GREENFIELD — About 12 hours had passed since Nathaniel Brown finished eating the Oreo Pop-Tarts he picked for breakfast Friday.
He’d had no food since then, and as evening fell there was no food in sight until the next day’s lunch.
“My stomach is not even making noises at this point,” the 13-year-old said when someone asked if it was growling.
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His stomach wasn’t growling, and neither was he. He was focused on fashioning a cardboard shelter for sleeping outside.
Nathaniel was one of about a dozen youth at Trinity Park United Methodist Church who participated in the 30-Hour Famine on Friday and Saturday. They didn’t eat for 30 hours. They slept outside Friday night and spent Saturday morning sorting clothes for children in need before finally breaking their fast with lunch.
30-Hour Famine is an initiative of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization that offers child sponsorship opportunities but also has initiatives dealing with clean water, education, disaster relief and other issues.
Various youth groups in Hancock County have participated in the event over the years. Phil Strahm, youth pastor at Trinity Park, said youth of the church tend to participate in the event once every few years.
“We try to talk about different commands God gives us,” Strahm said, “about helping the oppressed.”
Participating students collect donations for World Vision to fight hunger; the Trinity Park group raised more than $500. They fast, although students younger than 12 are discouraged from fasting for the full 30 hours, and use educational materials from World Vision to learn more about the effects of hunger around the world.
“I’m hoping to learn about how privileged I am, compared to other people who aren’t as privileged as I am,” Nathaniel said from inside the cardboard house he had fashioned behind the church parsonage with roommates Isaac Baker and Gabe Clifton.
While various students at the site wondered how many bugs or spiders they’d encounter — and a few of the latter did occasionally skitter across a cardboard floor here and there — this trio was taking action. The casualties were stuck on strips of duct tape and adorning a cardboard wall; about an hour into the house-building project there were five.
The triangular door of the boys’ house was one of many quirky personal touches added to the makeshift houses. Emma Baker and roommate Kaitlin Webb were spray-painting windows on theirs, along with a “Welcome” on the west-facing outer wall.
Hours away from that morning’s pancakes, Webb admitted her stomach hurt, but “This is what people go through every day,” she said.
Emma Baker agreed.
“We’ll be able to relate to people who can’t eat,” she said.
Sera Muir, 18, said Sunday that after a while it got easier to forget she was hungry, except for occasional pangs during the youth group’s activities, such as playing dodgeball or volunteering Saturday morning at Lambswear Inc. in Indianapolis. Some participants also assembled packets that would go to particular children in need; each packet contained seven outfits, shoes, underwear, a jacket and occasionally fun accessories such as a tutu.
After their work, the group returned to church and ate Fazoli’s spaghetti for lunch.
More sobering than momentary pangs Muir experienced during the fast was the general lack of energy she noticed. “It was more the fatigue of not eating,” she said.
The weekend left her “definitely appreciating the situation that I have more.”
Strahm said that’s part of what the event aims to accomplish. He’s led other youth through the program over the years and has heard from them that it changed their perspective on what they have — how they think about the extra apple thrown away at lunch, for example, and now feel they should have eaten it.
“I think the average kid doesn’t realize how big of a hunger problem there is, or how many hungry people there are,” he said. Through the event, “They realize they can do something.”
The 30-hour famine, sponsored by World Vision, challenges students to fast from food for 30 hours to give participants a better understanding of the world’s hunger problem.
Worldwide, about 795 million people — one in eight — are hungry, the organization states.