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The Famine Blog

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.

Hey Summer… Where did you go?


By Emily Capes

iStock_000035600272SmallIt’s almost the end of a Thursday afternoon and I have called or sent out way more texts and emails then I care to count—to youth, parents and adults in my church—over the past five days. There have been multiple teenagers and adults in my office this week for different reasons. Our schools started at the end of last week, August 1st. Whew. And our youth ministry fall schedule kicks off on August 13th with a ridiculous amount of messy games! How is it Fall already?

I am tired.

It’s been a great summer. Lots of relationships have been strengthened and new ones built. We served locally and on a week-long mission trip in another state. We have played, prayed, learned and laughed a lot. After serving in some capacity of youth ministry for the past 20 years, I finally played laser tag, and LOVED it!

Now it’s a new school year. We need Sunday school teachers, Sunday and Wednesday small group leaders and chaperones, and most importantly, parents who will provide food for us every week. Who doesn’t love food! Our youth leadership team has decided to send 11th and 12th graders on an international mission trip this next spring break—so we have a lot of fundraising and preparation for that opportunity. Our second 30 Hour Famine is in February; so it’s time to start praying and building the leadership team for that soon. Shoot, I’m already planning for next summer!

I am tired.

It’s time for a break. For me.

It’s interesting that summertime for many youth ministries is busier then the rest of the year. Are you leading one of those youth ministries? Or have you been intentional to carve out some time to rest during your summer?

I have to ask. How are you?

How is your soul? How is your heart? How is your mind?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul

and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30

When do you take a break? How do you take a break?

We will always have new activities to plan, new lessons to write, phone calls to return: but they can wait. We are part of a bigger story with a Savior who invites us to stop and remember where we fit in that story.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

My prayer for all of us youth workers, volunteers and paid, is that we remember that we need to slow down. Stop and be still. We can only give out of what we receive. This will look different for each of us. What does it look like for you? Is there a pause on your calendar this late summer or early fall?


A “Famine” Community


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By Kali DiMarco

I became a youth minister by accident. Actually, it was God’s plan, but I knew nothing about it. When I think of the lovely “Footprints” poem, I can’t help but think about what the beach looked like around the time of my becoming someone who works with teens full time. I see Jesus’ feet and two long wiggling lines: me, being dragged.

This was around the year 2000 and my life was simple. I had a successful career as a graphic designer, a wonderful husband and three small children. And then, overnight, I was a full-time youth minister. Without a clue as to what a youth minister was. I stumbled through the first couple of years and then a couple of the teens asked me about something called a “30 Hour Famine.” None of this sounded good to me. The thought of 30 hours or the thought of no food for anyone involved. Finally, in 2004 they wore me down and we embarked in our first Famine.

We had 29 high school students and a handful of adults to help out. We had no clue (see the theme here?) what we were doing, but we jumped in fully. We made a “hunger chain” out of 29,000 cable ties which was almost ½ mile long. The kids raised $4,000 and we thought we were all that.

You can probably guess where this has led, but at that time, I could not. Last year our Famine consisted of more than 200 high school and middle school youth and they raised more than $48,000. Over the past 12 years, they have raised almost $260,000. It is mostly a blur, but it includes a popsicle stick cross, Hunger House, five of our students traveling to Africa with World Vision, two art shows, a little boy named Abel in Malawi, a water bottle arch, toilet paper fashion show, prayer wheels, a wall of canned food, a prayer service in silhouette, one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan speaking to us, pink hair, pies thrown in faces, toilets moving all over town and the kissing of a pig.

It all makes me smile and gives me much joy, but it is what happened to our small parish that holds the most meaning for me. During those 12 years we went from one very unsure youth minister doing something fun with a group of teens for two days, to a community that is committed to something much bigger than ourselves. From the youngest member of our parish to the oldest, we are a “Famine community.” The entire parish is involved and we have now included many other churches in our yearly 30 Hour Famine. Each and every person has a part in this endeavor, and we have committed ourselves to the plight of hunger in our own town and in our world. It is mind-boggling for me to realize what we have done and will continue to do, and how it has impacted our teens, our parish, our town, those we serve, and me. God is Good.

And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.  Job 8:7

My 30 Hour Famine Experience


Paige Rouse, 2014 Famine Study Tour Participant

Paige RouseIn March of 2014, I participated in the 30 Hour Famine with my youth group. Many months before the event, it was heavily talked about every Wednesday night at youth group. My best friend would lean over, nudge me, and tell me that we should participate. I looked at her like she was crazy. She knew that I have a heart for ministry and how I know there’s a calling from God on my life to serve His people, but this seemed like the most undesirable thing to do. Couldn’t I just raise money and send it to these starving people and it be just as effective?

Do you ever get a nudge from God?  The kind of nudge where you think you are making the right decision in a situation and he shows or tells you that your decision isn’t what he wants. Well, God spoke pretty clear to my heart in the moment when my youth group leaders showed videos about these children who had been hungry all of their lives. It broke my heart, and I began to cry right then and there at youth group. I was a mess, I had to let go of my pride and realize that once again, God was right. He showed me how much this kind of thing impacts me, and that I needed to do what I could to do my part in putting this epidemic to an end.

After that God started a fire in my heart. I had such a passion for raising awareness and money for this event and the reason I was participating. I went to youth group one Wednesday and they showed the video promoting the World Vision Study Tour. I have never been so motivated to raise money. With the desire to help people and maybe have the chance of meeting them made me so excited. My peers and friends began to notice a difference in how I carried myself. I was already beginning to feel the awesomeness of the presence of my Heavenly Father.

Then the day came, and it was time to fast. I was so nervous and excited all at the same time. Dinner time came rolling around and my stomach began to growl. We had a time where we all spread out and had a quiet time with God. I sat outside in the grass and just sat in silence feeling the wind and listening to God. And I knew he was telling me that this would change my life. All I needed to do was to open my heart and embrace this whole experience and all that he had to show me.

We played a bunch of games that symbolized what life was like for children in South America. They were extremely difficult but very eye opening. As a team we really bonded through these games. When the time came for us to build our cardboard tents, my team faced some difficulties with the layout and the tape not sticking. At first I could see we were starting to become irritated because the hunger was starting to really set in and the shelter just wasn’t coming together as we planned. So we decided to come together as a team and let ideas be shared and all got on the same page. From there on out, everyone on my team’s attitudes was amazing. They were all open to new ideas and had extreme patience. It was an incredible thing to be a part of.

Surprising, I slept amazing that night. But it was very different sleeping in a cardboard box when it is very cold outside and the wind is blowing pretty hard. The next morning we got up and played some more games before we headed out to do out service project. We did some yard work for an organization that helps children whose parents struggle with addiction. The children live in houses with host families and their parents live right across the street where they are getting help from their addictions. This is so that the children can grow up in a safe environment while also having a healthy relationship with their parents. It’s hard to have a positive attitude doing hard yard work while also very hungry. But getting to meet the kids and serve them was definitely what I needed to turn my attitude around. Everyone in the youth group had committed to serving with a great attitude. That was another amazing thing to get to experience and be a part of.

But my favorite part of the whole famine was that we broke our fast with communion. That was incredible. My heart had changed in just 30 hours. And I could hear a calling. I had to apply for the Study Tour, even if I didn’t make it. I could hear God speaking so loud that that was what he was calling me to do. I had to meet the people I had been learning about for 30 hours.

It’s funny how when God has a true calling on our lives, he won’t let it be forgotten. I put off filling out the application form until the week before it was due. It’s not that I didn’t want to I just didn’t think it was that big of a priority as time went on. But he spoke loud and clear again that this was what he wanted me to do.

A couple weeks later I was on a Skype call with a couple staff members of World Vision and they announced that I was a part of Team El Salvador! I was speechless and couldn’t stop shaking. I was so excited. I got off the call and my mom was waiting a couple feet away ready to hug me so tight. We both began to cry for joy. From there I had to tell everyone: My community, church, friends, and family were so thrilled!

I’m so excited for this trip. I have never been out of the county before. I am also super excited that my birthday will be on the trip (August 2nd). Best birthday ever, right?! I’ve been praying so hard that God would open my heart and mind to experience everything he has to show me on this trip.

God is so wonderful and never ceases to amaze me. I love him with all of my heart.  I know this trip is going to be life-changing.


Teaching Worldview


By Kara Isaacson-McLean

view a sunset from the desert30 Hour Famine can be life changing. It creates an experience most teenagers would not ordinarily have being citizens of the United States. We’re pretty blessed in the U.S., but we also tend to live in a bubble. It’s easy to remember the experience of Famine during the few weeks that follow; but as your life returns to normal, things settle down, it’s just as easy to forget and the urgency wanes.

You can’t beat yourself up over this: you’re human, and so are your teenagers. When we don’t live something day-to-day or month-to-month, how can we remember the needs of others and maintain an emotional connection? It isn’t easy, but it is possible.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Make it a point to keep up on your world poverty facts. Keeping the facts top of mind can help keep it real throughout the year.
  2. Teach about the facts every quarter to keep your teenagers’ pulse on what is really going on in the world. They love to hear these updates; youth want to be challenged (they can handle it) and desire to make a difference in the world. They believe they can!
  3. Sponsor a child. It is only $30/month; and every time you see that payment, you’ll remember the experience you had and why this is as important as it is.
  4. Do local missions. Take your group to a soup kitchen or something like that once a month (maybe start with once a quarter and build from there). When they are reminded of others’ needs, they are impacted. Keep hunger in front of them.

The only way we can help our teens stay out of the bubble we live in is to build systems into it that help us remember what really goes on in the world. It’s too easy to slip back into being focused on our to-do lists and privileged “needs.” The enemy tries to distract us with. But really, those things don’t matter (the little argument with your friend, your broken phone, your job that you don’t really like).  What matters is what we do every day or month that impacts another life for the Kingdom. And, giving someone life, through food and other basic needs, is the work of the Kingdom. After all, we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus!


Social Justice or Discipleship?


By Jake Kircher

Social Justice or Discipleship?Is your youth ministry more social justice focused? Or are you more discipleship focused?

The church down the street from me is definitely more focused on social justice. Their weekly youth meetings are built around local community service projects, or getting together to make meals to bring to the local food shelter. They do a huge mission trip every summer where they take over 100 students to another country to serve the poor and needy. However, when it comes to discipleship and Biblical teaching, they are what many would refer to as “Jesus lite.” And “Jesus lite” may actually be a generous description.

On the other side of town, there is a church that is more focused on discipleship. Their weekly meetings consist of an in-depth Bible study where students are supposed to memorize a key verse every week. Teens are also encouraged to meet one-on-one with another peer to pray together and hold one another accountable to basic Christian disciplines. For this church, there really isn’t much community engagement or service opportunities as they put more focus on studying apologetics and making sure students are solid theologically.

So, which one is more like your youth ministry approach?

Honestly, I hope you answered neither because both are a distortion of the Biblical understanding of both social justice and discipleship.

Consider what the International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia says about this idea under the listing for justice (emphasis mine):

The original Hebrew and Greek words are the same as those rendered “righteousness.” [aka discipleship) It must be constantly borne in mind that the two ideas are essentially the same.

When it comes to social justice and discipleship, it’s not an either/or conversation. In fact, if you had talked an ancient Jew about these two ideas as being distinct and individual actions, they would have looked at you like you had two heads. Doing one without the other waters them both down and distorts their value from a Biblical perspective. It’s crucial for faith development that we help our students see discipleship and social justice as a both/and conversation.

For the church that emphasizes discipleship and Biblical study, James 2:14-20 address this issue as he bluntly writes that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” It’s fantastic to be helping our students develop their theology and deepen their Biblical literacy. However, if you’re not at the same time teaching them to serve and get involved with God’s redemptive work on the earth, you’re merely creating academic scholars of scripture and theology, not disciples.

For the church that emphasizes social Jesus and leaves Jesus and a Biblical narrative out of the conversation, they would be wise to consider Jesus’ own words found in Matthew 7:22-23. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’” Once again, it’s fantastic to be helping the poor, feeding the hungry and rescuing the enslaved. However, if we leave Jesus and His Word out of it, our deeds can easily become vain and selfish as we work our way to being a “good” Christian, which is impossible to ever become.

So, where does your ministry place more of an emphasis, on discipling students or engaging in social justice? My hope is that your answer is equally both!

Meet Courtney, our Faminern!


famintern.courtney.1Q: Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Palo Alto, California, but spent a few years of my childhood in Denver, Colorado and St. Louis, Missouri! After high school I moved up to Seattle for the great weather (not really!) and to study at the University of Washington. This past spring I graduated with a degree in Political Science and a double minor in Human Rights and Law, Society, and Justice. In my free time I love to travel, hang out with my puppy, and make really great food!

Q: What do you miss most about California?

While I LOVE Seattle I do miss a few things about home. I miss my family the most, especially my younger brother, Wesley. I also miss In-N-Out Burger…if I was doing the Famine those cheeseburgers would be the hardest thing to give up! Also, it’s hard not to miss all that sunshine!

Q: What do you do on the 30 Hour Famine team?

During my internship at World Vision I have the opportunity to help manage our social media (retweet us!), as well as work on planning the Famine Study Tour. I have loved my time here so far, and can’t wait for the Study Tour students to arrive in Seattle!

Q: What brought you to World Vision?

World Vision was introduced to me through the church that I attended in California. While at the church I had great experiences with World Vision programs and their staff. My initial experiences with the organization helped me to feel empowered to change the circumstances of people in poverty. Since that time I have been involved with great nonprofit organizations, but World Vision’s holistic approach to poverty reduction led me to come intern for the summer!

Q: What is something strange about you?

Ok, this is kind of bizarre. My second toe (the one next to my big toe) is super small. For most people that toe is pretty long, but for me that toe is smaller than my baby toe!

Q: What does the future hold for you?

I am not totally sure what the future holds for me yet, but I am hopeful that eventually I will work for a great nonprofit like World Vision. In 2006 I traveled to Ethiopia and the experience completely changed my life. I met and fell in love with a young girl named Hayat. Since that time we have kept in contact, and in 2013 I was able to go back and visit her. I hope to go back to Ethiopia again eventually, but in the mean time I keep a picture of Hayat in my office at World Vision!

Q: You, in a nutshell….ready, go!

I love to travel! I received the opportunity to study abroad in India for a month during college, and then a year later I was able to study in Italy. I ate gelato at least twice a day in Italy which was incredible. I adopted a puppy named Colby in November, and I adore him. He will occasionally eat things he isn’t supposed to (like my Rainbow sandals yesterday), but he sure is cute! I am incredibly excited to be interning at World Vision, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

When the Game Stands Tall devo


There’s a pretty cool movie coming out on August 22. It’s called When the Game Stands Tall. It tells the true-life story of a California high school football team

Here’s the official description:

Inspired by a true story, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL brings to life the incredible winning streak of the De La Salle High School football team: 151 straight victories over 12 years. All along the way, as Coach Bob Ladouceur builds his seemingly invincible national powerhouse, he has emphasized purpose and significance rather than streaks and titles. But when real-life adversity leaves the team reeling, the Spartans must decide if the sacrifice, commitment, and teamwork they have always trusted in can rebuild what is now disintegrating around them.

posterThe film is filled with all sorts of great fodder for discussion with teenagers, not only because so many of the characters are teenagers, but because they’re wrestling with deep issues of faith. So we were pretty stoked when the people connected with the film contacted us with the idea of being a part of a student devotional based on themes from the film. This 7-day devotional, called STAND TALL, encourages teenagers to think about what it would mean for them to “take a stand” in various aspects of their life–not to become rigid and defensive, but to actively engage the world with faith in action. And since 30 Hour Famine is very much about taking a stand against hunger and putting action to our faith, we thought the connection was really wonderful and natural.

We partnered with our friends at The Youth Cartel, who developed the 7-day student devotional with us. And here’s the icing on the cake (or, the last second winning field goal, so to speak): the STAND TALL devotional is FREE. Yup: you can download it and check out here. It’s the one called STAND TALL STUDENT ACTION KIT. There are scenes from the movie that are referenced in the devotional also; but they’re all waiting for you here. Then consider getting it in the hands of your teenagers.