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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Daniels of UC Irvine Give Up Food for Spiritual Sustenance

By: Annie Kim

The sweet, creamy spoonful of pistachio ice cream melted in my mouth as I sat basking under the warmth from the golden California sun. I could not imagine giving up this scoop of smooth, soft, and pastel- like green dairy of deliciousness. My world would end. I would simply miss the richness of cold ice cream that compliments the pistachio nuts wedged in between my generous scoop out of the $1.99 Albertson’s carton, like the craters in a block of cheese. Ice cream is my favorite food and I would go absolutely “bonkers” without it. It is the food I turn to when I am happy, sad, cold, hot, and hungry (or even when I am guilty full). It would take a lot for me to give up ice cream. The sole purpose for many who do give up such a tempting dessert would probably be to fit in the next jean size down. However, it is not all about dropping ten pounds. All around the world, people give up plenty of delicious foods out of their every day diets for a religious event known as fasting. Their purpose is not to lose anything but to pack on what I would like to call it, “the spiritual pounds.”

Fasting is traditionally a huge part of religions. Catholics abstain from meat on all Fridays during a period of time known as Lent. This teaches them to control fleshly desires, penance for sins, and solidarity with the poor. All the main branches of Buddhism practice some periods of fasting which are usually on full moon days. More often than not, they give up solid foods, with some liquids permitted. This fast is a method of purification. It is a means of freeing the mind. The Hindu religion commonly fast on New Moon days and during their religious festivals. Depending on each individual, fasting may involve twenty- four hours of complete abstinence from any food or drink. This is not only a way of purification for the system but also for the Hindu’s to enhance concentration during meditation or worship. Jewish people fast on the Day of Atonement, known as Yom Kippur. They are forbidden from eating and drinking for a twenty- five hour period. This fast is for the atonement of their individual sins and special requests to God.

Christians also have their own spiritual fasts to attend to. It all began about 2,600 years ago when the King of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon ordered the chief of his courts official, Ashpenaz to select a handful of young men from the royal family and the nobility. The men must be young without any physical defect, handsome, bright, intellectual, and quick to learn. Ashpenaz was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The training was to continue for three years and after, they were to enter the king’s service. The king served and provided them with a daily amount of food and wine from his table. This food was the most delicious, rich, and filling of them all.

Out of the bunch, there was a fellow named Daniel- also known as Belteshazzar and three other of his friends named Hananiah, Mishael, and Abednego. There was something different that set Daniel and his friends apart from the other men in the group. They loved and knew God. Daniel and his friends decided to give up the King’s “royal food” that would defile their bodies, and also defile God. They did this to honor God with their body, mind, and soul.

Daniel told the chief, “Please test your servants for ten days: give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see (Daniel 1: 12- 13).” After ten days, the four men were in better health than the other captives who had been eating the rich food of the King. They continued to fast until the end of twenty- one days. This became known as the Daniel’s fast. The chief was hesitant at first but he decided to listen to Daniel’s request.

Part 1: The Purple Pig tour

Today, Daniel’s story is constantly being retold and relived all around the world by young Christian students on college campuses. Recently there has been a calling for campus revival. It all started with The Purple Pig Tour. This tour is not the typical music tour with a famous celebrity such as Lady GaGa. Instead, the Purple Pig Tour was a three- week journey through the state of California calling young college students everywhere to a culture of prayer and a life of mission. The Purple Pig tour is a traveling team of young adults who seek to call another generation to a culture of prayer and devotion to God. Specifically, here at the University of California Irvine, The Purple Pig Tour encouraged the many Christian fellowships to not only live a prayer lifestyle but to go on a twenty- one day Daniel’s fast. At the end of the message, a determined UCI student goes up to the front and speaks, “I feel that Irvine needs to go on this twenty- one day Daniel’s fast. Will you join me and will we fast together?” UCI Christian students from all different fellowships such as the Edge, KCCC, Life Group, AACF, Alpha Chi Omega, and Epic made a commitment to be on the Daniel’s fast. The Purple Pig Tour is only the kick- off to the greatness of “The Call.”

Starting on Sunday, October 24th, 2010, Elliot Kwong, John Liao, Joshua Yu, and Mina Choe from the UCI Christian fellowship known as “The Edge,” decided to devote themselves to follow Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Abednego by following in their footsteps. Each shared with me the purpose and the power of the Daniel’s fast, the struggles they had during the fast, and how this journey has only brought them closer to God.

“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning (Daniel 1: 17).”

College kids banned from Pop tarts, bacon, sausages, eggs, McDonald’s Dollar Menu, gourmet steak, grilled chicken, and cold milk poured over a delicious bowl of Captain Crunch cereal….. College kids eat broccoli and brightly colored fruit for breakfast say what?!

In the bible, Daniel and his friends gave up “Royal foods” for their God, which was known as meat and wine. Times have definitely changed since 2,600 years ago. There is a lot more added on to that list of “Royal foods” today.
It was a sunny Saturday morning as I made my way over to Elliot and John’s apartment located near UCI. Elliot is an International Studies major who is often teased by his friends for having girls at the “palm of his hands.” John is a double major in sociology and drama who comes from a nice and safe city known as San Marino. The twenty year olds kindly invited me over for their style of Daniel’s fast brunch. It was day nineteen of the fast.

The marble counter tops were decorated with kitchen knives and white cutting boards- one had the color of magenta splattered on as two halves of a pomegranate and brightly orange persimmons share the white stage. Next door neighbors to the cutting boards were an open container of white mushrooms and a sealed package of Asian tofu. Elliot and John humbly invited me over to their place for an early brunch to introduce what their typical ideal meal was as they winded down to their nineteenth day on the Daniel’s fast.

As Elliot prepared the tofu dish, he explained to me how the Daniel’s fast has personally affected his faith. “I find the Daniel’s fast most hard when I’m eating together with other people and the food just looks really, really good. It’s a good reminder for me as to why I am doing this. I remember that I want to know God more personally and I want to pray for campus revival.”

As John sliced the apple, he explained how the fast has built his faith. “Daniel’s fast has built and reinforced my faith. I have noticed that ever since coming on to the fast, I find myself more disciplined not just in choosing to say like ‘reading the Bible everyday’ or to ‘pray every day,’ not just that. But I feel that in this aspect it has somewhat spilled in to my academic life. I am not the best student in the world but I find that having done this fast, I find myself more motivated to do my work, to study properly. I don’t really have an explanation in to why but at the same time I feel that it has also helped me understand the aspect of peace that a lot of Christians talk about. I myself have gone though quite a few big events, sort to speak in these past three weeks. I know that if I didn’t have a chance to just sit down and properly meditate and get to know God’s presence, the way I would be reacting would be very different to the way I did react.”

Elliot and John have been eating a lot of tofu and vegetables and have restrained from eating meat, sugar, and dairy products. Often times when they go out to eat at restaurants or with friends, they would hover together in a corner and ask questions such as, “Hey, can we eat that? What’s that made out of?”

“I think for me, I’ve rediscovered how enjoyable vegetables can be. I am a lazy eater. So I don’t like peeling. I don’t like cutting so much. I feel like if I could just push it around in a pot, then that makes me happy. I mean, you can’t really do that with the food that we are eating. I am starting to re- appreciate the fruits and vegetables that we are eating,” said John. Elliot responds, “I’m not sure why but everything tastes so much better now. Like when I eat a salad I’m like, ‘why does this taste so good?’”“I guess it’s like counting your blessings a little bit,” chimed John.

Part 2: IHOP for Dinner

On Tuesday evening of November 9th, International House of Prayer (IHOP) sent forty of their students to the campus of UC Irvine. IHOP is also another organization that is linked with the Luke 18 Project and The Purple Pig Tour to unite up for The Call. Local churches and other local “House of Prayers” showed up. This all was connected through the Daniel’s fast. IHOP came to our campus to not only share testimonies but to encourage us as leaders for evangelism and prayer. IHOP did not preach out of the Bible or give sermons, but they rallied the UCI students to hear God’s word and how we should be praying for the campus of UCI. The IHOP visit was the pre- call event- a reminder that they were one step closer to The Student Call, FIGHT conference.

The Lady with no Chocolate

As the nineteen year old Mina walked to class through Aldrich Park at UCI, she noticed the beauty of the yellow flowers on the side of the winding pathways. She stopped and told God, “Wow, thank you God. That’s so beautiful.”

The restriction of Daniel’s fast would drive any normal girl insane. I mean, no chocolate for twenty- one days is a lot of days without a best friend. Mina was one of the very few who felt that her journey through Daniel’s fast was not a battle of wanting the food that she could not eat.
“The first week that I was on the Daniel’s fast, I was thinking, ‘wow this isn’t that bad.’ I thought it was just because it was the first week, but as the next week came around, it got a little bit harder but it wasn’t that much of a difference.”
Sweets and chocolates are not only a girl’s best friend but also known as comfort food. It is often an escape route to get your mind off a “dumb” boy. However, the ban of sweets and chocolate only led Mina to think about her “ultimate man” twenty- four, seven. “I felt like every single day I was talking about God, I was talking to God, thinking about Him. I felt like all day I was surrounded by God’s presence.”
The Young Man with no Meat

Day 1: On October 24, Joshua weighed 150lbs.

Meet Joshua Yu. He seemed to be your typical five foot seven Asian college kid. He would wake up fifteen minutes before his meeting, throw on some clothes, and skip breakfast. Afterwards, he would grab a hamburger from McDonalds, gulped down a can of soda as a snack, and scarf down a bag of chips for dinner. Sounds like your average college kid, doesn’t he?

Josh despised public speaking. He did anything he could to get out of it. However, people are always looking for this guy, especially when they want to know more about God. Campus revival has never really been on his mind because, “that’s extra work for me. I don’t really want to do it,” said Joshua. “I think the one thing that I have been struggling with is the leadership position that I have been put in. I don’t feel comfortable.” God had different plans in mind for Joshua.

The Daniel’s fast changed Joshua’s typical routine. He would wake up at 7am to eat a healthy breakfast, followed by twenty minutes of prayer. He would head out to class, come back home to make lunch, head out to his meetings, come back home to make dinner, and then drive off to his meetings. “This was twenty- one days of a completely different lifestyle. This was a huge challenge. God was really asking, ‘What are you willing to sacrifice for me?’ Joshua said.
Constantly, friends would badger him to go out to eat but Joshua stayed discipline and firm on his feet. “If I didn’t eat at home, I couldn’t eat at all.” The Daniel’s fast not only forced Joshua to eat “real” food and meals but, “it forced me to really sit and be still for twenty- one days,” he said.

Day 21: On November 13th, the scale told Joshua he weighed 140lbs. Although he lost ten pounds, he spiritually gained endless amount of the presence of God’s love.

Grand Finale: The Student Call- FIGHT Conference

After twenty- one days of fasting, it all boils down to this one epic moment: The Student Call. On November 13th, there was a gathering at the Glory Church located in Los Angeles, CA. Thousands of college students attended a solemn assembly for young adults led by the LUKE 18 Project. From 10am to 10pm, this conference was based on worship and prayer. These students came together and prayed for the revival of campus and universities everywhere.
Over three thousand students came together to listen to the moving testimonies and prayers. People were everywhere. Some sat in silence, closed their eyes, and bowed their heads. Many stood tall and held their hands to the ceiling and sang out loud to the worship songs that were played by the Christians bands. Some threw their bodies to the floor and sprawled their hands and arms out while kneeling. Many wrapped their arms around each other as they sang in worship and tears rolled down their faces. For twelve hours, it was pure singing of praises, prayer for the revival on college campuses, and worship to God.

“If one person is praying, God is already going to answer and do something, but if a thousand people are praying, God isn’t going to turn his back away from us. He’s going to do something about it, something big,” said Mina.

There are not enough words to describe the powerful movement, emotions, and moments that occurred at the Student Call in Glory Church on the Saturday of November 13th. The FIGHT conference was a gathering of students everywhere as one body from the state of California. College students and people from all over came to pray for revival on college campuses everywhere and worshiped their almighty God.

The different people, students, churches, and groups such as Youth of Missions, etc who have been praying and working together with the same heart for California and America all gathered as one here at the FIGHT conference. The leaders of these organizations were so excited to witness such a promising group of young adults to hand off this vision. This is the first conference where prayer and mission are joined hand in hand.

Through the Sea of Thousands, God Found His “Daniel” for UCI

It was definitely a miraculous day for many Christian students at “The Call.” For many, a miracle is the disappearance of world hunger, a loved one whom defeats cancer, or surviving the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. A miracle for these young adults at the “The Call” was to feel the presence of God and to know that He was there.
The red chairs were filled with the endless amount of people, not a single seat was left un- occupied. After a time of worship, there was a moment when they started to pray for different college campuses on stage. There were many students on stage from UC Davis, UCLA, Berkeley, etc. Joshua looked around the crowd and realized that UC Irvine needs to be up there!
“I looked around for my co- leader Tiffany Ha, but she wasn’t sitting next to us. I thought to myself that I don’t want to go up by myself but I knew that we needed to do something. Irvine needs to be up there!” John looked across a few rows and saw Mina. Mina pointed to the stage and said, “Go! You should be there!” Although Josh hates public speaking, he ignored all his fears and decided to go. He pushed and squeezed through the crowd to reach the stage.
“When I reached the stage, I stood behind the other students that were waiting their turn to pray. I thought to myself, ‘whoa this is intimidating’ as I looked in to the faces of over 3,000 people.” This event was also covered by cameras and posted on National television. Joshua thought to himself, “I don’t want to do or say anything stupid. I don’t want people to look back on this day and be like, ‘Do you remember that kid that spoke and he said something really weird?’ I didn’t want to do that!” They continued to pray for other Christian campuses on stage such as APU. On stage, Joshua was standing in the back of the mass of students. Afterwards, Brian Kim one of the founders of the LUKE 18 project started talking on stage, then he stopped and turned around and through the sea of people, he looked straight at Joshua and said, “Josh, I want you to pray for UC Irvine right now.” “In that moment I realized God has called me and that this is something I need to carry out and see through. He has given me this vision and authority in this way,” said Joshua.

“Afterwards there was an intense time of prayer and I had dropped to my knees and was crying out to God. This was all on camera. I thought it was embarrassing but then I realized it doesn’t matter anymore, I have given myself to God in that moment and everyone had seen it and I hope that that’s enough to encourage other people to not be afraid or embarrassed.”
A friend of Joshua asked him what he got out of The Student Call. Joshua said, “I think God called me to be a leader in front of 4,000 people and a global audience.”

At the End of 21 Days

At the end of the Daniel’s fast, Elliot, John, Joshua, and Mina had grown in their relationship with God. At the end of twenty one days, they had truly found God.
Elliot- “I feel like God has been drawing me really close to him. I feel that the amount of Holy Spirit I am receiving now does not equate to how much effort I have been putting in to the fast. But still, God is still pouring himself out to me. It’s not completely fair. I shouldn’t be receiving how much I am receiving from God. Through this fast, god is drawing me a lot closer to him but it’s not because I am doing something extra special.”

John- “I find myself more disciplined in Him and His word.”

Mina- “From day one, I felt more of a desire to pray longer and to read the word. I felt myself become more sensitive towards His voice. I feel closer to God.”

Joshua- “I’m in a place where if I sit still long enough, I can almost hear His voice. I’m in a place where I am getting closer and closer to God.”

At the end of the King’s training, the Chief presented them to King Nebuchadnezzar. The King talked with all the men in the group and found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

“In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom (Daniel 1:20).”
Let the spiritual pounds pack on!

*Amazing Pictures credited to Photographer Jesse Lee
Reporting Notes:
- http://thestudentcall.com/
- http://luke18project.com/fightconference/about/
- http://www.gotquestions.org/Daniel-fast.html
- Facebook.com - Jesse Lee (pictures/ video)
- The Bible
- 1 hour interview with John and Elliot
- 1 hour interview with Joshua and Mina
- attended TheStudentCall
- Youtube video
- attended IHOP conference


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