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The Famine Blog

Broken Shells




By Brian Mateer

I live with my wife and four daughters in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.  As the weather warms and the season changes to spring and summer, many people in this region travel approximately five hours to the beaches of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.  Like many other families, the Mateers loaded the minivan and headed to Myrtle Beach, SC for a week over spring break.

The temperature was wonderful for the week reaching the mid-seventies, but the water was too cold for us to enjoy.  Much of our days consisted of building sand castles, flying kites, walking the beach and collecting shells.

My daughters’ favorite way to spend their time was by collecting shells.  Each one wanted to bring home a shell to her classmates, teachers, grandparents and friends.  As we walked down the beach with their sand buckets, I was looking for the perfect shell without blemish.  They on the other hand were just gathering shells left and right.  My head was on a swivel as all four came running and saying, “Look at this one daddy!”

I would look at the shell and say, “That’s nice!” all the while thinking “That’s just a broken shell.”

With each broken shell going into a bucket I began to soften.  Their infectious wonder, amazement and enthusiasm began to rub off on me.  I began to wonder and be amazed.

“I wonder how old this shell is.”

“Could we be the first humans to see and touch this particular broken shell?”

“How much of God’s creation will remain unseen to humans for its existence?”

“The colors and layers of this broken shell are truly amazing.”

In January 2013, I was honored to have the opportunity to go on a youth leader “Vision Trip” with the 30 Hour Famine team to Zimbabwe.  We had the opportunity to meet children that benefited from funds raised by teenagers that participated in the 30 Hour Famine.  We also met children along the way that did not have this vital support.  The contrast between the two was striking:  lifeless eyes versus bright gleaming eyes, blank stares verses big grins, lethargic standing or sitting versus chasing bubbles and soccer balls.

By participating in the 30 Hour Famine we have the opportunity to give the gift of wonder, enthusiasm and amazement.  Teenagers make a real difference in the lives of real children, giving opportunities for children to wonder in the simplicity Jesus spoke of in Mark 10:15:

‘Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

I invite you to wonder and be amazed.  I invite you to do the same for others.  Really, that’s what Doing the Famine is all about!

Sponsor a child? What’s that got to do with the 30 Hour Famine?


By Emily Capes 

How Sponsorship Works

I love it when I get inspired in ways that I don’t expect.

An older woman approached me at church last month. Her name is Sarah; she is 78 years old and has the sweetest smile. Sarah moved down to our town in the past year to live closer to her sister, Shirley because they are both widows now. The two of them drive to church every Sunday together. They are both less then 5 foot tall… and I love seeing them care for each other each week.

Sarah is the type of woman who is not afraid to try new things. She jumped into many different ministries as soon as she joined our church last fall. I love that she is currently signed up to help with VBS and is so excited about working with children.

Sarah’s Sunday School class participated in our church-wide Lenten reading of a book called “A Place at the Table” by Chris Seay, which challenges individuals to “say yes” to people who live with less.

Sarah was so moved by the stories of sponsored children in this book that she couldn’t wait to inform me one Sunday that she wanted to sponsor two sisters in Peru. This past February she donated money towards our teenagers when they participated in the 30 Hour Famine—so she knew that I could help her with World Vision Child Sponsorship. Sarah felt very strongly about sponsoring two little girls because of her own close relationship with her sister. She doesn’t have a credit card or a debit card. So we figured out a way for me to help her start the process with World Vision.

I contacted World Vision the next day and actually found out that you can’t always sponsor siblings because they want to provide help to more families at one time. But we found two sweet girls for Sarah to sponsor and she is now attempting to write them letters often and build a relationship with them.

I have been involved with World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine for the past 18 years as both a participant and a leader. I believe in what World Vision does around the world and want to help bring change to the children, families and communities by raising money and creating awareness. I encourage my youth to learn about what World Vision is involved in and find ways to continue making an impact outside of our 30 Hours.

But I had never talked to our youth or congregation much about child sponsorship. I had never asked my church to participate in a Hope Sunday. (Hope Sunday invites members of your congregation to consider sponsoring a child through World Vision.) I honestly almost didn’t think about it much, or I figured most people have been inundated by needs of others and if they wanted to sponsor a child, they could look up how to do it on Google!

After Sarah stopped me and was so excited to sponsor two children, I decided to figure out how to best offer other people in our congregation the opportunity to sponsor children through World Vision. Having my youth fast for 30 Hours is a very important part of what World Vision does, but there is so much more we can do as youth ministers to involve our entire congregation in changing the lives of children.

I am so thankful for Sarah. For her energy and her determination to keep changing God’s Kingdom through service and giving… and for helping me remember that there are people who want to help in new ways—they just need to be giving the tools to do so.

We hosted a Hope Sunday this past Sunday at my church and we have sponsored seven children so far. Next year during the 30 Hour Famine, I’m planning to ask my youth to sponsor a child with their families and build letter writing and prayer time in for our sponsored children.

I’m sure many of you have offered child sponsorship at the same time as the 30 Hour Famine or at some other point during the year. I’d love to hear how you do it at your church!

But if you haven’t—maybe this year give it a try! Check out Hope Sunday or you can direct people to the online sponsorship page.

Run With Me and Save Lives


Nikki Myers, 30 Hour Famine Staff

Chicago-Promo2-300x300In high school I used to beg my mom to write me a note to get out of the Friday mile run in PE class. There were few things I dreaded more than those 6 laps on the hot, uneven, asphalt-paved parking lot. Sometimes she sent me to school with the note (err, thanks mom?) and sometimes she didn’t (probably the right choice, mom). All that to say, this next statement is a shocking one, one I never in a million years would have thought to utter…

I’m going to run a marathon. 

Yup, a marathon.

26.2 miles of asphalt.

“Why?” you might ask. My mom sure did.

Because there are 783 million people around the world who do not have access to safe water. Because more than 1,600 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by unsafe water.

In the States our days start with water—with showers, flushable toilets, and a cup of coffee. And then we go about our days, working and going to school, because time isn’t spent having to fetch water from a source four miles away. Water that would most likely make us and our families sick because it is contaminated. Our lives would be so different without this necessity of life that flows out of most of our faucets every day.

With 30 Hour Famine, we talk about the necessity of food for those around the world and its importance to the lives of children and families. Food and water are intricately related. And so I’m running the Chicago marathon with Team World Vision on October 12. Every mile I run that day, I will raise $50, which is what it takes to provide clean water to one person for life through World Vision water programs.

And… I would love for you to run with our team. Are you ready to take on a challenge that will change the lives of 26 people ($50 per mile = 26 people get clean water) forever? A challenge that would probably change your own life as well?

We would love to have you join. If you are interested then go ahead and click here.

If you think this is crazy talk, here are a few arguments to combat what you might be feeling right now…

“I am not a runner and have never run a marathon before!”

Me neither. I do not consider myself a runner and neither do the 80% of people who run with Team World Vision. We can all be new in this together.

“At 50, this was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. The support of Team World Vision made a marathoner out of a non-marathoner.” -–Mike from NC

“I’m terrified of the challenge.” Yup, me too. But we are going to build a community across the miles that we can use to support each other through the training. We will celebrate the good runs together, rant about the bad and help keep the focus on kids who need clean water.

“I don’t know how I’ll raise $50 per mile.” Don’t worry, we’ll give you fundraising tools to make it easier. We bet you know enough people who will be inspired by your challenge and the cause and will donate.

Ready now? My colleague Katie and I are starting a team within Team World Vision of Famine alumni (students and leaders) and college students who want to provide clean water by running the Chicago Marathon. Once you join our team, we’ll add you to a Facebook Group where we’ll be encouraging each other.

Need more convincing? Email me and I will be happy to talk to further!


You are you because of others


Nikki Myers, 30 Hour Famine team

_L102234This last week I had the opportunity to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak about leadership. Each sentence was a sound bite of humility, leadership, love and challenge. Beyond being an absolute inspiration and so full of wisdom, he has the sweetest, most contagious laugh you can imagine (no really, look it up ☺). I couldn’t take notes fast enough. He spoke on the idea of living a life that is beyond you. A life where you live at your best so that others can as well. His idea was this… a person is a person through other persons. You are you because of others. We copy the best attributes of others to be the best version of ourselves.

This isn’t a totally new idea, but for some reason when put this simply it felt different and it has made me think about my own life. I think about the people that helped develop who I am today- my passions, my interests, my spirit. They were people that I admired and watched, liking who they were as people and attempting to copy those attributes for myself.

Part of who I am today is because of people across the world from me. Children that I have shared a game of soccer with, blown bubbles and sang songs with, even the kids I attempted to awkwardly dance in front of. Children that had an inexplicable joy that I wanted to replicate. Children that knew nothing of greed, road rage, and accumulation. But they did know a lot about hunger, about sacrifice, about caring for others. They knew about the faithfulness of the Lord and the value of hard work. These children, who I will likely never see again, helped shape/form/create me. I am me, because of them.

I think about how much this relates to your role as leaders to young people, and in particular to the 30 Hour Famine. I am going to venture to say that these children have helped shape you and your students too. The children that we aim to serve through doing the 30 Hour Famine have a way of speaking into who we are. Their plight helps us be more generous, more aware, passionate about injustice, and obedient followers of Christ as we care for the poor and oppressed. I was at a Famine event last weekend and through those 30 hours with the students I saw the best of them come out. As they thought of these children and heard their stories, they realized that these children were also created in the image of God their hearts were broken. They grew in compassion, in grace, in the drive to do more. You are you because of others.

As you move on to summer activities and put your Famine folder away for the next 9 months or so please remember those that we serve. The attributes that they reflect that you want to copy; who they make you. If you haven’t already, remember to send in your funds because they mean so much to the lives of children and families around the world. Because just as you are you because of others…others are themselves because of you.

Return and Reward


By Tash McGill

iStock_000019200541Small “You’ll get what you give.”

“You’ll get back out what you put in.”

“You’ll reap what you sow.”

“You get what you pay for.”

There are lots of ways that we imply that action or investment should generate a return or reward. That philosophy underpins many of the daily interactions and decisions we make.

It’s not just about how much effort we invest in something, but also how much effort we invest in people and relationships. We reassess our commitment and friendships when we feel like we’re giving it more than the other person. We determine the priority of tasks in our work days based on how much it matters – or, what the consequence is (lack of return or reward) if I don’t get it done.

Mostly, society has accepted this principle at large as a pretty normal way of being. Society isn’t often wrong, right? Except, well – except in a bunch of cases.

Like charity, or in what it takes to be a hero. There’s a conflict of storyline going on between what it takes to be a hero and how society tells us to make decisions about where we invest ourselves. What it takes to be a hero, or a good human – is the willingness to invest without return or reward.

Willing to lose it all. 

Stepping into a fight, prepared to take a pounding. 

There’s a lot of stuff in life you can renegotiate, put on hold, come back to later when the investment feels a little easier. But a hero responds regardless of the ‘timing being right’.

So we skew the storyline and make it all about the good feeling you get when you do the right thing, or the even better thing. We all need to be better humans – so we sell the return and reward story again, to make it about the good, good feelings.

You’ve probably just completed the Famine with your group. You’ve got some fundraising followup to do and then you’ll be running into the next big activity or plan. The good feelings won’t last long. How could they last long enough to get you through all you’ve got left to do.

But there’s another story. Heroes are born out of habit, more often than not. So the investment you’ve made in sacrificing food or technology for 30 hours, organizing those sleepovers and fundraising – it’s building a habit. A habit of being a better human.

Habits last longer than feelings. Habits get you through when feelings of motivation fade to feelings of exhaustion.

So I pose to you: you’re getting just the right kind of return and reward for your efforts. You’re getting a habit of not needing to get what you give, just of being a better human. That’s awesome, because we really, really do need more of you.

Introducing Famine For One!



Famine for One is World Vision’s newest hunger-fighting program for adults and college students

You’ve heard of the 30 Hour Famine – World Vision’s hunger-awareness program for youth. It’s been around for nearly 25 years, and in the USA alone, students have raised more than $160Mill to fight world hunger. So last year, our team begged the question: “Why on earth don’t we have something like this for college students and adults?” Well, now we do! This year we are launching the brand new Famine for One experience for college students and adults. That means that even though you’ve grown out of youth group, you can still experience what it’s like to help others around the world who don’t have enough to eat.

How does it work? It’s simple, really. You give up food for 30 hours to get a small taste of the hunger that children face day after day. During the experience, you’ll receive text messages from Miquilina, a 17 year-old girl in Southern Africa, who is the primary caretaker in her family, and often only eats one meal a day, to get an even better idea of the challenges people face when they are hungry. You’ll also practice kindness in your community so you can make a difference near and far.

We encourage participants to make a goal to raise $425 to feed a child in Zimbabwe (our designated country for 2014) for just over a year. We’ve even figured out a super-simple way to get those funds, fast, and we’ll hook you up with an online fundraising page to customize and share!

Sign up! Sign up to do Famine for One by going to


Rest, Rejuvenation, and Recalibration


by Mark Oestreicher

I’m thinking about youth workers and rest today for two reasons: First, I’ve been praying, for a few weeks, for the thousands of youth workers who led a group of teenagers through the 30 Hour Famine on the National Date a couple weeks ago. I know it’s past tense now (or, it will be when you send in your funds!); but I’m fully aware of the post-partum weariness that often follows an intense ministry focus like Famine. Second, I had a coaching call today with a youth worker who is running very fast and hard, and struggling to avoid burnout. When I asked her what, in her life, was life giving, she immediately responded with thoughts about the life-giving aspects of ministry. So I suggested that there’s a difference between things that are life giving, and those that provide rest, rejuvenation and recalibration.

I have a conceptual love of spiritual disciplines. I say “conceptual” because I’m not very good at them.

Slide1But I’ve found one spiritual discipline that has been revolutionary to my life and ministry in the past eight or ten years: regular, scheduled solitude. I’d experienced deep quiet and silence a handful of times in the previous decade, and had been surprised by my ability to fully enter into it. I was surprised because—like many youth workers—I am constantly talking and communicating, constantly managing a massive “to do” list, and regularly distracted by never-ending demands.

Several years ago now, I found myself closer to burnout than I had ever been. I was emotionally and spiritually dry. In fact, when I brought this up to a trusted group of co-workers, thinking I was revealing something about myself they wouldn’t know, they shocked me by telling me I was in much worse shape than I was able to perceive. They graciously strong-armed me into a month-long sabbatical, and I reluctantly agreed to completely disconnect during that month: no email, no Internet, no mobile phone, no blogging, no contact with anyone from work. I spent 11 days of that month alone in Hawaii. During those 11 days of silence, I stumbled onto the massive recalibrating impact of extended silence.

Ever since that trip, I have entered into a cherished rhythm of silent retreats. Some years this has been quarterly 3-day retreats. At other times, they’ve been longer and less frequent. I am fairly aggressive about scheduling these, even if it is challenging to find a space in my calendar (I just schedule two of them yesterday!). Luckily, my wife is very supportive of this effort (and she has seen the impact on my life and our family).

I don’t pretend to know what you need. But I know what the beautiful and demanding life of youth ministry is like. And I want you to stay in it. To that end, consider what it looks like for you to find a regular and repeatable rhythm of rest, rejuvenation and recalibration.

Aftermath of the 30 Hour Famine National Date


Kara Isaacson-McLean

iStock_000001401101SmallIf you were one of the thousands of groups who did 30 Hour Famine this past weekend…

Whew! What a weekend!

I know you’re tired. I know you’re in awe. I know God has moved mightily in your midst these last few weeks. So, be encouraged, even if you didn’t reach your goal, even if what you wanted or thought would happen didn’t…. God IS on the move and His timing is best.

Get your team back together now– like right away and without emotion talk about what went well and what could have gone better and what didn’t work at all. Don’t harbor hurt feelings, that’s the enemy trying to discourage. Ultimately, we are all on the same team here, Team Jesus, and the work you’ve done matters. It matters to Him, it matters in the Kingdom and it matters to the children whose lives you’ve saved.

I am sure you thought of fun and creative ideas that you didn’t have time to implement. That’s OK: write them down for next year. Keep a file where you’ll put various ideas throughout the year and pull from them next.

Lastly, take some time alone just to process all that you’ve experienced. What is God speaking to YOU? He has a plan for your life! He has a strategy! What and where is He leading you and are you allowing Him to? What did He awaken in your heart? It doesn’t matter if you don’t see a way to make it happen because He does! And, when He gives you and impossible dream, that is most assuredly Him saying IT IS POSSIBLE! Jesus, take the wheel. You’ve got this.

Get excited. The BEST is YET to COME!

National Date Resources!


This weekend, roughly 70,000 teenagers will participate in 30 Hour Famine! How exciting is that!?

If you’re leading a 30 Hour Famine this weekend, we wanted to make sure you are aware of some additional resources (on top of all the great stuff in the Leader’s Guide) to assist you:

Homepage Takeover

Starting, well, yesterday, the 30 Hour Famine homepage features an overlay of YOUR content: tweets and Facebook posts and Instagram photos. If you don’t see this full-screen content on the home page, just click on the little sticker in the upper right corner that says “FASTING, TWEETING, HELPING NOW.” To see your photos and tweets and status updates on the 30 Hour Famine homepage, just tag it with #30HF or #30hourfamine, and watch the magic.

Of course, you can also make sure you’re following the 30 Hour Famine Twitter feed (@30HF), Facebook page (wv30hf), and Instagram feed (@30hf) for some much needed encouragement and inspiration.

Pro-tip: if any of your teens ever get bored at some point during your event, give them access to the homepage and have them find some stuff to share with your group.

Famine for One

We’re very excited about our new baby, just born in the last few weeks. Famine for One is a version of the 30 Hour Famine designed for college students, adults, and Famine alumni. We’re doing a few things to try to get the word out; but we would really appreciate your help in spreading the word about FF1 to parents, former youth group members, and others in your church and community. Click here to check it out.

Pro-tip: Tell your Famine participants about FF1 and ask them to encourage their parents and older siblings to consider participating.

New 30 Hour Famine Videos

Yup, we’ve created three BRAND NEW videos for you to use this weekend. Those three are in addition to the massive quantity of amazing videos available for you to use, on our Youtube channel (the30hourfamine).

The three new videos are:

Kickoff your Famine Weekend! 1 minute and 42 seconds of encouragement for the start of your 30 Hour Famine.

A Famine Prayer. 3 minutes and 47 seconds of cuteness (little Aussie kids!) with a beautiful spiritual message.

30 Hours…done! 1 minute and 40 seconds of end-of-Famine encouragement, including an hour 31 (#hour31) interactive challenge.

Here’s the middle one of those. Just check out the oh-my-goodness-they’re-cute-ness of this video:

Pro-tip: Duh; use these three videos (and some of the others on the Famine YouTube page) to add some media pop to your experience and to remind your students that they are part of something HUGE!

The Proverbial Cup Of Sugar


Matt Joldersma

iStock_000016438243SmallUnless our neighbor is the sort from horror movies, we usually don’t think twice about asking to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar. This assumes two things. First, it assumes they have sugar.  And, second, it assumes that at some point in the future, we will have sugar with which to pay them back. That’s what we think of as neighborly.

But Jesus redefines what it means to be a good neighbor.

In Luke 10:25-37 (the story we call The Good Samaritan) Jesus responds to the question “Who is my neighbor?” And he portrays some horrifying neighbors. They see a desperate need and take immediate action: Get me away from here!  He also portrays a good neighbor. This person sees the same desperate need and takes immediate action: helping at significant cost to himself.

Through World Vision, we 30 Hour Famine leaders and our students have been made aware of our neighbors’ need and have been asked to help in Jesus’ name.  The correct assumptions are: we have the proverbial cup of sugar and that we may never be “paid back” (at least not in a literal sense).  But we’ve been asked anyhow.  The important thing to remember is that we have been asked in Jesus’ name.  For this reason we get involved.

Jesus’ suffering was beyond what any of us have experienced, yet he endured it in order to freely give us (not loan) the cup of life we desperately needed.  May we gladly endure the lesser suffering of the 30 Hour Famine this weekend to joyfully extend a needed cup to our neighbor in Jesus’ name.

(Don’t neglect to raise money along with the 30 HF!  Awareness is something all three of the neighbors in the parable had!  Only the good one did something about it.)