Our youth group participated in a WorldVision 30 HR Famine during Holy Week. Our kids stopped eating just after lunch on Thursday, then came to the church after our Recovery service had ended that night. We played a few of the event games then got up in the morning and played a few more. For about 3.5 hours of the afternoon we went and helped out at a local mission, then back to the church for a few more games & free time & mandatory juice breaks. If you’ve done a 30 HR Famine before, you know all of that is pretty standard fare. It really is a great event; their activities are well planned, well written, and engaging. They do a great job of making unbelievable circumstances from another culture somehow accessible in a way that the kids understand, even if only a little.
But here’s the reality. We don’t live there, we live here. And unless the call on your life is to foreign missions or even more specifically an issue like world hunger, the cultures presented year to year by WorldVision can be hard to keep on your radar. I’m not advocating lackadaisical awareness. My life is poured out in answer to a call to youth ministry, and ever shall be. Part of that call involves making kids aware of social inequities like world hunger. If you haven’t found or answered your call yet, I totally recommend you try taking on world hunger until you do.
My point to my group was that, despite the moving nature of the material presented, most of them probably wouldn’t be quitting school to move to Ecuador on Monday. That said, we try to evaluate any activity we do in terms of how it has changed us. Because if an activity isn’t changing us, we don’t need to do it. I’ve done several Famine activities over the years, but this time rang a little differently in the conversation at the end. Here’s what our group took away:
1. We don’t actually have to eat all the time.
We’ve trained ourselves to eat all of the time. We “get hungry” because it’s “time to eat.” Across the board our group was amazed at how quickly it didn’t matter that they weren’t eating. After the first mealtime passed, they more or less adjusted to it. They were tired the next day, but everybody is always tired after spending the night on a church floor. After our Good Friday service the group had decided on a local restaurant for dinner, but a few of them indicated that if the group hadn’t been going they might very well have just gone home and gone to bed, not eating til breakfast the next morning. More tired than hungry, after 30 hours of not eating.
None of that was said to diminish the suffering of those that struggle around the world to find the food they need on a daily basis. Just an observation that our continual ability to eat has clouded our understanding of when we need to eat.
2. We should totally be fasting.
None present had any regular practice of fasting, myself included. For my part, I’ve always fallen back on my borderline-low blood sugar excuse. In fact, this is the first 30 HR Famine I have successfully completed. I’m healthier at the moment than I’ve ever been in my adult life (I know, right?). When I was in my 20s I was in the habit of carrying a 2-liter of Dr. Pepper with me, often consuming more than 4 liters a day. Weird how trying to drop all of that sugar & caffeine for 30 hours affects one’s system. My blood sugar was easily maintained through the fast this time by natural fruit juice breaks, and because I now consume between 4 & 5 liters of water a day, I’m no longer dehydrated. And my metabolism is no longer in a straitjacket.
When Jesus speaks of fasting, his instructions are for “when you fast.” Not how to fast, when you fast. The practice was so common it required no introduction as a subject. John Wesley for much of his life was in the practice of fasting once a week, essentially a 24 hour fast from Thursday after dinner until dinner on Friday. Last week, for the first time in my life, I fasted intentionally, on my own, without a prompting event.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Flora