Sometimes life is tough and the only way to survive is to have Jesus in your life. As Christians, we continue to face different problems daily. We need to be careful about what we expose ourselves to. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, Christ will help us through.
When you think about a tangible place that is tough and difficult to survive in, many different locations may come to mind. In this series we have selected the swamp. The animals sound scary, the fog covers the ground and the path is hard to find. For children, life can sometimes be this way. They are often faced with situations that are hard to wade through. We will look at some of the problems that kids face and how Jesus can help us through.
The setting for this series is a wet, cold, dark and ugly marsh. It is called "Slug Slime Swamp." It is the home of many creatures and personalities who will teach and entertain the children. All of the background props and equipment were designed to set the stage. The puppets were transformed into characters who were born and raised in the swamp. The pictures should provide some ideas. We don't have a large number of puppets and our resources are limited, so our talented puppet costume department (Sandra Pattison) creates the looks we need.
LESSON THREE - SWAMP RESCUE
It is a difficult world. We are faced with TV violence and immorality. We also face these things in our daily lives. In school, at work and at play we confront temptations. It is up to us to decide what is right. We may choose a path that is our own or we can choose to follow Jesus. It is almost impossible to withstand life's storms without His help. This may seem drastic for a child, but I don't think it is an exaggeration. Today's kids have to make tough choices very early. They face issues that we couldn't dream of facing at that age. It is our responsibility to equip our children with what it takes to survive. They need Jesus just as much as we do. They need to be saved from their situations.
All props from previous weeks will be required but add a large, thick, heavy, rope. This will be used in the story. The pink hair problem has escalated so all characters will require more pink. If you can obtain pink spray in hair dye for the leaders it would be very effective. (It is available in department stores at Halloween)
This final lesson in the swamp series was designed to be used on our Zoo Van which is an outdoor program. All games require space but could easily be adapted to suit an indoor situation.
The opening of the program can be changed each week. Sometimes, we find that an opening act is not possible because the kids are too active. Other weeks we use puppet skits or songs that coincide with our themes. Drama is another option. A visiting youth group could look after this segment easily.
In each lesson the rules are stressed. It seems like the same thing over and over again. It is! This is important because we want to stress that even when it seems repetitive, do it anyway. This establishes clear boundaries for the children. There is never any doubt about what is expected. Consistency may be something that a lot of our kids never experience, that doesn't need to be the case in your children's program!
Since this part of our lesson is always the same it may seem repetitive too. Prayer is not an option, it is a necessity. If you are operating your program on your own strength you will soon tire. Everything we do must be under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20 It is not by our effort but it is because He lives in us that our ministry can continue.
As you sing with the children in your program try to listen to them. Some of the kids might not know all of the words and might be singing what they think they heard or what they prefer. This can lead to bad theology as adults. We never want to be in a position as educators where we find it necessary to throw out things previously learned and start from scratch. It is important that we always present simple truths that the children can understand. These can then be built upon without having to correct first. In the song "Jesus loves me" one line says they are weak but He is strong. This has been altered by some of the children in our group. They sing they are weak but we are strong.
Simple mistake but it needs to be addressed. This can lead to a fundamental error in theology. We need to present Jesus as our strength. We don't have strength on our own. If a child grows up thinking that they can find strength in themselves they will be disappointed. If they grow in their faith they will find that this idea that they have held on to since they were children is biblically inaccurate.
Each week we try to do two games that fit the theme that we are using. If a game from a previous week is particularly popular we will try it again the next week.
Select two players from each team .
This game is a simple water balloon toss. The contestants from one team will hold on to a towel. The swamp water balloon will be placed on the towel and they will use the towel to pass the balloon to the other team. The team that drops the balloon gets wet and the other team wins. This game could be enhanced by putting green stuff in the balloon so that it really appears to be swampy. (Warning: food colouring can damage clothing)
This game can be repeated many times, kids love it. It is excellent on a hot summer day.
In the previous lesson the children have been trying to help RANGER RUSS obtain the antidote for the pink hair problem that is plaguing the Swamp. To this point they have managed to get two out of three pieces of the lily pad that has the cure on it. This week Ranger Russ and Dr. Amphibian are back. The Ranger is close to hysterical now. The pink hair problem is extremely serious and Russ is totally embarrassed.
Ranger Russ: Oh hi you guys I'm so glad you all came back. I can't believe what has happened since you were here. It is awful. Look at me, just look at me! I have grown so much more pink hair. I even tried cutting it off but it just keeps growing back. It is miserable. I don't know what I can do. I was hoping you would show up today. I'm supposed to meet Dr. A.M. Phibian to discuss the problem and I might need your help. Here he comes now.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: (enters whistling a tune) Hi Ranger Russ. I'm glad to see that you could make it to our meeting. You look like you are having a bad day.
Ranger Russ: Well that's because I am having a bad day. Look at me.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: I see you are having a little problem with the pink hair thing. (laughs) I think you look pretty funny.
Ranger Russ: Are you trying to hurt my feelings? I feel bad enough.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: Oh have some humour Russ. It is kind of funny when you think about it. (laughs again)
Ranger Russ: Well, I would like to inform you that the residents of the Swamp are extremely upset. We want this problem taken care of immediately. You promised that you would help us to figure it out. We already have two pieces of the antidote and you promised that we could try to get the third.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: I did say that I would let you try to get the antidote but I don't think that you will get it. I have been studying a lot lately and I don't think that you guys know anything new that I don't know.
Ranger Russ: I believe we can do it. (Leader) do you think we can do it?
Leader: Ranger Russ everything is going to be Ok. I know that you are a little worried but I'm sure the kids here wouldn't mind helping you out. They have helped you out before and we have managed to get two pieces of the antidote. They probably won't mind helping you out again. I'll ask them. (turn to speak with the audience) Would you kids like to help Russ solve the pink hair problem in the swamp? See Russ, they are going to help so if we all work together we should be able to get the last part of the antidote.
Ranger Russ: (speaks to audience) What a relief! Thank you so much I was getting rather worried. I don't want this problem and I was afraid I might have to try to get the antidote all by myself.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: So .... I see that you have your little friends to help you again. You'll need all the help that you can get. Let the challenge begin. Can you tell me anything that I don't know?
Oh excuse me everyone...I have to answer the phone in my lab. While I'm on the phone you will have time to think. (exits)
Leader: Now is our chance. Russ, do you have a new memory verse?
Ranger Russ: Here it is. See if you can learn it. If we learn it and the professor doesn't know it, we will get the antidote. Let's try it.
Leader: Let's read it together. "Jesus came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:10 (At this point the leader and the children will interact to learn the verse. The children will repeat it until they can do so without looking at the paper. The meaning of the verse should also be covered in this time.)
Ranger Russ: That sounds great I think you have learned it and just in time here comes the Dr.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: Well now I'm back. I got a phone call from the Salinger's, they are a snake family that lives in the swamp. Mrs Salinger was quite upset. She said that her youngest son Slither is growing pink hair. This is very disturbing since snakes don't usually have any hair at all. (He chuckles) Now back to business... do you know anything that I don't? I hope you didn't pick anything from the bible. I have been reading the Bible all week.
Leader: As a matter of fact we did select something from the Bible. Let's say it together. (The children begin to recite the verse and the frog joins in.)
Dr. A.M. Phibian: Jesus came to seek and to save the lost". That's the verse and I can tell you what it means. God loves us very much and so he sent us His son Jesus. Jesus came with an important job to do. His job was to find people who didn't know God, people who were lost and to save them. He was to introduce these people to God and His love and to forgive them for their sins. How is that for an explanation. I know the verse and I know what it means. I guess you didn't beat me this time.
Ranger Russ: My goodness this is the worst day ever! What now? Whatever will we do? My oh my.... Woe is me ... I'm doomed and so is the swamp. The poor innocent residents will never be saved this is a tragedy. Now everything is...(As Ranger Russ continues to lament he is cut short by the leader.)
Leader: Now wait a minute Russ. Things might not be as bad as they look. True the professor knows the verse and he knows what it means. He knows almost everything he needs to know about that verse. He even knows it comes right out of the Bible. I think he forgot one very important piece of information.
Ranger Russ: (shocked) What? What did you say? Did you say he forgot something? Well how' bout that professor? Did you forget something?
Dr. A.M. Phibian: (quite insulted by the accusation) I beg your pardon but it must be you who made a mistake. I told you everything you could possibly need to know about the verse.
Leader: Sorry Doc. I believe that you have forgotten one little bit. You don't know where that verse comes from.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: Don't be so silly it comes from the Bible.
Ranger Russ: That is true but the question is where in the Bible can you find this verse.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: I believe it is... well.. er.. oh . Ok you got me I don't know where you would find this verse.
Ranger Russ: I believe we have found something that you do not know. You promised that we would get the third piece of the antidote.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: (speaking while exciting) Yes, very true and I am a frog of my word.
Ranger Russ: Thank you all so much. This is wonderful the swamp will be saved. Now we can all share in the reward. I am ...(again Ranger Russ is interrupted this time by a loud chilling scream)
Dr. A.M. Phibian: (enters quickly still screaming) Ahhhhhhh.... Look at me. I too have sprouted this pink hair. Russ, Russ here is the last piece of the antidote let's go to the lab and figure it out. We need to solve this problem right away.
Ranger Russ: Thanks again everyone we will be back in a while with the solution.
Leader. Well, that was quite an adventure.
In this section of the lesson an everyday object is used to illustrate a biblical truth. In the Swamp Days series an everyday object is used to remind the story teller of another story or lesson in which a biblical truth was learned. For this lesson the prop will be a large, thick, dirty rope.
The swamp resident called MUDDY WATER MEL has been collecting items that he found in the marsh. He saves them at his home which looks very much like a junkyard. He enters after a brief introduction.
Hi there. Last week I told you about what happened when I was hunting alligators. Remember I fell face first in the mud. I thought that was the worst thing that could ever happen. Guess what? This week something even worse happened. I was walking along in the swamp and I fell again. This time I landed in a deep, dark pit. When I opened my eyes I was surrounded by long, slimy, ugly snakes. I climbed up to try to get out but I was stuck. I yelled for help and no one came. I kept yelling but I was all alone. I didn't know what to do and the snakes were getting closer. Then a huge rope came down into the hole. See the rope. Ranger Russ and his team of swamp rangers were on the boat patrolling the swamp when they heard me yelling. They put that rope in and pulled me out. I was rescued. That reminds me of the time when Bog was rescued. Let me tell you about it.
This story was told by Mel and acted out by BOG, THE SWAMP MONSTER and other puppets.
Bog was on his way to Slug Slime Convenience Store to pick up some milk for his mama. He was walking along thinking about the milk when he noticed a little snake. Bog stopped to try to catch the snake, he bent down to grab it but the snake moved too quickly. Bog followed it into the swamp. He kept trying to catch it but it didn't work. He kept missing it. Bog followed the snake deeper and deeper into the swamp. It was beginning to get dark but Bog did not notice. All he could think about was the snake. The fog started to roll in and finally Bog caught the snake. He was looking at the snake and then he began to look around. He discovered that he was lost. I was so dark and foggy that Bog couldn't figure out which way to go. He wandered around for a while trying to find something that looked familiar but there was nothing. Bog didn't know what to do. He was starting to get scared. He knew that his mama would worry about him. Bog sat down to think. He started to cry a little. Bog was getting really scared now. It was getting colder. Bog was starting to lose hope when Ranger Russ arrived on his boat. Bog was so happy to see Russ that he gave him a big hug. Ranger Russ took Bog home to his mama.
Muddy Water Mel's Conclusion: Well, I am sure glad that Bog was rescued. I was rescued too.
Lots of times we get ourselves into bad situations and we need to be rescued. All of us make mistakes, we do things that make God unhappy. We need to be forgiven. Jesus will forgive us if we ask him to. He will rescue us.
Make sure that the children get their reward for helping Ranger Russ when they exit.
Copyright 1996, Bread of Life Ministries