The weekend of April 24-25 left a number of area youth a bit hungry. Normally, food is a highlight church youth events, pizza, popcorn, sub sandwiches, or whatever will draw in the kids. But this group was not drawn in by the food they were about to eat, but rather the food they were hoping to bring to others to eat, while they, themselves, ate nothing.

That’s right, the youth at the First Church in Belfast, United Church of Christ, spent a whole weekend, fasting from solid foods. In fact, all they drank was water, and not even bottled water, but fresh from the tap. The event is called the “30-Hour Famine” and this was the fourth year the youth of the church have participated in it. It is a program designed by World Vision International, a non-denominational Christian organization that has been helping feed the hungry of the world for 60 years.

According to the World Vision International Web site, wvi.org, “World Vision, together with microfinance subsidiary VisionFund International, has become a leading humanitarian organization. Some 40,000 staff members (including part-time and temporary staff and employees of microfinance institutions) implement programs of community development, emergency relief and promotion of justice in nearly 100 countries.

“World Vision began the 21st century by strengthening its advocacy efforts, particularly on issues related to child survival and poverty alleviation. It became more active in working with governments, businesses and other organizations in addressing issues such as child labor, children in armed conflict and the sexual exploitation of women and children.”

Through their involvement in the 30-Hour Famine, youth not only experienced the feelings of hunger, they learned about systemic causes that keep many of the world’s poor in such desperate circumstances. They learned that more than 25,000 children under the age of 5 die every day, due to malnutrition and related causes, and that it takes about $1 a day to feed a starving child in a developing nation. That’s $30 a month or $360 a year. They also learned that working together, they could make major impacts in the lives of many whom they would never meet.

The youth had a chance to share some of what they learned. Ally Hersom wrote, “I learned about people starving in other countries, but going through it made me want to help them out more than just words themselves. We now understand it more. I would definitely do this again!”

Courtney Langton said, “For me, the 30-Hour Famine was an incredible experience. It really opened my eyes to what is happening with hunger and poverty around the world.”

Nancy Joslen had an insight, “We think it’s awful to not have the newest thing out there, like a new phone. Compared to them, we are rich! It’s time to change others’ lives besides our own.”

Brian Wilson expressed his concern, “The children of Africa and other countries need our help. They can’t get the things necessary for life, school, etc. and without these, they’re helpless. I think we need to help them get what they need. No child should suffer. We all need to come together and unite, to become one.”

And Aubrey Hersom seemed to sum up what many felt, “The 30-Hour Famine really opened my eyes. I never realized how much poverty and hunger there is in the world. It also helped me to realize a lot about myself as well. I never thought that I would be able to help, since the problem is so bad, but now I know that we can do anything with a little compassion and some help from God.”

Group leader Jane Grant, along with Vickie Keller and the Rev. Joel Krueger, led the event and participated in the fast. Krueger said of Grant, “She is amazing! She not only planned the event this year, but was with the youth the whole time, sharing with them in their fast and participating in their community work activities. We’re fortunate to have her and thankful for her leadership with these youth!”

The event ended early Sunday morning, breaking the fast with communion and then with breakfast. The youth got to try the kind of food that people in places of famine usually receive, a cornmeal mush called “Unimix” and another peanut butter and oil concoction, but after 30 hours of fasting, they seemed to prefer the eggs and bacon, sausage and pancakes that came afterward.

During the next two weeks, the youth will be engaged in the part of the 30-Hour Famine that really makes a difference in the lives of those they are trying to help, seeking donations to send to World Vision to aid in the fight of world hunger.

For those who would like to contribute, checks may be written to “World Vision” and given to any of the participating youth mentioned above or send to the First Church in Belfast, UCC, 8 Court St., Belfast, ME 04915. Those who might be interested in participating in the 30-hour Famine next year can contact the church office at 338-2282 or e-mail office@firstchurchinbelfast.org.