This weekend we did a new activity in our youth program called 30-Hour Famine. This is a program developed by World Vision encouraging students to get sponsored by friends and family to do a 30-hour period of fasting and prayer for world hunger. It's a great opportunity to teach your students about some of the deeper disciplines of the Christian life. World Vision makes it a pretty easy event to pull off because their website is a wellspring of programming ideas.
I went into the Famine weekend with high expectations. Due to some recent graduations, my youth program is pretty thin on senior high leadership. So, my hope was that this weekend would be a time when my students would come out of the shells a bit and actually pray out loud for various causes. We had a prayer vigil service for all the children around the world who were dying of preventable causes and we did a prayer walk through the streets of downtown Palestine. At each of these times, students were given opportunities to pray for different things.
I was very disappointed to finish the weekend feeling like my voice was the only voice that was heard. I was honestly tired of leading prayers and frustrated that my students were still embarassed, unsure, apprehensive, and reluctant to be vocal about their concerns for the world around them. I even began to wonder what they were thinking. Were they even affected by the information we discussed? Seeing the kids cut up and be rowdy at times that should have been reverent, provocative, and even a bit disturbing made my frustration go even further. Honestly, I left the event tired and disappointed with $1 worth of Kroger brand macaroni and cheese in my belly (World Vision feeds people for $1 a day, so we broke our fast with $1 worth of food).
Somewhere that night, though, it hit me. Throughout the whole 24 hour experience, not once did the kids whine about their lack of food. We had juice and things to keep us going. There were also jokes about sneaking a bite here and there. But when it was all said and done, these students who had become tired, irritable, and in many ways very uncomfortable from a lack of food, did not complain about their situation. This morning one of our church members came and told me she had asked one of our 8th grade boys about his fasting experience and she said he talked about it with a lot of maturity and understanding. This truly blessed me!
You see, I had in my mind a particular outcome for my students. I wanted them to show spiritual growth in a particular area. But what had happened was that they grew in another area--an area that is probably more important. So, as I seek ways to get my kids involved in the spiritual acts of leadership in the group, I can do so knowing that they are growing to maturity in Christ in their own ways!