Forty-Day Fast Helps Partners Identify with Children

11/14/12

Pastor Brent James was looking for a way to reinvigorate Peninsula Bible Fellowship’s (PBF) relationship with Children of the Nations (COTN) when he stumbled across the book, A Place by the Table, by Chris Seay. The book and devotional series leads individuals or groups through a forty-day solidarity fast with the poor.  This fast pares down the typical American diet to the basics—some of the only foods available to people in impoverished countries.  Brent saw it as a tangible way for his congregation to identify with the children they serve through COTN.

For forty days, more than 200 PBF members are choosing to eat what children in the Dominican Republic eat. The very basic diet includes rice, beans, bananas, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, chicken, citrus fruits, sugarcane, and coffee.  Participants are also able to buy the packaged meals that many children in COTN’s programs eat. At the end of the fast, on the day before Thanksgiving, the congregation will package 10,000 meals for children in the Dominican Republic.

Using this fast in combination with prayer for the children in the Dominican Republic, Brent felt the experience would build a kind of “muscle memory” for the congregation.  The PBF website declares, “[This is] a journey to listen to God’s voice, to pray for the poor, especially the people in the Dominican Republic, and to join together as a body to completely renew our focus on Jesus.”

The church is recording this monumental journey through a blog. Brent posted his musings on day one of the fast: “When my stomach grumbles, I can be reminded of the kids in the Dominican Republic. But I can also use that grumble jumble to press into Jesus, and to pray for the needs of the D.R., to pray for the needs of Peninsula Bible Fellowship and to pray for the needs of my family and my home.”  For every day of the fast, a new post is added to the blog featuring writings from several of PBF’s pastors and staff.  Their words are heartfelt, humorous, and honest.  They write how the fast has brought challenges as well as unexpected blessings and insights.
 
“One man told me,” writes Brent, “that after a week of doing this fast, his high blood pressure had dropped 20 points in one week—unexpected grace. One man told me that it was hard for him to walk into a grocery store that was filled with so much and to know that he could only buy these staple items, and it made him angry—not at the fast, but at the fact that there are so many people who don't have access to many unappreciated graces that fill our lives in United States. That is an unexpected grace. It's amazing how when we give things up for God, God has a way of filling our lives, souls, and bodies with more.”

As congregation members fast and read through the devotional book, they are also reading stories of the children in the Dominican Republic they support through COTN.  Marina Anna Baker writes how this fasting experience changed how she thinks about the children she supports:

“I am able to report that the message of empathy has rubbed off on me, especially when it comes to my being able to identify more acutely with the children I sponsor in other lands. Until this experience, they always seemed so far away; not only geographically but in many other ways as well. Now when I look at them (I have all of their pictures posted at my desk here at work), especially at 3 p.m., I can more fully relate to what they might be feeling just then.”

Get involved today!  Plan your own Meal Packaging event, join a Venture Team, or sign up to sponsor a child!