More than 50 youths chose to spend part of their spring break without eating.
With help from youth ministers and college volunteers, area middle and high school students took part in World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine.
Participants from Pittman Park United Methodist, Statesboro First United Methodist, Connection, Statesboro First Baptist, Southbridge, First Presbyterian, Brooklet United Methodist and Statesboro Primitive Baptist churches fasted for 30 hours to learn about hunger and support those in need.
The children and teenagers arrived Monday evening at Pittman Park Church, after beginning their fast at noon that day, with canned goods for local food shelters. Given a bracelet with a number, students were placed into groups and given a tribal name.
They spent the first couple of hours playing games to understand the struggle for survival in many of the countries in Africa.
“Scavenger Scramble” found teams working together to quickly find items such as a piece of gum, shoelace, or paper clip. Only the first two teams with the items received points; the other teams didn’t survive.
In the game called, “Border Crossing,” each team member had to get across the gym floor, or “hot lava,” using only three pieces of vinyl. Some were given handicaps, like “a broken leg,” and had to be carried by a teammate. Teams worked together to get to the other side as quickly as possible.
For “Water Walk,” students carried cups of water from one bucket to another, and the first team to fill their bucket was the winning team.
And in “Food Grab,” blindfolded team members searched and competed for bags of rice or bananas.
After each game, the tribal groups sat with a youth minister or intern and discussed the implications of the game, how it affected them, and how it related to selected scriptures from the Bible.
Realizing that some of the money the kids raised might help build wells for clean drinking water in Africa, youth pondered questions such as: “How do you think life would change for someone who went from traveling hours each day to a watering hole to having easy access to plentiful, pure water?”
Jon Irvan, the student minister at Connection Church, introduced the theme: “What if I went from ‘me’ to ‘we’? It’s not about our needs, but the needs of all of us. Hunger doesn’t just exist in other countries, it’s happening right here in Statesboro.
“Not eating for 30 hours to experience the way that hunger looks like is only a small way to walk in someone else’s shoes, but it opens our eyes a little to it,” he continued. “The way we battle this issue of selfishness is to ask ourselves, ‘How can I look towards other people? What are things that I should be doing?’ Love others as you love yourselves. What will that be in your own life?”
After a time of worship, students returned to the gym and experienced a glimpse of homelessness. Each participant was given an envelope containing between $1 and $7 of play money. Cardboard and a few supplies were available for “purchase” and the kids had to “buy” the sleeping bags and pillows they’d brought.
Friends were encouraged to pool their money and build shelters together. Some students sang for additional money and some volunteered to do sit-ups. One student tried to trade her friend’s phone for much-needed cardboard, but the friend didn’t agree. Another offered a filthy cap, but those bartering with the cardboard just shook their heads.
Frequently, “mercy” happened when First United Methodist Church Student Minister Becca Brown walked around the gym dropping money on the floor, and eventually, more mercy was extended when all students, even those lacking “funding,” were given the items they had brought from home.
By almost midnight, participants settled down for the night in cardboard structures. Most had no roof, and several lost the walls surrounding them.
On Tuesday, with very little sleep, and almost 24 hours since eating, the church groups went out into the community to do service projects.
Brown took her students to Little Lotts Creek Apartments to do crafts and play games with children living there. The hungry youths even served lunch to those who came.
Irvan and his youths spent time cleaning Connection’s downtown office.
Youth leaders Jenny Tankersley of Statesboro Primitive Baptist and Mark Galo of Statesboro First Baptist joined forces to rake and clean the yard of a local widow, and Jeremy Lavender, the youth minister at Southbridge, took his kids to do the same at another residence.
Pittman Park’s youths, under the direction of Jared Simonin, cut grass for an elderly couple from their church.
At the end of 30 hours, participants broke the fast with a communion service, and, after eating pancakes, the youths and helpers went home with a slight glimpse of the needs of those around them.