Teens experience the feeling of hunger
As most residents around town were readying themselves for slumber Friday night, maybe with a little pre-bedtime snack, more than 30 teenagers were filling the halls of the Bethel Alliance Church with laughter, fun, and a few tearful testimonies, all to help keep their minds off their rumbling bellies.
The teens participated in the World Vision 30 Hour Famine Project under the guidance of Youth Pastor Nick Lutzo and several congregation volunteers who took four-hour blocks of time to help support the participants.
The weekend event was the culmination of several weeks of fundraising to help feed hungry children around the world.
It is estimated that 1.4 billion people worldwide struggle on less than $1.25 per day for food. Approximately 16 million children in the United States alone live in food-insecure households, and it is estimated that a child dies from hunger-related illness every 13 seconds.
As the teens began arriving after school on Friday, they were allowed time to do homework, play games on their computers or hang out in the youth lounge while they awaited the entire group’s arrival.
Once all members of the project had arrived, Lutzo led them through various games and activities before they relaxed in the youth lounge for a World Vision video.
“The night is finally here. I can’t believe it,” said Lutzo. “I am completely impressed with all of your fundraising eforts and so thankful to God that you are all here to help fight world hunger. And, we’re going to do it one hour at a time.”
While teens viewed the short video, they saw, some for the first time, what life is like in poverty-stricken countries: how hard it is to find food, the disease people are exposed to and the child labor and abuse that takes place.
Several teens said they were enticed to join the project so they could hang out with their friends, play games and just get away from home for the night, but after seeing the video, they had a new respect of why they were there.
They learned that they can feed a child for an entire month on $30. The group brainstormed ideas on how they could raise funds in order to sponsor a child for the next year.
Several teens said that they could save babysitting money, save their funds from the work they perform on farms or at a family business, and others thought of selling homemade crafts or performing various jobs for neighbors.
It was unanimously agreed by the group that they would pick a child to sponsor, and each teen would bring $1 per month to church in order to feed that child for the next year.
“This is so amazing,” said Lutzo. “I can’t get over how willing they all are to help. God is so good and it just goes to show you how good He is when kids come together like this.” He cited 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.”
Volunteer Jim Rose told the group that with their funds raised, and with the matching funds from World Vision, the group raised enough money to feed 20 children for an entire year.
The youth group raised $1,500, and with the matching funds from World Vision, they will have raised $7,500.
Before the teens headed outside for a campfire, they gathered in the dimly-lit sanctuary where 20 candles were arranged on a table. Lutzo invited those teens who had raised funds to light a candle.
“These candles represent the lives of each of the children you are helping to feed,” said Lutzo.
With each lighting of a candle, the room grew brighter. Once all the candles were lit, Lutzo invited teens and volunteers to share a testimony of prayer with the group or within their own hearts.
Several teens voiced their prayers aloud, some through tears of joy at the thought of being able to help those with so little, and others in realizing what they have, and the depths of what those in need don’t have.
While teens readied themselves to go outside and enjoy their campfire, several said how different their perspective is on the project now that they’ve watched the video and were able to get a visual on just how much they really can help.
Hope, a 15-year-old visitor from Oxford Hills Christian Academy, said “When I was younger my family and I supported a little girl, but I guess I really didn’t understand what it was all about. I didn’t realize the difference you can make. I’m just now beginning to experience my own Christianity, you know without relying so much on my parents’ views, and I see so many possibilities of what I can do with my life. It’s really exciting to think of how I can help.”
Over the next several hours the group played more games, had time for prayer and eventually found their sleeping bags and slept for several hours. Upon waking they gathered for the final hours of the famine for fellowship and reflection on what they had accomplished.
On Sunday, Lutzo invited several members of the group, volunteers and parents to share their testimony with the congregation.
“As a parent walking in when it was time to break the fast,” said Seneca Corriveau. “I was overwhelmed with joy to see the children so calm and not rushing to get food. Seeing my daughter participating in something so amazing to help other children gave me a great sense of pride of who she has become. It was just a wonderful thing to see her being led by God, just as she was when she took her first steps. It just warmed my heart.”
At the conclusion of the service, Rose said, “This has been an eye-opening experience for these teens to be able to help those they don’t know. Children who don’t have faces in our minds, but children who God does know. God has already picked them out and is preparing them to receive these gifts.”
To donate to the program, visit www.30hourfamine.org.