Watching Famine Participants Grow Up


By Ross Carper

carper.stacerFor us youth workers, it is ALWAYS good to use simple formulas for each situation, no matter what… right!?!

Well, here are the super-duper easy things you can do when one student is deeply impacted by the 30 Hour Famine (or some other experience of connecting our faith in Christ with seeking justice for the poor). This list will make the task of “missions experience follow-up” as easy as hitting the snooze button!

Step One

Walk alongside the student in an imperfect, on-and-off mentoring relationship for the majority of the next decade.

Step Two

Totally blow it by failing to call the student back several times as they are going through college. Phone tag happens a lot during this stage, with the student engaged in the exciting busyness of college and you focusing on the students who are currently in your group and your own growing family. Freak out a few times when you realize your failure to balance all of these relationships.

Step Three

Be completely astounded by the grace the living God pours out upon you and the student and your relationship, allowing new mentors to invest in his/her life, while still maintaining a deep closeness between the two of you. Have intense phone conversations and talks over coffee when the student is back in town. These will be messy… big stuff about relationships, careers, and the adventures we can have as broken people trying to walk with a loving God who is making all things new through Christ.

Step Four

Be grateful when you look up and notice that the student is a grown-up in the best sense of the word. Marvel at how God shapes people, moving them from goofball-who-ruined-tonight’s-small-group-session to goofball-who-loves-God-and-wants-to-seek-justice-vocationally.

Step Five

College is over, and it sometimes feels like the roles have been reversed. The student is the one who seeks you out for quality time as he/she prepares spiritually for two years of community development work in a small West African country. Be astounded at the humble posture of the student’s heart as he/she moves toward this new stage—not looking to be a savior or a missional thrill-seeker but simply a humble human looking to give and receive God’s love in a new place. Give him/her books that are important to you. Write and say things that are true about how you are honored and blessed to be an ongoing part of his/her life.

There you have it! Five simple steps of follow-up when a student is deeply impacted by an experience like the 30 Hour Famine. Repeat as necessary!

Okay… I wrote this post for three reasons. First, youth workers get sarcasm. Second, you know what to do with students who are impacted by these things. It’s not a formula, and you’re probably already doing it. Be encouraged to keep doing it, leaning on God’s grace and remembering that you are not the one transforming this student’s life. You’re both being transformed by the same God who is using you symbiotically in one another’s lives. Take the long-road view of relational discipleship with these students, recognizing that you can’t do this with every student in your program (because they aren’t all open to it and you simply don’t have the capacity).

Second, I wrote this because my heart is full. My friend Stacer—the real-life student I was thinking of when I wrote these “simple steps”—just left for the West African country of Benin for a 27-month Peace Corps stint. The time we had together before he flew away is something I’ll never forget, and I’ll soon find out how much postage to Benin costs. We basically think of Stacer as a part of our family, and look forward to seeing how this next chapter shapes him.