Friday, March 29, 2013

The Ten Plagues

              Lots of activities to participate in for this story.  So many that I didn’t end up using the craft I’d prepared!  First, we reviewed our Bible phrase from three weeks ago: “God cares for you,”  & reminded everyone how God had shown His care for His people by sending Moses to bring them out of Egypt.

                So now, Moses is ready & he goes to see Pharaoh.  Pharaoh says no & so Moses pulls out his supposed deal-clincher, the rod that turns into a snake.  (I decided to leave Aaron out of the story.  Same plot, less complications.)  But then Pharaoh calls his magician, who throws down her rod, which also becomes a snake.  Even though Moses’ snake eats up the magician’s snake, Pharaoh refuses to let the people go.  Moses kneels down & asks God, did You trick me, or what?  God answers, don’t worry, by the time I get done with Pharaoh, he won’t just let the people go, he will drive them out!  So then God started doing things to Pharaoh and his people.  We had our adult volunteer wear the Pharaoh headdress (and say, NO, NO! after the first nine plagues) so that all the kids could participate in the activities, which were:
--God turned their drinking water into blood (I had some chicken blood I’d saved in the fridge a few days and then left out in the warm kitchen overnight.  Boy did it STINK!  Everyone had to take a whiff—UGH!)
--God made frogs appear (everyone hops like a frog)
--God made gnats (translated the same as fleas in Chinese) appear (everyone scratches themselves)
--God made flies appear (I had stuck several pictures of flies around the walls before anyone arrived; now the kids had to go around whacking at them with flyswatters)
--God made the animals get sick & die (first we all got down on hands & knees & mooed, then we all had to fall over)
--God sent a terrible hailstorm (everyone cowered under umbrellas while I threw styrofoam balls at them)
--God caused sores to break out on everyone’s skin (everyone got a bandaid to put on)
--God caused swarms of locusts to appear, eating everything in sight and getting in your house so everywhere you walked you were crunching locusts (we put a picture of a locust on the board so they could see what we were talking about, but then strew popcorn on the floor so we could all walk over it & hear the crunch, crunch)
--God caused a thick darkness to fall for three days (we all squished into the windowless bathroom, turned off the lights, and talked about what you wouldn’t be able to do with it so dark)
--Finally, God said, this one was going to be the worst, and the only way to avoid it was to do exactly what He said.  Which was to kill a lamb and put some of its blood on the doorposts of your house.  Otherwise your firstborn children would die.  So we had a yarn-covered “lamb” jar full of what was more or less red cornstarch paste.  But it turned out more pink when each once chose a door to paint it on.
Then Pharaoh tried to wake up his “firstborn” doll, but of course it didn’t answer.  So sure enough, he drove the people out before anything even worse could happen.  We reminded everyone that this is what God had promised, and He did it because He really did care for His people.  Then we went around the room and asked if God cared for…(name)…and for…(name), etc.
                Our game was a quiet one for a change.  We had a sixteen-square “Bingo” game made up of pictures representing the ten plagues plus six other Exodus-related items (Pharaoh, Moses, pyramids, nighttime, snake, & lamb).  Interesting job to come up with ten playing cards with the pictures in different order!  But we still had more than one winner in a couple of the rounds, but that was good because then everyone got a prize without it dragging on too long.
                Then we did a little exercise where we divided the kids into two groups, the “God” team and the “Pharaoh” team.  We assigned our one girl who can actually read at grade level to read a list of the plagues, after which we said, “And God said:”  --  “And Pharaoh said:” --  The God team was supposed to say, let the people go, & the Pharaoh team was supposed to say, No, No (until the last time when they were supposed to say God, Go!).  They were NOT getting into it, except for Ka Hei who was an enthusiastic Naysayer for the Pharaoh team.  While Man Chun on the “God” team was actually willing to speak up with some nudging.   Since he usually doesn’t verbalize at all, this was exciting!  So when we reported to the parents at the end of the morning, we had Pin Pin read the plagues, but then instead of whole teams we just had Ka Hei and Man Chun doing the responses. 
 You see why we called it the God team instead of the Moses team—it was easier to come up with a halo for God than to figure out how to represent Moses.  And the craft we were supposed to do was these Pharaoh headdresses, so it was just as well we only had the one kid be Pharaoh since we didn’t have the other headdresses!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Call of Moses

Well, it had been a long time since we’d looked at Joseph’s family going down to Egypt.  Don’t know if anyone really remembered much about that even with a quick few sentences’ review.  But the Exodus was the obvious place to start next.  I skipped the birth of Moses, since it wasn’t as directly related to the Exodus theme as his call.
                First, though, since I hadn’t been with the kids since before Chinese New Year, I asked how many had gone up to China over the holidays.  Most of them had.  We tried to look at where they had gone on a China map.  Not everyone knew the place name, so that fell a bit flat.  Then from there we asked how long they’d stayed.  Had they stayed 400 years?  Would they have wanted to?  Well, that’s how long Joseph’s family ended up staying in Egypt—of course by that time it wasn’t Joseph and his brothers but their great-great-etc. grandchildren.
                The king of Egypt was also a great-great-great descendant, and he wasn’t friends with Joseph’s family like his ancestor was.  He made them all slaves!  We showed a picture of the pyramids of Egypt, and said, maybe they were the very slaves that built these pyramids.  (I didn’t research this—were they or weren’t they?)  So we played a game involving building pyramids.  Divided into two teams.  Each got a set of numbered paper “bricks” and had to stick them, relay fashion, into the correspondingly numbered brick shapes in one of the two pyramids drawn on the whiteboard.  It was pretty easy; the hardest part was trying to keep them playing in line/in order!  But one pyramid ended up being finished both faster and more neatly than the other.  So was that team rewarded?  Nope—these guys were slaves, right?  So instead the losing team got “punished” by being made to run down & up two flights of stairs.  But then we made the other team run too, and in fact everyone got a bang out of it.  Giggles all the way down & up.
                Next we introduced Moses, who was actually one of Joseph’s family but had been adopted by the princess, so he didn’t have to be a slave.  But he still cared about his people.  One day he saw one of the slaves working very hard carrying water

and was very upset when he saw an Egyptian whipping the slave to work harder.  So he killed the Egyptian and buried him (her) in the sand (under a blanket).  The next day he saw two of his own people arguing and he tried to stop them.  One said, are you going to kill me too?  So Moses knew that he was in trouble and he decided to run away from Egypt.  He grabbed his blanket & stuffed it in a bag & got out of there.  (Now he wasn’t in Egypt any more, so we took the pyramids down.)
                We stopped and asked, did Moses care about his people?  Was the way he tried to help them a good idea?  Probably would have been better if he’d asked God’s help, huh.  But did God care?  God always cares! (our theme for this & the next lesson).  We put up I Peter 5:7 on the board and read it together, but it was too long a verse to try and remember the whole thing.  So we had one of the kids come up and circle the last five words of the verse in Chinese, which are just four words in English: He cares for you ( 們) We practiced saying just that phrase.  Most would say it aloud.  I get a bit frustrated by the one girl who is perfectly capable of doing so but won’t.  Sigh.  I try not to let my frustration show.  (Later when reporting the morning’s lesson to the parents, I made a point of praising one of the other girls for being quick to respond and knowing the answers.  I said, maybe next time I will be able to report, the best behaved and smartest girl this morning was .  We’ll have to see.)
                So back to our story, now Moses is in the desert, taking care of some sheep.  We put a picture of a flock of sheep on the board and gave Moses the pole that our slave had earlier used to carry water with.  One day, he saw something really strange—a bush that was on fire but not burning up.  He went over to look at it, and God’s voice spoke out of the bush.  He told Moses to take off his shoes.  (Why?  So he couldn’t run away, maybe?)  God tells Moses He wants him to lead His people out of Egypt.  Moses says no because he’s too afraid.  So God shows him what he can do to show the king that God is with him.  He has him throw down his staff and it becomes a:  “Bandage!” yells one of the kids.  Yes, our snake was an ace bandage with a snake head taped on one end. :-)  Moses was afraid of the snake, and tried to run away from it (got that from Ken Medema, not from the Bible, but it set the stage for the game we played later...).  But God told him to pick it up, and when he did, it turned back into a staff.
                Moses still didn’t want to go; he complained that he wasn’t a good talker.  God said, come on, who created men’s mouth’s, anyway?  (Who? Our star girl said, God did!  She has learned something!!)  Moses still didn’t want to go, but God said, GO, and GO NOW!  So Moses quick put his shoes back on, grabbed his bag with his blanket, and left.
                Next we had craft time, where we made “burning bushes” like the one Moses had seen in our story.  For this craft we combined ideas from two different craft projects I’d seen on the internet.  We had kids trace their hands on brown card stock to be the bush branches, but had them trace two hands and then, after sticking on a bunch of leaves prepped with two-sided tape, slit and fitted the two hands together to make three-dimensional bushes.  Stuck them upright in small cups of sand and draped some orange tissue over them for flames.

                I had been afraid we weren’t going to have enough activities to fill the hour, but we almost didn’t have enough time to play the final game.  I really wanted to play it though, so we squeezed it in.  We tied all the kids together in line by criss-crossing a length of plastic string around & between them.  The resulting “snake” had to chase our volunteer “Moses” down the stairs and come back up the elevator.  Lots more giggles!  Then we wound up by going into the parents’ room for announcements still strung together.  One boy was way too antsy to get untied, so no photos.  At least we’d managed to get him all the way through the game!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jesus walks on water

No particular reason for choosing this story for the first week of February except that I had a sample lesson plan for this that gave me at least a couple of good ideas.  Like the one we started with, where we had one of the volunteers take off her shoes & socks & stand in a basin of water.  We all stood around her and took note of how the water covered her feet; she couldn’t stand on top of the water and neither could anyone else.  Except, today’s story would be about when Jesus did just that.
                We introduced one boy as Jesus.  He was very tired & wanted to take some time to pray.  So He went off to the top of a mountain (teacher’s desk) to pray, and told His disciples to go take a boat across the lake and He would follow them later.  So we laid out a long strip of brown paper as our boat & all the other kids had to sit in it facing one way so they could row together, which we had them do.  In the meantime, we also spread two large sheets of blue paper, for water, along one side of the boat.

                As they are going across the lake, a storm comes up and they are getting scared (everyone rocks from side to side).  But then they see something that really scares them—something is coming toward them on top of the water!  Can people walk on top of water?  Could our volunteer do that this morning?  They thought, it must be a ghost!  Was it a ghost?  No, of course not—it was Jesus.
                Jesus sees that they are afraid, and calls out, don’t be afraid, it’s just me!  So one of the disciples calls back, if it’s really you, tell me to come walk across the water to you.  What do you think Jesus says: “Are you crazy?” or “Sure, come on!”?
He says to come on.  So Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking toward Jesus.  But then he starts looking around him and realizes, he can’t do this!  So he starts to sink (crouch).  Right away Jesus grabs him.  Here’s where I “tweaked” the story just a little bit—though I don’t know if it was really a tweak or not.  Instead of Jesus rebuking Peter’s lack of faith, which is the way I’ve always understood the story, I had Jesus laugh at Peter (in good Cantonese vernacular): “Silly pig, where was your faith?”  But you know—is it clear that this wasn’t in fact Jesus’ tone of voice?  So then Jesus puts His arm around Peter & they walk back to the boat together.  They all start rowing again, and get to their destination, where they get out of boat and back into their chairs.
                Then we looked at our Bible phrase for the day: “Jesus is the Son of God” from John 20:31.  Of course, we noted, this is why Jesus was able to walk on top of the water.
                Next we would tell the story again, but in a slightly different way, and everyone had to help prepare for it.  Between the kids, myself, and the volunteers, we had just enough for each person to get one small picture to color:  either of “pray” (praying hands), a mountain, Jesus, (a group of) disciples, boat, water, “scared” (an alarmed looking person), and Peter.  Then they taped chopsticks to the back of the pictures as handles.  We had one of the volunteers read the story slowly, and whenever someone heard the word for the picture they colored, they had to hold it up.  Which meant they had to listen carefully—easier for some than for others!  They did a little better the second time through, when we also switched some of the pictures around so the one-mention-only pictures went to different kids than the first time.  (When we reported to the parents what we’d done in class that day, we passed out the pictures and made the parents listen & hold them up.  That was fun.)
                Next we played a game about crossing water.  Since we can’t walk on water like Jesus, we need to walk on a bridge or maybe some stepping stones.  Each kid was given several “stones” (paper plates) and could put them down one at a time as he/she crossed the two large sheets of blue paper taped end-to-end.  That was the theory, anyway.  A lot of the kids had trouble staying on task with this one—they’d walk on the first plate or two but then get impatient and just dash the rest of the way across.  Didn’t really want to slow down and force them to get it right, for fear of boring the kids that got it right away.  We did play a second time through, this time with each kid throwing a die first to determine how many stones he/she would get to use.
                Reminder:  why didn’t Jesus need stepping stones to walk on?  Because, as our Bible verse says, Jesus is the Son of God.  We had two sets of each word of this phrase printed out on little boat-shaped pieces of plastic, with holes in them to fit paper-clip hooks into.  The kids divided into two groups and each had to work together to hook the boats up in a line so that the Bible phrase was lined up across the water in a basin.

                We ended up with this fun craft of little “boats” made of celery, peanut butter, and gummy bears.

Jesus gets rid of our sin

Okay, still way behind.  For the first lesson of the new year, January 6th, I wanted to follow up on the theme of salvation.  But first, we talked about how it is a new year, and a lot of people try to make resolutions to change.  I’m afraid most of our kids don’t think ahead in that way!  So instead we looked at some ways God might want us to change.  We had our two teenage volunteers act out a lot of bad behaviors & ask if God would like this kind of behavior:  dropping candy wrapper on the ground, watching TV instead of doing homework, being mean to another kid, complaining instead of praying, bragging instead of being thankful, having a temper tantrum, being greedy, stealing, worshipping idols.  Of course the answer was always no! (Or at least it was supposed to be…)
                We put up a list of these bad traits and had everyone write one or two of them in black permanent marker on a hard-boiled egg.  Said this is like our hearts when they are full of sin.  But if we let Jesus take our sin away (one of the kids helped peel the egg), then we are clean and smooth again.  And pleasant to be around just like this egg is good to eat! (everyone got a slice)
                So then we moved into our Bible story about how we need Jesus to help us get rid of our sin.  We introduced a picture (covered by clear plastic) of a man who was controlled by sin.  His clothes were torn and dirty (someone sticks on a ragged paper garment), his hair was long and uncombed (someone draws on messy hair), he never took a bath (someone smears dirt all over arms & legs) and he had wounds from hurting himself (someone sticks on a couple of bandaids).
                Does everyone who sins look like this?  NO!  Most of us, when we sin, it doesn’t show.  But if we keep on sinning, it gets more and more obvious.  Even if we don’t look this bad, still, people don’t like us very much, just like no one liked this man at all!  Everyone was afraid of him.  Except Jesus (one of the kids chosen as Jesus).  Actually this man was afraid of Jesus!  He thought Jesus was going to hurt him.  He knew that Jesus wanted to get rid of his sin, but he thought he was such a bad sinner that the only way Jesus could do it would be to get rid of him!  Is that true?
                No!  and that’s something else to remember.  Even when you have a lot of sin in your life—laziness, temper, selfishness—that’s not the real you, that’s only the sin inside you.  The real you wants to be a good person, right?  And Jesus loves YOU, even when he doesn’t like your sin.  And He loved this man.  So he commanded the evil spirit that caused him to sin to come out of him—and it did!  It jumped right out and went into a bunch of pigs that were nearby.  They all went crazy and jumped into the sea and drowned!  (Everyone got a little paper pig to throw into a bucket of water)
                What happened to the man?  He was no longer afraid or scary.  Jesus’ disciples helped him clean up and gave him better clothes to wear.  (wiped off plastic, had different kids add nice clothes, neat hair, smile)  He was so happy!  He told everyone what Jesus had done for him.
                To illustrate how unpleasant it is to have to walk around with sin in our hearts, we all had to “crab walk” over to “Jesus” who would help the person up so they could walk freely again.  I found this idea online but with the twist that the kids were supposed to do this with a book on their stomach.  That wasn’t just hard, it was impossible for me when I tried it; the book kept sliding off.  So we just did the crab walking and that was plenty hard enough!
                Mrs. Wong was a great coach though!

                So then we asked, if it feels so good to get rid of our sin, why don’t we just get rid of it ourselves?  Because it’s not that easy!  To illustrate this, we gave them all dirty coins and had them try to scrub them with toothbrushes.  Not much progress was made.  Then one by one they got to put their coins in a solution of salt and vinegar and watch them magically become bright again!  That’s like Jesus does for us!
                This lesson wasn’t quite long enough, even after having some snacks and tidying the room, we were just a tad early going over to the adult room.  I realized afterward, I had not had any time for prayer, which is not a good idea any week, but especially on a day we were talking about salvation!  OOPS!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Three Wisemen

                The three wisemen…in February?  Okay, so I’m way behind in updating this blog.  We actually did this story on December 30.
                We started by reviewing our song from the previous week with the bells.  We asked, who told the shepherds this good news?  Angels.  So we all played at being Christmas angels and telling each other the good news.  Each kid got a turn to take one cellphone and dial a number which caused a second cellphone to ring with a “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” ringtone.  Each kid also had a turn being the one to answer that phone, upon which the first kid was supposed to say: “Good News, Jesus is born!”  Everyone did great at the dialing and answering; not so well at the greeting part, but we tried!
                Okay, besides sending angels to announce Jesus’ birth, God made a huge star appear in the sky (post on board) that was different from all the other stars in the sky.  People could see it a long, long way from where Jesus was born.  Some of the people who saw it were scientists from a faraway country (introduce three wise men who look at the star through a telescope). 
 They thought it was especially strange that it didn’t seem to move like the other stars, but seemed like it was hanging over one place.  They decided they would go see if they could find out where it was.  They were sure that it meant something special, like a great king had been born.   So, they figured they’d better bring gifts to give to this great king.  (Each wise man gets a bag with a wrapped gift inside).
                 They start out to follow the star.  It was really a long way.  How long do you think it took them?  --one week?  --six months?    --a  year?   --two years!
Finally they arrive in the country of Israel, and it’s obvious that this is the country the star is hanging over.  They think, okay, since this is a king’s star, the new king must be in the palace, right?  So they knock on the palace door, and tell the servant who answers that they are here to see the new King who is so special he has his own star.  The servant figures he better tell the King (in crown) about this!  The King has not heard about any new King.  How do you think he takes the news?  He wants to know more.  He welcomes the wisemen & asks them why they think there is a new King.  They explain they saw this special star almost two years ago, and it seems to be hanging over Israel.  He tells them to wait until he talks to his own wisemen.  He talks with some people who know the Bible and asks, isn’t there some place where the Bible says exactly where the everlasting ruler of Israel is going to be born?  They open a Bible and say, it says here that He will be born in Bethlehem.  So the King tells them how to get to Bethlehem from there.  He tells them, when you find out exactly where He is, please come back and tell me, so I can go see Him too. 
                The wisemen go to Bethlehem, and the star leads them right to Jesus 
   We had the wisemen stay overnight with Jesus and His family. (Wisemen, Mary & Joseph lay down on towels on the floor).  While they are sleeping, an angel with halo appears to the wisemen & says, don’t go back to see the king; go back to your home another way.  So they get up and go home.  Then the angel goes over to where Joseph is sleeping and says, get up, take Mary and Jesus and go to Egypt, quickly, before it is too late!  So they get up and leave.
                When the king realizes the wisemen are not coming back, he gets angry and kills all the baby boys in Bethlehem (a couple of kids assigned to be soldiers find the babies that were posted around the walls, take them down and tear them up).  Sad end to story!
                Next, we reviewed how the wisemen had come looking for a king, but how we had seen last week that Jesus was also born to be a Savior.  I had prepared a simple visual to explain the plan of salvation; I think I should have just used it as a visual instead of having the kids make their own as a craft.  It seemed to distract from it actually having a meaning.  Sigh—live and learn.
                Then we played a game where the kids had to find different Chinese chess pieces in a bowl, labeled gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and bring one of each to Jesus, in a relay race.
                Finally, we harked back to how the wisemen had brought gifts to Jesus, and made edible gifts made out of stacked cookies tied up with licorice strings.  I’d hoped we’d have time to make extra so each kid could give one to their parent, but we ran out of time.  Oh well.  I’d rather run out of time than run out of activities, any 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

                I had Sunday the 16th “off” again, thanks to Grace.  (Though I did lead the adult Bible study, which I enjoyed.)  She had chosen the story of the three wisemen for her theme, which I’m planning to do on Sunday the 30th, but it doesn’t really matter.  Likely the kids won’t remember the subject matter anyway—sigh.
                So for Sunday the 23rd we did the Luke 2 story.  First, though, we harked back to the main character of our last three stories together, named Joseph.  Said it was now time to meet another Joseph, from many, many years later.  This Joseph was very happy, because he was going to get married.  But then he found out his girlfriend was going to have a baby.  It’s not good to have a baby before you’re married is it?  No.  So Joseph didn’t really want to marry her then.  But when he went to bed that night (on a mat on the floor), an angel came and told him it was okay to marry her because God Himself had asked her to have this baby, and it would be God’s own Son.  Now He was asking Joseph if he was willing to take care of the baby and raise it as his own.  So Joseph said yes.  Then the last thing the angel said was to name the baby Jesus.
                 Here we took a little break to explain what the name Jesus (Yèh-Sòu in Cantonese) meant, which was God (Yèh-wòh-wàh) saves.  Each of the kids’ names have meanings too, and we had them all written out on star shapes, and explained them.  Some were very apt—like the tall, willowy girl whose name means beautiful and graceful; others were deeply meaningful—like the girl whose name meant to swim in grace(!); while some were a little funny—like the basically non-verbal, but constantly giggling boy whose name proclaims that his speech is refined and dignified!  For our craft, then, the kids cut out their star shapes, plus another yellow star shape with a precut X in the center.  After gluing the yellow stars on top of the name stars (on the points only, not the center!), they could fold out the points formed by the X and let their names show through.  Then we stuck them all to this big Christmas tree.

                Next—back to our story.  Mary and Joseph are now married, and they need to go to Bethlehem for some business Joseph needs to attend to.  The two walk around the room together & when the get back to the front, knock on the cupboard door.  They are told there is no room for them in the inn, so they end up in a stable (next to a picture of a cow & donkey taped to the side of the teacher’s desk).  They lie down together to go to sleep, but that night Mary has her baby.

                While they sit there admiring her baby, a couple of shepherds sitting in the back of the room next to a picture of sheep taped to the wall are visited by an angel who tells them there is good news, that God’s Son has been born in Bethlehem.  They go to see Him.  They go away rejoicing, and singing a song we adapted from our “God created…” song to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb.  One of the real carols that we’d learned would have been nicer BUT I only had bells for do through sol, so our options were limited.  After singing the song a few times, we passed out bells to the kids at their individual desks and worked with them on ringing them in the correct sequence as I pointed to them.  They weren’t perfect, but it got to sounding recognizable after several repetitions.  Unfortunately, when we tried to perform it during announcement time back in with the adults, it didn’t go so well.  They didn’t have the individual seats but were crowded together at the front desk, distracted both by each other and by the watching adults.  Sigh.  I think (I hope) the parents liked it anyway!