I’m me – God cares for us

Aim:

To help the children understand that God knows all about us, even the things that make us unique individuals.  He made us special.

Bible base:

Luke 15; Psalm 139

You will need:

A simple sheep puppet of some kind eg a sock puppet, a paper bag puppet, a wooden spoon puppet

Preparation

  • Prepare or obtain your sheep puppet.
  • Learn the story and practise telling it using the puppet.

Presentation

Introduction 

  1. Ask the children if they have ever been lost.  How did it happen?  How did they feel?  How were they found?
  2. Tell the children that you know a sheep that got lost.  Introduce your puppet and tell the sheep’s story.

Story

Idris the sheep lives on a farm under the shadow of the great mountain Cader Idris in North Wales, after which he is named.  He is well looked after by Mr Williams, the shepherd, who makes sure that all the sheep in the flock are well fed and cared for.

Mr Williams knows everything about each one of the sheep – its name, its special favourite places to eat grass, how they lie when they sleep at night and probably even what each sheep is thinking!  Imagine that!  With Idris, that’s not too difficult.  He’s always dreaming of the great mountain with which he shares a name, and of what it would be like to climb up to the very top and look out over the deep blue sea.

Well one day Idris got his chance!  A boy from the farm came running to fetch Mr Williams to help a ewe give birth to triplet lambs.  In the short time that Mr Williams’ back was turned and the gate was open, Idris escaped for his adventure!

Idris ran up the next field and wriggled under a gate that was a bit broken.  It was quite a climb up the hill but he was fairly fit and very determined.  As he climbed higher and higher the farm looked smaller and smaller, until Idris forgot all about the rest of the sheep and Mr Williams the shepherd.  Until, that is, it began to go dark.  Idris shivered a bit as the sun went down and shadows from the moonlight began to stretch out across the mountain. He was cold, he was still a long way from the top, and he was beginning to feel a bit frightened.

Stumbling up the mountain, Idris took his eyes off the path for a moment and suddenly felt himself falling!  There was nothing he could do until he landed with a hard bump on some very rocky ground.  Idris tried hard to get up but – oh no!  He had hurt his foot as he fell.  He began to cry, but there was no one to hear his bleating.  Poor Idris!

Mr Williams the shepherd went back to his sheep when the triplet lambs had been born and were safely tucked up in their pen.  Everything looked all right, but he thought he had better check.  He counted the sheep by number and by name.  ‘Rosie, Penny, Dewi, Gwyn…’ until he reached Idris’ name in his head.  Where was Idris?  Certainly not in the field.  But do you remember what I said earlier, that Mr Williams even knew what each sheep was thinking?  He guessed straight away where Idris would be, for he knew all about the little sheep’s fascination with the great mountain of the same name.  So, closing the gate firmly to keep the other sheep in, Mr Williams set off up the mountain.

Mr Williams didn’t daydream like Idris: he watched carefully where he put his feet.  He had a powerful torch to see the way in the dark, and, keeping to well-worn paths, Mr Williams climbed Cader Idris, calling all the time for the sheep of the same name.  I think you can guess what happened!

Mr Williams found Idris and climbed down to rescue him.  He tucked the sheep inside his coat, for Idris was still quite small, and carried him safely home.  The next day he asked the vet to come and Idris had a special splint put on his broken foot.  Idris the sheep never again tried to escape to the top of the mountain called by the same name.

Application

  1. Tell the children that just as the shepherd knew all about Idris in our story, even what he was thinking, God knows about each one of us.  He cares for us too, like the shepherd cares for the sheep.
  2. God knows the things that are special just to you, the things that make you different from anyone else – your favourite toy, your favourite place to go, your friends.
  3. Make the point that there is something different about each of us.  Even identical twins don’t have the same fingerprints and are different in other ways too.  God knows every part of us and loves us just the way we are.

Prayer

Thank you, God, that you have made us all different.  Thank you that each one of us is special to you.

 

Sticking together – Ruth

Aim:

To show that God is pleased when we are good friends.

Bible base:

Ruth

You will need:

  • A selection of methods of sticking things together, eg Blu-tack, staples, sticky tape, superglue
  • Some small pieces of paper, card, material, wool to stick together.
  • Two sticks and strips of card
  • 5 paper plates for ‘plate head’ puppets

Preparation

  • Make two signposts (strips of card stuck to a stick), one saying ‘Bethlehem’, the other ‘Moab’.
  • Make ‘plate head’ puppets to represent Naomi, Orpah, Ruth, Boaz and Obed.  Draw faces on paper plates with marker pens and add material, wool for hair, beards etc.
  • Read through the story outline below to familiarise yourself with it.

Presentation

Introduction

  1. Talk to the children about different ways of sticking things together.  Demonstrate a few using the methods you have brought.  Allow the children time to make suggestions themselves.
  2. Finish with the superglue method emphasising how difficult it is to separate the pieces of card stuck together with this.  Tell the children that some people are such good friends that they ‘stick together’ whatever happens.  Today they will hear about a woman in the Bible who stuck with her friend even when things were difficult.

Story

You could invite children out to hold up the different puppets and signposts as you tell the story.

Introduce the children to your Naomi puppet and show them your ‘Bethlehem’ signpost.  Tell the story:

Naomi lived in the town of Bethlehem with her husband Elimelech and her two sons.  Things were looking bad for the family, as the fields in Bethlehem were dry and dusty, there was no food left to eat and everyone was hungry.  Elimelech decided it was time to leave and move to a place where there was food.  So all the family went on a very long journey to the country of Moab and settled there.

(Show ‘Moab’ signpost.)

The two sons grew up and married two girls from Moab, called Ruth and Orpah.

(Introduce your Ruth and Orpah puppets.)

Sadly, Elimelech died and then about ten years later Naomi’s two sons died, leaving her all alone.  Naomi had heard that there was now food in Bethlehem, so she decided she would go back home.

(Hold up ‘Bethlehem’ signpost.)

Ruth and Orpah couldn’t leave Naomi to make the long journey on her own so they decided to go with her.  As they travelled along, Naomi tried very hard to tell Ruth and Orpah to go back and eventually Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye and went back to Moab.

(Hold up ‘Moab’ signpost.)

But Ruth just wouldn’t leave Naomi so they travelled on together.  When they reached Bethlehem it was harvest time and the farmers were beginning to bring in the crops.  Naomi’s old friends were so pleased to see her, but Naomi was sad – her husband and sons were dead.

Naomi and Ruth were very poor.  Ruth would go out into the fields each day and pick up any leftover pieces of corn.  Ruth didn’t know that she was working in a field which belonged to a rich relative of Naomi’s.  His name was Boaz.

(Show your Boaz puppet.)

Boaz found out that Ruth was a foreigner and was very kind to her.  Boaz married Ruth and they had a beautiful baby son called Obed.

(Hold up Obed puppet and then Bethlehem sign.)

Ruth who had been such a good friend to Naomi was the happiest woman in Bethlehem!

Application

  1. Ask the children why they think Ruth stuck with Naomi.
  2. Talk about how hard it must have been for her in a strange land, far away from the people she knew.
  3. Make the point that being a good friend isn’t always easy – sometimes it will be difficult to keep on being friends.  God is happy when we are good friends.

Prayer

Thank you, God, for friends.  Help us to be good friends who stick with each other whatever happens.  Amen.

Who is the greatest? – Washing disciples feet

Aim

To show pupils that in God’s eyes, the greatest of all is the servant of all.

Bible base

Mark 9:35 – the last will be first.

John 13:1-17 – Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.

You will need:

  • Some sheets of A4 paper for making paper aeroplanes.
  • A bowl of water and a towel for the feet washing exercise.

Content

Introduction

1. Ask the pupils: ‘Who is the greatest?’ Say that for some people the answer might be…(say the name of a popular, successful football team); or for someone else it might be…(say the name of a singer or group who has recently had a number one hit). Give one or two examples of your own favourite celebrities – possibly provoking some groans from the audience!

2. Comment that everyone will have a different answer, according to their interests and allegiances.

3. Continue by asking, ‘But who is the greatest here?’ Say that today, you are going to find out.

The great aeroplane contest

1. Ask for three or four volunteers to take part in a ‘Who is the greatest?’ contest.

2. Explain that you want the volunteers to make a paper aeroplane from the A4 paper provided. They will then launch their aeroplanes from a raised point in the room (eg standing on a chair, or on the stage). The winner (‘the greatest’) will be the person whose paper plane travels the furthest.

3. Act as commentator whilst the contestants make their planes, building up the excitement and drama of the contest. When they are ready, ask each competitor to launch their planes in turn. Ask the audience to allow each plan to land and then the pupil nearest should pick up the aeroplane and hold it aloft as a ‘marker’ showing the next contestant the distance he/she must try to beat.

4. When the contest is over, announce the winner and reward them with a ‘tremendous’ prize (hand them a sheet of A4 paper) – an aeroplane! Give everyone a round of applause. Keep your volunteers at the front. Ask the winner how it feels to be the greatest (great designer, great scientist, great inventor and great test pilot) – officially!

Application

1. Comment that it’s a good feeling to be ‘the greatest’, getting all the glory and lots of attention. Then say that the Bible has something to say on the subject. Read these words from the Gospel of Mark: ‘Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all’ (Mark 9:35, Good News Bible). Say that this seems a strange way to describe greatness.

2. Jesus’ way of looking at things is not the same as ours. On one occasion he demonstrated this to his disciples by getting down on his hands and knees and washing their feet! An amazing thing to do – as you can imagine – considering they were living in a hot country and had been wearing sandals.

Jesus said that he expected his disciples to do the same sort of things for one another, and that the most important people actually live as though they are the least important!

3. Bring out the bowl of water and the towel and ask the winner of the paper aeroplane contest how he/she feels – considering that they are ‘the greatest person’ here – about washing the feet of the losers.

If the winner agrees, let him/her do this! If they are obviously uncomfortable about doing it, take the heat out of the situation by saying that we don’t have to wash one another’s feet literally! Whatever you ‘winner’ decides to do, point out that there are lots of other ways we can act as servants to one another (give some examples).

4. Comment that when people are asked to list those who they consider to be great, today or in the past, those included are nearly always people who have served others in some way.

5. Challenge ‘the winner’, and everyone else, to think of how they could serve others today.

 

Working together – supporting each other

Bible base

1 Corinthians 12:12–21

Aim

To help students understand that people are stronger when they work together and support each other.

Things you’ll need

A telephone directory

Presentation

1 Invite to the front three or four volunteers who think they are strong. Challenge them, one by one, to rip the telephone directory in half in less than five seconds. Tell them that if the first one to do it will win £10.

2 After all three have tried – and failed – ask them why they couldn’t do it. Tear out the first page or two and ask them if that will help.

3 Say that you want them to do some maths. Tell them how many pages there are in the directory. Tell them that they have to divide this number by the approximate number of people there are in the room. Ask for their guesses about the number, but give them a definite approximate number for the calculation. Agree on the answer.

4 Tear out this number of pages. (Check beforehand that your answer is not likely to be more than ten.) Give the ripped-out pages to one of the volunteers and ask them to see if they can tear these into two (point out that your offer of a £10 prize no longer applies!). Have your volunteer rip the pages, which this time they should be able to do.

5 Tear out two more lots of the same number of pages from the directory. Give these to the other two volunteers. On a given signal ask them to rip their pages in two.

6 Encourage applause for the strength of your volunteers and ask them to sit down.

7 Point out that even though it’s hard to rip up a whole directory on your own, it’s easy if the directory is divided up amongst lots of people who work together. In fact, if there was time in the assembly, you could have given everyone a few of the pages and then together you would have been able to have ripped the telephone directory in two in under five seconds. As a group of people working together, you are much stronger than when you work on your own.

Reflection

1 Talk briefly about how everyone has a part to play – we can’t do everything ourselves. We all need to help each other .What is impossible for one person alone isn’t so difficult for a group working together. There’s a description in the Bible of the church (ie a community of Christians) likening it to a body. Everyone’s gifts and talents are needed just like hands and toes are all important for a body. Everyone is important.

Whether or not we’re Christians we’re all part of different communities (eg family, school) where we have a special part to play. We need to work together with others and help them too as they do their part.

2 Working together makes sense whatever you believe, but Christians believe that what really makes a difference is remembering to rely on God because he is the one who really helps us to achieve the impossible.

Response

In a time of quiet, ask the students to think about:

  • If there are projects you are working on with others, how good a part of the team are you?
  • Who could you help today?

Conclude by encouraging them to pray,asking God to give them the strength and confidence to be able to do this.

 

 

Respect! – The Good Samaritan

Bible base

Luke 10:25–37

Aim

To encourage students to value and care for one another, whatever their differences.

Preparation

Spend some time rehearsing your reading of the ‘newspaper article’, which is made-up and based on the story of the good Samaritan. Decide whether you can adjust the story or add current/local interest details to make it more appropriate for the particular assembly you will be leading.

Presentation

1 Tell everyone that you are going to make three statements. Ask them to put their hands up if they agree with the statements. Hands down between each statement.

a) I am the most important person here.

b) I like it when people listen to me.

c) There has been a time in my life where I have been treated unfairly.

Respond as appropriate to your audience’s reaction to the three statements.

2 Talk about the three ideas:

a) Tell them that they are looking at the most important person here – YOU! Make sure they know that you are joking. Go on to qualify the statement, saying that before they think you are a complete big-head, each of them is also the most important person here. Each of them is also sitting next to the most important person here. Give any other examples appropriate to the situation. Comment that we all have great value because God made us. And to appreciate others, we need to value ourselves.

b) Say that if we like it when people listen to us, we should listen to others. Ask: ‘How much time do you spend actually listening to others and putting others first?’

c) Ask everyone to think about whether they always treat others fairly. Be honest. Ask: ‘How do you treat others, especially people you don’t get on with?’

3 Tell the students you are going to read them the following extract from a newspaper article. Add current / local details to add interest. Read the ‘article’.

Police overwhelmed as thugs go on rampage!

Police were outnumbered yesterday as thugs went on the rampage. Officer Peter Smith was patrolling near to the riot when a gang of youths attacked and mugged him, ‘leaving him for dead’, as a colleague later put it.

Though no one appears to have witnessed the attack, it is reported that several passers-by walked straight past the injured officer and some even turned and walked the other way to avoid getting involved.

The surprising twist in this story is that Ian Thomson, the notorious football hooligan wanted by the police, stopped and helped the man. Not only did he administer first aid, but he then took the injured man to a private hospital where he paid for all the bills. He was indeed a ‘good Samaritan’.

4 Tell the students that, in fact, this ‘article’ was made up. Explain that it is an updated version of the story in the Bible about the Good Samaritan. Jesus was talking to his fellow Jews who hated the Samaritans.

5 If appropriate and if there’s time, you could also read the story from a contemporary version of the Bible: Luke 10:25–37.

Reflection

1 Comment that the story in the Bible makes it clear that people (including those who are different from us) are equally valuable and that we should treat others with care and respect. Jesus told this story to illustrate what it means to keep one of God’s commandments in the Bible:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind … Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ Luke 10:27(NCV).

2 Challenge the students to think about how they treat others – including those who aren’t their friends or whom they don’t like.

Response

1 Ask the students to think about one or two others in school whom they consider ‘different’ from themselves, or whom they don’t value. Now ask them to think how they could show they value them or times when they could be ‘a good Samaritan’ to those people.

2 Encourage everyone to be quiet for a few moments to think about this, and decide to do something about it today. If appropriate, you could suggest that people might like to ask God’s help to do this.

 

The lame man at the pool of Bethesda

Topic

The lame man at the pool of Bethesda

Aim

  • To show children that no-one is ‘invalid’ (ie not valid), whatever their social status or disabilities.
  • To help children understand that it’s important to learn from your past.

Things you’ll need

  • Small pieces of fabric (or coloured paper), enough for one for every person in the assembly. These could be ‘fringed’ at each end, if you have time, to suggest a mat.
  • Small elastic bands (or short pieces of string), enough for one for each person in the assembly.

Bible Base

John 5:1-9a

Content

1 Talk to the children about the ‘stupid’ questions people sometimes ask. For example, ask the children to imagine they are washing the car. Someone comes along and asks, ‘What are you doing?’ It’s a stupid question, because it’s obvious what you’re doing! So you give a stupid answer (‘Peeling potatoes!’). The person who asked the question continues, ‘No, you’re not…’

2 Introduce the story in the Bible of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, explaining that in it Jesus seem to ask some ‘stupid’ questions.

3 Read or tell the story in your own words from the Bible up to the point (verse 6) where Jesus asks the man, ‘Do you want to get well?’ (The New International Version uses the word ‘invalid’.)

4 Comment that the man maybe thought to himself, ‘What a stupid question!’ After all, he couldn’t walk, but to be healed he had to somehow be first in the race to the pool! Now ask the children to think carefully whether it is a stupid question.

5 Point out that Jesus was not asking a general question to everyone. This was a personal question which was special to this man: ‘Do you want to get well?’ Comment that maybe the man didn’t really want to change. After all, he had been used to being in that place for a long time. People would give him food and drink. Maybe in a way he quite liked living like this.

Jesus’ question was perhaps not so silly as it first seems. He knew that if this man was healed, his life would change. He wanted to know if this man was serious. Did he really want to change?

6 Continue to tell or read the story from the Bible (verse 7). The man’s reply showed he was serious about being healed. He couldn’t get to the pool on his own. He needed Jesus’ help. Then Jesus said something else which sounds stupid. He told the lame man, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’ (verse 8).

7 Ask the children for their ideas about why Jesus might have said this to the man. After all, if the man had left his mat, someone else could have used it.

8 Point out that the mat was an important reminder to the man of his history, his past. If he had left it perhaps he would have forgotten what he had been like and how much he had changed. Emphasise the importance of remembering the past (eg the Cenotaph in London, or other locally well-known memorial). ‘Memorials’ help us remember important events and people. If we didn’t have them or they were knocked down, we’d forget. (Remind the children about the words on war memorials, ‘Lest we forget’.)

9 Ask the children what they think happened at the end of the story. (Answer: the man picked up his mat and walked!)

Application

A Christian viewpoint

It’s important to remember our past. The good things and the bad things all affect our future. God can use our past to help other people.

For everyone

Everyone needs help. We all need to learn from our own past and other people’s experiences. None of us can look down on others as being ‘invalid’.

Response

Either

  1. Ask for several volunteers to help you give out the pieces of fabric (or coloured paper) and elastic bands (or pieces of string), one of each for everyone.
  2. Tell the children that this is to make a reminder for them to keep, a bit like the lame man’s mat.
  3. Ask them to spend a few minutes in silence looking at their ‘mat’, thinking about one thing from their past which has had a big effect on their lives. It might be something good or something which makes them sad. Now ask them to think about one good thing which they have learnt from that event or situation.
  4. Tell the children to roll up their ‘mat’ and fasten it with the rubber band (or piece of string), and then put it somewhere safe. Every time they look at their ‘mat’, it will be a reminder of their history and the things they have learnt from it.
  5. Ask the children to think of ways in which their experiences in the past could help other people.

Or

  1. Ask the children to think about what they could learn from people who, at first look, might not seem to them to have much importance (eg old people, people with physical disabilities).
  2. Challenge the children to find out if there is a local community centre where they could help in some way (reading, talking to elderly people etc).
  3. Finish with a prayer, if this is appropriate:

Lord, help us to be ready to learn from other people, however unimportant they might seem to us at first. Help us to learn from our own past experiences and to be ready to use what we have learnt to help other people. Amen.

 

Dying to live – the thief on the cross

Topic

The thief on the cross

Aim

To help the children learn that everyone needs the help of others.

Bible base

Luke 23:32-34; 39-43

Content

1 Ask the children to imagine the following:

Claire was rushed into hospital because of a serious problem with her heart. The doctors said there was no cure. The only thing that would save her life was a heart transplant.

The problem with this was that, in order for Claire to have a new, healthy heart, another child would need to die. For her to have life, someone else needed to die.

A little while later, Mark was tragically killed in a road accident. The doctors asked his parents if they would be willing for his healthy heart to be given to Claire, so that her life could be saved. They agreed. Claire was given Mark’s heart and new life as a result.

Mark’s death meant Claire could live.

2 Tell the children that this reminds you of the story in the Bible about Jesus’ death and the death of the two criminals who were executed with him. Read (or tell in your own words) the story from Luke 23:32-34; 39-43. Talk about how life in the future was possible for the thief on the cross because of Jesus’ death.

3 Ask the children to imagine the three crosses and the three people on them – Jesus on the centre one, with a criminal either side of him. They were all going to die.

  • Jesus was special. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Christians believe that he died as punishment for the things we’ve done wrong, so that we can be friends with God.
  • Thief number 2 knew he wasn’t perfect and admitted he’d done wrong. He knew he needed help. He had realised that Jesus was special and that he could help him. So he asked for help. Then Jesus made him a very special promise. Because Jesus was going to live, the criminal could live too.
  • Thief number 1 thought only of himself. He didn’t care about Jesus or the other criminal. He could have chosen to ask for help from Jesus, and Jesus would have promised him life too.

Application

A Christian viewpoint

Explain briefly that Jesus’ death meant that thief number 2 could have life. Christians believe that because of Jesus’ death, everyone can have life. None of us is perfect. We all need help. Thief number 2 knew Jesus could help him. He will help anyone who asks him.

For everyone

The criminal on the cross needed help. We all need to recognise that we can’t ‘make it’ on our own. Sometimes we need to ask for help.

Response

You could use this prayer:

Dear God, help us to know that we are not perfect. We do things wrong. Help us to know that we need your help. Amen.

 

 

Mother Theresa

Caring about the poor – social work in India

Other themes: respect for the homeless, peer pressure.

The Problem

Listen to this story and see what you think at the end.

“Shhh!” whispered Tim. “Don’t wake up Sleeping Beauty over there!”

Adam and Paul looked across at the park bench. A shabbily dressed figure was lying on it, one arm under his head, both feet up on the bench and displaying very holey socks. His shoes were under the bench, side by side.

“It’s old Fred,” murmured Paul.

“Yeah,” said Tim. “The only and only Filthy Fred.”

Adam wasn’t sure they should call Fred that, but he knew his mates meant no harm. They often saw Fred on their way home from school. He’d be shuffling along the road, or just gazing into shop windows. Adam had been told he was harmless, that he’d just had such an unhappy, disturbed childhood and that he’d never been able to settle into a home or a job.

“Let’s play catch,” said Tim.

He crept over to the bench and picked up one of Fred’s shoes between two fingers.

“Urgh!” he shouted, grinning. “I don’t want this. You have it.” And he threw it to Paul.

Paul shrieked. “Urgh, no thanks. It’s horrible. It might bite.”

And back and forth the shoe went.

Fred had woken up by now and was sitting upright. To Adam, he looked miserable and confused.

Then Adam heard, “Here, you have it.” And the shoe fell at his feet.

He picked it up, thought for a moment, “Maybe I should give it back.” But Tim would think that was daft, and anyway, it was only Fred, not anyone important.

Now think:

Is it true that Fred is “not anyone important”? What do you think Fred’s feelings are as he sees his shoe being thrown around? Should Adam give it back?

(You could discuss this or pass on to the main story.)

The story

This is the true story of someone who believed the poor are very important. She became famous all over the world, but few would recognize her real name: Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu.

Agnes was born on August 26th, 1910. Her parents were from Albania in southern Europe, but the family now lived in Serbia. Even as a child, Agnes cared for the sick and elderly, visiting them with her mother. She also enjoyed writing poetry and playing the mandolin – and she loved praying. Talking to God and sharing what she had – these were the things that made her happiest.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that she became a nun. She felt God wanted her to join a particular group – the Catholic Loreto nuns who work in northern India.

So when she was 18, she took on a new name, Sister Teresa, and travelled out to Calcutta, one of India’s most crowded cities. She was to live in the convent with its high walls and shady gardens and spend some of her time teaching in the High School in the convent grounds.

But she was also to teach in a little school in the slums.

Nothing had prepared her for what she saw there. It was a different world. She saw people who were starving right there on the streets, looking like little bundles of bones wrapped up in skin. She saw beggars stumbling on legs like long dead twigs, their arms stretched out for help. She saw mothers slouched in doorways, rocking babies too sick or too hungry to cry. She saw people digging into dustbins for food scraps, anything which could be sucked or chewed to keep them going for another day.

But she saw something else too. In the slum school she saw how the faces of the children changed when she smiled at them. She would get the smile back a hundredfold. The children seemed to come to life when they realised someone cared. You see, they were hungry not just for food, but for smiles, for hugs, for love.

The years went by, and Teresa prayed more and more for the people of the slums.

And one day God spoke to her: “You are to leave the convent, Teresa. You are to go out to the poor. You are to live amongst them and care for them.”

This would be a new thing in Calcutta. Many people worked with the poor, but the poor always had to come to them for help – to the hospitals, the schools, and so on. But Teresa was to work in the slums themselves.

It was not easy to get permission to leave the convent.

“Are you sure this is what God wants?” they said.

“It’s too dangerous for a woman by herself,” they said.

“Why not wait?” they said.

Teresa knew they meant it for the best, but she had made her decision. The poor people were on God’s heart, and they were on hers too.

After a long wait permission came, and on August 16th 1948, she changed from her nun’s clothes to the simple sari which Indian women wear, and walked out of the convent gates. She had just a little money and a train ticket to a town called Patna, where there was a hospital willing to train her in basic nursing.

Soon she was back in Calcutta, in one of the worst slum areas, Motijhil.

She sat in a little square, picked up a stick and began to write letters and numbers in the mud. Children gathered round. Teresa’s school had begun! But this was a special school, for Teresa also wanted to teach them how to keep clean, how to avoid disease.

Then she thought: But words are not enough. They need practical help and they need it now. So she called on people she knew and pleaded: “I need soap. And food. And medicines.” She gave away all she collected. And she always remembered to give that something which costs nothing – a smile. The slum children and their families saw not just soap and food and medicine, but they saw love in her smiling eyes.

For Teresa was determined to treat each of them as if they were Jesus himself. So she didn’t turn away when a dying man showed her his wounds crawling with maggots. She dressed the wounds, then sat there giving him comfort, despite the appalling smell. Each person was precious to her. She could see Jesus in each one.

Other nuns saw what she was doing and joined her. The city officials let them have an unused building which they turned into a hospice for dying people, a place where they could pass from this world with someone holding their hand.

The nuns became known as the Missionaries of Charity, with Teresa as their leader, their “mother”. And that is the name by which Agnes became known – Mother Teresa.

Later in her life she met with presidents and prime ministers to plead for the rights of the poor, but whether the people she met were powerful or down-and-out, rich or poor, she kept on giving the kind word, the loving look, the gentle smile. Right up till she died in 1997.

Time of Reflection

Let’s think about our attitude: when we see the poor, the homeless – or just those who can’t do what we do, who don’t have what we have – do we look down on them, poke fun at them, think them less important?

Just a moment’s silence then, so we can think about how we treat people less fortunate than ourselves.

Bible Bits

Jesus said, “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink…I was sick and you took care of me…” for, “whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25)

And he said, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.” (Acts 20:35)

The Bible also tells us: “You must never treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance.” (James 2:1)

Prayer

Help us, Father God, never ever to look down on another human being. Help us to realise that every single person is special to you. Amen

Variations on a theme

THE PROBLEM story can be acted out by pupils.

Or if there is a project for the poor in your own area, it would be good to mention it – or maybe more than mention it, maybe collect for it. Enquire first about the needs – blankets, tinned food or whatever.

Quiz Questions

  1. What made Agnes (or Theresa) happiest when she was young?
  2. How old was she when she went to India?
  3. What was the difference between the two schools she taught in?
  4. Why did she go to Patna?
  5. How did she begin her own school in the slums?
  6. She pleaded for three things – one was soap. Tell me one more.
  7. And the third?
  8. She treated each poor person as if he were – who?
  9. One thing she gave cost nothing to give – what was it?
  10. Why did she meet with presidents and prime ministers?

The Sick House – Jesus heals many people

Aim:

To show that Jesus loves and cares for everyone.

Bible base:

Luke 4:38-40. Jesus heals many people.

You will need:

  • Dressing-up clothes for each character – you may be able to borrow some suitable biblical-style clothes from a local church, or use material draped and tied at the waist. You will need to dress Jesus, Peter, his wife, his mother-in-law, and other ill people who came to the house.
  • You may also want some pictures of houses in Jesus’ day.
  • A roll of lining paper

Preparation

  • Prepare the ‘street on a roll’ if you are using it and draw or find some pictures of appropriate houses. See How to Cheat at Visual Aids, published by Scripture Union, for some ideas.
  • Work out how you will re-tell the story.

Presentation

Introduction

  1. If this is to be the first of a series of stories, show pictures and talk a little about what the houses were like and how they were different from those in which we live.
  2. Ask the children who would help them if they were ill. That would usually be the same for people in Bible times, but not on the day of this story, because this was the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the Jews’ special day of rest, when nobody did any work.

Story

  1. Ask the children to listen carefully as you read the story from the Bible because afterwards some of them will help to tell it again. Read the story from a modern translation of the Bible, such as the Good News Bible or Contemporary English Version.
  2. Ask how they think the different people would have felt, and what they might have said.
  3. Choose children to dress up for the different parts; then re-tell the story of the sick house in your own words (or ask the children playing parts to say words if they are able to).

Include these things:

Jesus was interested in everyone who came to Peter’s house and he had time for all those who came to be made better.

And he made them better too, even though he wasn’t a doctor!

People must have wondered who this special man was.

Application

Still today, Jesus loves and cares for people who are ill and for their family and friends who are worried about them.

We can ask Jesus to help people who are ill and pray for those who look after them.

Ask which people today help ill people to get better.

Prayer

If appropriate, ask the children to think of anyone they know who is ill. During a short prayer that you say, asking God to help them to get better, have a moment of silence when each child can say quietly in their head the name of that person.

Say a prayer to thank God for people who help us when we are ill. If the school has a nurse, mention him/her by name.

Song suggestion

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, 134, Junior Praise

I matter – Jesus cares for everyone

Aim:

To show the children that each one of us matters as individuals.

Bible base:

The Gospels

You will need:

  • A selection of hats or costumes for different jobs, eg a white coat (doctor), police helmet, tweed hat (farmer), book (teacher), clock (for someone who does not have a job but has time to fill), teddy bear (child), dustbin liner (refuse collector), duster (cleaner or someone who does housework)
  • You may want to have some pictures for the story at the end

Preparation

Familiarise yourself with stories from the gospels which show that all sorts of people mattered to Jesus. (See example in Story.)

Presentation

Introduction

  1. Ask the children who they think is the most important person in the room. (They will probably name the head teacher.)
  2. Invite some children up to the front to wear or hold the costumes and props.
  3. Talk to the children about the different jobs these people do.
  4. Ask who they think is the most important, and why.
  5. We sometimes think that some people are more important than others because of the jobs they do. When Jesus lived on earth as a man he thought that everyone was important. He had time for rich people and poor, for people who were ill and those who were well, for the old and young, for those with jobs and those that begged on the streets. Everyone mattered to Jesus.

Story

Go on to tell short narratives from the gospels which illustrate this, for example:

Jesus had time for everyone. He had meals with rich people like Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who was rich because he cheated people. Jesus went to his house and, because Jesus became his friend, Zacchaeus gave away the money he had stolen.

But Jesus also saw a very poor lady put all the money that she had in an offering box at the temple, and he praised her for doing that. Jesus spent a lot of time making ill people better, like the man whose hand wouldn’t work, or people who were blind. But he also spent a lot of time listening and talking with people about God, like the 5,000 people who went to hear him one day.

Jesus helped an old lady who was his friend’s mother, when she was ill, and he did the same for a twelve-year-old girl who was dying, when her father came to ask for help.

Jesus talked to people as they were working, like Peter and Andrew the fishermen, and he stopped to talk to people who had no job, like Bartimaeus, who was blind and had to beg for money.

Everyone mattered to Jesus!

Application

Tell the children that today, everyone still matters to Jesus. Jesus cares about each and every one of us here, and about each and every person in the world.

Time to reflect

  1. Encourage the children to be still and close their eyes.
  2. Ask them to think about how each person is important to Jesus, no matter what age they are, how they look, what they can or can’t do.

Prayer

Invite the children to join in the following prayer or a similar one by saying ‘Amen’ at the end:

Dear Jesus, thank you that you had time for everyone, for poor and rich, for sick and well, for young and old alike. Thank you too that we all matter to you today and that you love each and every one of us. Amen.