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The Famine Blog

Meet Ekai


Seattle1You’ve probably heard that 2016 will bring a lot of changes to the 30 Hour Famine. In a survey we sent out last year, you told us that you wanted more videos, new activities, and a way to connect to the kids we go hungry for. We took that seriously and invited a small group of youth pastors out to Seattle this past summer to take all your feedback and really dig in to what that meant and what changes really needed to take place.

Many brilliant ideas came out of that gathering of youth pastors, but one idea in particular will allow the 30 Hour Famine to take on a new shape. We took this idea and ran with it, and you’ll see it firsthand it when you receive your kits for 2016. The idea is this: Re-structure the 30 Hour Famine event into “modules” that start with a video, then go into an activity, then a debrief. We are really excited about the videos that will usher this time. Through the videos you’ll follow one child from the field and experience what a day in life is like for him. We sent our videographer friend Max to Kenya to find the perfect person for this video series. We’d like to introduce you to him…


Meet Ekai.

Ekai is a 12-year-old boy living in Kakuma, Kenya. As you get to know him through the videos, you’ll learn how he spends his days, which usually involve school, soccer, and taking goats to pasture. You’ll learn what he wants to be when he grows up and what games he plays with his friends and siblings. You’ll learn about the food his family eats and how often they eat.

We pray that knowing Ekai’s story helps your students put a face to the big and sometimes impersonal issue of hunger. Our goal with this experience is for your students to see humanity there, to know that people who are hungry are just like us – they play and learn and have amazing dreams for when they grow up. They just lack a resource that most of us are so blessed to have access to.

So this year, we go hungry for Ekai and for the millions of kids out there like him, the smiling, fun-loving, full-of-potential kids who need some good nutritious food. We go hungry for 30 hours, but we’ll stay hungry for justice until this world is Hunger Free for every. single. person.  Are you in?

A Meaty Christmas


By Brad Hauge

meaty-christmasI am a fan of the Advent season. I am grateful to have both grown up in a family and a church tradition that emphasize participating in the holiness of this season and making space to expectantly wait. I love the tension that exists in the very idea that we are to wait expectantly. I love the aesthetics of the season: the candles, the songs, the decor, the congruent rhythms of bustle and silence, and the meditation on peace, joy, hope, and love. I love that we are reminded to slow down and ponder the meaning and implications of an incarnate God.

Incarnate is one of those very church-y words that many of us nod our heads at and pretend to understand when we totally don’t. Which also means the kids in our youth groups probably don’t have much of a grasp on its meaning either. So let’s take a moment and simplify this church-y word. The Latin word “incarnare” means “to make flesh.” (If you speak Spanish, you will recognize “carne” as the word for “meat.”) So when we say that Jesus is God incarnate, we simply mean that God was made flesh: that God became human.

My friend Jeremy Williamson once encouraged those of us who engage in Advent to do so in this way:

“As we take a month to ponder the meaning and implication of an incarnate God, I think it is a good time to start taking the notion of incarnation seriously. If God truly became a human, what did he teach us about being truly human? What does he still teach us? How are we to treat our neighbor? How are we to treat our family? How are we to treat ourselves? How are we to treat our worst enemy? These are all questions that lead us to ponder a love that is deeper and richer than we have become accustomed to.”

When we allow ourselves to see each other through the truth of the incarnate God, it must change the way we see each other. The way we see the other

When we allow ourselves to wrestle with the questions above, it forces us to not simply allow Baby Jesus to stay in the manger, but allow him to be incarnate with us today.

When we allow ourselves to embrace the mystery of the incarnation, we are allowing ourselves to realize that if God became one of us, being human is a sacred thing.

When we allow ourselves, truly allow ourselves, to see our own humanity as a sacred thing, it then forces us to see that the same incarnate God is making every other human a sacred thing.

May this season of Advent be a time we take the above questions, and their implications, seriously. May we be bold enough to wrestle with them and invite those to whom we minister to do so as well. May we keep these questions in front of us not just during the season of Advent, but also during your season of The 30 Hour Famine; the transformative implications will be as compelling then as they are now.

If we believe that God came down in the human form, then being human is a sacred thing. May we treat each other as though we believe that.

Announcing the 2016 Theme!


Our team has been working double-time to get the 2016 resources ready for Famine 2016, which is very quickly approaching! If you haven’t signed up yet, now is the time! We are excited about all the new resources, which you’ll continue to hear more about in the coming weeks and months.  Today we’re extra excited to finally be able to announce the theme for 2016!

The theme for 30 Hour Famine 2016 is…

[drumroll, please]

Hunger Free

We long for a world that is Hunger Free, and we know you and your students do as well. 2016 will be an epic year for fighting hunger with your youth group, so get them excited by sharing this manifesto with them and join us as we pray for the year ahead, for the young people that will fast, for the donations that will be generously given, and for the lives of kids and families all over the world that will be forever changed. Thank you for working towards a Hunger Free world.

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Are You a Redeemer?


By Matt Williams

are-you-redeemerThere is a certain word that keeps popping up in my life lately: redemption. It started shortly after a youth program on how God redeems bad situations in order to reveal himself to the world. Over the last three weeks words like redeemer, deliverer, ransomed, and restored kept slipping into my mind. As I do not put much stock in coincidence, I took the hints and focused some personal reflection time on the idea of redemption. And a central question emerged: Am I a redeemer? 

Faithful people typically see themselves as being “redeemed”, but I find few people who think of themselves as a “redeemer”. Perhaps this is because when we think of a redeemer, it is about the “capital R” Redeemer of all creation. Since no mortal can fill those shoes, we readily stay humble and leave the title of “Redeemer” to God. Yet my inner dialog kept pointing to this question: Am I a redeemer?

As it turns out, I think I am. And I am pretty sure you are too.

You and I are involved in the 30 Hour Famine. We may do it in different ways and in different cities, but we all do the Famine. That means that we see the ravages of hunger and have concluded this is not the way the world should be. In spite of the odds against us, we take action to eliminate the damage caused by hunger. And the actions we take build pathways to offer hope instead of hopelessness. That sounds an awful lot like the work of redemption to me.

Whether you know it or not, you are a redeemer. Every time you do the 30 Hour Famine, every time you fight injustice, every time you share love, you work to fix our broken world. You refuse to accept that things cannot be made better and made whole again. There is something inside you that tells you to leave this Earth in better shape than when you arrived, even though that is hard work.

The 30 Hour Famine is not about the fundraising, or the fasting, or the service. The 30 Hour Famine is not about the shirt or hat or socks you get for participating. No, the Famine is about redeeming the lives of people we will never meet, in places we will never go, in ways we may never fully comprehend. It is about a sacrifice on our part, to share love and hope without condition or payment. It is about seeing lives in jeopardy, and restoring them to health and full lives.

The answer seems pretty clear to me. But what do you think? Are you a redeemer?

On Hat Stealing and Need Meeting


By Ross Carper

hat-stealingSince as long as I can remember, I’m a hat wearer. Depending on the time of year, it’ll either be my trusty Seattle Mariners New Era 59fifty or a Krochet Kids beanie. As a Catholic school kid who wore a white polo and slacks every day, a “jeans day” was a coveted prize. But even on those rare occasions, my hat (then a Chicago Bears Starter snapback) could only be adorned outdoors during recess. Maybe this is the deep-seated psychological reason for my biggest pet peeve: hat stealing. I seriously can’t stand it when someone yanks my hat off my head.

I’m a middle school youth director. This pet peeve is a problem.

Of course, one of the perks of my job is that I am (for better and worse) expected to act and dress like a man-boy. My office is full of whimsical items instead of serious, businessy stuff. And I dress for the job I want, because yep: I’ve got it. So my job is the reason I’m wearing a hat to begin with, but when I’m surrounded by a gaggle of middle schoolers at an event, they’re usually amped up and pretty ripe for giving in to their powerful hat-stealing impulses. At some point, it’s getting grabbed.

I was reflecting on why this bothers me so much, and all at once, both my humanity and that of my students came shining through. For me it’s on a surface level: sometimes it just plain hurts when an uncoordinated young teen grabs my hat. And of course there’s the aesthetics to consider: my quadruple-cow-licked, matted, receding-hairline hat-head looks particularly terrible, not to mention the fact that my forehead will have red marks where the headband of the hat has been sitting all day.

But for the student, he or she is revealing a need. Sure: hat stealing is mild and basically harmless when it comes to possible attention-seeking behaviors. And it’s easy to see why annoying things like this happen. In an energetic social environment, it’s a learned skill for us to know what to do with our bodies and how to interact with the people around us. We know we want to have a fun give-and-take dialogue with the person next to us, but we sometimes don’t know how. The 13-year-old version of me in that Bears snapback certainly didn’t know how. Correction: this 34-year-old version of me still doesn’t always know what to do or say in a large group social setting.

But there’s something that could be deeper. I’m not psychoanalyzing anyone based on a single silly act, but the more I get to know specific hat stealers, the more I see some patterns. Perhaps it shows a certain social restlessness. Perhaps it’s an unmet need for affection, for attention, or for a simple moment of joy in the midst of difficult circumstances: in this case, running around the room wearing someone else’s hat. Maybe that need for attention runs deeper than I’ll ever know, complete with a history of broken relationships and pain. Maybe it’s just a kid being annoying. And as much as hat stealing annoys me, I try to go easy on the thief… just in case.

Over the past year or so, every time I feel my hat go off my head, I am simply reminded of needs: all the serious and not-so-serious ways that each of us hungers not just for attention, but for acceptance, and even deeper, for belonging. So I grit my teeth and try to be playful. I express honestly that the hat grab isn’t my favorite thing, but I also try to meet the unspoken needs in a more healthy and direct way.

It’s an oft-quoted line by Aristotle: “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” As we look at our world, we can be overwhelmed by the needs we see. I mentioned social and emotional needs with the hat-stealing example, but we could list thousands more. As youth workers, our job is to live alongside our students in ways that not only attempt to meet some of their needs, but also in ways that help them see and reflect upon the needs of their neighbors, both near and far. And even further, we get to live among them such that they might–just maybe–meet the only One capable of fully meeting our human needs, and the One who shows us how to participate in the need-meeting Kingdom-of-God way of life:

[Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

– Luke 4:17-21, NIV

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.