By Carolyn Kouracos
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
Hunger Strike  is a new youth ministry of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). Launched this year on a national level, Hunger Strike is already becoming a growing youth movement. Started at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, CA three years ago, this vibrant ministry has already raised more than $10,000 and has Orthodox Christian teens striving to make a difference in the world by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and giving to those in need.
Hunger Strike is coordinated by local parishes, where teens fast for 30 hours while they participate in activities which raise both awareness and money for the needs of those throughout the world who suffer the effects of poverty and who hunger for the hope found in Christ. Hunger Strike helps teens to identify with the poor and respond compassionately to those living in harsh conditions in developing countries. Students also personalize and embrace their Orthodox faith and grow closer to Jesus Christ and each other as they learn to share their faith.
Prior to the Hunger Strike weekend, teens seek sponsors for the 30 hours they will fast. In addition to this fundraising component, teens build awareness about world hunger and poverty issues, as well as the global need to share the Gospel through international mission ministries.
When the teens arrive for the retreat, they are given "passports" depicting Orthodox Christian children from a mission country. Passports show photographs of children and offer descriptions of their lives, including their homes, schools, health, and chores. These passports are a result of previous mi ssion trips by members of St. Paul’s through OCMC, in which interviews and photographs of the children were taken. The passports help to open a window into the lives of these Orthodox Christian children in the mission field and bring to life the harsh reality of living in a third world country to our children here in America.
Broken into five “villages,” the teens then compete against one another in a spirit of fun through specials games and activities that emphasize the need for clean water, adequate food, and energy in developing countries. They run relays, make Prosphoron, and participate in community service activities. Saturday’s activities culminate in a candlelight memorial service in the church. After Liturgy on Sunday, the teens have the opportunity to share with the parish all they learned and participated in during Hunger Strike.
Money raised through Hunger Strike goes directly to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). OCMC uses these funds throughout the mission world to help children, families, and communities who suffer from poverty and who hunger for the hope found in Jesus Christ.