Cooper: Teen church group fasts to raise funds for the hungry

Cooper: Teen church group fasts to raise funds for the hungry

May 11th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

When the hungry teenagers pulled into the Chattanooga Rescue Mission last Saturday, they understood only vaguely that they'd be working around food.

Before they knew it, though, the Chattanooga Grace Church of the Nazarene youth, who were on a 34-hour fast, were preparing soup and brownies for clients of the emergency shelter for the homeless.

"Man, I can't wait to lick this [brownie batter] out of the bowl," Megan Paradis, 15, says she thought to herself.

Emily Davis, 16, similarly, says the soup "smelled real good."

Both girls, and the rest of their group, managed to hold off from eating, though.

This is the fourth year Grace Church has been involved in the 30-Hour Famine to raise funds for World Vision through the denomination's Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Each participant seeks out friends and family members to sponsor him or her financially for completing the fast.

For every $30 raised, World Vision can feed and care for a child for a month.

Since World Vision's Famine started in 1992, according to the 30-Hour Famine website (www.30hourfamine.org), the total number of children under age 5 who die each day -- most of them from preventable causes like hunger, poverty and disease -- has fallen from 40,000 to just over 20,000.

Daniel Winn, youth pastor at Grace Church, says six teenagers and two adults took part in the recent event, which ran from Friday night through Sunday morning.

"Only two had never done it before," he says.

However, Winn says it's fair to say none of the youth had ever wanted for food like the children their money will help.

Winn says the visit to the Chattanooga Rescue Mission was both to show how people who are truly hungry live and to help the teenagers pass the time during their hours of hunger.

The shelter, he says, "is something near and dear to my heart because I have heard the story of the mission."

While there, Winn says, the youth group helped in the kitchen, sorted clothes and did other odd jobs. The food preparation didn't seem to faze them, he says.

Stephen Holloway, 17, says the time at the shelter helped him understand that life is more important than material things.

It proved "it's not about me, it's not for me, it's about God," says Megan Paradis, "and it's about people who need food."

Joey Paradis, 14, put it more bluntly.

"It taught me that I didn't like to be hungry," he says.

Before going to bed Saturday night, though, Winn says, "they all started talking about their favorite food, their favorite candy." That's happened "every time we've done this," he says.

When Winn told them their fast -- during which they could drink water -- would actually stretch 34 hours through the end of their Saturday sleepover at the church, even one of the teens new to the project didn't object.

"I guess four more hours is not too bad," he recalls the teen saying.

Winn says the group broke its fast before Sunday school, then shared their experiences at a worship service that evening.

The Chattanooga Grace Church of the Nazarene teens aren't the first group in the area to fast for a cause or to experience how other folks not as fortunate as they are live. And they won't be the last.

But perhaps six teens will have learned, as they fasted and raised more than $700, the importance of service and compassion.

For that, what's giving up a Pop-Tart or a slice of pizza?

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@times freepress.com or 423-757-6497.