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The Famine Blog

Feeding a Legacy: starting a passion for the Famine early


By Sean Garner

big old tree in autumn timeSo, you launched your ministry (college, youth or otherwise) as fall approached and you’re already creating a culture that will show its fruit by the time Spring arrives, good, bad, or otherwise.

Your indivdual teachings (as awesome as they are) and amazing announcements (so interesting, we bet…) get lost in the busy-ness of life. If you work with middle schoolers, they get lost within an hour.

You know the reality: every mistake you make in front of students gets repeated somehow–even if it’s even in whispers. And, successes (whether planned or not) create momentum and positivity. These little moments shape the tone of your ministry year, spilling over each other into the feel and tone of your group’s culture.

At our fall launch, we were greeting a new student who was entering our program for the first time, following in his older sister’s footsteps. When we asked if he was excited for a new school, a new bus, new classes, he interrupted us by yelling, “Yeah! And I get to do the Famine this year too!”

That’s the completely unexpected result God can bring when part of your ministry’s DNA includes the 30 Hour Famine. We weren’t manufacturing it–but since we lived it, he believed it and was excited about it. Using the Famine as part of your illustrations, parables and stories weaves it into the story of your ministry’s culture. It becomes a part of your group identity.

What simple ways can you include the 30 Hour Famine, not just as an event, but as part of your group’s culture? How can you use both your success and failures from last year’s Famine as stories to inspire and entertain the next year’s participants before they even commit to attending? Is there a way to partner their exploration and meaning of faith into action for the millions in need around the world?

This year’s theme is “Make It Your Fight.”  Can that be weaved into your stories, announcements and conversations BEFORE students even think about joining you?

Start now. In your first few weeks of the fall, become a group that lives and breathes the Famine–in a way that the next generation of teenagers can’t wait to participate in it with you!

Meeting Felicia


By Beth Hofmann, 2014 30 Hour Famine Study Tour participant

hoffmanWhat we saw and did in El Salvador, on the 30 Hour Famine Study Tour, changed the way I think about myself, my life, and the world around me.

The experience that impacted me the most was when we met Felicia. Felicia is a sponsored child through World Vision. We got the chance to go to her home, learn about her life, and how World Vision sponsors are making a difference in her life. Felicia started off talking about her family and what she does in her free time. I didn’t expect to have much in common with her at first. We’re from different countries, speak a different language, and live 2000 miles apart. While talking with Felicia, we learned that she is 16 years old with an older brother and younger sister. She attends school and her favorite subject is math. She likes to play softball, her favorite food is spaghetti, and she wants to be a nurse when she grows up.

While we sat and listened to Felicia tell her story, I couldn’t help but smile when I heard that we did have things in common: our older brothers and love for Italian food. As she went on to talk about her daily life, my smile faded and my heart began to ache. Felicia explained how she walks two hours every other day to fetch clean water.  We learned that her father is a corn farmer who struggles to provide income for his family. She said there isn’t enough food for everyone some nights.

When I heard about her everyday challenges, it became clear why we do the 30 Hour Famine. We fast and fundraise for children and teenagers like Felicia. You and I have big dreams and bright future plans. Felicia and her family worry about where their next meal is coming from. It takes them hours to get water. We just turn on our faucet.

Being welcomed into Felicia’s home, and getting the opportunity to hear her story, made me realize that I’ve taken things for granted. I’ve never questioned if there will be a roof over my head, clean water to drink, and food on the table. Felicia, and many of the people we met while in El Salvador, think about survival. I’ve never had to worry about my survival. I’ve never questioned tomorrow.

During our debrief sessions we were all asked to share with the group about an experience, a story, scripture, testimony, anything that was on our mind. I shared James 4:13-15. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,’yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”

No matter what our circumstances are in life, some things we can’t control. Just like the passage suggests, tomorrow is not a guarantee.  Every day we have is a blessing and a gift, and it was a true blessing to have heard everyone’s stories in El Salvador.



By Brian Mateer

Choices - 30 Hour FamineThe alarm woke me this morning and I was confronted by the decision to either get out of bed or hit the snooze button one more time.  My wife starts her work day before I begin, so I have the responsibility of finishing breakfast and getting our four kids out the door to school on time.  If there aren’t setbacks, I know the exact time I need to leave the house with the kids in order to have everyone, including myself, where they need to be on time.  Five minutes can make or break our morning and can set the tone for the day.

Of course I opted to hit the snooze button and get the all-important five extra minutes of sleep.   And of course, we were late this morning.  It was the first of many choices I would have to make today.

What should I wear today?

Should I eat breakfast?  If, so what should I have?

What kind of coffee should I drink?

Which route should I take to work in order to avoid the most traffic?

Every day I have many choices and decisions to make, mostly small ones; but sometimes I’m faced with the opportunity to make big, life changing choices.

I was recently given a book by a senior pastor called, He Walks Among Us:  Encounters with Christ in a Broken World, written by Richard and Renee Stearns.   Rich is the president of World Vision and Renee is his wife.  The pastor knew I had partnered with World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine for many years.  The book is written about real people the Stearns’s have encountered during their travels around the globe.  I have used this book as a part of my morning devotions over the last year.

One of the quotes from Renee Stearns, from a trip to Romania, has echoed in my mind since reading it:

When I consider all of the things I have to be thankful for, I rarely consider the luxury of having choices.

Many people around the world don’t have the luxury of choice.  Sometimes when they do have a choice, it’s an almost impossible one, such as the young mother I met in Honduras in July who gave her child to an orphanage because she was unable to feed and care for her.  Every Sunday when this young mother is not working she travels six hours round trip to spend time with her daughter.

Participating in and raising funds for the 30 Hour Famine provides someone with the opportunity of a choice.  Choice is a luxury.

Make the choice today to sign up your group! And consider your other choices today, thanking God that they exist!

My Experience on the 30 Hour Famine Study Tour


By Haley Stanley, high school student

haley stanleyIt is a country about the size of Massachusetts with roughly 6.3 million people. Beautiful mountains, active volcanoes, and lightning storms every night like clockwork, the country is absolutely stunning. The people are surrounded with gang violence and extreme poverty everywhere you turn, but among all of these tragic events, they have hope. For all these reasons, and many more, I have fallen in love with the country of El Salvador.

August 2, 2014—just a month ago—was the date everyone on the Study Tour team had been waiting for. Armed with a week’s worth of clothes and an open mind we were off to a whole new world. It wasn’t until the next day that we actually got to experience the country and culture firsthand.

Driving on the roads we saw barbed wire on almost every building to protect homes from gangs. This opened my eyes to the violence that happens on a daily basis.

Another common sight was seeing small houses made out of tin and other scrap. We saw a shopping mall almost identical to the ones you see in the United States; and right across the road was a community of houses made of tin scraps. I was so surprised by the contrast. I caught myself thinking about how challenging some of these lives must be compared to mine. But it wasn’t until we visited a World Vision sponsored child that I realized how easy my life is compared to others.

The sponsored child’s name was Patricia, and she was beautiful on the inside and out. We followed her up a rocky, narrow path to her house. On the way, I looked left and right and saw house after house right on top of each other, all made of any material that could be found. It broke my heart into pieces. We got to the top and there sat her family, full of smiles. We met her little brother, littler sister and her mom and learned that her dad was at work. He works as a corn famer but doesn’t sell the corn; it is solely used for food for their family. He also finds odd jobs now and again that pay five dollars a day! I thought back to what five dollars could buy them; it certainly didn’t seem like enough to provide for the whole family. Patricia began to tell us about her daily life and some of her struggles. She doesn’t have running water in her home so her and her family have to walk two hours to get their water every other day.

She showed us the pictures of her sponsor family and the letters they sent her. She begin to tell us about all the gifts she received from them that included a bed, enough money to buy a cow, and small gifts like hair bows, playing cards and pencils. The smile on her face was priceless when she was showing us her sponsor family. She told us that when she receives letters or gifts from her sponsor family it makes her feel so loved. After visiting her cows—which her family use for milk and income for the family—we were off to our next destination; but my thoughts were still with Patricia. At first, I felt so angry with myself, wondering why she has to live this way while I live in a 2-story house with five working sinks.  My life seemed too luxurious compared to Patricia’s everyday struggles.

How did she make it through the day?


She had hope.

Even though her life was hard and her family did struggle to put food on the table, she didn’t let that get in the way of bigger picture. With the support of God and World Vision Sponsor Program she was free to dream big! She has an optimistic future of becoming a nurse and I truly believe that she will achieve that one day.

I look back on my trip and think of the many people I met. They could very easily have a ‘’woe as me’’ attitude about their lives. But instead, they lift their heads up high and say yes. Gang violence and poverty are problems, for sure; but with every problem comes a solution.  I am going to strive to have this type of optimism in my daily live and continue to support World Vision every chance I get. This trip has been life changing and I am so blessed to have gone.

Planning Ahead


by Shawn Kiger

Planning AheadIf you are like me, the end of summer is bittersweet. I enjoy the summer mission trips and the break from the school year routine. But I also look forward to school starting back, getting to meet new students, and returning to the routine of weekly youth group.

One of the end of summer tasks that I have found to be helpful is planning out the coming school year, and starting to think about the following summer. I’ve really had to force myself to do this, because my tendency is to procrastinate and plan weekly. I used to tell myself that planning last minute was better because I could respond to things happening in the students’ lives more effectively than when I was locked in to a plan. Several things have changed my mind.

My volunteers are much happier when I can lay out the plan for them. They feel more comfortable knowing when the trips are, where we’re going, and a general idea of what we will be doing weekly. Quite frankly, it also makes me look good in front of them too!

Having a yearlong plan also helps me look at the church calendar and talk with the pastor about how we can incorporate youth into the larger life of the church. Programs like 30 Hour Famine are much more successful when they fit into the plans of the entire church.

Finally, this way of planning is very helpful for parents. They can add trips and events to their calendars and begin planning for the cost. Their teenagers are super busy, and if they want to include the youth ministry in their lives, then they have to be able to plan ahead.

My yearlong planning doesn’t mean that I don’t make changes throughout the year. Things come up that will force or call for a change of plans. I could be trying something and figure out that it doesn’t work; so I stay flexible enough to make adjustments.

But having a clear direction at the beginning of the school year gives me a much better shot at having a successful year. Plus, it never hurts to look like you have it all together in front of parents, volunteers, and your pastor!

The World Changers Among Us


By Nikki Myers, 30 Hour Famine team

study tour students and patriciaAs we sat around a table for our first nights’ debrief in the lobby of a tiny Comfort Inn in San Miguel, El Salvador the tears started to come. It wasn’t the students… it was the four adults of the trip (our two trip leaders and our two in-country hosts).  I think I can speak on behalf of everyone in saying they were tears of joy and of hope. We were honored, encouraged and blown away by the depth of the students, by how much they have experienced, what they can handle, and the eyes with which they see the world.

The high school student on our 30 Hour Famine Study Tour had eyes that saw hope and joy when getting to play with young kids who they couldn’t communicate with verbally but bonded over bubbles, soccer balls and laughter. They had hearts that experienced righteous anger when meeting a 16 year-old girl who spends 2 hours walking to get water and who often doesn’t have enough to eat.  Their thoughts about security and comfort were challenged after walking the long, unpaved, hilly path many young kids have to take to school.

As we talked and shared (and the adults choked back tears) about where we saw God that day and what challenged our current perspectives, I was reminded yet again of the hope that I have in this generation: a generation that often gets a bad rap with their weird fashion styles, ability to speak only in text language. They are often labeled egocentric. But these students were anything but. They were compassionate, full of grace, strong and spiritually grounded. They saw the world and wanted to bring biblical justice and hope to it. They are world changers.

Each of these students has had people like you invest in them: people that have shown them the gospel, both in teaching and through action. Men and women who have challenged them to love others and to love themselves, and you guys, it’s working.  These seven students are just a small representation of the hundreds of thousands of world changers that walk among us in the form of 14, 15, 16 year-old students. They are doing big things, they want to do big things; and it’s people like you who help guide them.

I often hear from Famine leaders about the transformation that takes place in their students during the 30 hours of their Famine experience. There is something so powerful about the physical act of giving something up for others…and the impact goes far beyond those hours alone. It is creating young men and women who see the world through the eyes of Jesus.

What I experienced during our trip to El Salvador was something really special and I can’t wait to see what these students will be doing in 5, 10, 15 years. It was such a reminder to me about the impact you all as youth leaders have on the lives of students. Thank you for what you do and please know as organization we want to support you how we can!

The 2015 30 Hour Famine theme is . . .


Make it your fight_2

David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword . . .

—1 Samuel 17:50


You have a choice.

You always have a choice.

When something happens,

you can sit out, or stand up.


The world can stay the same,

or you can help shape it.


When injustice hits, when more than 800 million are hungry,

you can hope someone else handles it,

or you can answer God’s call and make it your fight.


In the Bible story of David and Goliath,

David was the youngest.


“Not good enough.”

Made fun of.

Yet he chose to stand up—

chose to make Goliath his fight.


And he won . . . because the battle was God’s.


You have a choice too. 

To do the 30 Hour Famine

and stand up for hungry children.

To represent the hungry by going hungry.

To fight for the justice God loves.


The battle has always been His,

He’s just waiting for us to volunteer.

He wants to use us.

And you know what?

We. Can. Do. This.


Do World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine, and make hunger your fight.


Leaders: Sign up now for the 2015 30 Hour Famine and help change the lives of millions of kids around the world – including your students’.

Students: Share this post with your leader to get them on board for this year!

Keep this anthem with you as you begin your group’s Famine journey. Tailor it to fit your style. Decorate the Internet with your theme-inspired ideas. Talk about it with the hashtags #30hf and #makeityourfight. Set a goal that feels bigger than you could ever reach. Make your 2015 Famine event your best one yet. 

And remember . . .


We’re here for you with prayer, ideas, and materials.

Thousands of other Famine groups are standing with you in solidarity.

And every kid we help makes it all worth it.

The battle is the Lord’s.

It always has been.


—The 30 Hour Famine team

Make it your fight_3

Putting it All Together for the Kingdom


Adam McLane

for-the-kingdomEarlier this month I had the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic to check out the work of the International Justice Mission.

The human trafficking trade illegally provides workers for the legal sex trade in resort areas. It’s a big problem in the DR so it was encouraging to discover that the government is welcoming the help of NGOs like IJM.

In my time there I got a glimpse of how IJM’s work will help address the issue from the perspective of legal intervention, restoration of the victims, and prosecution of the offenders. Their work will rescue girls and women, put their captors in prison, and help them re-establish a new life.

But as I learned more I couldn’t help but think about the perspective of prevention. Yes, one part of that is certainly dissuading traffickers with aggressive legal action. But what more can be done to help Dominicans be less vulnerable to human trafficking in the first place?

That’s when I remembered something awesome. Here in the States we think of organizations like IJM and World Vision as separate, almost like two books on the same shelf. We know IJM does their thing while World Vision does theirs. But out on the field, in countries like the Dominican Republic, IJM and World Vision can and often times do work complimentary for the same goals.

What makes a person vulnerable to trafficking? Poverty. Lack of secure housing. Lack of food security. Lack of education. These are issues that World Vision works on every day.

So, if you are like me and care about ending human trafficking, you need to know that when when you participate in the 30 Hour Famine or Childhood Lost you are helping to raise funds to address issues effecting the exact same people IJM is serving.

It’s pretty cool if you think about it. For me, it’s a great reminder that we’re not serving the little kingdoms of individual organizations, we’re serving the Kingdom of God.

Why You Should Consider Selling Out


Tash McGill

iStock_000029427424SmallI was talking with a recent design graduate the other day. They were talking about how they were never going to ‘sell out’ by working for a big corporate agency. Their philosophy was pretty simple – as far as they were concerned, working for a big agency would mean working on big client accounts that would always be driven by money, not by the integrity of the art.

Here’s why the graduate is wrong and you should consider encouraging more people to ‘sell out’. Put simply, the bigger your goal, the more crucial it is to have the best people working on your project or team. Big is often better, influence is important and usually, places with bigger budgets have the luxury of investing in better work. People who work in these places have a lot of influence to make change.

It’s easy to be trapped into thinking that to fulfil our dreams and live up to our ideals – we have to stay independent and ‘not of the world’. I say, no! Don’t let your idea of Idealism prevent you from seizing opportunities that may be bigger than they seem. Ponder this question for a moment: In what ways could our 30 Hour Famine—or my dreams for the teenagers in my community—get supercharged and supersized for greater impact?

Maybe it’s our ideals that should take centre stage, in the places where they can have the most influence and opportunity to affect change. I think every design graduate should hanker after an opportunity to work in any big agency they can. 

They’ll be surrounded by people who are very good at what they do, with clients that want to do extraordinary work and who have the budget to pay for it too. 

Sometimes we don’t want to ‘sell out’, because our egos get in the way. We don’t want to take the clichéd path, follow the crowd or be seen as somehow corrupted by the big world. We want to be unique or at least that’s what we say, when often what we mean is that we don’t want to lose our independence.

But it’s as important to be in the world and with the world as it is not to be of the world. We can separate ourselves from the world (people!) too quickly and lose valuable opportunities to be influential and do meaningful work that creating sweeping change.

There’s a bank in my part of the world that shuts down for an entire day once a year. It’s a campaign called ‘Closed for Good’, where every one of over 4500 staff members is given the day to serve their community in whichever way they choose. Pretty awesome, right? What a great way to change the world from the inside of a big corporate bank. Well done, to whoever that sell-out was. What an achievement.

So aspire. Be as good as you can in the place where you can have the most influence. Don’t be afraid to sell out and reap the rewards – you’re probably trustworthy to do good things with them. Dream BIG!

Sticky Faith through the 30 Hour Famine


Jen Bradbury

sticky-faith-logoI’ve done the 30 Hour Famine – an event where students fast for 30 hours in order to “taste” hunger and raise money and awareness to fight world hunger – ten times as a youth worker. Traditionally, it’s been one of my favorite events but I’ve gotta tell you, this year, I just didn’t want to do it.

My schedule over the last two months has been frantic – a series of major ministry events one right after the other. In between them, in addition to regular ministry maintenance, I’ve been hard at work on research for the culmination project in my master’s degree. All of this has resulted in exhaustion.

To make matters worse, a smaller number of students signed up for this event than has been typical in the past and most were unable to stay for the entire event due to conflicts with other activities. Even though I don’t want to compete with school events or make my students feel guilty for attending something other than youth group, I’ll admit my frustration over this got the better of me last week. It’s awfully hard to plan a program for a constantly rotating cast of characters.

Nonetheless, I buckled down and planned the best event possible for my students and leaders, hoping that through it, students would encounter God in powerful ways.

And they did. Students encountered God during the discussions we had about the theme, team-building, prayer for our congregation and one another, photographing what hunger looks like, and serving at a homeless shelter downtown Chicago. They saw God work through the nearly $1000 they raised to fight world hunger.

No doubt about it, this weekend, God moved.

And even though I saw God move consistently throughout the Famine, for me, the most holy moment of all came at the tail end of the Famine, just before we broke our fast.

For the last several years, my ministry has ended the Famine with a Break the Fast Celebration. The catch is, this celebration doesn’t just involve those students and adult leaders who participated in the Famine. It also involves a wider representation of our entire congregation.

Prior to the 30 Hour Famine, we extend an invitation to my congregation to join us for our Break the Fast Celebration in order to see what God did and through the Famine. In particular, we target two groups: Families of Famine participants and fasting buddies.

Fasting buddies are people who fast with us during the Famine but who do not participate in the Famine retreat. As they fast from something (not necessarily food), buddies commit to praying for one specific student or adult leader. Before the Famine, we send buddies specific information about the Famine Retreat and the person they’ve been partnered with in order to help shape and focus their prayers. Buddies also write the student they’ve been paired up with a letter of encouragement, which students open just before they go to sleep on Friday night. Through this, fasting buddies provide a powerful connection point for students and our larger church family, the type of intergenerational connection that Kara Powell and her team found important in the development of sticky faith.

Most of the fasting buddies then attend our Break the Fast Celebration, during which we give them the opportunity to sit with the person they’ve been praying for and hear, first hand, about their experience. To help facilitate these conversations, we give buddies some questions they can ask their students like:

  1. What’s one word or phrase you’d use to describe this weekend? Why? 
  2. What surprised you about the Famine? Why? 
  3. When were you most overwhelmed during the Famine? How did you respond to that feeling? 
  4. What was the hardest part of fasting for you? Why? 
  5. What’d you learn about hunger, homelessness, and God through this experience? 
  6. How did you see God at work this weekend?

As soon as buddies are given the opportunity to connect, they spread out around our sanctuary. In that moment, the sanctuary becomes alive, as conversations abound.

As I watched this scene unfold from my vantage point at the front of our sanctuary, this year, I could not help thinking, “This is my favorite moment of the Famine.”

In a year in which I wanted no part of this event, watching this eclectic group of fasting buddies – a group comprised largely of people who ordinarily have very little interaction with our teens – connect with and pour into our students was the moment that made everything worth it to me.

What’s more, I believe this is also a moment that will stick with our kids. Years from now when the exact details of this Famine have long-since faded from their memories, my hunch is that students will remember not only having tasted hunger during the Famine, but also having tasted genuine community in the form of a fasting buddy who cared for and invested in them in this small way.