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Giving up your place

An Olypmpic-themed assembly to look at how self-sacrifice is better than winning.

by Guy Donegan-Cross

Suitable for Key Stage 2


An Olympic-themed assembly to look at how self-sacrifice is better than winning.

Preparation and materials


  1. Show the chains and boat pictures. What do a slave from America and a sailor in the Olympics have in common?

    Take some guesses before telling these stories.
  2. A long time ago in America, there were a lot of African-American slaves in the south of the country. In the north of the country, they could be free, and sometimes some of them escaped from the South to the North. They would travel secretly for hundreds of miles on the ‘Underground Railroad’ – not a real railway, but secret houses and hiding places where people agreed to shelter escaping slaves and give them food and brief periods of rest on their long journey to freedom.

    It was very dangerous – everyone had to travel at night and if the slaves, or the people helping them, were caught, they would be severely punished.

    One day, a slave called Harriet Tubman decided to make the very dangerous journey to freedom in the North. A white neighbour told her how to find the first secret house. There she was put in a wagon, covered with a sack, and driven to the next secret place. In this way, in stages, she made the journey to Philadelphia in the North. She had escaped!

    But rather than enjoy her freedom, Harriet risked being caught again and again – thirteen times she went back down the Underground Railroad to rescue first her family, and then at least seventy more slaves. She got them all out, always saying that God helped her.

    She was given the name ‘Moses’ because she led people out of slavery like Moses in the Bible (Show the poster of Harriet Tubman.).
  3. Another person who gave up something amazing to help others was a sailor called Lawrence Lemieux from Canada.

    (Show a picture of Lawrence.) In 1988 he was sailing on his own in a sailing race in the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. There were many boats competing. Halfway through the race Lawrence was in second place – with a chance of winning a medal!

    But then a very strong wind blew up, tearing at the sailing boats and causing high waves. Looking behind him, Lawrence saw a boat with two sailors – except that one had fallen into the sea, and the other was leaning out of the boat. Their boat then turned over in the water. Lawrence shouted out to them, but nothing could be heard above the noise of the wind and waves.

    Without a second thought, Lawrence turned his boat around and went back to rescue the two sailors, immediately losing his second place. He managed to rescue the sailors, who were injured. Then he waited for an official patrol boat, helped to move the sailors on to this boat, and at last returned to the race.

    As a result of this delay, Lawrence passed the finishing point in twenty-second place. However, when it came to the time for the judges to award medals, they still decided to give Lawrence second place – they realized he was a true Olympic winner. ‘By your sportsmanship, self-sacrifice and courage, you embody all that is right with the Olympic ideal,’ said the Olympic president.
  4. Harriet and Lawrence were both willing to give up something precious, and risk losing things themselves, to help others. Christians believe that is what Jesus did. The Bible says that he gave up everything he had for us.

Time for reflection

God is more interested in what we give up to help others than in what we win for ourselves. That applies to sports and to the whole of life. God’s medals are handed out for how much you love, not how fast you run.

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for Harriet and Lawrence,
and thank you that you gave up everything for us.
Help us to run your race.


‘Would you walk by’ (Come and Praise, 70)

Publication date: July 2012   (Vol.14 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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