This lesson is part of a 5-week Sunday Summer Games curriculum themed around this year’s Summer Olympics.
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Fix My Eyes
I Will Follow
Have you ever been in a competition?
With the Olympics coming up, we’re going to be talking a lot about competitions. Have you ever been in a competition where you won? How did you feel? What about when you lost?
Listen to the following names of various Olympic events. If you think the event was a real Olympic sport, stand up. If it was never an Olympic sport, sit down. Let’s see how many you can get right!
-Krav Maga (not real)
-Shuffleboard (not real)
-Flonkerton (not real)
-Canoe Slalom (real)
For an added twist: Have students “act out” each sport after they answer—even the ones that aren’t real!
Finding the Way In
1-2 players are sent out of the room.
The remaining players are the guards of the castle, and stand in a circle around it to guard it.
The guards think of an action that is the key to unlocking the circle of protection in order to enter the castle.
The players are called in and they must find out what action they must do to enter the castle.
The players can only ask “yes” and “no” questions of the castle guards.
Materials: Little stones, measuring tape
Players are put in teams of two.
Each team gets a chance to throw a stone to see how far they think they can jump as a team.
After the stone is thrown, it stays on the ground and the first player will jump as far as he/she can in that direction.
The next member of the team will then walk to where that player is, and try to jump to where the stone is from that spot.
The team that jumps the furthest AND makes it to their stone, wins.
(Teacher: Use phrases like “FLASHBACK” and “FLASH FORWARD” to draw kids in by having them do a call and response. For instance, when you say, flashback, the kids might lean as far back as they can without falling over, while making a ‘rewind’ sound (you’ll have to imitate this sound for them—they don’t have VCRs!). For flash forward, they could do snaps or quick claps, etc. Something that they are excited to do so they will listen for the next flashback / flash forward moment)
When you think of the Olympics, what comes to your mind?
Have you ever wondered what it takes for someone to become an Olympian?
Olympians are world-class athletes. They didn’t just wake up one morning and think to themselves, “Hmm… I think I’m going to be an Olympian, the best of the best! I’ll win the gold medal in swimming today, for sure!” No way! You can’t just decide to be an Olympian the way you decide which cereal to have for breakfast! Olympians are athletes who have been training and preparing for the Olympics for their entire lives!
Olympians practice every single day. They don’t care if it’s Christmas, if they had the flu the day before, or if it’s raining outside. An Olympian is an athlete who makes no excuses. Take an Olympic swimmer, for instance. He can’t just wake up in the morning, look outside and see it drizzling and decide to skip out on practice! Or wake up and see the temperature is only thirty degrees and decide he’d rather stay indoors. No way! An Olympic swimmer has to get up every single morning and go to the pool, no matter what he is feeling or what he has planned for the day.
An Olympian also has to eat right. When he goes to a birthday party, he can’t just load up on pizza, cake and sodas. An Olympian can’t make choices on what to eat based on what tastes good. He makes choices on what to eat based on how good it is for his body.
Imagine this. You’re in town for the Olympics, and you’ve woken up this morning and decided you want to try to win the gold medal in swimming. You’ve swam a few laps before, and last summer you went to the beach for an entire week! Last night, you ate a lot of pizza and cake. But it doesn’t matter. You decided to win, so you’re going to win. You put on your bathing suit and you head to the pool.
Do you think you’d win?
Of course not! Those guys that swim every day for hours and hours and who only eat broccoli? Those are the guys that are going to win! They are going to swim so fast that they’ll be splashing you in the face as they pass you!
It’s obvious that being an Olympian takes a LOT of sacrifice… but why do you think Olympians are so willing to sacrifice?
Yeah, usually it’s because they love their sport. They love to compete, and even more than that, they love to win! It could also be that they’re really good at their job. Sometimes, though, Olympians become Olympians because they want a better life for themselves and for their family..
Nadia – Unexpected Olympic Champion
(Option: Play this highlight video of Nadia at the Olympics while you talk about her)
Today, we’re going to do a flashback to the 1960s and we’re going to head to Romania. Romania is a country in Europe, and the entire country is very, very poor. When I say poor, I mean really poor. There are three to four families living in each house, and every body is skinny as a twig because they can’t afford to buy any food. They are very cold in the winter and sleep cuddled together because they can’t afford heat or blankets. Sounds like a great life, doesn’t it?
Enter one little girl named Nadia. Nadia is a six year old and she goes to Kindergarten in town. Her family is one of the poorest families in her city in Romania, and Nadia knows it. One day, she goes to school with her hair in pigtails, ready to learn how to read. Her stomach is empty, and her face is dirty. Nadia and her friends decide to have a cartwheel contest.
Her first friend steps up and tries to cartwheel, but she falls. Her next friend steps up and she can do one cartwheel, all by herself! Nadia has never done a cartwheel before, so she’s pretty sure she’s going to lose.
She puts one hand in front of her. She leans forward. She lifts her legs off the ground and does a perfect cartwheel. She hears her friends gasping. She keeps going. One cartwheel. Two cartwheels. Three cartwheels. Suddenly, her friends start chanting. “Nadia! Nadia! Nadia!” She does cartwheels all throughout recess until it’s time to go inside.
That night, there is a knock on the door. It is a man with a mustache. He is there to see Nadia. She’s never seen this man before in her life. He tells her his name is Bela, and he wants to take her away from her family because he thinks she might be a good gymnast. Nadia doesn’t even know what a gymnast is. He claims that if she goes with him, he can train her to be the best gymnast in the world. If she succeeds, her family will never have to live in poverty again!
Nadia goes. She lives in a big room with sixteen other girls. All of the other girls are poor like her, and they all want to be famous like her. She wakes up every morning and eats her breakfast, then, she heads to the gym. All day long, she practices gymnastics. She has to get on a high beam and do cartwheels four feet off the ground. She has to swing in the air and catch uneven bars as she flies. She has to run at her fastest speed toward a stationary object. She falls a LOT. She gets hurt A LOT. But every morning, no matter how sore she is, Nadia has to get up and do it again.
She works out at the gym every single day for the next nine years. She only eats salads, vegetables, and protein. No pizza. No tacos. No dessert-not even on her birthday.
Then, she goes to the Olympics. She’s going to compete in five different competitions. She gets a bronze medal in floor exercise, but that’s not enough. Then, she gets a silver medal with her team, but it still isn’t enough for Nadia. She didn’t work that hard to get just a silver medal.
So Nadia competes on vault. She takes off running. She jumps in the air. Her body flips and flies. She comes down and BOOM. She lands with both feet on the mat. She raises her arms in the air. The score flashes. She gets one point!
ONE POINT. This is an outrage!
Then, she realizes. The scoreboard is broken. It doesn’t have enough spaces to display her real score. She didn’t get one point. She got ten! A perfect ten.
She wins the gold medal. Then, she does the same thing on the beam. And on the uneven bars.
Three perfect tens. Three gold medals. She is no longer the poor girl from the slums of Romania. Now, she is a champion.
God gives us gifts to help us.
God looked down and he knew what Nadia’s family needed. He gave Nadia the gifts she needed to get out of her situation.
Today, we are going to talk about another woman that God pulled out of a sticky situation. We’re going to have to go back several hundred years to talk about this woman. In her story, you’ll see how God was in control, no matter what happened in her life.
This part of history comes from Esther 2.
Now, before I start telling you the story, we need to learn two things. The first, is that whenever I say flashback, I want you to respond by saying “FLASHBACK!” and doing this action (teacher: lean back) and making this sound (teacher: make the rewind sound).
Ready? Let’s practice! (teacher: practice a few times)
Okay, I think we’re ready.
The Story of Esther
I need a volunteer to act like a king and come make a rule for everyone to follow.
(pick someone, likely a boy, to come and act as the King)
Meet King Xerxes. I know, what a funny name, right? Well, King Xerxes was what we like to call a loner. He didn’t really have any friends. He didn’t have a son, or a dog, or a wife. His life every day was pretty much exactly the same. He’d sit down and eat his oatmeal, run the country, then go back to his fancy room and look around and think to himself, “man my life is so boring.” He was sick of being alone. He wanted a wife.
So King Xerxes made an announcement…a proclamation: . “ALL WOMEN IN SUSA MUST COME TO THE KING’S PALACE FOR A PRINCESS PAGEANT.”
There were a lot of women in Susa. The palace was going to be packed. So maybe they couldn’t have all the women come to the palace. So King Xerxes called his attendant Hegai and told him, “Hey, Hegai. Go pick the most beautiful women. Then, I want you to run this whole competition thing. I have other things to worry about.”
So Hegai did. He went from house to house and plucked the prettiest women out for the competition. Or at least the women he thought had the potential to be the prettiest.
One of these women was named Hadassah. Another cool name, right? I need a volunteer to come be Hadassah.
(pick someone, a girl, to come act as Hadassah/Esther)
Okay, so here’s what you need to know about Hadassah. Hadassah was an orphan. Both of her parents had died a long time ago. Hadassah could have died too, if her cousin Mordecai hadn’t decided to be a good guy and take her in. Mordecai was a Jew which mena Mordecai prayed before meals, and listened and obeyed to what God said. He was a Jews, one of God’s chosen people, and he raised Hadassah to be just like him. Then, he changed her name to Esther so she would forever remember that she was a Jew as well.
Remember that. It’s important later. Esther is a Jew. Repeat it with me. Esther is a Jew.
Now, FLASH FORWARD.
So we’ve got Esther the Jew, and Hegai the official “woman-picker-outter” and they’re about to meet. Can you just imagine what Esther is thinking right now? Is her hair too curly? Is it too straight? What about the freckle on her nose? Oh no! Is that a zit forming? Is that a stain on her teeth? Oh no!! Why are her eyes suddenly crossing when they should be staring straight?
But then Hegai walked in. He took one look at Esther and oh man, he liked Esther. He thought she was pretty, and since he was the “official-woman-picker-outter”, he picked her. So Esther had to leave her home to go to the King’s Palace.
Except the King’s Palace wasn’t ready for her yet. First, every woman that the “official-woman-picker-outter” picked had to go through some special training. No, I’m not talking about weight lifting or tumbling on a balance beam. I’m talking about beauty training. Yeah, you heard me. Beauty training.
Esther would wake up in the morning and begin her training. They would curl her hair. They’d put lipstick on her. Blush on her cheeks. Mascara on her eyelashes. She would have spa days, and get moisturized. Pedicures.
Really sounds like a rough life, doesn’t it?
That wasn’t all, though. Esther was also given all of the best foods. The best chocolate, the tastiest macaroni and cheese, and the most exquisite pizzas. She was really living the high life. Not only that, but Esther got to sleep in the best rooms. The most comfortable beds, the best TV… just kidding, they didn’t have TV. But you get what I’m saying. If it was today, Esther would be watching a 70 foot TV with high definition while eating cheesecake and getting a foot massage all at the same time.
I guess you could say she got the royal treatment.
Oh, but we need to FLASH BACK again. This time, to right before Esther left.
Esther went to say goodbye to Mordecai. Mordecai told her, “don’t tell anyone you’re a Jew.”
“Okay” Esther replied. But she thought Mordecai’s instructions were a little odd. I mean, she had even changed her name because she was a Jew, and now she wasn’t allowed to say it? Maybe her cousin was getting a litle crazy in his old age.
So, it’s almost time for Esther to go to the pageant. She’s had a year’s worth of beauty treatments and high living, and in a few minutes, it could all be over. I mean, the King could pick anyone to be his royal Queen.
All the single ladies were busy preparing. Mascara wands were flying everywhere, hairspray in everyone’s faces, lipstick passed from woman to woman. It was a total girl-zone back there, and Esther probably felt a little like she didn’t fit in.
I mean, why would the king choose her? She was an orphan girl, a nobody…why would anyone pick her.
But when Esther went in front of the King everything changed.
The king liked her. He thought she was pretty. In fact, he liked her more than any of the others.
“Fetch me a crown! This woman is my Queen!” the king declared, loudly and proudly.
Esther had been a “no-name” orphan. Now, she was the Queen.
Sometimes, we feel just like an orphan too. Have you ever felt like you aren’t good at anything, or like you can’t do anything right? Ever felt like you’re just… stuck. Like gum to the ground and people are just stepping all over you?
God sees us when we are like that. He knows exactly how it feels to be the gum stuck to the ground. He knows how it feels to get a bad grade on a test, to lose a soccer game, or to be hungry. He knows what it’s like to have things not go your way.
Things hadn’t Nadia’s way when she was little. And for a long time things didn’t go Esther’s way either.
But God was still in control. Even when things were falling apart in Esther’s life, when her Mom and Dad died? God was in control. He gave her Mordecai, and Mordecai took care of her and provided for her.
And just like Esther, when things were falling apart in Nadia’s life, and she didn’t have enough food to eat or clothes to wear, God was in control. He gave her Bela, and Bela took care of her and provided for her.
Then, when Esther got older, God kept providing for her. She was made the Queen of the entire kingdom! She had all of the best food, the best assistants, the best rooms… She could do anything she wanted! Even then, though, God was in control.
And when Nadia got older, God kept providing for her, too. She was the best gymnast in the world, and she got perfect scores. Her family got the money they needed, and they were able to live a better life. But it wasn’t Nadia who controlled that for them. Even then, God was in control.
The best part about God is that you don’t have to be a world class gymnast, or the most beautiful girl in the room. You don’t have to be a star soccer player, or super duper smart. It doesn’t matter how good you are at something, or how bad you are at something. It doesn’t matter if you are the oldest sibling, the youngest sibling, or the middle kid. It doesn’t even matter if you’re an adult or a child! No matter what your role, God is in control. Just like God took care of Esther, God will take care of you, too.