The Heart of Thanksgiving


It is a fair statement to say that almost everyone reading this blog is blessed. We have a roof over our heads, a bed to sleep in, electricity, clean water, a pantry stocked with food…the list goes on and on. But how often do we pause to acknowledge our blessings or thank God for all He has given us? Have you ever heard the saying, What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday? When faced with this truth, we shoot a quick “thanks” up to God and move on with our day.

As defined by Merriam-Webster, the word Thanksgiving means, “a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness.” The holiday began in 1621 as a response to God’s generous provision and blessing. Nowadays however, Thanksgiving is often characterized by indulging in a bountiful feast and spending the afternoon watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and football.

For many, the act of giving thanks or, thanksgiving, has become buried in the mashed potatoes. It was precisely this reason that Kaja Mueller planned her 30 Hour Famine leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Kaja, the Director of Youth Ministry at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Iowa City says:

 “In the United States we engorge over the holidays and think nothing of it. When I learned how many children went hungry every night it was hard for me not to plan the 30 Hour Famine around a holiday that was all about being thankful for the food that we have.”

To visualize this, Kaja’s group designated their Famine funds to Haiti and the students made a banner covered in their hand prints. Each hand print represented 10 people that go to bed hungry each night in Haiti. They called it ‘Hands for Haiti,’ and the banner wrapped all the way around the inside of the church. “We left it up through Thanksgiving and Christmas as a reminder of the people in Haiti,” said Kaja.

Last year was Kaja’s first time planning a 30 Hour Famine event. “I would definitely recommend other youth leaders to do the Famine because it is clearly planned out and you can adapt it out your own youth group,” she said. “It was really rewarding to see the kids respond and personally take to heart the things they are learning about and experiencing through the Famine.”

Throughout the bible, God’s people glorify and worship Him with thanksgiving. As Christians we are called to have thankful hearts and to praise God for everything He has given us. In Genesis 12:2, the Lord blesses Abraham saying, “…I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” In this country we have been richly blessed and also have a responsibility to bless others, just as Abraham did.

 “We are given the opportunity to help those in need because of the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us,” said Kaja. Although the 30 Hour Famine has two national weekend dates (February 24-25 and April 27-28), we encourage groups to get creative and plan a weekend that works best for them, just like Kaja has done. Kaja’s youth group is a great example of how incorporating the 30 Hour Famine into a holiday can make even more of an impact. Doing the Famine is a practical way to bless others in the world, and it also serves as a great reminder of all we have to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving to our wonderful subscribers!

Ellie Hutchison traveled with the 30 Hour Famine to the National Youth Workers Convention in San Deigo this past October. At the conference, Ellie met many youth pastors, including Kaja Mueller from Iowa. Hearing about Kaja’s unique experience with the Famine inspired Ellie to write this post.