Sometimes, teens are awesome.

When I was a skeptic (well, when I was more of a skeptic than I am today) one of the things that bugged me most about Christians was that they did incredibly stupid crap all the time, but none of them ever seemed to notice it. Every church scandal seemed to be met with people either defending the committer of the scandal, or excusing them by saying that we all fall short of grace (a shallow excuse for whoring or embezzlement if I’ve heard one), or claiming that the person who carried out the scandalous activity was not “a real Christian”. I hated these answers. I hated that I never saw any Christians just taking a moment to say, “Yeah, that guy was a complete ass. Sorry about that.” So when I started my own faith blog, both Brandi and I agreed that we weren’t going to do that – when we saw someone showing their ass and claiming to represent the whole Body of Christ, we were going to a) call them out, and b) apologize.

I think I can honestly say that we have done that. We have gone out of our way to single out people who, we felt, were misrepresenting not just Jesus Christ, but everyone who tries to emulate Jesus in their own lives. And that experience has been rewarding at times, depressing at others, but never something done with glee.

We need some glee, man.

 

. . .no.

. . .no.

 

This time, we’re pointing out what happens when Christians decide to do awesome things.

There is something to be said for a part of the Christian experience that maybe doesn’t get the same type of media attention as the fall of yet another mega-pastor. Maybe there’s more to being a Christian than “being good” and calling out the bad guys, like Brandi and I have been striving to do. Maybe it’s time for us to point out to our audience, especially the skeptics, that Christians occasionally do some really awesome stuff, for no reward, and no recognition, and often at the expense of their own comfort or safety. And while, yes, we all know that there are missionaries in China and Africa who risk their own lives as they commit to glamorously dangerous black ops for God, we might not know that there are also ordinary people who go out of their way to help others they have never met. These are regular people who are doing something to make the world a better place.

Sometimes, against all common sense, they are kids.

The youth group at my church, River Heights Vineyard, is participating in a project called 30 Hour Famine. By partnering with World Vision, our youth group is raising funds to give to a group of over one hundred children in the Republic of Kenya, kids that the church sponsors every year. Their goal is to raise $1,000 for the bunch, which will help pay for food and shelter for the kids for one month. And in their effort to raise these funds, after lunch on this upcoming Friday, April 26th, they will stop eating. They won’t take a bite of food until they eat dinner together on Saturday, exactly thirty hours later.

Yep, that’s why they call it that.

For the Christians reading this blog, you’re probably aware that fasting is something that we do sometimes. If you’ve ever fasted yourself, you know that it is freakin’ hard. Remember how it feels to go a day without food? Multiply that by teenager and you’ll get a sense for how difficult this could be for our kids. Do you remember how much food you ate when you were fifteen? Your mom does, and she is still pissed about it.

 

“Nothing. . . he left nothing. . . devastation, thy name is TEEN!”

“Nothing. . . he left nothing. . . devastation, thy name is TEEN!”

 

When I found out that my church youth group would be pulling this stunt, I wanted to know more about it. I asked some questions of our Youth Pastor, Justin Law, who some readers may remember being mentioned as the worship pastor for my church. He does both. Justin took time from his busy schedule of being all the pastors to answer my questions. Here is what he had to say.

What the Faith:  Why did you, or the church, choose to participate in 30 Hour Famine? There are no shortages of causes that need our participation – why was 30 Hour Famine one that you went with?

Justin:  30 Hour Famine is run by World Vision, which has demonstrated a surprisingly holistic approach to aiding the poor and hungry. Their goal is not only to feed people, which they do well. They also increase education opportunities and sustainable change within communities, handing things back to the care of the community and then moving on. The members of RHV also sponsor a large number of World Vision children for our size (currently over 100 children sponsored), so there is a personal connection for our church community.

WTF: As the youth leader for the church, part of your job is to get the kids inspired to participate in events like the 30 Hour Famine. What are the challenges involved in getting the youth pumped up for an event like this? How do you overcome them?

J: I had mainly led in adult contexts before I recently added youth leadership, and I think kids’ challenges aren’t much different than yours or mine. Our culture tends to be quite self-concerned, yet blind to ourselves. The youth get more excited about an event like this when they are willing to see someone else’s need as important, then realize they can do things as individuals and as a group to address that need. In the end, I think we overcome the barriers by loving the kids, being together in community, and helping them know that they are fully loved by God. It’s not nearly as hard to love people and give when you realize how much you are loved and have been given.

WTF: Why is service an important part of the youth group experience at River Heights?

J: Our purpose as a youth group is the same as {River Heights Vineyard}’s purpose: Love God, love people, and change the world. It’s really just a quick rephrase of what Jesus has told every one of his followers to do. Jesus shows us a picture of God that is shockingly dissimilar to our mental pictures of power and kingship. Jesus loves and comes to serve. When we love him and the people he loves, we do begin to change the world. We want our youth to have the chance to experience this and build it into their lives.

 

Answering questions: like a boss. Or. . . like a pastor, really. . .

Answering questions: like a boss. Or. . . like a pastor, really. . .

 

I also asked some questions of the participants in the famine – the youth group members themselves. A couple of them – Alana and Alexis, both fourteen years old – were willing to chime in.

What the Faith: The famine is coming up pretty soon. Are you excited? Nervous? How are you feeling about it and why?

Alexis: Yes, because it’s fun and it’s an amazing opportunity to get closer with God.

WTF: Why is going without food an important part of this charity event? You could just raise the money, send it to World Vision, and then go eat a pizza! Why is it important that you go through that period of famine yourself?

Alexis: Because it kind of gives you an idea of what starving people live like every day.

Alana: You can experience the circumstances others deal with and it makes you feel more appreciative when you finish.

WTF: How does participating in 30 Hr Famine Benefit you? What do you get out of this experience?

Alana: I get to be a part of something bigger than myself.

WTF: Many of my readers aren’t religious. Why is it important that all people, regardless of religion, take steps to help those in need? Why would you help the poor if Jesus had never told you to?

Alexis: It could be you that is starving, you never know. The person you sit next to at lunch, the meal they are eating could be their only meal that (they) have had in a couple of days. So it’s important to help someone even if it is one child. Help them have hope.

WTF: Thanks, guys!

Now, I’m not trying to shame my readers into giving, but I am shamelessly encouraging my readers to give to this 30 Hour Famine. I’ll be donating to it, and I think that you should, too. It doesn’t take much for you to have a direct impact on the lives of over one hundred Kenyan rugrats. If you have five dollars to spare, please donate $5. If you have a tenner sitting around, throw it here! If you have to skip lunch to afford to help, I can point you in the direction of some great kids who will be right there with you; whenever your stomach growls, just imaging it joining a chorus of some seriously hungry teenagers’ stomachs.

If you are able to give, would you please consider giving through this link? This will ensure that the funds we are collecting are correctly allocated to the group we directly sponsor.

If you’d like more information about World Vision, follow this purple spot right here.

You should give.

You should.

You really, really should.

 

THANKS FOR GIVING!!!!

THANKS FOR GIVING!!!!

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About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

5 responses to “Sometimes, teens are awesome.

  • melissa sutton

    I did the 30 hr famine as a teen. Raised money for the cause at the time. It was a neat experience. I grew up around some awesome youth leaders.

  • Jordan Urtso

    I really enjoyed this post, Daniel. Often times, the biggest obstacle I see with non-believers is not that they have a difficult time grasping a Creator of the universe (though that is certainly common), but more so that they don’t like the hypocrisy of those walking in faith. And to add on, they often resent ministers who are not spreading the gospel in it’s truest, rawest form – as The Lord intended. As Christians, we are meant to hold each other accountable. If I’m falling short of the glory of God often, and it is obvious to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and it’s reflecting poorly on the Christian community, I would hope they would offer me help with my struggle, and not make excuses for me. We are meant to be disciples of the gospel, not walking, breathing cowards of sin who take advantage of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Our hearts should be transformed by the Word, and while we will forever remain imperfect in the world, we are to always strive for better.

    Keep doing what y’all are doing! Never make excuses for those misrepresenting Christ. And who knows? Maybe more than one heart can be transformed in the process :). God bless!

  • Peter Benedict

    My wife’s fasting with the youth, and went to last night’s talk. She hates fasting but loves the 30 Hour Famine.

    For anyone on the fence about donating, I went to Africa to check out the charitable work of a bunch of organizations (including, primarily, work done by the church movement I pastor in). The only organization I encountered that I’d send my money to is World Vision, and they were AMAZINGLY ahead of the field.

    Give to them! 🙂

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