In the basement of a New Windsor church this past weekend, Jessica Bowen and some of her friends got a taste of hunger they're likely to remember as the time when chewing gum never looked so appetizing.
"Some of them were swallowing their gum, like it was food," said Ms. Bowen, 19. "And by the time morning came around, there were a lot of people saying, 'I don't ever want to see another glass of juice for as long as I live.' "
Ms. Bowen and 18 others from three United Methodist churches in Carroll County -- St. Paul's, Stone Chapel and St. James -- participated in the 30-hour Famine for World Vision, designed to raise awareness about the needs of children in developing countries.
From midnight Friday until 6 a.m. yesterday, the young people who had gathered at St. Paul's went without solid food -- except for the aforementioned gum -- in an effort to learn about famine and world hunger and raise money through pledges for World Vision's hunger relief effort.
"They raised more than $800, and more contributions are coming in," said Sue Bowen, youth leader for St. Paul's, and Jessica's mother.
She said she contacted World Vision about the famine project after seeing an advertisement for the program in a religious publication.
"The Lord tells you things in strange ways," said Mrs. Bowen, whose son Kenny, 13, also participated in the fast.
"I was just starting to read the Good News and I turned right to that page, right to the ad."
The participants performed skits and drank fruit juices in the basement and Sunday school areas of the church.
One skit ended with the two characters commenting on world hunger by comparing it to the concept of trying to live on $100 a year."
"That's not living. It's barely existing," the first character said. "In fact, I'm not sure people could live like that."
"Millions do," the second character replied.
Participants slept in sleeping bags on carpeted floors, did homework and amused themselves between planned activities by trying to find pictures and words supposedly printed on U.S. currency.
And they tried not to think about food.
"You think about how painful and annoying it is that you want to eat, but you can't," said Mitch Acker, 15, grandson of St. Paul's pastor, Charles Acker Jr.
"It gives you an idea of what people have to go through," said Charles H. Acker IV, 16, Mitch's brother. "We were cold. We were hungry. We were tired. It's what everybody has to go through in those Third World countries."
Some of the youngsters took a playful approach to their experience in a poster they created. Charles wrote "I did not eat for 30 hours" and cut out a piece of the poster paper in the shape of a bite mark. Caron Barnes, 15, drew a goblet of wine and a piece of cheese.
But much of the poster dealt with more serious issues.
Yamilet Terol, 18, a Francis Scott Key High School senior and a member of a Cuban family sponsored in the United States by St. Paul's, drew the Earth with children standing on it and the words "You can make a difference."
They presented the poster describing their feelings about world hunger to the congregation, and they urged others to help people in this country and abroad who can't count on a meal at the end of a symbolic fast.
"We knew we were getting breakfast," said Jennie Warehime, 17.
"We knew exactly when was the next time that we were going to eat," Jessica Bowen said. "But with those people, they never know when that next time will be."
The 30-hour fast is an international event established several years ago by World Vision, a nonprofit relief and development organization.
The proceeds from this weekend's fast -- in which other church and civic organizations throughout the country also participated -- will aid communities in Guatemala, India and Mozambique, as well as some communities in the United States.