By 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.