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The Famine Blog

Introducing Famine For One!



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

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

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

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

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


Rest, Rejuvenation, and Recalibration


by Mark Oestreicher

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aftermath of the 30 Hour Famine National Date


Kara Isaacson-McLean

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

Whew! What a weekend!

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

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

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

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

Get excited. The BEST is YET to COME!

National Date Resources!


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

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

Homepage Takeover

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

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

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

Famine for One

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

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

New 30 Hour Famine Videos

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

The three new videos are:

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

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

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

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

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

The Proverbial Cup Of Sugar


Matt Joldersma

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Journalist’s Perspective


student conference meeting notebooks and writing

Rocky Supinger

I’m struggling like crazy to get a reporter to come to my church’s overnight homelessness awareness youth retreat at the end of this month. She wrote a story in January about a homeless encampment that a city government was ordering evacuated. With a court order. The article was detailed, nuanced, and direct. It’s exactly the kind of discourse I want my students to grapple with.

I emailed her last week, but she hasn’t responded yet. Fingers crossed.

It seems to me that our 30 Hour Famines, our mission trips–our service projects of all kinds– could benefit from the sensitivities of journalists. A newspaper reporter is bound to describe what she sees without drama, and yet she’s not immune from the dramatic effects of the thing she’s reporting on. I think that posture helps our Christian witness to things like hunger and homelessness.

The journalist is not an advocate. He doesn’t know the truth of the story before he writes it. He listens and asks questions. He wants to hear from people on the other side, so he can write a story that contains all the angles.

The journalist isn’t a statistician, either. Or a pollster. She isn’t reporting facts and figures to publish as a testament to impartial reality. She seeks interpretations of the numbers. She wants the story she prints to be a human one, with human faces on numbers that refer to humans.

In terms of hunger and homelessness, a journalist will tell us what’s really going on. In my own community it’s this:

Upland received a court order on Jan. 9, allowing city officials to give a 72-hour notice to remove the [homeless] group and their belongings from the private property in the 2100 block of 11th Street. City officials said the camp has grown to more than 100 people. 

She quotes some of those people:  “It’s like they are trying to make it illegal for us to be homeless, they want us out of the streets.”

She provides perspective: “Complaints from the public ranged from loitering to illegal bonfires.”

Understanding the complexity of hunger on a global scale (just like the complexity of homelessness in my own backyard) equips us to address it systematically. That means relying on objective description as much as the gut wrenching video with the moving music. It means allowing the people we wish to help their own voice.

My favorite current specimen of this kind of explanation is Soul Pancake’s “Stories from The Street” series on YouTube. There’s production value to these short films (including the moving music), but the human value comes through loud and clear.

Here’s hoping the reporter calls me back. If not, I’ll share her story and do my best to teach and accompany my students with an eye toward compassionate and complex understanding.

30 Hour Famine: The Next Generation


Ross Carper, First Presbyterian Church Spokane

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 1.38.03 PMI will never forget it, and neither will he. I was an intern in the high school ministry at our church; he was a know-it-all sophomore, getting ready to go on our summer mission trip to a small coastal town. The day came for the trip’s first prep meeting.

Being the stereotypical low-income intern, I was living in a parking lot for a few days, making extra cash hocking 4th of July fireworks for my wife’s uncle. Dirty and tired, I drove to the church. Barrett was there too, and he surprised us by actually listening as my boss Randy kicked off the meeting with a passage from scripture: the one about Jesus letting the little children come to him. Most of our work in Westport would be with young kids, so I figured the talk would just emphasize how much God loves the little children, and then we would move on. That isn’t what happened.

Randy asked, “So what does Jesus mean when he says the Kingdom of God?” (The passage was all about how the kingdom belongs to children, and people are meant to receive it like children.) He let the question hang in the air for what seemed like three full minutes.

Barrett finally piped up. “Heaven.” He sounded like he also wanted to say ‘duh’ to punctuate his one-word answer.

I won’t go into all the details, but what followed was a gentle correction, and an expansive conversation about the Kingdom of God. The conversation actually lasted two months for our high school group—up to, including, and after our mission trip. Barrett and the other students wrestled with questions like: does Jesus’s primary teaching subject only refer to afterlife, or is there actually some before-life available too? Is faith just about making the cut, like a tenth grade basketball tryout, or is the kingdom something Jesus is establishing here and now in addition to being everlasting?

Looking back, both Barrett and I consider that season a sea-change moment in our respective faith journeys. Eight years later, I’m a full-time youth director (no more fireworks) and Barrett is an intern, working with Randy at University Presbyterian Church over in Seattle. For both of us, life is about seeking the kingdom, here and now. It’s about Jesus—the redeeming, liberating King—who is bringing about his Kingdom in the world. This is the lens through which we can view all aspects of life, faith, justice, and relationships. Barrett actually went and got a degree in theology to keep wrestling with the concept, and I am proud to be a friend and mentor to him during his adult life. We get to spend time together on Skype talking about life, careers, relationships, and we also share ideas on how to actively live out the kingdom and invite middle school students into that life as well.

The main thing we talk about these days is 30 Hour Famine, which for my group has really become the centerpiece of our winter season. Thanks to the efforts of devoted volunteer leaders, my predecessor Daryl Geffken, and incredible, super great, rock-star SHIFT_jrhi students, we’ve developed a fundraising effort that gathers about $20,000 a year. The students put in major effort because Famine funds empower our global neighbors to overcome hunger, poverty, and injustice so they can experience the fullness of God’s kingdom life.

Here’s the cool part. A week ago, Barrett led his middle school group in their first-ever 30 Hour Famine at U-Pres. So far, they have raised over $16,500 and are closing in on their goal of $19,000—part of their student-led “stop death for a day” campaign. Their per-student average is higher than our group, and they are nipping at our heels on the national scoreboard. Not that we’re competitive about that sort of thing…

Even though I’m hundreds of miles away, I’m in full-on celebration mode with my friend. Barrett isn’t such a punk anymore. He’s too busy making an impact on students in his community and children around the world.

If you’re doing the Famine this year as a leader, look around you. As you fast, serve, pray, have fun, and ask big questions together, you might be looking at some students who are wrestling with far bigger things than a growling stomach. God might just be shaping them into world-changing, kingdom leaders.

Finding Famine in the Resurrection



Travis Hill

This year I have pondered if it is through wondrous chance, divinely inspired, or pure genius that the National Famine Dates bookend either side of the Lenten season. As we finished off our Famine Event back in February, the following Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. What a great, tangible experience of sacrificing something so crucial and fundamental as food for 30 hours to initiate the conversation of the spiritual discipline of fasting. It was an easy transition, one that I continue to hearken back to with the students as we continue through this season.

But it doesn’t end there. If it did, this story, these lives that we lead, would be vastly different. If we leave Jesus in the tomb, our hope is unfounded. So I find it fitting that the week after Easter is the next National Famine Date.

Following up the first Famine Date, one could focus on the fast. Gearing up for the Lenten season, one could spend time with the margins in somber solidarity, passing a mere 30 hours without food, a fraction of our lives, what many people have to deal with daily. But the National Dates after Easter, that’s a different story! It’s the celebration, the joy, the faithfulness of what Christ came down to do and what he’s continuing to do in our lives.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3)

Sometimes we forget to celebrate. We forget to let the joy happen. Our God is a God of joy and love and resurrection! He is a God that helps us let go of our pain and hurt and celebrates the miracle of resurrection daily in our lives.

So as we enter into the next Famine National Date, let us remember the lifestyle rooted in a resurrected Lord that we are called to lead. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world who go to bed hungry each night, but let’s empower the students to know, feel, and understand that it doesn’t stop there. If the Easter story ended with a sealed tomb, things would be different. If we leave the students with the sense that there is an incredibly huge, seemingly unsolvable problem, then we have left out the most important part of the story, the celebration, the charge to go forth and share the news and the love.

Study Tour Applications Due in One Month!


Caitlin Stout, a Senior in High School and past Study Tour student

team photo 0407Study Tour applications are due soon, and I am so immensely excited for whoever it is that gets to go…wherever they’re going! As a former Study Tour participant, I can say with confidence that there is no better way to spend the summer. I also know that applying for such a huge adventure can be intimidating, and a little bit of encouragement can go a long way. You, dear youth leaders, are in the perfect position to encourage your students to apply for this incredible opportunity! Here’s why you should do just that:

1. It changes lives

I know “life-changing” is a super overused term, as I myself have used it to describe comic books, TV shows, and Taco Bell breakfasts. But please believe me when I say that the Study Tour is genuinely and profoundly life-changing, more so than I can fully articulate. I came back from Ethiopia with a broader worldview and a bigger comfort zone. I came back with a deeper passion for fighting poverty, and I came back more convinced than ever that ending poverty is possible. Even after readjusting to life in the States, I have lessons and stories that will stick with me forever. Speaking of which…

2. You’ll get to hear some fantastic stories

I’m not just talking about the stories we share in our blog posts and presentations. Those are wonderful, but we’ve got some others up our sleeves. The rest of my team would agree that hilarious and ridiculous stuff happens when you travel internationally with a bunch of teenagers.

3. It’s not just another mission trip

While mission trips can be awesome, that is not what the Study Tour is. The Study Tour is a chance to see what God is up to, listen to people’s stories, and learn about World Vision’s programs. When it’s over, you don’t just pat yourself on the back and continue life as usual, you tell others about what you saw and how they can join the cause. It’s educational and beautiful, and probably nothing like anything your students have done before.

4. It starts important conversations

caitlin 0407Experiencing a new culture and seeing poverty up close can leave a person with a lot of questions, and it can make the transition back to daily life a challenging thing. Even though what we saw in Ethiopia was encouraging, comparing it to our culture of waste and excess is maddening. Taking the time to think about how our lifestyles and attitudes might be part of the problem is not fun, but it is vital. The Study Tour will open your student’s eyes and raise important questions for your group to explore. What do we take for granted? What role are we playing in the fight against poverty? How do we need to change?

5. It makes the Famine personal

After spending a week talking to farmers, playing soccer with students, and blowing bubbles and trading stickers with little kids, the 30 Hour Famine is no longer about raising money for nameless people somewhere on the other side of the world. It’s about raising money for friends. If one of your students goes on the Study Tour, they will come back with a personal connection and an entirely new enthusiasm for fighting hunger, and the cool thing about enthusiasm is that it’s crazy contagious. Your next Famine could be your biggest one yet.

So, youth leaders, let your kids know about this excellent opportunity! It will no doubt be a transformative experience for whoever gets chosen, and one changed life can change an entire youth group, church, and community.

You can DO it!



Sean Garner

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13

If there ever was a “staff T-shirt” for those who attempt to coordinate something like the 30 Hour Famine, this phrase—“You can DO it!”—would be on it. And, with the national Famine date coming up on April 25-26, some of us need some solid scripture to pull us through!

Hands up, you’re surrounded.

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

The 30 Hour Famine is truly a place where everyone has “been there, done that”. Many groups have already completed the famine earlier this year, while others will be doing their 30 Hour Famine long after you are done. You’re not alone—you’re surrounded! Trust that God is doing great things across the nation; so He’s sure to do great things with your particular group.

Think: How can knowing that others are doing the Famine too help reduce my feelings that it’s ALL up to ME?

Keep your eyes up!

“We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete” Hebrews 12:2 (CEV)

News flash: a lot of things are gonna go wrong at your Famine. It always happens, it always will, it always shall be (notice how we got a little scripture-sounding there?). We’ve all made (or are just getting ready to make) some mistakes—and the Famine will continue on just fine with all our failings!

Success, when you get a bunch of sin-filled people trying to do God-sized things, is completely dependent on you (as the leader or coordinator) keeping your eyes on Jesus and helping others to do the same. Take moments to re-direct the energy in the room toward Jesus: you will be shocked at how small your failures will look and how grand God’s victories will seem when you’re looking for Him.

Think: What great things am I am going to see (or I have already seen) Jesus do through the Famine?

Get out of the way.

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God can do great things THROUGH you when you move out of the way. He has fabulous desires for your Famine that are released when you let HIM do the work (and it’s not just financial goals). Somehow, God called you into hosting the 30 Hour Famine (or for some of us, “tricked you”). Now let Him finish the work during the Famine itself.

Think: How can trusting in God’s calling and love help me release the Famine into His care?

 I can do SOME things by myself.

We can always do much more with a team of dedicated volunteers and participants.

But you can only do ALL things through Christ who gives you strength. So let Him strengthen you for the adventure that lies ahead at your 30 Hour Famine!