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The Famine Blog

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.

One of the Best Days of My Life


By Mark Oestreicher

Several years ago, I was part of developing a sister program to the 30 Hour Famine, called One Life Revolution, focused on youth groups raising funds for AIDS orphans in Zambia. Today I was scrolling through some old photos and came across this photo from one of the best days of my life:


Seeing the photo brought back all sorts of deep memories, mostly of the hope I experienced with the Zambian villagers as the water gushed out of their new well. I remembered that I’d journaled about the experience, and dug that up. Thought I’d share it with you amazing 30 Hour Famine leaders. This is the sort of impact we who participate in the Famine get to be a part of!


I have so much to write about (and must, for my own reflection), but only have 6 minutes left on my time in the business center of the hotel, here in Lusaka, Zambia.

Today, 7 American youth workers and I traveled to the Kapalulwe ADP to visit a variety of ways the funds we’ve raised have been spent. Here’s one story:

We went to a small village; and when we pulled up, the old men and women of the village were waiting for us, singing and dancing. They lead us (still singing and dancing) to a house built with money we’d raised for a widow with 12 kids (not all hers). Then we followed them for a long walk (with lots more people joining us along the way) to their new clean-water well, which was built with more of the money we’d raised. They had decorated the well with flowers, and little strips of a cassette tape (which looked kind of like garland, or “icicles” on a Christmas tree). There was a fence around it, and the opening had a ribbon across it with flowers on it. Next to the actual pump was a monument, covered in cloth. After several formalities, they had me come up and join the village “elder” (who talked about drinking clean water for the first time in his life from this well), who handed me scissors to cut the ribbon. I asked if he would do it with me, and we held the scissors together (later, we heard they were “the village scissors”), and cut the ribbon to much cheering. Then, we went over and removed the cloth, which was covering a very nice plaque that said, “Donated by One Life Revolution, USA” or something like that. The old guy and I ceremonially pumped the well together (more cheers); then our whole team took turns. It turned into a big party, with the women teaching many of us how to carry water jugs on our heads (more cheers, lots of laughter). It really was an amazing experience, full of hope and joy!

Hope and Hunger


By Chris McKenna

hope-and-hungerFor the past six days I’ve been fasting from sugar. Now, if you knew me, you would know that this is a REALLY big deal. I consume copious amounts of sugar. Not the “that’s how all youth pastors eat” quantity, but the “I like Sour Patch Kids for breakfast” variety. Excessive by any standard. But, I felt the need for clarity on a couple of questions, so I needed to create space for some significant communion with God.

And, it’s working.

Honestly, I’m constantly hungry, but it’s a hunger that continually reminds me of my God, which is just what I needed. It’s made me wonder how long I could actually do this. It started off as a noble idea, but how long can I stand it? I’ve decided a week is enough. And, although it’s been tough, it’s completely doable because of one thing.


It’s easy to be sacrificial, because I have the hope of a candy bar on day eight.

My wife and I are in the process of catching up on this season’s episodes of The Blacklist. I apologize if the show violates your moral limits, but I like shows that leave me confused so that I have something to think about on a long run. This show does that. On a recent episode, the show’s main character, a Mr. Raymond Redington (played brilliantly by James Spader), was quoting lines from a play. He said, “I am not courageous. Only the poor have courage. Why? Because they are hopeless. To get up every morning… without hope.”

He described the plight of over a billion hungry people on planet earth. I can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be hungry without hope for a meal. Closing my eyes at night, maybe to dream about the meal I didn’t have.

But lacking hope for food compounded by lacking the Hope that Jesus offers seems like the most intense lack of hope possible. Any hopeless earthly reality is reframed when one has hope in Jesus and the restoration he is bringing. If I’m hungry, but have hope in a risen Savior who is preparing a place for me, with a full table, then maybe, just maybe, it eases a bit of the suffering.

Hope. Such a simple word! Yet, the world turns on hope.

Yes, the poor need bread, but they more desperately need “the Bread of life”. Service without the Gospel is just humanitarian charity. It serves a temporary purpose of filing a stomach, but leaves an empty soul.

Every single time we do the Famine, let’s remind our kids a million times that it’s not about the fast. It’s all about Jesus. He’s our only hope. He’s what this world desperately needs.

Oh, and a bag a Skittles wouldn’t hurt either.

Planning a Wedding is a Lot Like Ministry


wedding-planning-ministryBy Brien Bell

I got engaged to an amazing woman this summer. She said yes to me even though she’s seen me at my worst. And she makes me better, reminding me that I am beloved. In so many ways, seen and unseen, she reflects the character of Christ for me.

As the months have passed and the wedding draws closer, I’ve come to realize how parallels can be drawn between planning a wedding, and for marriage, and youth ministry. (Seriously, stick with me here!)

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in planning a wedding is patience. Not everything you plan is going to occur as you want it to. There are going to be bumps. You might get frustrated. But it’s never as bad as it might seem in the moment.

When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he encouraged them in prayer that they may be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience….” (Colossians 1:9-11) Ever try getting a group of 25 middle school students to stop talking long enough to give them instructions for a service project? Endurance and patience are so vital to wedding planning and to ministry.

You won’t get anywhere in marriage or in ministry without communication. Whether you’re trying to plan an engagement party or get a bunch of high school students (or their parents) to come to a midweek Bible study, keeping strong lines of communication open is key. Listening is also an important part of communicating; being open to hear others’ opinions and ideas is part of any relationship – especially when working with youth. James reminds us: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

My oldest friend has been so helpful in coordinating things with the rest of our bridal party, a big reason why I chose him as my Best Man. He’s helped bring our friends together, creating a team that we have faith in to stand by our side on our big day. Having a good team makes everything easier, and especially so in ministry. Partners in ministry are essential – having a group of people you can rely upon, who can support you and work with you and beside you, who can pray for you and with you, makes all the difference.

In the end, the most important part of both marriage and ministry is that which God is through and through: Love. Without love, everything falls apart. 1 John 4 reminds us, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Love is the foundation from which all comes into being, and it is with love that we come together as brothers and sisters to be united in Christ, through the bonds of friendship, in addition to the bonds of matrimony which God himself ordained.

No wedding is perfect, just as no ministry or church is perfect. With God’s help, we are shaped to be more and more like Christ, and we hope that our actions, our relationships, and our lives begin to reflect the love and the grace that He has given. Amen.

Thinking Globally in Youth Ministry


By Adam McLane

thinking-globally-youth-ministryAs a freshmen in high school I remember reading newspaper clip about the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was pinned on the bulletin board of my choir class. It was massive news with global impact but at fourteen I just wasn’t dialed into the news, much less things that were happening outside of my hometown. It took a teacher cutting the news out of her newspaper and pinning it to the wall where her students lined up for me to take notice of something as large as the fall of communism.

This year I have high school freshmen guys in my small group. (And my daughter is a high school freshmen, too) Each week we start our time together by asking, “What are you thinking about?” It’s quite normal that one of the guys will mention something going on globally.

I find that this is one of the many things that’s changed since most youth workers were in high school: Students have more access to news and are more engaged in things of global nature than at any other time in human history.

Consequently, if I want to engage the guys in my small group, I need to help them connect what they are already thinking about — often times global issues — to their walk with Jesus.

Why? Because their agenda and faith journey outweighs my agenda in their life. If all I’m doing is pushing Bible content each Wednesday night and then asking for prayer requests then I’ve failed them. But when I engage them on their level, with what they are thinking about, with the questions they already have like, “Where is God in the Syrian civil war?” than our small group is pulling them into connecting the faith of their childhood to the action of more adult-like faith in Jesus. They already know that an all-loving Jesus really cares about what’s going on in Syria and my small group guys need to see that they can help. What they need to see is that God’s people really care, too.

It’s not enough that my students have heard about a natural disaster or the refugee crisis impacting Northern Africa and Europe on Twitter. They are looking for ways that they can help because that’s what historical Christianity has always done.

As a youth worker, you’d be wise to continually look for resources that can help the teenagers in your life connect the stuff they care about and are thinking about to their faith in Christ. And THAT– that is just one of the many things I love about the 30 Hour Famine. That’s why it’s a “must-have” thing on your calendar.

Modeling Kindness over Being Right


By Tash McGill

kindnessWhen our need to be right overwhelms our ability to be kind, we lose our grip on Grace and find ourselves in the grasp of Pride.

Pride closes doors on conversation. We’ve all been there, right? Trying to have a discussion with someone who won’t even try to consider a different viewpoint from their own. There’s no room for understanding, no room for growth or change; there’s not even room to agree to disagree in a healthy way.

That’s because living from a position of pride is like living behind a stone wall without a door. When nothing can get through the wall, there’s no chance to build mutual respect or understanding. Pride destroys intimacy, relationships, and our ability to live in peace and respect with one another. You can’t live in community if you can’t get out from behind the wall or through it to engage with other people.

If you need to be right, really need to be the right one in your relationships. It’s a sign that deep down, you don’t respect the other person.

Arguing which perspective is true and who is on which side of each debate, prevents us really loving others as ourselves.

In youth ministry, this has an impact on our relationships with our churches, with parents, with ministry peers, and even with students. And maybe most importantly, we either choose to model Pride or Grace and Kindness as they observe how we interact with others in times of disagreement. That modelling teaches more than your official lessons on pride and kindness will ever teach.

Hope for our communities and reconciliation in times of tension and disagreement lies in learning how to live with each other. Why is it so hard? Because we often mistake what we believe to be right for being what is ‘good’. And we have a tendency to oversimplify what is good for us as being good for everyone.

If you catch yourself using phrases like ‘well, the right thing to do would be..’, pause and check yourself. Right for whom? Are you being kind where you can? There are lots of things that contribute to that stone wall we like to hide behind—insecurity, unmet expectation, hurt feelings, fear. Truth will unveil all of them eventually. So you might as well play your part now.

Truth is rarely as simple as right vs. wrong or good vs. bad. That’s why Pride is so dangerous—it stops compassion and empathy in its tracks: makes it hard to be human.

So practice being kind instead of right. In every discussion or argument consider whether or not you actually need to win. Must every ‘I told you so’ leave your lips?

Go be kind today, even when it kills you. And choose to model kindness and grace for the teenagers who are watching you.

Never Under-Qualified


By Tess Cassidy

never-under-qualifiedAs I sat down to write this, I thought of all the ways I was under-qualified for this task: I don’t work for World Vision; I’m in college and my major is nothing close to English or rhetoric; I haven’t done the 30 Hour Famine in a year or two; and I don’t work with teenagers. Yeah, that seems like a legitimate list. So why am I doing this?

I remember thinking about a similar long convincing list trying to reason with myself when I was twelve and “under-qualified” to fight world hunger. I’m only twelve—that’s too young to make an impact. I don’t have much money to give. I’m not tough enough to last 30 hours without food. I created more and more reasons and excuses to get out of it and convince myself I wasn’t worthy. I wanted to give in to the idea I was extremely under-qualified to take on world hunger.

Despite my reasoning and internal resistance, I started on an unexpected journey of a lifetime with World Vision.

Facing the beast of world hunger, I could easily compare my twelve-year-old self to the Bible story of David and Goliath. Just like David, I was in over my head by most people’s standards. I didn’t have a sword to fight—just a few pebbles. My pebbles were passion, guts, and hope. I didn’t bring much in my eyes, but it was enough. God equips the called.

Looking at the statistics, it’s a big intimidating task to try and solve world hunger. At 12 years old, it seemed impossible. But at 14 years old, I saw the number of lives lost due to hunger get updated–

and staggeringly drop. Then, as the Famine continues onward year after year, the numbers continued to change. We were participating in making actual change in the world!

Even better news: the 30 Hour Famine and world hunger relief have gained more momentum than ever before. This is, in fact, because “under-qualified” people are picking up their pebbles and taking a stand. They are rising to the challenge with their game face on, unrattled by the magnitude of the problem. They have nothing to lose—and only the world to give to others.

Now, it’s not always easy to pick up pebbles and participate in saving the world. Sometimes you might need to help the “under-qualified” find their pebbles. What do they need? Empowerment? Trust? Encouragement? Praise? Whatever it may be, help others search the stream for their pebbles. Make sure you know—and others know—there is never such thing as under-qualified in God’s kingdom.

30 Hour Famine History: It’s always been about transforming lives


IMG_2429They say you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been and as we look forward to closing out 2015 and looking forward to 2016, which will be our 25th anniversary, it’s got us a little nostalgic.

We’ve been thinking back on our history in preparation for rolling out new resources with your 2016 Famine kit. We’ve changed a lot over the years (and so have you, we’d imagine!), but we find one consistent thread over the years: transformation. Transformation of students, of leaders, of children around the world spiritually and physically—all to the glory of God.

Look back with us on some pivotal moments through our story (and maybe yours!)…

Just a couple kids in Canada:
World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine has been fighting the pangs of hunger across the globe since the early 70’s. The first Famine event took place in Alberta, Canada when a group of students refused to sit back and do nothing while 36,000 hunger-related deaths happened daily. In 1971, these students created a local event, encouraging others to fast for 30 hours to raise money and awareness about global hunger. After that initial event, their infectious passion caught the attention of students and leaders around the world who wanted to learn more about global hunger and their potential role in changing it.

The first U.S. Famine:
In 1992, through the success and inspiration of Famine efforts in Canada, students in the U.S. caught the Famine fever. “Make it Happen” was the 1st ever U.S. 30 Hour Famine theme, calling students across the nation to learn about the reality of hunger, make a tangible sacrifice for the hungry, and raise funds in hope to banish hunger to the history books.

The ‘Famine Effect’:
Thousands of teens across the U.S. recognized the power of this call and moved into action. Within that first year, $240,000 was raised. But we didn’t stop there! As 30 Hour Famine funds increased each year, we were able to contribute those funds toward food programs and saw the number of hunger-caused deaths decline! The power of these students making their mark in the world was, and is still, astounding.

Where we’re headed:
For 2016, we’re including new resources in your 30 Hour Famine kit that will support you in going deeper with your students on global issues and grounding your time in scripture. (We’re also adding a truly epic game that you won’t want to miss out on…but more on that another day.)

When we think of our history, we think of the way that students have been living out 1 Timothy 4:12. “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

Students have been an example in the global hunger crisis. They have led the way for their churches to care for the poor in ways that Jesus calls us to. They have been examples in their lives and in their love—truly living out that exhortation.

The last 25 years of 30 Hour Famine have been incredible and we have high hopes for what we can do in the next 25…unless, of course hunger is a thing of the past by then! Help us make that happen!

Attend The Summit Without Leaving Home



The 30 Hour Famine team and The Youth Cartel (an organization that provides a variety of resources for youth workers) partner on a whole bunch of stuff. We particularly love the Cartel’s TED-like event called The Summit (November 6/7, in Nashville), and have been partners on the event since its inception four years ago. But we also realize that plenty of Famine leaders aren’t able to make the trek to Nashville for this event. So we’re really pleased to let you know about a new, last-minute option for this year’s Summit. We’ll let Marko and Adam tell you about it:


We know we’re biased, but we keep looking at the way this year’s Summit has shaped up and commenting to ourselves that we’ve never seen a youth ministry event this focused, this strong, this compelling and needed. We’ll be looking at three ‘elephants in the room’ of youth ministry: Immaturity, Evangelism, and Pastoring LGBT Teenagers. Each session has a unique flow, with a fascinating assortment of presenters, video segments, and curating from knowledgeable expert.

But we keep hearing from people that they really want to attend, but—for a variety of reasons—aren’t able to make the trip. So we’ve decided to offer something new this year: live streaming. That’s right: for $99, you’ll get access to a live video feed from the event. And as a bonus, you’ll get most of the sessions as a download you can watch anytime (there are a couple presentations that will only be available via live-stream).

Check out the overview for The Summit here. Or the line-up of this year’s presenters here.

Click here to register (it’s not too late! In fact, regular and group registration rates end Halloween night!)

Or click here to purchase the live stream and download package.

Relief Work: An Inside Look


By 30 Hour Famine Team

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 8.51.29 AMWhen you hear the term “disaster relief,” what image comes to mind?  Do you see some cavalier Indiana Jones figure swinging from vine to vine passing out life-saving goods and dramatically rescuing children from the clutches of death?

It’s easy to romanticize relief work until the task resembles an adventure movie, but the reality is much different. The men and women who respond to disasters and other humanitarian emergencies engage in long, hard, tedious, and sometimes thankless work. Not every relief job involves swooping in to rescue a child on the verge of death. Hours of preparation, planning, and organization combine to make it possible to provide life-saving care and support to people who are enduring a disaster. Relief workers are there long after dramatic media coverage fades. And when the public forgets the cries for help, relief workers are still there responding to them.

Through these days, weeks, and months of hard work, World Vision staff are always reminded of the need to derive their strength from the Lord—there’s simply no other way to do a job as hard and heart-breaking as this.

“Disaster relief is meant to relieve the pain and suffering of someone who has suffered a disaster, natural or man made,” said World Vision’s Audrey Black. “It means to provide assistance and necessities to bring some type of normalcy to their life.”

Any responsibility that aids the survivors of disasters or humanitarian emergencies like civil conflicts falls into the category of relief work.  Some workers on the scene pull men, women, and children from the rubble. Some patch wounds. Others provide food and clean water.  Most do all of the above.

Yet many others work behind the scenes to make all this work on the ground possible. Doctors and nurses are incredibly valuable in relief work, as you’d expect…but so are drivers and shipping coordinators. Have you ever thought about how your donations of product actually get into a disaster zone?

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 8.51.38 AMSometimes goods is driven, sometimes shipped, sometimes flown in. And they arrive in palates, in truckloads, and truly massive shipments. Then there’s someone who delivers it and there’s someone who opens up the palates and organizes the boxes. That’s relief work too. It’s more than just the person on the frontlines; it’s the body—more than just the sum of parts, because when the body works together, Christ is there.

Here’s why this is great news: in places that seem like hope is gone, Christ is there. In places that have been destroyed by nature or by man, Christ is there. When the media goes away, Christ is still there through the body.

Pray that the body of Christ would be strong in places like Lebanon and South Sudan, in Nepal as they continue to rebuild after the earthquake earlier this year, and in Mexico where Hurricane Patricia is expected to hit. Pray that lives would be saved and that staff would shine the light of Christ into darkness.