I had the pleasure of chatting with the youth from our church (along with a bunch of their friends) this evening. Every year our youth participate in the 30 Hour Famine, sponsored by World Vision. The Famine kids fast for 30 hours and raise funds to help eradicate hunger across the planet. This year’s focus is on the famine in the Horn of Africa. I spent 20 or 25 minutes sharing a little of our experience, learning more about theirs, and encouraging them in their journey. At the time I joined them, they were about 8 hours into their 30 hour fast.
I asked the 38 kids a few questions about their fasting experience.
- What had they noticed or learned so far?
- How did their friends react?
Their answers were candid, mature and encouraging. Several kids, in one way or another, acknowledged the power of habits in their relationship with food. But, they were clever in how they dealt with their urge to eat. One girl had spelled famine on her fingertips, and when she was unwrapping a piece of candy she had received in class, she was reminded by her hands that now was not the time to eat. Another shared that she used her hunger as an opportunity to make time and space for God.
On the topic of other’s reactions, they all said they had experienced a range of reactions -- some encouraging, some not so much. “Why would you want to do that to yourself?” “That’s so great. You’re such a good person.” “That’s awesome, but I could never do that.” “Don’t you realize what you’re like to be around when you get too hungry?”
I shared a bit about our FFE journey and told them that we’ve received similar kinds of questions and reactions. I shared that it’s not necessarily a simple, direct connection that people make between fasting (and the self-denial that it requires) and the social justice dimension of caring for and serving “the least of these” half a world away. But when we deny ourselves, God honors and uses our action in amazing and unexpected ways.
I encouraged them not to treat the 30 Hour Famine as just an event, but as a stepping off point for a life of action in Jesus' name. There is a great passage from Proverbs that has been paraphrased in a way that I think is really powerful. I started and ended my time with the youth with this paraphrase of Proverbs 24:12:
Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act.
We may be appalled and weighed down by the suffering and heartbreak of this world. But we dare not think that it is irretrievably broken. We are not called to stand idly by, watching it unfold. His word exhorts us to act.
And so tonight, I praise God for the youth of Eden Prairie Presbyterian Church and their willingness to step up, deny the power of personal habit and indifferent culture, and act on the conviction that one person making a difference counts.