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Hope for the homeless

Participants set up shelters for a previous year's Homeless and Hungry event at West Fargo's Faith Lutheran Church. West Fargo Pioneer file photo

Most days, Faith Lutheran Church in West Fargo is your typical place of worship. Nothing seems out of the ordinary and, unless a service or special event is being held, the parking lot is rather empty.

That will change this weekend, when a cardboard box village suddenly pops up in its parking lot.

Saturday marks the beginning of the fourth annual Homeless and Hungry drive. Faith Lutheran is one of approximately 25 host sites from the Fargo-Moorhead area and surrounding community participating in the two-day event.

"The gist of Homeless and Hungry is to raise awareness and support for area agencies and homeless shelters," said Amy Kippen, Faith Formation Director at Faith Lutheran Church.

Participation in Homeless and Hungry is completely voluntary, but also is a qualification for Faith Lutheran teenagers going through confirmation.

"It's either that or serving lutefisk," Kippen said, of the church's lutefisk and meatball supper that also takes place Saturday.

Homeless and Hungry participants commit to sleeping outside in a cardboard box, fasting for 30 hours and raising $365 in pledges. While the event is open to any person at any edge, Kippen said children are monitored during the fast.

Those participating also are limited to what they can bring along for the overnight campout.

"A sleeping bag, bible, pen and a flashlight," Kippen said.

Highlighting this year's Homeless and Hungry event is a visit by Pastor Jay Bakker, from

Revolution Church in New York. Jay Bakker is the son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and is a nationally recognized speaker.

Jay Bakker will be keynote speaker for Homeless and Hungry, and will speak at an all-city worship on Saturday night, when the participating churches gather at Trollwood in Moorhead, Kippen said.

"He has quite a story to tell about his life and how through a lot of pain and rejection from the church he came to believe in grace," Kippen said, of Bakker. "He came to know the God who loves and accepts all of us no matter what."

In addition to speaking Saturday, Bakker will be preaching at Faith Lutheran Church on Sunday at 11 a.m.

While Homeless and Hungry is used to help increase awareness about the plight of those in need, the event also raises much-needed funding and supplies for area homeless shelters and food banks. Last year, approximately 40,000 pounds of food was raised through donations from the program, Kippen said.

Food and monetary donations are welcome, and can be dropped off at Faith Lutheran Church, located at 127 Second Avenue East in West Fargo. Money can also be donated at the Homeless and Hungry website:

The 30-hour fast ends Sunday afternoon at Fargo North High School, when participants will volunteer at a soup kitchen and invite the area's neediest families to attend and "shop for free" among the donated items, Kippen said.

While Homeless and Hungry is used to help those in need, it also impacts those participating.

"We've heard some very profound statements in the past," Kippen said. At Sunday's Faith Lutheran Church service, those who made it through the night will be asked to address the congregation.

"It really is life changing, and that's the purpose," Kippen said. "The money and food run out eventually, but changes to the heart last forever."