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Hunger strike in the name of famine relief

By JACINDA HOWARD

The Mirror

They camped in hand-built cardboard tents, completed a 30-hour hunger strike and raised money for a national famine relief project.

About 40 youths and pastors from Federal Way’s LifeWay Church, 5015 S.W. Dash Point Road, spent this past weekend camping in the church’s parking lot as part of a fundraiser.

LifeWay Church is just one of many organizations that participate in the 30-Hour Famine fundraising event. World Vision, a Federal Way-based international Christian humanitarian organization that works to overcome poverty and injustice worldwide, challenges people to take part in the fundraiser. The hunger strike occurs each February and April. The money raised is donated to World Vision, which in turn uses it to aid worldwide populations suffering from famine and disease.

LifeWay Church has taken part in the event for more than a decade, said youth pastor Sean Smith. Over this time, the church has raised nearly $50,000 to support World Vision in its efforts, he said.

Americans live pretty privileged lives and have a choice of when and what we eat, Smith said. This fundraiser is an opportunity to realize that not everyone in the world is that lucky, he said.

“We can sit around and whine about what we don’t have, but we have a lot more than the majority,” he said.

Church leaders chose to distinguish this year’s fundraising activities from previous year’s efforts. This was the first time the hunger strike was paired with the construction of a temporary tent city, Smith said.

In past years, participants began the weekend with the hunger strike and a game, such as laser tag. The night would be spent camping inside the church and the next day would be dedicated to completing community service projects, such as serving food in homeless shelters, Smith said.

Church members began their fundraising efforts at noon April 27, when a hunger strike began. This year, campers gathered at the church around 6 p.m. the same day to begin construction of their temporary cardboard homes. A portion of Saturday was spent performing community service work on church grounds.

Youths were allowed to construct their tents as they wished, but were advised to keep in mind that the shelter would provide the only protection from the weekend weather. Building tents instead of playing games allowed youths to experience what it might be like to be impoverished, such as the populations they are rallying for, Smith said. The tent city provided campers with a better environment for reflecting on their lives and the lives of those in need, he said.

As the night wore on, youths and pastors partook in education-building activities. The church focused on the atrocities the Uganda population suffers. The movie “Invisible Children” gave onlookers a glimpse into the lives on children in that African country.

The video made an impact on LifeWay Church member Paul Sapp, 20. For him, one day without food is hard, but for many in Uganda, going without food is normal, he said.

On Saturday, youths were split into groups and assigned tasks such as weeding. After a short time they were given cards, representing handicaps that some children in Uganda have. The youths were then instructed to perform their tasks as if they had the disability written on their card.

Sean Holm, 16, hopped around on one leg for about an hour and a half as he simulated what it would be like to have lost a leg in war. The task was challenging, but it made him realize that many people in foreign countries have no choice but to work, even if they have only one leg.

The fundraiser commenced Saturday night. Overall, the event was beneficial in educating youths about the lives of people in other parts of the world. Church member James Whisenhunt, 21, reflected on the event Sunday, saying it was amazing that the children in Uganda are hopeful and full of joy, despite their minimal food intake.

Sapp, Holm and Whisenhunt all said they enjoyed camping in cardboard tents better than the activities they did in past years because it parallels the lives of the people they were there to help.

“We got to focus more on what we were there for,” Sapp said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565

Fast facts:

World Vision’s U.S. headquarters, 14834 Weyerhaeuser Way S., Åuburn, has been stationed near Federal Way since 1995 when it relocated from Southern California. The organization operates in 100 countries around the globe, according to the organization’s Web site, www.worldvision.org.

Dr. Bob Pierce began World Vision in 1953 to help children orphaned in the Korean War. As the organization grew more successful it expanded its services into other Asian countries, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Today, World Vision provides humanitarian aide in the form of water, food, education, health care and economic opportunities to impoverished populations worldwide.

The 30-Hour Famine event has occurred annually for the past 16 years, John Yeager, World Vision media relations acting director, said. The event is a way to call attention to poverty’s effects.

Nearly three billion people live on less than $2 a day and hunger and malnutrition cause the deaths of more than 10 million children under the age of five annually, according to a February 7, 2007 World Vision press release. Last year 30-Hour Famine participants raised $11.6 million, according to the same press release. To learn more about assisting in World Vision’s efforts visit www.worldvision.org and click on the blue “get involved” tab.

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