High schooler Michael Atlas will go hungry with his youth group for his fourth 30 Hour Famine this spring.
As youth come together across the country this weekend to fast for 30 hours and bring hope to the hungry, find out how Michael’s first experience inspired him and brought him closer to God.
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I vividly remember my first experience with the 30 Hour Famine as an incredibly hungry freshman in high school.
I was still relatively new to St. Joe’s Youth Group and initially wary of spending an extensive 30 hours with them in the act of fasting. To be completely honest, I didn’t think I could manage it; I loved eating more than I loved life itself.
Nevertheless, backed by the support of a few close friends alongside me and my youth ministry leader, Bob, I decided to join the Famine, and I don’t regret a single second of it.
My church’s Famine started off with a night of games and friendly competition, each with the specific purpose of opening our eyes to the issues concerning world hunger and poverty. Despite hunger already settling in my empty stomach, I fully invested myself in every activity, hoping fun could be a comparable substitute for food.
Although each new game we played acted as another great distraction from the daunting task at hand, I found myself learning a lot about poverty as well. This was especially true for the short breaks we took between each activity, as the team of ministry leaders would present facts about hunger, tell stories, and have us act out scenarios.
It was not long before I found myself wrapped up in the presentations, as each appalling statistic and humbling story seemed to pull on something deep inside of me. Coming to the realization that some people are faced with such destitution was troubling; this social injustice did not make sense to me. I felt an urge to reach out a hand to these people who desperately needed my help and the help of any other person like me, which only grew stronger as the night grew longer.
Each presentation would then transition into another game, and I would spring back into my joyous, competitive self, but everything I had learned would always float around the back of my mind.
The next morning, the group woke up bright and early with our stomach’s growling louder than our tired, worn voices could speak. If all I had learned the previous night was not sufficient in influencing me, the hunger I was feeling pushed me over the edge. To think that I was only feeling a small fraction of the discomfort millions of starving children feel every day was unsettling; I could not imagine a life of constant hunger, especially now that I had received a taste of it.
We spent the majority of that day doing various volunteer jobs around the community and helping to package meals to be shipped overseas to the hungry. The entire time, I relied on the support of my friends and my faith in God to keep me standing, working, and my mind off the highly anticipated meal to come at the end of the Famine.
While working to organize care packages, a realization came to me. I looked around the large gym at my peers, youth group leaders, and the hundred-or-so other people scrambling to organize meal bags. All of us, including the wonderful people at World Vision who organize the Famine and inspire so many people to help the impoverished, are agents of God acting to make the world a better place. The situation of hunger may look grim, but as long as people like us keep working to do God’s will and our absolute best to help all in need, things will get better. It may take time before conditions completely improve, but the more people involved, the faster we can solve this complicated issue.
There is an immense amount of hope for the hungry, even when it may seem as though there isn’t, because under the guidance of our faith in God, we can create positive change on every corner of the globe.
As the 30th hour came to a close, I honestly felt I was a changed person. I felt as if a veil of ignorance had been lifted from my head, and I could see the problems faced by the millions of impoverished people much more clearly now than ever before.
I felt an immense amount of pride in my own abilities and the abilities of my peers, as we had just achieved what I thought to be impossible — going 30 hours without any food.
And to top it off, the entire experience had been an absolute blast. I found myself closer to other youth group members, closer to my already-close friends, and closer to God.
Today, I consider St. Joe’s a second home and my youth group a second family, and I have my first Famine experience to thank for that. Without the Famine, I would never have had the bravery or the inspiration to travel to Peru with World Vision the following summer. Now I look forward to doing the Famine with my youth group for the fourth time in April, and I hope to continue the fight against hunger through college and for the rest of my life.
The 30 Hour Famine will disciple youth in your church’s youth group to grow closer to God’s heart for the poor. Pass this article on to your church’s youth leader or sign up to do the 30 Hour Famine here!
Michael Atlas is a high school senior from New Jersey. He has participated in the 30 Hour Famine with his church youth group for the last four years, going hungry to raise money to care and feed for hungry children. In 2015, Michael was a top fundraiser and had the opportunity to travel with World Vision to Peru to see the work the 30 Hour Famine funds. Michael has remained dedicated to caring for people living in poverty and is a passionate advocate for justice in our world! We can’t wait to see what he does next.