By Craig Armstrong
ALTAMONT — For 30 hours, 10 youths and four adults at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Altamont went without food and set aside the usual “stuff” that fills their daily lives.
Instead, they did World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine on Feb. 15 and 16 because they wanted to “Feed their 5000” — this year’s theme. By going without food, they got a sample of what the world’s poorest children and families face every day.
This year, with help from two other youth groups — Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Scotia and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Glenville — the St. John’s event raised over $3,000. Since 2003, when St. John’s began hosting 30 Hour Famines, over $30,000 has been donated to World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization that tackles poverty and injustice.
The Famine, as it is known, engages teens with physical, team-building, and problem-solving games; educational videos, and Bible discussions. Each activity explores the issues that plague people who are struggling in Third World countries.
The most popular activity during the 30 Hour Famine was Tribe Refugee. The youths formed “tribes” and competed for survival. They played games with names like Boot Camp, Camp Football, and Border Crossing. Each challenge provided an engaging opportunity for dialogue.
In Boot Camp, they discovered that extensive training is required in order to qualify to do relief work. The questions and answers came directly from the World Vision employee manual.
During Camp Football, the youths watched a video of a young boy from Africa make a “soccer ball” out of plastic bags and twine. The kids then played a game with their own handmade ball.
While participating in Border Crossing, they learned about the challenges refugees face while escaping violence in their home countries. Afterwards, the local youths tried to cross our own border to safety.
Kenya is home to Dadaab, which is often described as the largest refugee camp in the world. Originally built for 90,000 refugees, the camp is now home to more than 450,000 people.
Participants learned that many of these homes are built from or repaired with what we would consider garbage. With this in mind, the youths braved the wind and the cold on Saturday morning and built a Relief Shelter. They used cardboard, scraps of wood, an old tarp, a handful of nails, and duct tape.
The project stood proud until Sunday afternoon, when the wind finally took it down.
The group broke the fast with a Communion service led by Pastor Greg Zajac. A light dinner of soup, rice, and bread was provided to those who had fasted by the three participating congregations.
Many commented on how much they appreciated a warm meal after sacrificing for so many hours. All felt as though they had a better understanding of the starvation facing millions around the world.
Before eating, some reported mild headaches; others found it difficult to think clearly; many were simply exhausted. The adult leaders and the youths followed World Vision’s guidelines for fasting, which included drinking plenty of water and juice. The leaders monitored each student’s health closely during the event.
This year’s participants from St. John’s youth group were Sarah Jones, Zoe Haggard, Katie Kumta, Zach Connolly, and Morgan Galvin. St. John’s Lutheran Church is located on Maple Avenue in Altamont. In addition to two Sunday morning services and Sunday school, it hosts various youth activities every few weeks with the support of the youth director and the members of the congregation.
Editor’s note: Craig Armstrong is the youth leader at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Altamont. He organized this year’s 30 Hour Famine.