By Kali DiMarco
Our 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.