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The Famine Blog

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!

The Steak Holder


Adam McLane, The Youth Cartel

MCL5670So where does the money raised during the 30 Hour Famine actually go? What does the money actually do when it makes it’s way to the field?

As a youth leader these were always questions I had. I loved the impact the Famine had on my students and what it did for our ministry– But in the back of my head was always the desire to know where those hunger-earned-dollars went and what impact did they have?

I knew where the money came from. But where did it go?

Fortunately, last January I got the opportunity to find out. I was invited by the 30 Hour Famine team to go with them to Zimbabwe, to see what World Vision does with the money, and meet the people who benefited, and to ask whatever I wanted of whomever I wanted.

I wanted to share with you one story from my trip. This is the story about a rural family who received a cow from World Vision and the long-term impact of that cow on their family.

An awkward moment passed as glances were exchanged between two Zimbabwean men. Hillary, the Area Development Manager, turned and looked at the farmer

who had just spoken. Acting as a translator you could see that Hillary didn’t know exactly what to tell us about what the farmer had just said.

I don’t know exactly how to translate what was just said. Please give me a moment.” Our team, 10 Americans visiting a Heifer Project beneficiary waited patiently, each wearing our traveler smiles as tension silently built, filling the air energized by an incoming deluge of rain.

After conferring with Hillary, another man from the community broke the silence a few seconds later, “What he said is hard to translate as it’s more a concept than something that can be translated directly.” Our group silently inched in closer as the curiosity peaked.


He is saying, “Before I received the calf from the World Vision program I had a low position in the community. But now that I have cows my voice is heard.”

It wasn’t just that the cow would provide milk to the family. (Which was needed as they were hungry.) It’s that receiving the cow helped him gain status among the other men in his area. Men with cows were seen as stakeholders in the neighborhood who were consulted about community decisions. But men without cows were seen as less important to consult with. Receiving the cow meant the other men saw him more legitimately.

In the States we might compare this to owning a business. Of course, those of us with voting privileges all technically carry the same weight in a community. But we all agree, in a shared and unspoken social contract, that business owners have more at stake, so they should be consulted about decisions which may impact their business.

For the farmer we met today receiving the cow was an invitation to businessman-status in his neighborhood. This brought internal and external benefits as he both thought of himself as a stakeholder and other men looked at him as a stakeholder, too.

Surely the cow provided some measure of food security and the ability to gain financial stability as the heifer grew. For instance she could bear calves which could be sold or traded. And if she provided milk abundantly extra milk could be sold, etc. But the intangible difference is that a cow-less family was somewhat less valuable than a cow-owning family.

What a difference a cow makes!

Who Needs a Cow in Your Life?

You see, it’s easy to look at the 30 Hour Famine or child sponsorship or one of the other programs of World Vision as an isolated thing. But in fact, you’re doing so much more, you’re helping to offer people a true place in society.

The night after our group met this family we sat down to debrief. I remember a fellow youth worker, Amos said, “It makes me think of my students. Some of them have no status whatsoever, socially. I wonder how I can give those students cows?

That’s a pretty powerful principle for all of us, no matter where we live or what we do. What are practical ways we can leverage our status to help others gain an equal footing?

Question: Who needs a cow in your life? And what would giving them a cow change tangibly and intangibly?

Running for Food



About 9 months ago, Cory Scheer—a father of four—experienced a near-fatal bike accident while training for an ironman marathon. Coming out of that experience and reflecting on the help he received from so many, Cory decided to do something a bit crazy: Cory is running 12 marathons in 12 months as a way to raise funds for basic needs of others around the world. Cory’s food partner, for those in hunger, is World Vision. We caught up with Cory and asked if he would share a bit of his story. We thought it might be encouraging to 30 Hour Famine leaders and participants, as an example of someone using his passion to make a difference.

And this is cool: on Sunday, April 13, thousands of people around the world will be joining Cory in the Basic Needs Virtual 5K. If you’re a distance runner, you can sign up here, enlist supporters, choose one of five funding recipient organizations (hint: World Vision is one of the five!), and choose where you want to run. You’ll know you’re running at the same time as hundreds of others!

Q&A with Cory Scheer

A marathon every month! Tell us the truth: are you tired of running yet?

Every marathon is a new challenge and each race is very different. The training is very non-traditional since I am sometimes running 2 marathons within 8 days. There are certainly days that I am tired of running and the last 5 miles of each marathon is a significant test both physically and mentally. It is during those times I remind myself of how so many people around the world endure suffering constantly. It is then that my perspective completely changes on the short term challenges of a marathon.

It seems like everyone wants to start their own nonprofit these days. Why didn’t you go that route, and instead support existing organizations like World Vision?

There are so many great organizations that serve this world’s basic needs. It’s an honor to run for them and raise awareness about the many great things they are doing. I specifically chose World Vision for the basic need of food because of the amazing efforts that World Vision is committed to in order to alleviate hunger.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a young person who wants to make a difference?

My advice would be to find something that truly stirs your soul and look for creative ways to raise awareness and funds. There are many resources to help set up fundraising pages and build your own website. Social media is an incredible tool to promote your story and your cause. Also, reaching out to charitable organizations that align with your efforts may lead to some innovative and unique partnerships. A willingness to adapt your strategy for your cause is also important. The Basic Needs Marathon Challenge led to the Basic Needs Virtual 5k…which wasn’t part of the original plan. Thankfully, the Basic Needs Virtual 5K has resulted in hundreds of people committed to running a 5K in their own community during the month of April with 100% of the dollars donated going to charity.

Any plans after your 12th marathon?

Plans after the 12th marathon include SLEEP! Actually, my plan is to continue running marathons…but only to run 2 or 3 per year instead of 12. I am looking forward to running in marathons around the country as well running shorter distances with my kids.

30 Hour Famine Survival Experience


A note from the 30 Hour Famine Team: We connected with Famine veteran Michelle Freeman of Arlington, Texas to ask her how she gets her whole congregation involved in the 30 Hour Famine. She told us, “I’m always looking for ways to help educate the congregation so they will grow an understanding about what we are fighting for.  I started doing 30 Hour Famine around 1994 or ’96, I have seen the number go down considerably as to how many children die each day.  I hope to see the number disappear altogether.” — Amen to that!

30 Hour Famine Survival Experience

Michelle Freeman

Participants will walk thru a maze stopping at 15 locations along the way that will describe real life circumstances that affect people in the World.  Each of these circumstances can often leave families vulnerable to homelessness, hunger and poverty.  At the beginning of the maze give each participant a bag of beads and a label with the name of one of the countries.  (We started out putting the name of the country on the participants like a name tag and then found it was easier for them to look at their bag to see what country they were from).   Explain that the beads represent the resources they need to survive, water, food, medicine, shelter and education.  As you walk thru the maze stop at each station and read the instructions.  They may need to leave a bead, take a bead or do nothing at each station.  If there are several people in a group going thru together, make sure one of them is the United States.  If they are going thru as individuals then they should receive one of the other countries.


  • Place 10 beads into Ziploc bag (2 beads from each of the 5 colors)
  • Print explanation of what each bead represents on paper and cut to fit into Ziploc bag along with beads.  Example: Blue=water, brown=food, red=medicine, orange=education, green=shelter.
  • Print on labels, names of countries (we used India, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Peru and United States)
  • Set up maze using string or rope tied to tables, chairs, etc.  (We printed signs with 30 Hour Famine logo and taped to the string so people would see it and not run into it and fall)
  • Print each of the 15 situations onto a full sheet of paper.

Using tables and other surfaces set up 15 stations(in any order), place one printed situation on each station.  Use props to make each station come to life.  We used a small pop-up awning for shelter, a pitcher of dirty water for one of the water stations, a basket of bread for the “World Vision gives you a loan to start a small bakery business”, crayons and drawings for “no school” etc.  Be creative!

15 situations:

  1. A drought hits your country India, Rwanda and Ethiopia need to leave one bead.  Drought can hit the United States, too. But we have resources to make sure we don’t run out of safe water.
  2. Terrorism causes fear.  Every country needs to leave one bead.
  3. There are no qualified teachers to teach in local classrooms India, Peru and Rwanda need to leave one bead.
  4. You have no seeds to plant the next harvest.  Ethiopia and Peru need to leave one bead.
  5. You must abandon your home due to flood-and with nowhere to go, you live outdoors under a tarp.  Peru, Rwanda, Ethiopia and India need to leave one bead. We may have to abandon houses due to flood in the United States, but we have resources for places to live temporarily.
  6. You become sick with malaria.  India and Ethiopia need to leave one bead. In the United States, we have quick access to medicines, and malaria is rare.
  7. 30 Hour Famine Funds help your community start a seed bank, where good seeds are used and then redeposit after harvest for others to use.  India, Rwanda, Peru and Ethiopia may take one bead.
  8. War breaks out and you must leave your home.  Rwanda, Peru and Ethiopia must leave one bead.  Poor countries often have unstable governments that cannot control civil wars within their borders.
  9. You only have water from a river to drink, and it makes you sick.  India and Ethiopia need to leave one bead.
  10. You received a World Vision loan to start a small bakery.  Peru, India, Rwanda and Ethiopia may take one bead.
  11. Your plow has broken beyond repair, and you have no money to buy a new one.  You cannot plant next year’s harvest. Peru and Ethiopia need to leave one bead.
  12. You can’t read, and people in the market place take advantage of you.  India, Ethiopia and Rwanda need to leave one bead.
  13. You’re sick, but there is no doctor close by- and you don’t have any transportation to the nearest city, which is 50 miles away.  Rwanda and India need to leave one bead.
  14. Your school is closed when rebel military groups fight near your village.  Peru and Rwanda need to leave one bead.
  15. World Vision drills a deep borehole in your community.  Now you have access to safe water-and it will be much closer to your hut as well.  Ethiopia, Rwanda, Peru and India may take one bead.

Items needed: 

  • Colored beads 10 per participant (5 different colors each representing either food, water, shelter, medical or education)
  • Beads colored an additional 3 colors to represent resources that are provided by World Vision
  • Small ziploc bags
  • Jars or containers to for participants to place their beads in or pick up beads from each station.

At the end of your maze place instructions for participants:  Look at what beads you have left.  Do you have what you need to survive?  Did the provisions that were provided by World Vision make a difference?

Place youth at the end of the maze to collect plastic bags and remaining beads.  Before collecting the bags help each person see what they have left, do they have enough of all 5 elements needed?

We included a large clear plastic tub at the end to collect additional donations.


What’s your Famine BHAG?


MChris McKenna

No, I didn’t just swear at you in German!

I’m a process guy. It was bred into me from years spent in Corporate America. Most businesses live and breathe systems and processes. They encourage consistency and predictability. And, over the past four years, I’ve tried to bring some of this process thinking into my junior high ministry role. Let’s be honest – what student ministry wouldn’t benefit from a bit more process and organization?! But, I’ve had to be careful not to let systems and process squeeze the Holy Spirit right out of any event.

In their 1994 book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras encouraged companies to define goals that are more emotionally compelling. They called these “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” or BHAG’s (pronounced BEE-hags).

I’m almost embarrassed to write that I needed a cool phrase like BHAG to remind me to make room for the Holy Spirit in our 30 Hour Famine. Don’t I work for The CREATOR? He’s the MASTER of BHAG’s! Create a plan to save the human race? He’s done that. Create the duck-billed platypus? He’s done that. Thinking big and out of the box should be automatic in ministry; but sadly, I had grown a little too comfortable and had created a Famine event that was a little too predictable.

Some easy places I tried to think about a BHAG were in numbers and impact.

How many kids would you like to see come (Numbers)? Actually set a number and talk about it, advertise it and pray for it. How much do you want to raise (Numbers)? Instead of using last year’s total as the starting point, what wild stretch could you dream of raising (Numbers)? How about doing the hard work of reaching out to potential business partners to multiply the financial impact (Impact). Or think about having students put words to their experience (Impact) and share some of those with your congregation (Impact). How do you dream of student hearts being transformed (Impact)?

Our Famine event is this week. Will we achieve our BHAG’s? Honestly, I don’t know! But, it sure is fun dreaming about the possibilities and prayerfully watching what God will do. Do you have a Famine BHAG to share?

Seeking Happiness


Tess Cassidy, college student


These days, happiness gets defined as a trip to Disney World or scoring the final goal to win a sports tournament. It is fulfilled only with manmade titles and objects—all hard to achieve or expensive.

This is not happiness. So often we hear the phrase, “Money can’t buy happiness,” yet daily we invest money into it. We believe the phrase but we don’t live it. No, we don’t know happiness at all.

Charitable distribution of mealSo what is true happiness? How can we get it?


As a servant, we are stripped down to nothing. Our status, clothes, and wealth becomes unrelatable. We are forced to invest our lives in others, forcing the best to be brought out in us.

In this state of nothing, Jesus shows he is everything. We are no longer self-centered or consumed by the outside world. Jesus is our happiness.

Not only does serving show Jesus is happiness, but serving is good in God’s eyes. In Mark 9:35, Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Jesus doesn’t dance around it, he says we need to serve! And he’s not just saying he wants us to serve once a month, then check serving off our to-do list. He is asking for a commitment to serving: serving classmates, parents, friends, neighbors, community members, and our international community every day.

You know this is true if you have ever felt strangely happy while serving. You are stripped down to the level where Jesus can reach you. As a follower of Christ, we aim to be like him. This means we strive to be selfless. We need to be selflessly devoted to serving his children.

During the 30 Hour Famine, many groups go out and serve their local community. On an empty stomach, even more of our entitlement and comfort in earthly things is stripped away. The entire 30 hours of fasting is spent in service, really. We become—and feel—the very least as we give to our local and international communities. As our stomachs grow emptier, Jesus grows more abundant.

The beauty of the 30 Hour Famine is the way youth are transformed. Suddenly, through all this service, they realize they are connected to the children they raised money for. These children do not live in a different world that seems unreachable and unrelatable—they live a plane and car ride away. Those children’s hungry stomachs growl loud just like ours.

This epiphany, through my six years of doing the Famine, still never gets old. Service never gets old. The high of making a difference never gets old.

Yes, happiness is found in service. Be happy—go serve.