By Holly Wise
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS - It's not often kids volunteer to go hungry, but next weekend is an exception, as students in the youth ministry at First United Methodist Church in Lampasas join thousands of youth across the state in choosing to do just that - go hungry.
And for 30 hours.
The 30-Hour Famine is a nationwide outreach of World Vision to raise awareness among young people to the plight of starving children in other countries. The famine also provides fundraising opportunities for youth groups to make a difference.
"The biggest thing I want them to take away from all of it is how it feels to be hungry," Chris Lirette, youth director at First United Methodist, said. "Are they going to let it move them to something greater, to some action? This is a real issue that really exists."
Participants will eat their last meal Friday at lunch, and arrive at the church at 5 p.m. where they will stay for the remainder of their fast.
The group will play games and receive information about the issue of hunger and poverty throughout the world. Each student is given the identity of a child suffering from hunger.
Madi Phillips, 14, was a starving girl with malaria last year.
"It made us feel like what it's like in their shoes," she said.
Lirette said the games are designed to be instructional.
"My favorite thing is the experiential learning of it all," he said. "It's still a game, but they're learning something through it."
Students are divided into tribes upon arrival at the church, and must depend on each other for their "survival" through the night. They set up cardboard box tents and beds in the church yard, weather permitting.
"It's all getting the kids acclimated more to famine and giving them the facts and an opportunity to make a difference through their fund raising," Lirette said.
Fundraising is encouraged in $30 increments, signifying a dollar a day to help needy children.
"It's amazing how much one dollar can do," Lirette said. "They don't have to work in the fields; they can go to school."
Lirette said the famine gives the youth an opportunity to understand what Jesus said about caring for the "least of these."
"It's really grasping the essence of that," he said.
Shrader Davis, 13, is a 30-Hour Famine veteran who said he plans on attending the event this year, too.
"It was really awesome 'cuz we built houses to sleep in out of cardboard boxes," he said. "It was fun seeing what it was like; just not being able to eat. It sounds like it wouldn't be fun at all but it is."
While it was fun for him, Davis said it also got him thinking about kids for whom hunger is not a choice.
"It makes you think about what's going on in Africa," he said.
Eating is central to most community gatherings, so when food is taken out of the equation, it leaves a void to fill.
But that's not a problem, in Davis' opinion, who said the time usually spent eating "gave us a lot more time to do stuff."
Though food is out of the picture, lots of juice and beverages are readily available for everyone.
Lirette said any youth who are interested in taking part in the famine are welcome.
"If parents are interested in getting their kids involved, bring them Friday night," he said. "The more people we can get to experience this, the more we can get kids to impact communities."
Contact Holly Wise at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474.
Facts about hunger
1 child dies every 10 seconds from hunger-related causes
More than 1 billion people go hungry every day
1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day
145 million hungry children are at risk of dying