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Plymouth First United Methodist Youth Fast for Change

by David Webb and Amanda Mountain

Plymouth First United Methodist YouthMarch 26, 2010, Plymouth, Michigan--Instead of breaking yolks, they decided to break yokes. Using materials provided by The Advance's B1 campaign, the youth of First United Methodist Church in Plymouth, Michigan, raised over $5,400 to give to the Kiev Street Children Ministry, Advance #14054A and to the Haiti Emergency Fund, Advance # 418325 in response to the January earthquake.

After learning about the B1 Campaign while attending a United Methodist Women conference in New York City, First UMC's associate pastor, Rev. David Wichert, shared the idea with the youth director, Mary Hagley. She shared it with the youth, and they were enthusiastic immediately. One youth, aged 14, stated, "I wanted to help other people around the world and make a difference in the world," and David, 15, wanted to participate as a way "to spend time to grow closer to God." As the youth made their plans for a 24-hour fast, they recognized the value in making it more.

There was also the scriptural inspiration. "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6). First UMC's young people began wondering, "Just how far can we go with this?" They knew that this experience could produce even more than helping feed and clothe hungry children in Kiev, Ukraine.

First, they had the chance to really study the meaning of Isaiah's writing about fasting and breaking the yoke of oppression. Leading up to the fast, the group participated in an in-depth study and discussion of Isaiah and Matthew. Next, they decided to add a service project to the fast. Then, they knew that they would miss a great opportunity if they failed to invite the whole church to be a part of it. And the church responded.

The congregation supported a Valentine's Dinner to raise funds for the project. While the youth expected a turnout of 50 for the dinner, 76 actually showed up. Some of the adults in the congregation also offered to match up to $1,000 of any funds the youth raised. One woman even offered some support out of her inheritance. Finally, the whole church worked on a bottle drive, to collect as many bottles as possible to get Michigan's 10¢ per bottle deposit, raising over $360.

What began as a goal to raise $2,000 has already amounted to over $5,961.16.

Plymouth First United Methodist YouthDuring the actual fasting event, the participants played games and discussed issues of poverty, following the curriculum provided by The Advance. There were breaks and plenty of drinks, but for 24 hours, there was no food. To further reflect on the seriousness of the event, the youth took a trip to Cass Social Services in Detroit, where they stained furniture for the homeless shelter and cleaned the vans that deliver foods and other supplies to those in need. When asked what her favorite part of the B1 event was, Olivia, 14, said, "Helping out at the homeless shelter because it gave me a good feeling and perspective."

Considering the very challenging state of the economy in and around Detroit, some wondered if this event would be able to generate funds to help children in another country. Not only were the funds raised, but First United Methodist's youth have an even clearer sense of the situation in their hometown. When asked to consider what they would do differently after the B1 event, one 14-year-old member of the youth group stated, "I will tell people about these situations so people will be more aware" while another young person, Olivia said, "I will try not to waste food." Many of the church's young people now offer to buy some food whenever they see a homeless person. Others, like Olivia, say they will pray more so that God will use them.

This success goes beyond raising funds. By not breaking yolks, First United Methodist's congregation--young and old alike--have an understanding that step by step, yokes are broken. The enthusiasm of this first B1 event has strengthened the connections within this church, and it has made new connections of interest between First United Methodist's youth and a mission project in Kiev. The young people have already stated that B1 will be an annual event, and they have plans to enter into a Covenant Relationship with the Kiev ministry.

Why B1? When such connections are built, when such new understanding is gained, and when 100% of funds received go to the designated ministry, the question is why not B1?

David Webb is The Advance's Executive Secretary for Promotions & Cultivation; Amanda Mountain is the Mission Specialist for Youth & Young Adults, Development and The Advance.