PUNXSUTAWNEY — We've heard the old saying it's either "feast or famine," and this weekend at the Punxsutawney Alliance Church, for members of the church's youth group it will be famine as they participate in a "30 Hour Famine” event to help raise awareness for world hunger.
"This is not just an event that is occurring at the Punxsutawney Alliance Church. It is put on by Worldvision across the country," said Connie Neal of the Punxsutawney Alliance Church.
Neal said wars and natural disasters dominate the world’s daily headlines, but behind the scenes and far from the spotlight, hunger and preventable diseases claim the lives of 24,000 of the world’s children every day.
"More than 1 billion people go hungry every day," Neal said, adding that more than 6 billion live on the planet, which means one in six will go hungry tonight.
She said the reason the youth group at the Punxsutawney Alliance Church is holding this event during the Christmas season is because of all the gifts that people receive are a reminder that in the United States, we're somewhat affluent compared to many third-world countries.
"Even though Punxsutawney isn't rich, there aren't too many people who are lacking the necessities of life," Neal said.
She said for the students, this is like doing a missions trip in their hometown.
She said the point of the "30 Hour Famine" is two-fold: "Jesus said, 'The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.'
'The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself,'" Neal said.
"We want students to understand that Christ saw needs in people, and he met them, and they felt loved because of that," Neal said, adding that because we love Christ, we see the needs that other people have.
Neal said that on Sunday and Monday, 15 to 17 students will set aside the usual holiday trimmings of Christmas and New Year’s.
"Instead of cookies and eggnog, they will consume nothing but juice and water from 2 p.m. Sunday until 8 p.m. Monday night," Neal said, adding that they have consciously chosen to “Go Hungry So Others Won't Have To” – the theme for this year’s '30 Hour Famine.'"
She said by going without solid food, they get a small taste of what the world’s poorest children and families face every day.
"Prior to the event weekend, students began raising funds with the knowledge that every $30 they raise can help feed and care for a child for a month," Neal said.
She said the group will also be performing hands-on service projects during the fast in order to make a difference in this community and surrounding areas.
"As part of the '30 Hour Famine,' the middle and high school kids will be shoveling snow (if necessary), passing out food and assisting the elderly and community organizations with various odd jobs," she said.
"They will also be constructing a cardboard community and holding a “hunger protest” on the front lawn of the Alliance Church grounds located on Route 436 to raise additional support," Neal said, adding that funds raised by '30 Hour Famine' participants will help feed and care for children in communities in need around the globe through World
"Sunday night, the students will be able to have beverages that are unsweetened, vegetable juices, water, tea and coffee if the leaders are game enough to let them have it," Neal said.
She said that on Monday morning the youth group participants will be allowed to add fruit juices to their choices. The Punxsutawney youth have designated the funds they receive to assist families in poverty stricken Mongolia, where the unemployment rate is an unbelievable 44 percent, she said.
Neal said, in general, a portion of all funds received by World Vision are used to help the needy in the United States.
Since 1992, 30 Hour Famine has raised close to $140 million, representing countless lives saved. World Vision works in nearly 100 countries, helping approximately 100 million people every year, she said.
Neal said World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Anyone who would like to donate to the "30 Hour Famine" may call the church office at 938-8505.