Check it out!

Aim:

To encourage pupils to check things out for themselves before making a judgement about God, the Bible and Christianity

Bible Base:

Psalm 34:8

You will need:

A tin of (fake) dog food (see preparation); 3 plastic spoons

Preparation:

For your fake dog food, you will need the label from one tin of dog food; another tin of food of the same size as the dog food (ideally with a ring pull at the top); enough chocolate muffin to fill the tin; orange jelly; and, sellotape.

Carefully take the bottom off your tin of food.  Empty the tin of its contents and wash it out.  Make the jelly (ideally slightly thicker than the instructions) and cut up the muffins.  Place the muffins into the upturned tin until full, and pour in the jelly to fill up any spaces.  Leave the tin in a fridge over night to set.  When set, carefully place the bottom of the tin back in place, and use sellotape to keep it in place.  Now carefully remove the label from the tin of dog food and attach it around your tin of fake dog food with the sellotape.  Try to do this as carefully as possible so people won’t notice the join.  You should now have what looks like a sealed tin of dog food with a sealed lid and ring pull intact!
*Please note, this is not an original illustration, but has been used in many situations.

Presentation

Introduce yourself and thank the school for having you.  Then look at your watch before pretending to panic a little.  Try to look a little embarrassed as you explain that you’re on a new diet and it’s important that you eat at certain times.  Look apologetically at the staff as you take your pre-prepared tin of ‘dog food’ out of the bag. Hold the tin at the bottom with the seam of the label towards you. Make sure the label is clear for the pupils to see, but the false bottom is covered by your hands.

Talk as you slowly open the dog food.  Comment on the fact that you’ve seen the adverts and the dogs always look so fit and strong; that they never seem to be carrying extra weight. Mention how shiny their hair is and how healthy their teeth look.  Include something about how there must be something good about it.  Over sell it! You can even add a comment about trying cat food, but it being too fishy for your tastes.

Now start to open the tin and take your time as you put the fork in a lift the food out, ready to eat.  Have a little sniff of the food – and comment on how appetising it smells.  Savour a mouthful.  Comment on things like the contrast between the jelly that just slips down the throat and the meat which is so satisfying a chewy.

By this stage you will be getting a lot of odd looks and sounds of disapproval.  Be aware of keeping the place calm! Pretend to notice their disgust for the first time.  Ask them what’s wrong and comment on how they shouldn’t judge without having tried it.  See if there are a couple of pupils who want to give it a go… There are usually a one or two. Check they don’t have any food allergies or religious restrictions, because you can’t guarantee what’s in the dog food! Using the spare forks, give them a mouthful and just ask them if they like it – try not to give them a chance to say what it is.

Now explain to the pupils what is really in the tin and how you swapped it. There will be a lot of relieved faces – not least, amongst the staff!

Application

Ask about why so many of them pulled faces at you and made disapproving sounds when you started eating? Presumably it was because they saw the tin and the label and assumed you were going to eat dog food! And then, when the lid came off and they saw the jelly and the brown chewy looking stuff, it reaffirmed their preconceptions.  They were probably thinking something along the lines of ‘this person’s a little odd’; ‘steer clear’…

Talk about how they made a judgement without being aware of all the facts.  They didn’t know that the tin wasn’t in fact, a tin of dog food, but a tin of cake and jelly… But that didn’t matter.  They had already made up their mind and most of them weren’t going to try it.  One or two brave individuals did, and their view was changed!

Explain how sometimes you have to experience something before you can truly make a judgement about it. Talk about how, if there is a new film out, there will be lots of reviews about it, and they can choose to believe what others say – and that might convince them to either watch it or not – but, they will never know for sure whether it really was any good or not, unless they watched it for themselves.  Sometimes you just have to experience something before you know the truth!

Say that that is pretty much what the Bible says about God. ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalms 34:8) is what it says in a part called the Psalms. Talk about how, in your experience, a lot of people make assumptions about God and the Bible without ever trying it out for themselves.  Others have told them that God doesn’t exist; or that He’s irrelevant; or that Christianity is boring; or whatever it is… To be honest, often the people who tell them these things haven’t even tried it!

Leave them with a challenge – to check things out for themselves.  To experience something before making a decision.  Who knows, they may find they’re pleasantly surprised by what they discover… Just like if they’d tasted your ‘dog food’!

Reflection

Tell them you’re going to take a moment to reflect: Suggest they close their eyes and consider whether there are things they have made a judgement about without actually experiencing for themselves. Ask them about their view on God? Has that come from experience? Or an assumption made from a distance.

Ask the pupils if they want to join you in a short prayer… Dear God, help me to check things out for myself before making judgements about people, their beliefs and You. Help me be open to new things. Amen

The Bible

Topic

Scriptures – the Bible

Aim

To show pupils that rules are useful and important. For Christians, the most important rules are God’s rules which are found in the Bible.

Things you’ll need

  • The rules for the drawing game cut up, so they can be given to different pupils.
  • 2 green pens, 2 blue pens and 1 red pen
  • A large sheet of paper which everyone can see (eg a flip-chart)
  • A watch with a second hand (or a stop watch)

Bible base

Exodus 15:22-26

Content

1 Ask for five volunteers (from Year 5 or above). Explain to everyone that the volunteers are going to play a drawing game. Give each volunteer one of the rules for the drawing game and the appropriate pen. Tell them to read their rule and to make sure no-one else sees it. Explain that each person has been told to draw something. The one who draws the most will be the winner. Any things which happen to get crossed out, don’t count. Tell the contestants that they will take it in turns to draw on the sheet of paper on display. They must draw according to the rule you have given them. They will have only ten seconds each.

2 Play three rounds of the game and then count up and see if you have a winner. Discuss with the volunteers what made their tasks difficult. Bring out that it was because they were working against each other. They were all following different rules and that made a mess of things.

3 Tell the pupils that the Bible says that rules are really important, and the most important rules are from God. Many years ago (nearly 4000) the Bible says that God gave his people, the Israelites some special rules. He did this when they were in the desert and very thirsty and the only water was so nasty no one could drink it. God gave their leader, Moses, a command. He told him to throw some wood into the water. Moses obeyed and the water was good enough to drink. God then gave his people lots of rules to show them how to live in a way that was right and good. God expected them to obey the rules, just like Moses obeyed when God told him to throw the wood into the water.

4 Go on to explain that one of the important things about rules is that we need to know them, if we are going to follow them. Ask the pupils how they find out about rules: at home, at school or for when they’re out in the street. We need people to tell us what the rules are. But where do the people who tell us the rules find out what the rules are? Who finds out the rules to start with?

Application

A Christian viewpoint

Christians believe that God has given us rules which show us how to live. Rules which teach us how we should treat people, rules about what is right and wrong. These rules are in the Bible which is why the Bible is so important to Christians. They believe it is God’s word telling people how to live.

For everyone

All of us need rules to live by. We need to know what is right and what is wrong. We need to have rules that we all agree about, otherwise life ends up in a mess like the game at the start. If we all had different rules about what was right and wrong, then school, home and the world would be in chaos. But it’s not enough just to have the rules. The challenge for all of us is to obey them.

Response

Use this prayer as you encourage the pupils to think about their own rules and how they know right from wrong.

Dear Lord, thank you for the rules we have which keep us safe. Help us to know what is right and wrong, and to be people who obey the rules. Amen.

 

Rules for the drawing game

You must draw lots of red triangles. Cross out any circles.

You must draw lots of green circles. Cross out anything blue.

You must draw lots of blue stars. Cross out any triangles.

You must draw lots of blue squares. Cross out anything green.

You must draw lots of green triangles. Cross out any squares.

 

The Bible – Bookshelf

Aim:

To explain to the children some of what the Bible contains.

Bible base:

The Bible

You will need:

  • Three sets of ‘sandwich-boards’ drawn to look like a Bible, a road atlas and a book of fairy stories.
  • Three adults to read these different parts, plus a leader

Preparation

Make the sandwich –boards from cardboard so that they fit over the shoulders of the wearers.

Presentation

Story

‘Bible’ should stand in the centre. ‘Road Atlas’ enters, making car noises, and bumps into Bible.

BIBLE: Ouch! That was a nasty bump. Who are you? What are you doing on this shelf?

ROAD ATLAS: I’m a Road Atlas – can’t you tell? (more car noises) I’m very important – you’d be lost without me. My maps can get you anywhere you want to go, (names some local places of interest). I can take you to see your Granny if she lives a long way away; I can get you to places at the other end of the country. Don’t ever set off on a journey without me! AND I’m on special offer at WH Smith’s this week. So there! (Exits)

BIBLE: Sounds interesting, but I’ve got maps in me too, although not of this country – they’re of somewhere a long way away, but very special. Now who is this coming along the shelf?

(Enter Fairy Stories.)

FAIRY STORIES: (reading Bible’s cover) The Bible..I guess you’ve not been read for a long time! I’m out every bedtime – I’m their favourite book! I’m full of adventures – The Little Mermaid, The Tin Soldier, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes…exciting stories about important people and important things. AND I’m full of pictures! (Exits.)

BIBLE: I didn’t like to interrupt, but I’m full of stories too – only mine are true! They are exciting stories, full of adventure, about special people and important things. Other books come and go, but I’ve been around a lot longer than those two. In fact I’ve sold more copies than any other book that has ever been written. God helped lots of different people to write me, and they all tell the most important story ever: that God loves people very much. Look – someone’s come to read me! (Exits)

Application

LEADER: The Bible is a very special book from God, just as we heard. It has lots of different sorts of stories in it.

Who has got a Bible at home? Who has read the Bible? Which stories do you know that are in the Bible?

Show where in the Bible are some of the stories that they mention, or some very well known ones, eg Noah in Genesis 6-9; David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17; Jesus’ birth in Luke 2; the lost sheep in Luke 15.

You may want to use a children’s Bible that includes colour drawings.

Prayer

Thank you, God, for all the different stories in the Bible and for all the things that they tell us about you.

Corrie Ten Boom

Forgiving those who hurt me – WW2 prison camp

Other themes:

fear, prayer, the Bible, heaven

The Problem

Listen to this and think what you’d do if you were in Emma’s situation.

It was the first day of secondary school – but already Emma knew she was going to like it. Her parents had asked if she could be put in the same group as her two best friends. And it had worked out. She’d met up with them outside the school a few minutes before and they’d been directed to a classroom to wait for their group tutor.

The last year in the old school had been a miserable one for Emma, and all because of Lisa Jo, who’d bullied her – she’d poked fun at her, got her into trouble, it had just gone on and on. Emma’s only friends had been in another class. But now it would be OK.

Late ones were still coming in. Suddenly Emma felt a shudder run through her. Lisa Jo had entered the room. She looked different though – lonely, unsure, gone were the swagger and the smirks.

She came right up to Emma whose heart had begun thumping.

“Looks like we’re together again,” Lisa Jo said. “Look, Emma, we didn’t get on last year, but what about making up, being friends from now on?”

Emma’s fear turned to anger. Friends? With Lisa Jo? No way. She hadn’t even said sorry, she only wanted to be friends because she’d been split from her old mates. So – just forgive and forget? As if last year never happened? No way!

Now think:

Is Emma right or wrong to think this way? What would you do in her situation?

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

The Story

Now here’s a true story.

When the guards slid open the door, Corrie Ten Boom could see only darkness inside. Outside was bright sunlight. In there it was as dark as death.

“Quick! Get in! In!” one of the guards yelled.

Corrie and the other women hauled themselves up into the darkness. There was no choice – the guards had guns. It was the carriage of a goods train, but now it was being used to transport people. In seconds the carriage was so full that Corrie was pushed up against the back wall. Many of the women were crying, some were screaming. How glad Corrie was to have her sister Betsie with her. And how glad she was that God was with her. She was not afraid, not deep down. For what was the worst thing these German soldiers could do to her? Kill her? But then she would be with Jesus for ever.

There were eighty women in the carriage now. They were just able to sit down with their legs wrapped round the person in front. It grew unbearably hot. The train began moving but it didn’t help much.

As Corrie stroked her sister’s feverish forehead, she thought back through the last years, back to when the German army had invaded their country, Holland, soon after the start of World War 2. It was a terrible time for everyone, but the Jewish people suffered the most. Corrie saw them being pushed into trucks to be taken to the prison camps.

As they prayed for them, Corrie’s family had the idea of building a secret room in their house where Jewish people could hide from the patrols until an escape route could be found for them. But someone betrayed them and the family was arrested, to be taken to Germany. Corrie and Betsie had been able to stick together, but they didn’t know how long they would be allowed to live.

On the fourth day the train clanked to a halt.

“Out! Get out!” shouted the guards. “You walk now!”

The women were so weak but what choice was there? Finally they saw their destination: Ravensbruck prison camp. As Corrie and Betsie entered the massive gates, they knew there was almost no chance of coming out alive.

All the women were taken to the shower room. Corrie’s heart started thumping when she saw that everyone had to undress in front of the guards. For under her dress she had hidden her precious Bible and some medicine for Betsie. They’d be discovered and taken away! No, it mustn’t happen!

“Dear god, please…” she murmured.

Just then Betsie, even sicker now, needed to be taken to the toilet. “Use the drains in the shower room,” said the guard harshly. The sisters moved ahead of the queue of women undressing and went in.

“Dear God, please…”

Yes! There in the corner was a pile of old benches. She could hide the Bibles and medicine behind them, together with Betsie’s warm sweater.

Later, after their shower, Corrie slipped over to the benches and pushed the things under the prison dress she’d been given. “Thank you, God, thank you,” she prayed.

But – wait – what was this? A guard was searching the women on the way out of the shower room. Corrie prayed again – she knew that the God who had answered one prayer could answer another. She stood in the line. She came nearer and nearer to the guard. The bulge under the thin prison dress was so obvious.

Now the woman ahead of Corrie was being searched. She was searched three times before being allowed to move off.

Then something strange happened. The guard didn’t seem to notice Corrie. He went straight to Betsie, next in line.

There was another search as they left the building. Same thing. The guard came to Corrie, but instead of searching her, just told her to hurry up, and then pushed her out – with her precious possessions undiscovered.

That Bible was certainly well used. Corrie would hold services in their dormitory, Barracks 28 – with softly sung hymns, whispered prayers and Bible verses telling of God’s comfort and love.

More and more women came to the services. Corrie knew if a guard came in, the Bible would be taken, and they would all be punished. But no guard came near. Only later did she find out why. Barracks 28 was famous amongst the guards for its fleas, and the guards did not want their smart uniforms crawling with fleas. Corrie reckoned each flea was a tiny miracle from God.

Long hours of heavy work and very little food weakened Corrie and Betsie, and pain, cruelty and death were all around them. But they could see beyond these things to heaven – a place of no pain or sadness, waiting for them.

And one day Betsie died. Her face was full of peace and happiness.

Two days later, Corrie was ordered to go to the prison office. She feared they’d found out about the Bible. But she was just handed a piece of paper. It said: “Released”. She was free.

But – how…why…?

She found out later it had been a mistake. But she was well away by then.

A week after Corrie’s release all the women in the camp of Corrie’s age were killed.

When the war was over, Corrie asked God, “What do you want me to do?”

And she knew that she should open homes for those who had survived the prison camps. And she should travel, all over the world, telling how much she had known God’s help and love even in Ravensbruck.

One evening, in a church in Germany, after she had spoken, a man came up to her wanting to shake hands. Many people did of course, nothing unusual in that. But then her blood turned cold. For she recognised the man. He was the guard at the shower room door in Ravensbruck. And she remembered his cruelty, his total lack of pity. It was because of him, and the many like him, that millions had suffered and died.

“I am a Christian now,” he said. “God has forgiven me.”

Corrie’s thoughts screamed out, But I cannot forgive. I will not forgive. And then she thought of Jesus. Jesus, who’d been nailed to a cross and who’d prayed for his executioners, “Father, forgive them.”

“Jesus,” Corrie whispered in her heart, “give me your forgiveness for this man.”

And Jesus did. She was able to take the man’s hand and forgive him from her heart. Just as Jesus forgave.

She went on spreading the message of forgiveness and love until she died, in 1983, on her 91st birthday.

Time of Reflection

Think now: are you holding a grudge against someone, unwilling to forgive them? Is the wrong they’ve done greater than what those camp guards did to Corrie? Is it greater than what those Roman soldiers did to Jesus? Yet they forgave.

Just take a moment to think about this.

Bible Bits

This is what the Bible says:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

“You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:13)

(Jesus’s words to Peter about forgiving again and again – Matthew 18:21,22 – are appropriate too.)

Prayer

Father, help us to be ready to forgive, never to hold on to a grudge. This won’t be easy. Like Corrie, we need your help. Amen

Variations on a Theme

The pupils could be reminded of the section of Joseph’s story which shows his forgiveness for the brothers who had put him in a pit and sold him into slavery (Genesis chapters 37 and 45).

Brother Andrew

Two wrongs don’t make a right – taking Bibles to Communist countries

Other themes:

honesty, prayer

The Problem

The boy in this story has a difficult decision to make. Listen and think what you would do.

They watched the football sailing through the air, directly on line for the Deputy Head’s window. They knew what was going to happen. And there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Cra-a-ash!

They stood, all six of them, dead still. For they knew what was going to happen now too. And there was nothing they could do to stop that either.

Here he came now. Talk about angry. No-one got angry like Mr Short, the Deputy Head.

“Right!” he bellowed. “Who kicked it? I want to know now. Now!”

His words seemed to echo round the playground. But none of the six lads said anything. Mr Short glared at them one by one. He stopped Jonathan Hill.

“You, boy! You’re going red in the face. I bet it’s you.”

Steve, another one of the six, felt for Jonathan. He was a good mate. But Mr Short was right. It had been Jonathan who’d kicked that ball. Of course, it was an accident, pure fluke.

But Jonathan didn’t say a word. He just went redder and redder.

“If it’s you,” snarled Mr Short, “I’m banning you from the school football team for the rest of the term.”

What? Steve silently groaned in dismay. But Jonathan was the best striker!

Suddenly Mr Short turned on Steve. “You – Steven Thorpe – you’re an honest lad, I know that. Tell me the truth. Did Jonathan Hill kick that ball through my window?”

Steve felt his mouth go dry. What could he say? If he said yes, that would let down his mate, and the team – they’d probably never win a match without Jonathan – so it would let down the school too. Yet saying no would be a lie.

“Well? Yes or no?”

Now think:

What would you answer? Can you see that saying no could lead to complications like the others being accused? Anyway Steve doesn’t want to lie. But is “yes” the best answer?

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

The Story

It’s hard to be completely honest when it might get us in trouble, perhaps even harder when it could hurt other people too. Here’s the true story of a man who made a tough decision – and stuck to it. He’s from Holland, his name is Andrew and he’s known as Brother Andrew. His surname’s a secret. I’ll tell you why later.

Andrew loved to travel, especially to the mysterious countries behind the Iron Curtain. This was the name given to the border that separated Western Europe from the Eastern European Communist Countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia.

In the fifties you couldn’t easily get permission to visit these countries unless you were in a group with a guide, but Andrew was able to get away from the group to meet local Christians. He was sad to see what a hard life they had. You see, the Communist governments taught, “There is no God” and they didn’t like people who disagreed.

So it could be hard for Christians to get good jobs, their churches were being closed down, and Bibles were very scarce.

As a Christian himself, Andrew wanted to help. “What do you need?” he asked.

“Above all,” they answered, “we need Bibles.”

Andrew could understand this as he loved the Bible himself. It gave him comfort and help, so he could imagine what God’s words of love could mean to people who were suffering for their faith. But how could he get the Bibles over the border?

He managed to get a permit – called a visa – to travel by himself to Yugoslavia, another Iron Curtain country. And some old friends gave him a car, a bright blue Volkswagen, which he filled with Bibles and Bible booklets.

Andrew knew that he would be stopped at the border, knew the car could be searched. If the Bibles or booklets were found, that would be that – they would be taken away. But what if he were simply asked, “Are you carrying Bibles?” He decided then he would not lie. Jesus had called himself the Truth. So how could Andrew lie if he was following Jesus?

It was a long drive from Holland to the Yugoslav border. On the way he remembered how Jesus had made blind people see. Now Andrew wanted him to do the opposite. He prayed hard that the guards would not be able to see what he was taking to the Christians.

There was the border now. Two guards. They seemed friendly – at the moment. They looked at his passport and then inside the car.

“Let me see inside this suitcase,” one said.

Andrew knew the suitcase was full of the forbidden booklets. But he had no choice. He opened it. The guard rummaged through. There they were, in the guard’s own language, in full view.

But – what was happening? The guard was turning away from the suitcase, was handing Andrew back his passport, was waving him through. He’d made it. It was just as if the guard hadn’t seen the booklets.

But – wasn’t that just what he’d prayed?

And didn’t those Yugoslav Christians welcome Andrew’s gifts!

Visas came for Andrew to visit other Communist countries. As he approached each border he prayed that same prayer and God answered. The guards just couldn’t seem to see the Bibles and Bible booklets.

All was going smoothly – until he went to cross the border into Romania, a strong Communist country. His car was full of you know what. As he came near the border he knew something was wrong. The cars waiting in front of him were, one by one, being minutely examined, the guards virtually taking each car to pieces, then putting it back together, searching every piece of luggage. He’d never seen anything like it.

It wasn’t just a glance in, a quick rummage. This was totally different.

As he waited in line he prayed, how he prayed. And suddenly he felt it right not to hide the Bibles better but to get some out and put them openly on the seat beside him.

After hours of waiting it was Andrew’s turn. He handed the guard his passport through the window, waited to be told to get out of the car. The Bibles were quite visible.

Then – it wasn’t possible – the guard handed the passport back, waved him on. Could it be happening? Was he through – just like that?

Yes, he was. Incredible. Especially when he looked back and saw them getting to work on the car behind. Everyone else – searched. But him – straight through.

Andrew realised that nothing was impossible for God.

Eventually Andrew became so well known to Communist officials that he could no longer go on such journeys. So he formed a team and trained them to go instead. That team has grown into an organisation called Open Doors.

The Iron Curtain is no more, but there are still many countries where Christians find life hard, countries like China and Cuba, so Andrew goes there now. He knows that in some places he would not be welcome – that’s why he keeps his surname a secret.

He always asks Christians what they need. They might ask for food, or clothing – one time a man asked for shoes, so Andrew gave him his own and travelled home in his socks – but usually it’s Bibles that are needed.

And God goes on helping, sometimes in strange ways. Once two young women from Open Doors were asked directly at a border, “Do you have Bibles with you?”

What could they say? The car was jam-packed with them.

Suddenly their mouths were filled with laughter. “Yes!” they roared. “The car’s full of Bibles!”

And the guard, thinking they were laughing at such a silly question, waved them through.

Time of Reflection

A lie, whether it is to help us or other people, can lead to big trouble. A writer called Sir Walter Scott put it this way: “O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.” Are you honest, trustworthy? Or are you spinning tangled webs that will one day trap you?

Just take a moment to think about this.

Bible Bits

God is firm about lies. The Bible gives a command:

“Never say anything that isn’t true. Have nothing to do with lies.” (Proverbs 4:24)

And it gives a promise:

“The Lord protects honest people.” (Proverbs 10:29)

Prayer

Help us, Lord Jesus, to value friendship as well as truth like Steve in the first story, but help us to see, as Andrew saw, that a lie for any reason is wrong. Amen

Variations on a Theme

Much of this assembly can be acted out by pupils. THE PROBLEM sketch needs an invisible football and a crash sound effect. The main story offers three sketch possibilities – the three border crossings. Chairs and a big grey blanket make a good car (though driving away would, I agree, be hard).

More details of these incidents are in Brother Andrew’s books, God’s Smuggler (Hodder and Stoughton) – Yugoslavia, chapter 10; Romania, chapter 15; and The Calling (Summit) – laughing, chapter 2.

“Open Doors” can be reached at PO Box 6, Witney, Oxon. OX8 7BR.

Quiz Questions

  1.  Why did Andrew want to get away from his tour group in Communist countries?
  2.  Tell me two difficulties Christians had in those countries.
  3. What did they need most of all.
  4.  How did Andrew get his Volkswagen?
  5. Why would he not lie at the border?
  6. What did he pray before every border crossing?
  7. Why was it so astounding that he crossed so easily into Romania?
  8. One man asked not for Bibles but for – what?
  9. What is Brother Andrew’s organisation called?
  10. Why did the guard let the young women pass after they’d admitted having Bibles with them?