Matthew Wilson tries to shield himself from the cold during HillCrest Baptist's homelessness event.
By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
February 26, 2004
As most teenagers in Alabama prepare for weekend nights of fun on the town, some youth are putting aside this social frivolity for lessons in gratitude. Teenagers in the youth group at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Anniston, gathered Jan. 23 in the parking lot of the church to experience homelessness.
They unfolded cardboard boxes suitable for shelter and spread blankets for warmth. Fifty-five gallon drums for fires littered the concrete.
While the rules included being able to bring blankets and empty boxes, aid from electricity was not allowed. The 70 youth and adults who participated also had to defeat hunger brought on by the 24-hour fast, which started at 6 a.m. the day of the event.
The event was organized by Tim Thomas, Hillcrest’s youth pastor. To coincide with the event the youth collected two truckloads of used blankets, coats, gloves and clothes to donate to Calhoun County shelters that assist the homeless.
“We are attempting to get teenagers out of their comfort zone and get out of the ordinary lifestyle,” Thomas said.
He believes it is only the start of teaching the youth to meet the needs of people in the community. “We have no idea where it is going to end up, but we know where it is going to start,” he said.
Maghen Haynes, 18, said the experience offered her a lifetime of gratitude.
“At first I did not know if I could handle it, but I don’t regret it. I realize now that I don’t take anything for granted,” she said.
The Wellborn High School senior encourages other youth groups to have similar awareness events because it unites people.
The National Coalition for the Homeless indicates approximately 39 percent of the homeless population are children.
The most at risk for becoming homeless are people living in poverty. A growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty are primarily to blame for h0omelessness.
Hunger is a major part of homelessness. To combat world hunger teenagers from Loveless Park Baptist Church, Bessemer, will observe a fast for world hunger Feb. 27–28.
For 30 hours more than 30 students are expected to go without food after asking sponsors to donate money that will go to World Vision, a nonprofit organization coordinating efforts to relieve world hunger in many countries.
“This will bring our students to an awareness they have never felt before,” said Will Nahrgang, minister to youth.
To begin the Friday and Saturday World Vision 30-Hour Famine the youth will begin fasting at 12:30 p.m. wherever they are on Friday. They will gather at the church at 6:30 p.m. to begin a night of varied group activities. The event will end 6:30 Saturday evening.
Nahrgana cited World Vision statistics that 29,000 children in the world die every day from hunger and other problems. It takes $30 to feed and care for a child for one month and $360 to feed a child for a year.
“I know that when we participate in the 30-hour famine we will be changing lives and spreading the love of Christ to those in need,” he said.
His youth group’s goal is to raise $7,200 — enough to feed 20 children for one year in a developing country. (Anthony Wade contributed)
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