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The Famine Blog

Our 30 Hour Famine Traditions


By Kali DiMarco

Staff Serving Food In Homeless Shelter KitchenOur group has been doing the 30 Hour Famine for years, and it has become important not only to the youth in our church, but to our entire church. We’ve found that while each of our Famines are unique, they all have aspects that have become traditions. For example, we always begin our Famine at the local town green. We gather and have an opening prayer, and then we walk one mile to our church, with police escort. We lovingly call this “The Walk” and it has become a very public and moving symbol of our faith in action.

Each year we also have a huge Food Drive where we collect food for our own food pantry and for our local soup kitchen, Manna House. This has become an important tool in teaching the kids that hunger is not just a global challenge, but a reality in our own community and right here in our town. I cannot even fathom how many trucks of food we have delivered to Manna House. One year the director exclaimed “Who are these kids?!”

Keynote Speakers have become a big part of our Famines. From the first year when Dr. Steven Winters from our local hospital came to share his experience in the Sudan with Americares, to this past year when our newly installed Bishop invigorated the kids with his words. We have also had Austin Gutwein, the young founder of Hoops for Hope; Christine Leronimo, author of “Drinking from Puddles”, Julie Coyne, who founded Education and Hope in her twenties, and someone from our Haitian community the year of the earthquake in Haiti. One of our most memorable speakers was Gabriel Bol Deng, one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. These speakers have all inspired us in so many ways.

We gather for a Midday Prayer which is created and led by our teen Famine leaders. They have written songs and led us in creative hands-on prayers and activities, and add so much to our time together.

Service Projects are a huge part of our Famine. We send all the kids out all over town, sometimes to as many as 25 different places. We have so many kids now, that we send out three busses. When they return, they all share their experiences. It is amazing how positive they are – all while fasting!

Many years ago we started a Large Group Activity which has become something the kids really look forward to. We have done grocery store challenges, random acts of kindness, scavenger hunts around town, a huge 20-question kind of game with 50 adults, and last year had a “Hunger Games” activity. The college kids all come back to run these.

In the evening we end our day with a Prayer Vigil. These have been some of the most amazing Spirit-filled times of the Famine. They usually involve multi-media, music, performances… and always end with candles moving all over the church as each person reflects on the life they are impacting. The dark church becomes bright with the light of more than 200 candles, lit by every participant and parishioners who attend, often spelling a word from our theme.

Prayer Partners are the backbone of our success. Every participant is assigned a person who simply holds them in prayer. Many of our older parishioners, even those who are homebound, become prayer partners and feel part of the 30 hours. The kids all write letters to their partners, and many of those who are praying stop by during the Famine to meet their special partner and drop off a card or note. I cannot imagine our Famines without them.

So many aspects to coordinate, but each one brings something very special to our Famines and gives each and every parishioner the chance to be part of the event. It all works! God is Good.

And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
Isaiah 58:10

Hump Week


By Mark Oestreicher

Hump Day CamelThese days between Christmas and New Years always seem odd to me. Sort of like a lame duck president, wrapping things up. It’s still 2014. We’re still deeply in ‘The Holiday Season.” We still have stomachs full of fruitcake and eggnog, and most of us having suddenly-past-tense decorations now teasing us to be taken down.

And, we’re almost there, to 2015. All that new stuff.

Every Wednesday is hump day (immortalized this past year by a talking camel – “What day is it, Mike? Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike? Its hump day!”). But this in-between holiday week feels like hump week. Wrapping up one thing, while anticipating the next.

Makes me think of the word “commencement.” The word itself, of course, means to start something. But youth workers and teenagers understandably connect the word to high school graduation. The commencement ceremony is a both/and deal. It marks both the end of something, and the beginning of something new.

So maybe we should think of this as Commencement Week. It’s certainly the wrap up to 2014; and it’s the launch of a whole new year.

Really, this in-between stuff is very present in our Christian story. It’s that Saturday after Good Friday and before Easter Sunday.

Let’s look back at this past year—in our personal lives and our ministries—with this mindset from 1 Chronicles 16:12…

Remember all the wonders he performed, the miracles and judgments that came out of his mouth.

And moving past Hump Week, or this Commencement Week, let’s embrace Isaiah 43:18-19a…

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

Yeah, that’s the good stuff of hopeful, forward-leaning life. That’s the view from Hump Day to the Weekend, or from Hump Week to the New Year, or from the in-between space of Holy Saturday to Resurrection.

Finding myself (while dancing) in Africa …



Andrea Dancing

By Andrea Sawtelle, Youth Pastor, Hagerstown, Maryland. 

I have always struggled with seeing myself as enough.  If I look back on my life, I am not even sure where that struggle emerged from.  I grew up in a home where my parents poured out love on a daily basis, reminded me that I am a person of value, and encouraged me along the way in all that I chose to do. But the reality is, to love myself, to see myself as valuable, to see myself as “enough” in this competitive world, has been something I have continued to battle out in my daily life.

This past June I received a phone call that I had no idea was coming.
 I was invited to be a part of a team of Nazarene Leaders that would be traveling in conjunction with World Vision, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, and Nazarene Youth International to see some of our partner projects in Mozambique, Africa.

As soon as I told my husband the details (to which he immediately said “you are crazy if you don’t say yes), I began to make a list of all the reasons why I shouldn’t go, most of them centering around the fact that I just didn’t think I had much to offer.  My thoughts went something like this, “But I don’t know ANY of the team members…well I know them…but only because they have written books, and spoken at events.  No one knows who I am.  I come from a small church.  What if I don’t have anything to contribute?  I don’t think I can do it. It wasn’t an inner battle that I was unfamiliar with.  It was a battle where once again fear of not being enough was fighting hard. Regardless, I got on that plane.

I have been home now for a few months, and I have still not processed all that I experienced and saw during my journey. But I do know one thing. In some ways, I found myself in Africa. While in Mozambique, something in my own heart changed. The realization that Jesus was enough for me hit me like a ton of bricks. It didn’t matter if I was known…ever. It didn’t matter if I came from a big church or had a big title. What mattered was that God had called me to live out this life for him. HE was enough.

On our 5th day, I found myself in a small village watching a group of women and children dancing in a big circle while local World Vision staff and community members repaired their clean water well. I stood on the outskirts of the circle watching and attempting to clap on beat. I thought about dancing, but as stupid as it sounds, that was quickly silenced by insecurities.

And suddenly it hit me: I am in Africa…what I am doing standing on the edge when I could be in the middle of something epic?! And so…I jumped into the circle and began dancing – poorly, and without rhythm. In fact, a little girl began blowing a whistle in my ear, and pointing at my feet trying to get me to do the steps in rhythm. I tried telling her my dancing skills were a lost cause! Nevertheless, that day I danced…and I danced…and I danced…and I was reminded that God desires for us to dance in this life.  We weren’t meant to sit on the sidelines. We weren’t meant to spend our days thinking about what we aren’t, or how we aren’t good enough. He desires for us to let go of all of that and live as the people he has created us to be.

He is enough.

And so, I say that I somewhat found myself in Africa, because I did. For a few minutes, in a village in the middle of nowhere, I danced and didn’t think about why I wasn’t good enough. I was just me… the me that God desires for me to be every minute I am given breath. And needless to say, I am choosing to dance a lot more these days.

The 12 Days of Christmas: Famine edition!


By the 30 Hour Famine Team

albero di Natale grungeOn the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

You sang the remaining lyrics to yourself, didn’t you? A partridge in a pear tree. It’s impossible not to, really.

For the next few days (12 to be exact), our social media is going look a little different! Starting this Saturday, we will be re-telling the “12 Days of Christmas” – sharing 12 AMAZING stories of how groups like yours are helping to make this world a better place. Literally.

For each of the 12 days we will highlight a specific way that we (together) tackle poverty. These solutions often look very different than you might think. In fact, they look a lot like the lyrics we are all so familiar with: Maids a-milking, and ladies dancing, and geese a-laying, and golden rings.

And there will be a partridge in a pear tree, no doubt.

Feeding is equipping and supporting the hungry to feed themselves and rise above poverty. And when this work is done through World Vision, it means a whole lot more than just food. It means all the puzzle pieces working together: Clean water, health, education, spiritual growth, and so on. It’s fullness of life as God intended. Not just through food (though that’s a great place to start).

So, we invite you to join in. Sing it with us. Keep a look out – and share your favorite images and stories throughout the week with your students. After all, you and your group are a part of these stories, too. Better outcomes are being re-written each and every year through your involvement with the 30 Hour Famine.

Thank you for all you do year after year to bring so much life to the darkest corners of the world. Because of you…choosing just 12 stories is nearly impossible. That’s a great problem to have.

A Set Of Muscles For Dreaming


By Tash McGill

Dream bigI’m beginning to think that a dream alone is not enough. In fact, I have been convinced that a dream isn’t powerful at all.  The only power a dream has is the focus and motivation it gives you to take the steps required to achieve it.

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, save money, shake a habit or create a new one – then you’ve tasted a tiny piece of what it’s like. The dream requires lots of action, but they are mostly very human actions. They are based in the natural world.

I’ve also been convinced that dreams need action and longing.  Longing and desire is what keeps a dream alive, when hope seems lost. Hope is a supernatural kind of a thing. Dreams need both natural and supernatural activity. Longing and desire is a bridge into the supernatural or spiritual world. Without longing, the dream can become dry and our motivation can ebb away.

Pursuing change in the world is hard work. It requires an extraordinary amount of dedication, action and commitment. When you commit to the Famine, you’re taking actions that reflect a longing for change in the world. Pray also. Share the longing you have for change and encourage others to join you in the longing and desire for change, in the action too.  When you wake at 3am hungry on the Famine weekend, recognize your body physically demonstrating the longing of your spirit.

Praying and asking others to pray alongside me is crucial. Sharing my longing with God and others, so that the dream stays strong and alive within me is necessary. Sometimes I feel afraid to share that longing and pursue my dreams with God because I’m scared that I’m asking for the wrong things.  But there is no Plan B with God – so by sharing my longing and praying for my dream to become reality, God can inspire me to other natural steps I should be taking or realign my heart to alternate paths. At the very least, by praying more regularly about my dreams – I am comforted in the Not-Yet season.

Pursuing a dream out of nothing but our own strength is sure to wear you down. No matter whether the dream is spiritually related or not, we are spiritual beings and we need to integrate that into every part of our lives. So a dream by itself is not powerful. But human actions alone are also not enough. Deep resonant dream-pursuing requires our whole self… spirit, mind and body.

I’m re-aligning my dream-chasing muscles. What are you dreaming for? I’ll pray for your dreams, too.

Does the Wrapping make the Gift?


By Sean Garner

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.  – Matthew 13:34

If you’re connected in anyway to the work of World Vision, you know the reality of Christmas around the world. Hundreds of thousands are at a loss, with no housing, no food, and missing the basics that we take for granted. The facts are humbling, depressing and often overwhelming.

But knowing facts isn’t the same as changing hearts.

As your ministry heads towards the holidays, how can you wrap your community’s head around the idea that faith is meant to be proactive? A faith that is full MOVES people to react by fasting, serving and giving to change the world. Facts can give perspective to the situation, but they doesn’t cause the basic change in someone’s heart.

Guilt doesn’t do it either. With too much guilt, you simply end up making your crowd resent the very people they’re supposed to be serving.

What is it in us that makes us clamor and fight for a perfect Christmas tree? How do we know that a Christmas present is wrapped JUST right (a red box with a white bow perhaps) or just plain wrong (wrapped in a newspaper with a frayed brown string)?

God built us to be inspiration-based…we feed off of ideas and images, not just facts.

So, as you walk through the Christmas pandemonium, how do you best inspire your group to fully commit to changing the world in partnership with the 30 Hour Famine? Are you the type to challenge them to reach a goal? Or do you connect with their emotions?

Wise men traveled over the world to see it change and offered their best at the feet of Jesus. Shepherds had their lives interrupted in one dramatic night, when God proclaimed a different type of world with peace and goodwill. Mary and Joseph lived the lives of refugees, traveling in a foreign land and living off the graciousness of strangers. Jesus himself was born and lived in poverty.

What images work for your community and how can you repeat them over and over again to build momentum toward a true commitment to join you at the Famine in 2015? This year’s theme is full of images: David vs Goliath, fighting for what’s right, making their fight YOUR fight, etc.  Which of those images works best for your community?

Take time this month to dream again, like God does (with lives and images and parables) and in doing so pass those dreams along to those whom you serve: inspiring others to follow their faith to action, not just the facts of poverty and the poor.



By Tess Cassidy

Man sitting on rocky cliffAs a kid I was given a bracelet in Sunday School that had “FROG” written on it. Being an innocent and naive child, for the longest time I thought it was literally talking about frogs. Sometime later, I understood that “FROG” stood for Fully Rely On God. When I found out, it was more of an epiphany of the acronym rather than a comprehension of the catchy saying. As I grew older, I found this clever and I understood what it meant, but my thoughts went no deeper than to remember the acronym. As one might expect of a childhood accessory, the bracelet quickly disappeared into a corner in my room and was lost forever.

As the bracelet fell out of my life, so did the consideration of fully relying on God. I continued through life, building myself up as a strong individual in as many ways as possible. I was always involved in many activities and groups, but I made sure that I was never in over my head. God and I were close, but I was also my own independent self—refusing to grab onto his hand to steady myself if I ever tripped. I always made myself regain my own balance.

I continued regaining my balance again and again. This was strenuous, exhausting, and draining at times but didn’t keep me from getting back on my feet. I had tripped through life, but I had never stumbled to the point of falling.

This past year, I fell. With the combination of hard college classes, a full plate of activities, and a demanding summer job, I couldn’t support myself any longer. I was 100% in over my head. The self-reliance and strength I built up is nothing in compare to the power and love of God. Through my stubbornness, God showed me to fully rely on him. In order to build a successful life, I needed to start with Jesus as my cornerstone.

Unlike before, now I try to walk through life fully relying on God. As I look ahead to the rest of the year and many more years to come, I see that this isn’t the only spot I can fall. Life is a rocky trail where I will be stumbling and falling along the way. The only way to keep upright is to place all I have in God’s strength to hold me up. With complete faith in him at all times, we can survive. We can thrive in his kingdom and serve his children.

Now there’s good news: not everyone needs to experience such a large slap in the face. Looking back to the Famine each year, God was trying to show me I needed to rely on him. As I was unconsciously reliant on myself, I was very consciously reliant on food. Without my thoughts being consumed on food during the Famine, I realized my daily obsession of food should be translated to thinking about God. In John 6:35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.’” Throughout the Famine, we need to fully rely on God to succeed.

Now remember, I’m not saying rely on God; I’m saying fully rely on God. He is not just a stepping stone to help you reach your final destination. He wants us to surrender all we have to him. In our reliance on him, he will provide. He wants all of us, and we need all of him.

Thankful for the BIG and little things


Nikki Myers

Turkey Time365 days in a year- that’s 8,760 hours. Within those hours are 525,600 minutes of sights, smells, actions, information, people, items, tastes, and activities that fill our life. It’s nearly impossible to account for how we spend the majority of those 31 million seconds; but this week we set aside this coming Thursday to intentionally remember and reflect on the past year. For some folks it’s a celebration of a year of good health, new experiences and strengthened relationships. For others it’s a day clouded with loss, pain, hurt or strife.

Each year I feel a tension as it becomes my turn at the table to share what I am thankful for. When you work at a non-profit and face images every day of impoverished children it’s really hard to not express your thankfulness for the abundance that we have. So, inevitably, the mood gets a little somber as I share my gratitude for the water we are drinking that flowed so easily and abundantly through our faucets. For the bounty in front of us as others struggle to provide the one meal their family will eat that day. There is no motive of guilt in it, just an awareness of the reality of my situation and the many things right in front of me that I overlook or take for granted. As I prepare for my turn at the table this year I can’t help but think of all the things that my last 8,760 hours have been comprised of. The familiar, often overlooked resources, things or people that deserve a shout out at the table.

I asked our team to see what ordinary things in life they are thankful for. Here are their responses:

Hilary – I’ve recently realized how thankful I am for water pressure. My husband and I live in an apartment built in the early 1900s, and though we love the old style building, it definitely comes with some…“quirks”. One of which is old water pipes. Every so often, we’ll have a week of very weak water pressure – which makes showers & doing dishes quite cumbersome. However, when the pressure finally kicks back in after a few days, we can’t help but do a celebratory water dance.

Katie – After nearly a year of having a puppy, I am thankful for walking the dog- in the rain or shine. I am thankful for the daily occurrence of toothbrushes and shoe laces.

David – I am thankful for the gift of music.  The ability to sit in my cube, stick on my headphones and tune out the world around me. To concentrate on the work I need to get done while listening to some great tunes.

Dan – I am thankful for coffee and Kashi. My car starting, a smile and greeting from Joan and Dylan (our front desk folks at WV), walking up stairs, a light in my office that works, hearing “good morning” from a friend, having a meaningful job, having time to read an email from your dad, listening to a heart-warming story/podcast, saying thank you and meaning it…oh and beets (mundane but awesome).

And myself– I am thankful for Google maps. I travel a lot and would spend half my life lost if it weren’t for that (mostly) trusty little app. I’m thankful for telephones and text messages which give me the ability to keep in touch with friends and family across the distance, the sound of laughter and space heaters!

This year as you think upon the big things in life you are thankful for, don’t forget those ordinary, commonplace things too.  Shake up the table vibe a little as you thrown in your gratitude for latrines, car brakes or sunscreen.

Happy Thanksgiving Famine family. We are so thankful for your partnership this last year and all those previous as we fight to bring some of those every day needs to children around the world. 

Don’t Forget the Team


By Brian Mateer

円陣を組む若者達How many disciples were there? The most common answer is twelve. This is a trick question and the answer is actually thirteen, because Matthias replaced Judas (Act 1:26). Some say 72, in reference to Luke 10:1-24; and others argue at least 120 because that was the amount of “believers” present who helped choose Matthias. The easiest answer would be “lots” of disciples.

Recently, I have been thinking about who the ministry of Jesus was really for. The answer to the question seems to be rather obvious. Of course Jesus’ ministry is for everyone, but most particularly I have been reflecting on the various layers of who Jesus’ ministry reaches. Jesus’ ministry is for us, for the people of all times, for the people living during the time of Jesus as well as the disciples.

We know Jesus preached to large crowds, he feed the 5000 with a small offering of bread and fish, taught numerous people in the Temple of Jerusalem, had many followers and “lots” of disciples. It seems no matter how large the number of people, Jesus always took the opportunity to teach his inner circle, the twelve disciples. This is discipleship.

Those of us who work within the church have a reach of varying degrees. Some of us have very large numbers of people we work with and some of us very small numbers. No matter the number, we all have a team or an “inner circle” of people whom we are in ministry with together. We may have a volunteer team of adults, a leadership team of youth or some combination of both. We as leaders need to make sure we do not miss opportunities to nurture, teach and point out Jesus to our team. Yes, our reach is and goes beyond our team, but Jesus makes it clear not to neglect our “inner circle”.

As you start to think and prepare for your 30 Hour Famine with the hope of impacting students, your church, your community and beyond–remember to keep your team in mind. The materials and structure of the 30 Hour Famine are designed in such a way to provide opportunities for student leaders, parents, volunteers and church support. You will lead others on a spiritual, educational and experiential journey during the 30 hours of the famine but you also will have the opportunity to really disciple within your inner circle.

Reach out, but don’t forget to reach in.

Teaching Empathy


By Paul Martin

1925fI’ve noticed something about working with teenagers. No matter how many amazing experiences I plan for them–retreats, mission trips, events, lock-ins–they have an amazing resilience to life change. It still confounds me that the most passionate students at the Saturday night bonfire, who couldn’t speak without bursting into tears, seem to fall back into the same rut after just a short time. There’s no doubt they felt something then, but after a couple of weeks or months, that feeling wears away. They go back to their lives and eventually lose that feeling.

I’m not sure that can be changed. I’m not sure it even needs to be. What I do know is that if I let the slow drift back to normal rest there, without connecting that moment to others, I miss something vital.

What I’m talking about is empathy. Empathy drives us to reach out to the hurt and needy. It allows us to connect with someone who is in need without minimizing their suffering. This connection that many people naturally use tends to be in the developmental stages in teens. Neurology confirms what parents (and youth workers) have known for ages. Teenagers have a hard time making long-range decisions. We now know that it isn’t entirely their fault.

All of the events I plan for young people have a great way of showing teens how to sympathize with others. They can look at someone’s situation and see for themselves the differences. The more extreme those differences are, they easier it is for them to see. That’s why mission projects are so helpful. But empathy teaches something deeper. It reaches into the prefrontal cortex and tries to make an emotional connection, not just a situational one.

Brené Brown has a great, short video ( on the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy, according to her, minimizes a person’s pain, while empathy finds something inside us that connects to that pain. Youth ministries have such a great opportunity in 30 Hour Famine to help adolescents exercise their empathy muscle.

Teenagers notoriously miss feelings. They overplay and underplay them at whim without any awareness of their affect on others. It seems like every opportunity we give them will have a guaranteed amount of tears. In teaching empathy, we have the opportunity to help them connect their feelings with the people around them as well as those in another part of the world. We can guide them through their feelings with other people, not just acknowledging their feelings for them.

Brown talks in the video about the obstacles for empathy. As we apply people’s feelings to ourselves and connect, we want to make a silver lining. The silver lining disconnects us form our feelings. It’s a type of self-protection. Judgment is another obstacle. It distances us from other people through feelings of superiority. Both of these reactions are a false sense of control. Let’s face it: strong feelings make us feel out of control. Silver linings and judgment make us feel like we some control over those feelings. By minimizing the feelings others provoke in us, we trade compassion for control. In teaching empathy we help students disrupt these two reactions to suffering.

My favorite line from the video is, “Empathy is a vulnerable choice.” That’s the opportunity I see in 30 Hour Famine. We can take that opportunity for helping others and teach our students to make a choice. We can do this in many ways. We can ask the obvious questions about how it feels to be homeless or hungry for long periods of time. That’s easy, right? You will likely get feelings of being lonely, invisible, unloved, unwanted, or uncared for. We can take these responses and make them local by asking Have any of you ever felt like that? or Do you think there are people here who feel like this? Linking these questions helps us link our feelings for others to ourselves.

When we teach empathy, we really teach connection. Empathy helps us discover what we have in common with each other. Empathy is connecting with others without running from away and then taking a stance of vulnerability. Every student ministry I know of values this kind of connection. It’s what we hope for in every meeting and every event. Hopefully, awareness of that empathy can help us to make connections that last.