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Lesson Plan: Bold Believers Around the World

Use this lesson plan as guide for introducing children in small groups to the concept of persecution.

Objectives for This Lesson
Students will learn the meaning of persecution. They will learn that people in some other lands are not free to pray, read the Bible, go to church, or tell others about Jesus.

Introduction
Explain: In some countries today, Christians can go to jail for offending someone of another religion, even if they did not commit a crime.

Recreate the size of some jail cells in countries where Christians are persecuted to illustrate the reality experienced by some Christians in other countries.

Needed: Empty space 8 feet wide and 10 feet long, marked off with tape or string.

Measure off a space 8 feet wide and 10 feet long. Ask six student volunteers to enter the space. Talk about where they would sleep and how they would do daily activities if they had to spend a long time in the prison. Let the students, or another group, sit in the “cell” during the rest of the lesson, maybe alternating groups after each segment of the lesson.

Overview
In our country, we are free to go to church and Sunday school, to read our Bibles, and to pray without anybody trying to stop us. But in many other countries, Christians do not have the same freedoms we have. Some of the countries have laws against building churches or printing Bibles. Others have rules against teaching children under 18 about God. In some places, people do not like Christians and try to give them a hard time.

Countries have different reasons why they make rules and laws to limit Christians. People in some nations worship other gods and they don’t want anyone to show them a different way. In other places, government leaders want the people to honor the government more than they honor God.

How do you think Christians in these countries feel? (Accommodate answers.) Of course, most would rather not be treated harshly. But in many of the places, the churches are growing and the Christians are joyful! They are glad that God helps them stand strong for Jesus and guides them when they face problems. They feel joy when people in their countries trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Christians are thankful that God has forgiven their sins and has promised to be with them forever.

They also appreciate it when Christians in our country pray for them. We will learn how we can pray for these Christians, and even for those who make problems for them!

Verse to Highlight
Explain: The Bible says, “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3, NIV). The part that says, “as if you were their fellow prisoners” means to remember Christians who are having problems as if you were in jail with them. It would be hard to forget about someone who was in jail with you!

[If desired, pair the children off and give each pair a 12- to 18-inch piece of rope or string. Let one child in each pair hold one end of the rope while the other child holds the other end. Tell the children that the rope represents handcuffs, and explain that some prisoners are handcuffed together. Have them continue to stay in pairs and hold on to the rope as you finish talking about the following Bible verse and read the story. Encourage them to stay “bound together” throughout the story. Variation: Have only the children taking turns in the “prison cell” hold the ropes.]

One of the ways you can remember these Christians is to learn about their struggles. You can share what you learn with other Christians so they can remember, too.

Another way to remember is to pray. Some Christians in other countries are in prison because it is against the law in their country to become a Christian or to follow Jesus in the way the Bible commands. If you were in a dark, dirty cell in another country, you might not get much to eat. You could be in a cell all alone, or with prisoners who do not like Christians, or even with mice, rats, and bugs!

If you were in a jail like that, what would you like people to pray for you? (Accommodate answers.) The Bible tells us to do to others what we would want them to do to us. (See Luke 6:31.) So the things you would like people to pray for you are probably good suggestions for what to pray for Christian prisoners.

Bible Story: Daniel in the Lions’ Den
Ask: Does anyone know the Bible story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den? (Ask each of those who know the story to tell one thing they remember about the story. As you tell the story, acknowledge the parts they have already mentioned.)

Explain: At the beginning of the story, King Darius named 120 men to be leaders over his kingdom. Then he named three other men to be the bosses over those leaders. Daniel was one of the bosses.

Daniel was an excellent worker. He was so good that the king thought about making him the main leader over all the other officials. The other leaders were probably jealous. What does it mean to be jealous? (Possible answers: Feeling angry or upset toward someone who has something good, or who has done something well; wanting something someone else has.)

So the other leaders decided to try to tell the king something bad about Daniel so the king wouldn’t like him anymore. But they couldn’t think of anything he had done wrong!

Everyone knew that Daniel honored God. Over the years, he had made it clear that following God was the most important thing in his life. In fact, he prayed three times every day in front of an open window in his room.

So the officials tricked the king. They pretended to have a plan to give special honor to the king.

The leaders told the king, “We have agreed that you should make a new law. The law should say no one can pray to any god or person except you for the next 30 days. Anyone who doesn’t obey the law must be thrown into a den of lions.” The leaders actually wanted people to pray to the king as if he were a god!

King Darius liked the law, so he had it written down. Of course, Daniel knew that God’s children must worship only the one true God, not other gods or people. That day, Daniel kneeled to pray and thank God, just as he always did. The officials saw him, because they were watching him carefully. Then they went to the king and told him that Daniel broke the law.

King Darius liked Daniel, and he was angry with himself for making the law. He thought for hours about how he might help Daniel escape his punishment. But the king could not think of a plan. The law was the law.

The king had Daniel thrown into the den of lions. “Maybe your God will save you!” he said to Daniel.

A giant stone was placed in front of the opening to the den so Daniel could not get out. Then the king returned to the palace. He did not eat or sleep because he was so worried about Daniel.

The next day, he hurried to the lions’ den to check on Daniel. He called out to Daniel from outside the den, “Did your God save you?”

“Yes!” replied David. “God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths and they have not hurt me!”

The king was delighted. He commanded his servants to let Daniel out of the den. Then he wrote a statement “to all peoples” saying that Daniel’s God was great and should be honored by everyone.

Discussion Options

  • [Collect the ropes that “bound together” the children.]
  • Ask: Does anyone remember what Hebrews 13:3 says? (Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.)
  • Explain: The verse reminds us to remember persecuted Christians as if we were in prison with them. You have been holding ropes that represent handcuffs, as if you were in prison together. Do you remember who was holding the other end of your rope? (Accommodate answers.) It would be hard to forget someone who was in prison with you!
  • In the story about Daniel, why was King Darius angry with himself? Why do you think it was so easy for the officials to trick him? (Possible answer: It made him feel good that people were honoring him.)
  • What could the king have done differently when the officials asked him to make a new law?
  • Have you ever wished, like the king, that you had not done something you did?

Concepts to Introduce
Ask: What is persecution? (Possible answers: Persecution can mean someone is teased, picked on, or made fun of, or it can mean someone is arrested, put in jail, or injured. In some places and times, Christians have even been killed for their faith.)

How was Daniel persecuted?

Why do people in some areas persecute Christians? We have already discussed a few of the reasons: in some places, the leaders of the country want people to honor them and not God. Or most of the people worship different gods and don’t want Christians telling them a better way.

The Bible also tells us some reasons Christians are persecuted. In John 15:20, 21, Jesus tells his disciples that they will be persecuted because people do not know the one who sent Jesus into the world; that is, they don’t know God. But the Bible tells us that Jesus will be with us always and will reward those who follow him to the end. (See Matthew 28:20. Revelation 2 and 3 tell of various promises Jesus gives to those who continue to follow him.)

Current Story: Mrs. Vu, the Policemen’s Friend
Mrs. Vu is a Christian in Vietnam. At the time she shared this story, she had two sons, ages 15 and 11. Her husband, Mr. Vu, was a truck driver, but he was injured in an accident and could no longer drive. People paid Mrs. Vu to sew clothes for them, and that’s how she supported her family. She worked very hard.

Mrs. Vu liked to visit people in other villages to tell them about Jesus. But the government does not want people leading others to Jesus in some parts of Vietnam. Many Christians have to meet secretly in house churches and on mountain slopes. Mrs. Vu said, “House church Christians are usually baptized in a lake in the mountains or in a bathtub in one of our homes or in a hotel.”

Mrs. Vu’s older son was in a house church youth group. He and his brothers knew they could have problems in school if school officials found out they went to a house church. Some Christian students in Vietnam were teased by students, or were given poor grades by teachers, even if they did good work.

Because of her Christian activities, the police came to the Vu’s house with an arrest warrant. They ordered her to come to the police station the next day. Mrs. Vu prayed, “After I prayed, I found peace and slept well,” she said. In the morning she happily rode a mile to the police station on her bike, trusting in the Lord.

At the police station, the police started questioning her in an angry way. They asked her why she believed in God, why her church worshiped on mountains, and many other questions. Then after about two hours, they began to understand why Mrs. Vu and her family loved Jesus. Four other policemen came into the room to listen to what she had to say. At the end of Mrs. Vu’s time at the station, a policeman asked her if he could believe in God, too!

Policemen questioned Mrs. Vu many times because of her faith in Jesus. Each time, the police leaders sent her to different stations and had her talk to different officers. They knew she would lead policemen to Jesus if she visited them too often!

Mrs. Vu could have gone to jail for talking to the policeman about God. But she took a risk. She obeyed the Bible verse that says Christians should always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us the reason for the hope that is in us. (See 1 Peter 3:15.)

Like Mrs. Vu, many Christians around the world do not let others scare them into silence. They continue to stand up for Jesus.

Closing Remarks
This week at home, when you pray at meals or bedtime, remember that some Christians in other countries have to do those things in secret. If you have a Bible in your house, think about the Christian who can’t get a Bible or have to hide theirs. Pray for Christians who are persecuted.

Closing Prayer Suggestion
Thank you, God, for our freedom to pray and read the Bible. Please help Christians who are persecuted to always remember that you are with them. Help us to remember them as if we were beside them in their struggles. Thank you that the churches are growing, and for giving the Christians joy in some places where people give Christians a hard time. In Jesus name, Amen.

Optional Ideas
Use one or more of the suggestions below at any time during the lesson.

  1. Encouraging Notes
    Explain: We can encourage and pray for those who are standing up for Jesus whether they live overseas or nearby.Ask: Can you think of anyone in our community or country who is faithful to God even when things are difficult? (The people do not necessarily have to be controversial. For example, they can be Christians in helping professions, a faithful parent of a seriously ill child, or the child of a serviceman or woman who is stationed far away.)Provide materials and help for the children to send cards of encouragement or thank you notes to appropriate recipients.
  2. Beautiful Feet

    Feet

    Children in other countries also learn about and remember persecuted Christians around the world. Some kids in Mexico make tiny flip-flops as reminders to pray for people in countries where Christians have a hard time. (See the photo. The names of the countries and related Bible verses are in Spanish.)

    Cut shoe-shaped pieces out of craft foam and attach ribbons to them to make flip-flops. Let the children write the name of a country where Christianity is restricted on each shoe. As they are writing, read the first part of Isaiah 52:7 to the children. (How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation….)

    Hang up the shoes as reminders to pray for those with “beautiful feet” who take the good news to difficult places. Or send the shoes home with the children.

  3. Map Activity
    [Use a VOM Prayer Map for the following activity. Subscribers to The Voice of the Martyrs monthly magazine received the map in their January issue. New readers receive the map when they subscribe. Subscribe to the magazine here.]Explain: This map shows “restricted” countries where laws and rules keep Christians from having some rights and freedoms. In some of the countries, Christians are not allowed to get Bibles or other Christian books. Christians who follow Jesus may be hurt, jailed, or persecuted in other ways because of laws and rules in some of the countries.The map also highlights “hostile” countries where governments often try to protect Christians from persecution, but Christians are still attacked sometimes because they are living for Jesus.VOM has received reports of persecution in “monitored” nations, and will be watching the situation in those countries to see how it develops.

    Ask: Can someone point to the United States on the map? (Allow someone to volunteer.) What highlighted countries are closest to the U.S.? What countries are farthest away? What are some of the largest countries? What are some of the smallest?

  4. Ask youth to perform the following skit for your group. (The skit is based on events in the story from the lesson about Mrs Vu.) Or assign parts and pass out scripts to your group, and let them read the skit while acting it out. Discussion options for the story are provided after the skit.

Always Ready to Give an Answer

Characters
Narrator
Mrs. Vu, a Christian in a Vietnam
Head Police Officer
Police Officer’s Assistant
Police Officer #1
Police Officer #2
Police Officer #3
Police Officer #4

Props
Long table and 3 chairs
2 legal pads and pens
File folders, phone, and additional office supplies
Cleaning supplies and rag

Suggested Costumes
Uniforms for Police Officers

Narrator: In some countries, people who share the gospel outside of “official” government-ruled church buildings risk their freedom and their lives. This play is based on a true story from Vietnam, a mainly-Buddhist country where some people are animist spirit worshipers. People who are animists are afraid of spirits that they believe are in rocks, trees, rivers, and other objects. They try to please the spirits so they will not have “bad luck.” The story tells about Mrs. Vu, a seamstress called to the local police station for questioning because of her Christian activities. As the play begins, Mrs. Vu arrives at the station to be questioned by the head police officer and his assistant.

(Mrs. Vu is a humble, kind 36-year-old woman with peace and joy in her heart. She knocks at the door of the office where the uniformed Head Police Officer and Police Officer’s Assistant are seated behind a long table, writing reports.)

Head Police Officer: (irritated, weary) Come in!

Mrs. Vu: (steps inside the door) I am Mrs. Vu. I was given an arrest warrant yesterday and ordered to report here today.

Head Police Officer: (rises, speaks irritably, coldly) Yes, Mrs. Vu. You Christians take up too much of our time lately. Sit down.

(Mrs. Vu and the Officer sit down, Mrs. Vu at the table across from the police officers. The officers write on legal pads during the questioning, apparently writing down some of Mrs. Vu’s responses.)

Mrs. Vu: (cheerfully, but humbly) Thank you! (She looks at the officers and smiles.)

Head Police Officer: (authoritatively, somewhat angrily) I don’t believe you would be smiling, Mrs. Vu, if you understood the seriousness of your situation. Don’t you know that we can take away your home and your children? We can put you in jail where you could stay until you die! Don’t you understand that?

Mrs. Vu: (humbly) Yes, sir, I understand.

Head Officer: And you are not afraid?

Mrs. Vu: No, sir.

Head Officer: (irritably) Why not?

Mrs. Vu: The Lord has seen me through many trials in my life. He is here with me now. (Assistant looks around him, as if looking for someone, until the Head Officer glares at him.) And his Word says that nothing can separate me from his love.

Head Officer: (sarcastically) Excuse me, Mrs. Vu, but I see no one here with you now.

Mrs. Vu: (earnestly) God is everywhere! We can worship him and talk to him anywhere and anytime we want! We don’t have to worship him only inside an official church building.

Head Officer: (jumps up and angrily smacks the table with his hand) That’s enough, Mrs. Vu! You know worship is allowed only in official churches! That’s why you are here. Your group has been baptizing people in lakes and worshiping on the mountain. Isn’t that correct? (He slowly sits back down and tries to compose himself as Mrs. Vu answers.)

Mrs. Vu: Yes, it is true. The mountain is a very beautiful and quiet place to worship.

Officer’s Assistant: (leaning toward Mrs. Vu, earnest and interested) Let me get this straight. You can worship your God and talk to him anywhere? And he loves you?

Head Officer: (indignant, angry—to assistant) What do you want to know that for?

Officer’s Assistant: (leaning back in his chair, resumes writing with his head down, ashamed, as if he’s been caught doing wrong) No reason.. Never mind. Just asking.

(Four other police officers enter. One is carrying file folders, another a phone, another cleaning supplies, another office supplies. They stop as Head Officer yells at them.)

Head Officer: (shouting angrily) What are you doing in here?

Officer #1: Filing these papers, sir. (He goes to a corner of the room and begins shuffling papers.)

Officer #2: Just fixing the phones, sir. (He goes to another part of the office and acts like he is working on the phone.)

Officer #3: Cleaning, sir! (He goes to another part of the office, sprays cleaner, and wipes surface with a rag.)

Officer #4: Bringing supplies, sir! (He sorts pencils, paper clips, etc., at the end of the table where the officers are sitting.)

Head Officer: (irritably) I know what you’re doing! You heard us talking and you want to hear what else Mrs. Vu says. All right, you may work here. Perhaps it will teach you what foolishness this foreign religion is. (to Mrs. Vu) Now, Mrs. Vu, you say your God has helped you through trials. What trials?

Mrs. Vu: (As she talks, Officers #1–#4 gradually slow their work, come closer to her, and listen.) I was the youngest of eight children. My father was in prison for being a Christian. My mother raised us in a thatched roof hut that she built with her own hands. We lived alone in a graveyard because the government took our land. The Lord kept us alive and joyful.

Officer #1: (close to Mrs. Vu, amazed) You were joyful even living in a graveyard?

Head Officer: (angrily, to Officer #1) What are you doing? (Officers #1–#4 scatter and return to “work.”) Get back to work! I’m asking the questions here! Now, Mrs. Vu, are there any more trials you want to tell us about?

Mrs. Vu: (Officers #1–#4 slowly creep back toward her and listen as she speaks.) My husband was a truck driver, but he had a terrible accident. I have to work very hard to care for him and our two children. To earn enough money for food, I do sewing for people. But the Lord gives me enough time to serve him. How good he is!

Head Officer: How do you “serve” him, as you say?

Mrs. Vu: I visit other Christians to encourage them. If they have a need, I try to help. I tell people about Jesus.

Officer #3: About who?

Head Officer: (Shoos Officer #3 away with hand motions. Officer #3 returns to cleaning, but gradually returns nearer to Mrs. Vu.) About who?

Mrs. Vu: (to all, turning to each officer one-by-one as she speaks) About Jesus! God is very good and loves all of us. He knows we all sin. Some people in our country live in fear of spirits that they believe live inside of trees, rocks, or animals. They are afraid that they can never do enough to please the spirits. But God is merciful! He sent Jesus to pay for our sins. If you trust him as your Savior, you never have to fear anyone or anything—not even death!

Head Officer: (at first curious, then stern, then curious again) Really? I mean, really, Mrs. Vu, you don’t think you could talk us into believing in your God, do you? Of course, you could not. But if you could, if we wanted to believe in God and to trust Jesus, is it possible, even for us?

Mrs. Vu: (smiling) Yes, of course, anytime, anywhere! Come, join hands and I will pray that you will all open your hearts to Jesus and have eternal life with him.

(All sit or stand around the table, join hands, and bow to pray.)

Narrator: That was the story of Mrs. Vu’s first trip to the police station for questioning. After that time, she was called to the station many times. She always saw new officers in different stations and offices. The police never let her talk with the same police officer twice, because they knew she will try to convince them to become Christians.

Persecuted Christians around the world need our prayers and support to continue their outreach efforts. And the Body of Christ needs more of us to be like Mrs. Vu—as it says in 1 Peter 3:15always ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is within us.

Discussion Options

  • Where did Christians secretly baptize people in Vietnam? (Accommodate answers.) Why did they baptize in there? (Possibly answer: They had to keep their activities secret from the police.)
  • Mrs. Vu’s husband was badly hurt in his accident. How do you think her sons felt when she was arrested? What problems would they have if she went to jail?
  • What did Mrs. Vu do the night before her first visit to the police station? What do you do when you are nervous or worried?

Additional Background Information for Teachers
Persecuted Christians

“We of the underground church [secret church] have no cathedrals. But is any cathedral more beautiful than the sky of heaven to which we looked when we gathered secretly in forests? The chirping of the birds took the place of the organ….We had the moon and the stars as candles.

“I can never describe the beauty of this church!

“Often, after a secret service, Christians are caught and sent to prison. These Christians wear chains with the gladness with which a bride wears a precious jewel received from her beloved…. I have found truly jubilant Christians only in the Bible, in the underground church, and in prison….

“The faithful underground church has thousands of members in such places. They have secret meetings in basements, attics, apartments, and homes.”

(Source: Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned for his Christian activities in Romania for a total of 14 years.)

Why Are Christians Persecuted?
Christians have been persecuted since the beginning of Christianity.

  • Jesus said, “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:20, 21).
  • Paul said, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
  • Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Compared to the joy we will experience in heaven, the Bible calls persecution “light affliction” that lasts only a short time. Paul said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Where Are Christians Persecuted?
The Voice of the Martyrs’ Mission Statement:
Serving the persecuted church through practical and spiritual assistance while leading Christians in the free world into fellowship with them.

The Voice of the Martyrs, whose mission is to serve persecuted Christians, works in more than 40 countries. The situation for Christians around the world is always changing, and countries may appear on the list one year and not in another year.

For news and additional information about persecution and countries where Christians are persecuted, visit www.persecution.com, www.kidsofcourage.com, and other VOM websites.


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