Life has Ups and Downs
The story of Ruth and Naomi, part 1
by Charmian Roberts
Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools
To reflect on the belief that God cares about us always.
Preparation and materials
- Think of a holiday when good and bad things happened that you can share with the children.
- You will need a few costume props, such as a belt, headscarf, cloaks, but full costumes are not necessary.
- You will also need two large labels - one with 'Bethlehem' on it and the other with 'Moab' on it. Display them on opposite sides of the room. You will also need a large sheet of paper and a pen at the front of the space.
- Familiarize yourself with the Bible story in the passage Ruth 1.1-17, which is about when Ruth stuck by Naomi. You can either use the version of the story given in the 'Assembly' or tell it in your own words.
- For the 'Time for reflection', you may wish to light a candle to help the children focus during a time of quiet.
- Ask the children to think about a holiday they may have been on, then share with them the story of a holiday that you have enjoyed. Describe some good and bad things that happened on that holiday, such as, 'I went to Spain, but missed the plane. I stayed in a lovely hotel, but got stung by a jelly fish', and so on.
Ask the children to share a few good and bad things about their holidays.
- Point out that, sometimes, we prefer to think and talk about the good things that happen, but life always contains both good and bad things.
Explain to the children that shortly you are going to tell them a story about someone who had a lot of bad things happen to them, but some good things as well. Ask them to see if they can spot when good things happen and when bad things happen. They can indicate this by putting their thumbs up or thumbs down when they have spotted something good or something bad.
- Tell the children that the story is set in Bethlehem, then point to the label. Ask the children what they know about this place already. They may link it to the birth of Jesus. Let them know that this story happened a long time before the birth of Jesus.
- Ask for volunteers to come up to play the parts of Naomi, Elimelek, Mahlon, Kilion, Ruth and Orpah. Use the simple props – one for each character.
Ruth and Naomi
A lady called Naomi lived in a town called Bethlehem with her husband, who was called Elimelek, and her two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.
Now Bethlehem was in the land of Judah, the land where the Israelites had lived after their time as slaves in Egypt, and it was a place where everyone usually had plenty to eat. Unfortunately, one day there was a famine in that land (explain the word 'famine' to the children), no rain fell and the crops didn’t grow, so there was not enough food to go round. The people were very hungry.
Elimelek decided to leave Bethlehem and take his family a long way away to a country called Moab, where there was no famine and there was plenty of food for everyone.
Point to the label ‘Moab’ and ask the actors to walk slowly towards the sign.
Sadly, not long after they reached Moab, Naomi’s husband Elimelek died (the actor can either sit or drop to the floor and lie down), so Naomi was left with her two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. These two boys decided to get married when they were old enough to two Moabite girls, whose names were Ruth and Orpah. After a few years of living happily in Moab, Mahlon and Kilion both died (these two actors 'die' in the same way), leaving Naomi without her husband and without her two sons.
After a while, Naomi decided that it was time to return to her home town of Bethlehem. She had heard that things had improved there and the famine was over - there was food to eat. When Naomi told her two daughters-in-law that she was returning to Bethlehem, they decided to go with her, but, as they were about to leave Moab, Naomi stopped. She turned to her daughters-in-law and said to them, ‘Why come with me, girls? You’d be much better off if you stayed in Moab. Your families are here and you are young - you could get married again! Really, I think you should turn around and go back to Moab and leave me to return to Bethlehem on my own.’
Pause in the story here and ask the children what reasons they can think of for the women to stay to Moab.
Record these reasons on the large sheet of paper. Ask the two sides of the room to take sides with either Naomi or Ruth and Orpah. Ask them to try to persuade the characters to change their minds by whispering reasons out loud to them - the written reasons for the two sides of the hall can act as prompts.
You may wish the children to start off quietly and become progressively louder as they try to persuade the characters to change their minds! If you do this, it is a good idea to practise a signal first that you will give to indicate when the children should stop heckling!
Continue the story.
Orpah was sad and cried many tears as she hugged her mother-in-law, but decided that she should return home, to her family and her customs. Ruth, however, clung to Naomi. She refused to let go and made the most amazing promise to Naomi. She promised that she would leave all these other things behind and go with her mother-in-law. In fact, she promised never, ever to leave Naomi for as long as she lived.
- Recap the good and bad things that happened to Naomi in the story.
Ask the children to say how they think Naomi felt.
- Finish by explaining that, sometimes, sad things happen in our world and in our lives and it seems as though God is far away and doesn’t care. That is how it must have seemed to Naomi, but, as we saw at the end of the story and will find out more later, Ruth stayed with Naomi and God does care and is with her, even though for a time things were very difficult.
Time for reflection
Let us spend a little time quietly reflecting on what we have heard today.
Light the candle, if using.
Think about both the good and bad things that have happened or are happening in your lives.
Remember, there are people you can talk to if you are sad, so do speak with them if something is bothering you.
It is great to also share our happiness with one another!
We know that life can have its ups and downs.
Thank you for the many good things in our lives.
Please remind us to seek help in the hard times.
Please help us to also share our happiness with other people.
Thank you that you are with us in both the good and bad times.