On the sunny Saturday afternoon I visited members of the youth group at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in New Windsor, they were on the 15th hour of a 30-hour famine.
In the warren of church basement rooms, some teens were putting together a board game, others were writing a skit and some were lounging on sleeping bags and relaxing to rock music on the radio. It seemed like any other teen "lock in" on an ordinary weekend. Except these young people were hungry -- very hungry.
Under the direction of their youth group leaders and with inspiration and guidelines from World Vision, the international organization that sponsored the event, the dozen teens decided to spend a weekend fasting and becoming more aware of world hunger.
Before the weekend ended, they had collected canned goods from friends and family to donate to local food banks, played board games about the politics of world hunger, wrote and acted in skits and role plays, went on a scavenger hunt, watched a video about the homeless and had discussions about food and the lack of it for many of the world's peoples.
And they talked about their own hunger and how hard it was to pass a fast-food restaurant or convenience store as they drove through Carroll County collecting the canned goods.
The Rev. John Wunderlich of the Stone Chapel and St. James congregations, a leader of the group, remembered the candy bars in the glove compartment of his car.
Anyone who had to run home on an errand was on his or her honor not to raid the refrigerator.
The first-person experience with hunger seemed to sensitize the participants about those who go without food most of the time. Eric Wilder, a student at Francis Scott Key High School, shared his thoughts: "I want to help people by learning about the homeless. I feel real sorry for them. I'm hungry, too, and I've only been doing this for 15 hours."
The participants, ranging in age from 13 to 20, were allowed only to drink juice and chew gum for 30 hours, from midnight Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday. A hot breakfast was awaiting them that morning, prepared by the women of St. Paul's Church.
This was the second famine for the group, which wanted to do it again after a fasting weekend last year.
This year, though, more planned activities were included and, surprisingly, the teens requested a smaller breakfast at the end of the weekend.
After their first fast, the teens thought they would be very hungry by the end, so church women prepared a huge breakfast. It turned out that the teens couldn't handle so much food -- and they still can't figure out why.
What kept them going throughout the weekend, the traditional time for snacking around the clock?
"Keeping busy helps keep your mind off of hunger," said Jennie Wareheim, home from Bridgewater College for her spring break.
Jessica Bowen, another college student from Shippensburg University home for the weekend, agreed. "It all comes down to planning and making sure everything's together, especially planning for the dead time when you start thinking about hunger," she said.
Others didn't want to let their sponsors or family members down. And, lest this sounded like a somber weekend, it wasn't.
"Somehow, in the middle of being hungry and wanting food, we laugh a lot," said Mr. Wunderlich, who was assisted by Sue Bowen of St. Paul's United Methodist Church of New Windsor.
For information about the famine weekend, call World Vision at (800) 7FAMINE.
Some students at Elmer Wolfe Elementary had some real-life experiences Friday. The life-like situation was personal finance, and the students got to spend their hard-earned "money" at an auction of books, calculators and other desirables.
At the beginning of the school year, the fifth-graders are issued checkbooks (made from ditto and construction paper) and seed money of $100. Then they begin earning money for good behavior, outstanding manners and good grades. Spontaneously helping a classmate might earn $50; a quiet, cooperative class might earn $100 for each student.
Fines are levied for less desirable behavior, and desk rent is $10 a month, so the students have an opportunity to practice writing checks.
"The kids seemed to really enjoy the auction," said fifth-grade teacher and auctioneer Sandy Minelli, who has been participating in these events for 12 years. "There was very good participation, especially if they wanted a particular item."
Highest bidder at Friday's auction was Lindsay Burdette, who spent $4,500 on the complete set of The Chronicles of Narnia.
The fifth-grade teaching team at Elmer Wolfe includes Mrs. Minelli, Jake Barkett (who helps students balance their checkbooks), Bonnie Madonna and Nicole Mould.
Three auctions are held a year, with one at school year's end.
Sunday is the deadline for ordering country ham sandwiches sold by the Lutheran Brotherhood chapters of Carroll and Frederick counties. Sandwiches cost $1.75, will be ready for delivery by St. Patrick's Day and can be ordered through any Lutheran Church in the county.
The sale benefits the Glenn Refro and David Wolfe families of Carroll County. Mr. Renfro of Manchester has had health problems that have prevented him from operating a family business; the Wolfe family's Keymar property was destroyed in a fire.
The Lutheran Brotherhood is matching its disaster relief funds to the community's fund-raising efforts. Information: 751-1120 or 374-6654.