I did the 30 Hour Famine with my church in November 2009. It was an amazing experience.
|Teenagers are always, always hungry. So imagine my parents’ shock when I told them I wanted to participate in the 30 Hour Famine with my church’s youth group. They were proud that I wanted to do this, but also a little hesitant to let their always hungry 16-year-old do this. A lot of my friends from school thought I couldn’t do it. But I was determined to prove them wrong, all while doing something for other people.
My alarm blared at 5:15 in the morning of the start of the fast. My youth group was participating in something called the 30 Hour Famine, where you starve yourself for 30 hours to represent kids who go weeks without food or clean water. Prior to this Friday, we all got bright orange t-shirts. On the front, they had the 30 Hour Famine logo, and on the back they had the phrase “Every 7 seconds a child dies from preventable causes.” The fast was supposed to last from Friday morning at 6 am until Saturday afternoon at 12 noon. The day before I had planned on eating a huge, protein-filled breakfast. Too bad my hand hit the snooze button a little too many times. My “huge, protein-filled breakfast” was waffles with no syrup. Apparently, we had run out. So I would be starting this fast a little hungry. Oh well, I could deal with it.
I got to school on Friday morning and of course everyone was pointing at my shirt and asking about it. When I told them what I was doing, I got some pretty strange reactions. A few people told me I was crazy and that they would never do that. And others told me that what I was doing was awesome, and they wished their youth group did something like this.
First hour, I have French class. Which I knew would be a piece of cake, no pun intended.
“Alright guys, we’re making crepes today!” My teacher excitedly announced after the final bell ring.
“We’re what?” I muttered to my friend next to me, who simply laughed. I managed to groan out loud, and my teacher heard me.
“Oh, are you participating in the fasting thing?” She asked, a slight look of sympathy reflected on her face.
“Yeah, oh well,” I shrugged, we would make food again in this class, I know it.
“You’re starving yourself?! Why?” A freshman, Zach, exclaimed at me.
“My whole youth group is doing this. We’re trying to raise awareness about starving kids in other countries who sometimes go weeks without food. We’re also raising money to feed some of these kids,” I explained, and by now a few other kids had turned to hear my story.
“Well that’s stupid,” Zach scoffed and turned back to his friends. I simply rolled my eyes and shrugged. Eric, our youth pastor, had warned us about people like that.
The rest of the day basically went on like that, minus the crepes of course.
And then came lunch. Which I knew was going to be tough. But I also knew I could handle it, no big deal.
I had run out of water, so I walked up with my best friend Jes to get some juice, because I knew that would keep me awake and focused. When it came time to pay, the lunch lady seemed slightly worried.
“Justine, you’re only getting juice?” She asked me, and then looked at my shirt, “Oh, you’re doing the famine thing? Good luck!” She then smiled at me and punched in my purchase. I thanked her and walked back to our table with Jes.
“I can’t believe you actually volunteered to not eat,” Jes said as we sat down and she started eating.
“Hey, it’s for a good cause. And tonight will be fun. They have a bunch of activities planned and stuff. And plus, tomorrow, we get a huge spaghetti feast. It’s so worth it,” I smiled and opened my juice to start drinking it. My empty stomach welcomed it with open arms.
After lunch, I finished off my day with my other classes, which were pretty easy and we did a lot so I didn’t have to think about food all that much.
I came home, and immediately went to the pantry to look for something to eat. I literally slammed it and jumped back like it was on fire. I decided the kitchen/living room were not safe places for me that day, so I went upstairs to my room and closed the door.
Soon after, my dad came home from work. He was in charge of cooking the meal for the kids on Saturday, so he changed clothes right away and began cooking.
I walked downstairs to say hi to him, and I wanted to die.
“Oh my gosh, it smells so good…” I muttered, practically wiping the drool from my chin.
“Would you become homicidal if I asked you to help me?” My dad asked, turning away from the giant pot of sauce.
I actually had to think over my answer before I told him, “Um, yeah probably. I’m getting juice and going upstairs,” I said quickly and grabbed a juice box and ran up the stairs. It didn’t help that he decided to put a garlic bread cheese and black olive pizza in the oven for his dinner. The activated started at 6:30, but I was going to be late because my mom worked until 7. But that was just fine. We arrived at church, and I was told to go into the student center and bring my box. Everyone was instructed to bring a cardboard box along with whatever else they would need for overnight.
Once we were told what to do, we had to build our village. Yes. Village. Out of cardboard boxes. The boys had to make one, and so did the girls. We had a half hour. Which, normally, would not have been a big deal if we had a small youth group. There were 45 girls participating and about 20-25 guys. It was not going to be an easy task for anyone. Luckily, Eric gave us about 45 minutes extra.
The villages were all constructed and bedding was all laid out. It was hot and some of us were getting crabby, but not many, and those who did kept it under control. We were then told to hide out in the worship room of our student center while the leaders set up something in the student center lobby. We waited and talked for about a half hour until we were told to come back in and sit on the floor, completely spread out. Before us on 6 tables, were around 300 little tea candles, all lit. We all looked around at each other, wondering what was going on until the leaders started blowing out the candles one by one. After a half hour, Eric finally spoke. Imagine 50-odd teenagers completely silent for thirty minutes.
“Every seven minutes, a kid dies from preventable causes. Be that starvation, disease, whatever. Each one of these candles represents a child that has died just in the half hour. In the last thirty minutes, your leaders have blown out about 100 candles, and they still continue to blow them out.” Eric said. No one had any idea what to say to what we had just been told. We were all shocked, angry, upset, “Right now, I want you to say one word that you’re feeling. One word, that’s all I want,” He finished.
It took us all a while to process what was going on. Candles, children, were being blown out or killed right in front of us. The feelings expressed in that 45 minute time period were amazing.
It was one of the moments in my life I will never, ever forget. I don’t think anyone in that room will. It impacted us that much.
After that activity, we were told to go and pray about we had just seen, and ask God to help us help the starving, dying kids. Once we were done, it was time to go to sleep and prepare for tomorrow.
Little did we know it was about eleven, and we had to be up at seven. Fifty hungry teenagers awake at seven. Our youth leaders have seriously deranged senses of humor.
The next morning, we all got dressed and ready before heading on the bus to head down to the Milwaukee rescue mission and help out around there. We learned a lot about what they do and how they help people, and it actually ended up being a lot of fun. But only one thing was on all of our minds: food. Glorious food.
The morning between waking up and leaving the Rescue Mission seemed to take about thirty years. Once on the bus, the wait was even longer. By this time, most of us were already drooling. Especially me, seeing as I had to smell it for a few hours and not be able to eat it. Unfortunately, we had arrived at church at about 11:30, so we had to sit around and not only smell the food, but see it, too. Talk about pure agony. Or cruel and unusual punishment.
Around ten to twelve, we all lined up and got our places ready to eat. I was second in line, and my friend Jen actually let me go in front of her so I was first. I still owe her big-time for that.
They told us to eat slow and not eat a lot. They told 50 hungry teenagers that. I think two people listened, and they were leaders.
It was honestly the best meal I had ever eaten. Spaghetti and sauce, breadsticks, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, soda, water. It was truly amazing. I ate so much I thought I was going to burst after three helpings of food. In the car ride home, I talked about the amazing experience that it was.
“Honestly, I can’t wait to do it again,” I said in the car.
“Really?” My dad said in a slightly surprised-yet-proud voice.
“Yeah, it was an amazing thing, despite being desperately hungry until about an hour ago,” I said with a laugh.
And it was. The whole thing was just amazing. Even though I got tested so many times, I resisted and realized that not eating for about a day is not the end of the world. My mind kept going back to the kids who have to wait days or weeks to get a half cup of rice. It really put things in perspective for me. Now, I rarely complain about being hungry, or there being “no food in the house”. Because no matter how hungry I am, there’s always someone literally starving and waiting on food they may not get for another week.