we believe that.

Announcing the 2016 Theme!


Our team has been working double-time to get the 2016 resources ready for Famine 2016, which is very quickly approaching! If you haven’t signed up yet, now is the time! We are excited about all the new resources, which you’ll continue to hear more about in the coming weeks and months.  Today we’re extra excited to finally be able to announce the theme for 2016!

The theme for 30 Hour Famine 2016 is…

[drumroll, please]

Hunger Free

We long for a world that is Hunger Free, and we know you and your students do as well. 2016 will be an epic year for fighting hunger with your youth group, so get them excited by sharing this manifesto with them and join us as we pray for the year ahead, for the young people that will fast, for the donations that will be generously given, and for the lives of kids and families all over the world that will be forever changed. Thank you for working towards a Hunger Free world.

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Are You a Redeemer?


By Matt Williams

are-you-redeemerThere is a certain word that keeps popping up in my life lately: redemption. It started shortly after a youth program on how God redeems bad situations in order to reveal himself to the world. Over the last three weeks words like redeemer, deliverer, ransomed, and restored kept slipping into my mind. As I do not put much stock in coincidence, I took the hints and focused some personal reflection time on the idea of redemption. And a central question emerged: Am I a redeemer? 

Faithful people typically see themselves as being “redeemed”, but I find few people who think of themselves as a “redeemer”. Perhaps this is because when we think of a redeemer, it is about the “capital R” Redeemer of all creation. Since no mortal can fill those shoes, we readily stay humble and leave the title of “Redeemer” to God. Yet my inner dialog kept pointing to this question: Am I a redeemer?

As it turns out, I think I am. And I am pretty sure you are too.

You and I are involved in the 30 Hour Famine. We may do it in different ways and in different cities, but we all do the Famine. That means that we see the ravages of hunger and have concluded this is not the way the world should be. In spite of the odds against us, we take action to eliminate the damage caused by hunger. And the actions we take build pathways to offer hope instead of hopelessness. That sounds an awful lot like the work of redemption to me.

Whether you know it or not, you are a redeemer. Every time you do the 30 Hour Famine, every time you fight injustice, every time you share love, you work to fix our broken world. You refuse to accept that things cannot be made better and made whole again. There is something inside you that tells you to leave this Earth in better shape than when you arrived, even though that is hard work.

The 30 Hour Famine is not about the fundraising, or the fasting, or the service. The 30 Hour Famine is not about the shirt or hat or socks you get for participating. No, the Famine is about redeeming the lives of people we will never meet, in places we will never go, in ways we may never fully comprehend. It is about a sacrifice on our part, to share love and hope without condition or payment. It is about seeing lives in jeopardy, and restoring them to health and full lives.

The answer seems pretty clear to me. But what do you think? Are you a redeemer?

On Hat Stealing and Need Meeting


By Ross Carper

hat-stealingSince as long as I can remember, I’m a hat wearer. Depending on the time of year, it’ll either be my trusty Seattle Mariners New Era 59fifty or a Krochet Kids beanie. As a Catholic school kid who wore a white polo and slacks every day, a “jeans day” was a coveted prize. But even on those rare occasions, my hat (then a Chicago Bears Starter snapback) could only be adorned outdoors during recess. Maybe this is the deep-seated psychological reason for my biggest pet peeve: hat stealing. I seriously can’t stand it when someone yanks my hat off my head.

I’m a middle school youth director. This pet peeve is a problem.

Of course, one of the perks of my job is that I am (for better and worse) expected to act and dress like a man-boy. My office is full of whimsical items instead of serious, businessy stuff. And I dress for the job I want, because yep: I’ve got it. So my job is the reason I’m wearing a hat to begin with, but when I’m surrounded by a gaggle of middle schoolers at an event, they’re usually amped up and pretty ripe for giving in to their powerful hat-stealing impulses. At some point, it’s getting grabbed.

I was reflecting on why this bothers me so much, and all at once, both my humanity and that of my students came shining through. For me it’s on a surface level: sometimes it just plain hurts when an uncoordinated young teen grabs my hat. And of course there’s the aesthetics to consider: my quadruple-cow-licked, matted, receding-hairline hat-head looks particularly terrible, not to mention the fact that my forehead will have red marks where the headband of the hat has been sitting all day.

But for the student, he or she is revealing a need. Sure: hat stealing is mild and basically harmless when it comes to possible attention-seeking behaviors. And it’s easy to see why annoying things like this happen. In an energetic social environment, it’s a learned skill for us to know what to do with our bodies and how to interact with the people around us. We know we want to have a fun give-and-take dialogue with the person next to us, but we sometimes don’t know how. The 13-year-old version of me in that Bears snapback certainly didn’t know how. Correction: this 34-year-old version of me still doesn’t always know what to do or say in a large group social setting.

But there’s something that could be deeper. I’m not psychoanalyzing anyone based on a single silly act, but the more I get to know specific hat stealers, the more I see some patterns. Perhaps it shows a certain social restlessness. Perhaps it’s an unmet need for affection, for attention, or for a simple moment of joy in the midst of difficult circumstances: in this case, running around the room wearing someone else’s hat. Maybe that need for attention runs deeper than I’ll ever know, complete with a history of broken relationships and pain. Maybe it’s just a kid being annoying. And as much as hat stealing annoys me, I try to go easy on the thief… just in case.

Over the past year or so, every time I feel my hat go off my head, I am simply reminded of needs: all the serious and not-so-serious ways that each of us hungers not just for attention, but for acceptance, and even deeper, for belonging. So I grit my teeth and try to be playful. I express honestly that the hat grab isn’t my favorite thing, but I also try to meet the unspoken needs in a more healthy and direct way.

It’s an oft-quoted line by Aristotle: “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” As we look at our world, we can be overwhelmed by the needs we see. I mentioned social and emotional needs with the hat-stealing example, but we could list thousands more. As youth workers, our job is to live alongside our students in ways that not only attempt to meet some of their needs, but also in ways that help them see and reflect upon the needs of their neighbors, both near and far. And even further, we get to live among them such that they might–just maybe–meet the only One capable of fully meeting our human needs, and the One who shows us how to participate in the need-meeting Kingdom-of-God way of life:

[Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

– Luke 4:17-21, NIV

Be Thankful That God is at Work


By Shawn Kiger

happy thanksgiving

Matthew 5:43-48 (NRSV)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

I hear many people say these are scary times we live in. There are terror attacks and mass shootings.  Millions of refugees are having to flee their homes because of war.  Social media is full of answers of whom to blame and how to fix it. It’s hard to avoid all the negativity and fear.  I don’t really know if there is more evil in the world now than when I was a teenager; but I know the teenagers of today are having to grow up during a time when they hear about it 24/7. It’s reported almost the instant it happens.

I do know that Jesus also grew up in a scary time. A king ordered the killing of all boys two years old and under in an attempt to kill Jesus. His family had to flee to save his life. Even when Jesus was older, there were still public executions and other horrible and scary things going on.  Yet even in the midst of that, Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to pray for them for “he makes the sun rise on the evil and the good.”

Every week in small groups we ask our students where they have seen God at work that week. One reason I do this is to help them start to notice that God is at work in their lives. Another reason is so they start to see that good things are happening all around them everyday. Even when the news only reports on evil, God is at work in the good.

I saw an example of God at work this past Sunday. A family gave me an envelope before Sunday worship. I opened it and there was a note and a check thanking me for all I do with the youth and to use the money to help students who can’t afford to go on trips. About 15 minutes later a mother came to me in tears and said her son couldn’t go on our December mission trip because they didn’t have the funds. I was able to tell her that it had been taken care of. That may seem small compared to horrible terrorist attacks but it is an example of how God works through others and the church to change the world.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I hope you will notice that God is at work in the world even when it seems like evil is winning. I will continue to look for ways God is calling me to help those affected by evil, and I will thank God for all the good, both big and small, that I see happening all around me everyday.