It was 2006. Andrew Shearman had spoken to the AIM staff retreat the previous year. It had felt like we were on the brink of something special. We had launched the World Race and sent 4,000 volunteers to help with the hurricane Katrina cleanup. I sensed that God wanted to speak to us and that he wanted me to go on a long fast – 42 days.
I decided to not eat food, but still drink juice. I was in the habit of running 30 miles a week and I decided to keep on running regularly.
Although I’ve fasted a good bit, I wasn’t looking forward to going without food this long. When I was a wrestler in high school and college, it was normal to cut weight by not eating. But the memories were not pleasant.
Initially, I was hungry! I weighed 163 pounds and lost about half a pound a day. After a couple of weeks, I was down to 156 pounds.
Hunger pains were more an issue of discomfort than sheer, piercing pain. My tendency in life is to give in to my body far too frequently. I need to, with Paul, learn “the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry” (Phil. 4:12).
My mind is a trickier opponent. Food is a happy, pleasurable thing. We are by nature pleasure-seekers and pain-avoiders.
My wistful glances at the refrigerator had a certain restrained madness behind them that, if ever unleashed, made me feel as crazy as Bruce the shark in “Finding Nemo.” Bruce is the Great White who, abandoning the thin veneer of restraint, wildly declares, “I’m having fish tonight!”
There’s a Bruce the shark raging down inside me. No wonder Paul’s advice to the church at Colosse sounds so ruthless: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5).
I thought I was praying about the World Race. I knew it was going to blow up and I wanted to steward the dream of God well. After a couple of weeks, I received what I thought was a vision of a generation fully alive (shared on this blog).
But my most profound experience came 19 days into the fast as God spoke to me about his heart for orphans and allowed me to feel what he feels about them. Julie Anderson had just adopted Ellie in Eswatini. God asked me, “Who will be her family? And who will be family for others like her?” He said, “You must father the fatherless.”
I was overwhelmed. God feels so deeply about his kids and he wants us to care for them on his behalf. To feel what he felt was one of the great surprises of my life. And with it came a charge, a stewardship – “You will care for my children. You are to bring them into your homes – onto your porches and into your kitchens.”
Since that time, our team began caring for orphans. And that ministry has continually grown every year. We now have the responsibility of feeding and caring for some 8,000 vulnerable children in Africa.
Eventually I was able to break my fast. It felt wonderful to eat again! The World Race grew and kind of took over my life up until Covid hit and we had to bring everyone home. And my sense is that God has more for us – that the last 16 years has been a warm up for what he wants to do in the future.
The experience has been humbling. We tried a lot and along the way we experienced so many setbacks. I’ve felt like a failure so many times.
We’re back to a place where we are again seeking God for what he wants to do in the future. Maybe it means a fast. If so, I probably will enter into it begrudgingly. Fasting never seems to be easy….
Has God ever called you to a long fast? Was it difficult to say yes? Did you experience fruit?