April 18, 2013
Admittedly, I ignore most, if not all of the emails that I receive from the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). (It’s of those automatic-delete situations, like “Chair Massage Tuesday” and “Please Read: Tuition Bill Available.”) In my mind, what relevance could the IVCF have for someone who was raised Jewish, became Agnostic a year after her Bat Mitzvah and has since started studying Buddhism? In other words, what relevance could the IVCF have for anyone who’s not a Christian? And then, a flyer in Commons caught my attention, and challenged my skepticism: “Come eat Minar with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship! IVCF is hosting a fast to benefit the Thea Bowman House!”
As if they had to underline “Minar” to lure people in. The mention of free Indian food was more than enough to grab any Hamiltonian’s attention, and the mention of an altruism-inspired fast was—dare I say it?—even more intriguing.
I had never heard about the Thea Bowman House before I saw the IVCF handout, but it didn’t take more than a few minutes of reading the organization’s website to realize it is a wonderful cause—well worth skipping a few meals for.
Started in 1986 and based in Utica, the Thea Bowman House seeks “to provide a safe, nurturing environment to enable culturally diverse children and families achieve their full potential.” The organization offers a number of programs to provide educational and social advancement to locals in need. These range from Universal Pre-K, which prepares four-year-olds for kindergarten, to Domestic Violence Ended, which educates children about domestic violence, as well as provides counseling and support.
I emailed the IVCF a moment later and signed up for the charity fast, which took place on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Almost 100 others did the same. And for a school that has less than 2,000 students, that’s an admirable success.
What was the big draw, then? Surely, for some, it was the IVCF: either people who are directly involved in the club or who identify with the Christian community. (This was further confirmed at the break-fast. Before eating, a prayer was led, and I watched most of the partipants in the room sincerely close their eyes and bow their heads.) For myself, though—and I imagine many others—the motive to participate in the fundraiser was not in the least bit religious.
The event required a great amount of planning from the great number of IVCF leaders: President Jasmin Thomas ’15, Worship Coordinator Paul Westin ’15, Prayer Coordinator Katie Jickling ’15, Large Group Coordinator Eric Lintala ’16, Small Group Coordinator Kim Olsen ’16 and Outreach Coordinator Hunter Dansin ’16.
That said, the event’s concept is substitution at its simplest and loveliest. Don’t swipe into the dining halls for a day. The money that would normally go to your meal plan goes to the Thea Bowman House. And that night, everyone involved gets to break-fast (or should I say feast?) on Minar.
A chapter of the larger organization, Hamilton IVCF’s mission statement is as follows: “Shining the light of God to the Hamilton community through speech, life, love, faith, and purity.” Certainly, the event spoke to these goals—and the break-fast itself was a lot more religious than I (probably should have) expected. Dansin introduced the club, clarified what it means to be a young Christian today, and then handed the mike over to Pastor Vinton Upham from the Immanuel Baptist Church in New Hartford, who explained the biblical history and significance of fasting.
These speeches were given before we participants broke our fast and—forgive me for saying what everyone else was thinking—it was slightly painful to (try to) concentrate on lessons from the Old and New Testament after not having eaten for twelve-plus hours, with the smell of Minar wafting through the Annex.
But between the grumbles and mumbles from our stomachs, something Pastor Upham said truly resonated with me: “It’s not just about what you’re doing with your body—it’s about what you’re doing with your heart.”
That’s the connection. The link between the IVCF’s fundraiser and the larger community it exists within. Even though this event was successfully and innovatively created by the Christian Fellowship on our campus, it wasn’t just about being a Christian. It was about being a human—and that means caring about other humans and doing what good you can when you can.
This marks the first time the IVCF has held a fast-based fundraiser. While it was inspired by the Muslim Student Association’s fast for Ramadan earlier this year—this also most likely marks the first non-traditional, charity-based fast on campus.
To me, it marks an incredibly successful model for other Hamilton organizations to take inspiration from and recreate for their own causes. If Bon Appétit is willing to cooperate with groups on this sort of fundraiser, students should make use of having such a generous and supportive catering company on campus.
Some people perform community service to put it on their resume. Others, because they’re mandated to. And a lot just don’t—because it takes time that we Hamiltonians “don’t have.”
This fundraiser doesn’t require time. It actually gives you more time. Sleep in later, don’t have breakfast. Don’t spend ten minutes waiting in line for sushi at Commons and ten more minutes trying to find a table. Sure, you’ll be a little hungry (especially if you’re foolish enough to eat an early dinner the night before and then go to the gym, like me). But, at the end of the day, it’ll be worth it. The feeling of making an actual, tangible difference in our community is far more satisfying than Minar’s naan. And that’s saying something.