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An achievable sacrifice

During the season of Lent, students are encouraged to consider how, by denying themselves for 24 hours, they could help change the lives of children in an Indian city.

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

During the season of Lent, students are encouraged to consider how, by denying themselves for 24 hours, they could help change the lives of children in an Indian city.

Preparation and materials

  • You need a chocolate bar, a TV schedule magazine and a fashion magazine.

  • Details of World Vision’s 24-hour famine can be found on www.worldvision.org.uk.

Assembly

  1. Display the chocolate bar. Ask, what would life be like without chocolate?

    Display the TV schedule magazine. What would life be like without TV?

    Display the fashion magazine. What would life be like without new clothes?

    (Pause)
  2. There are people up and down the country who are trying to find out what it’s like to be without these everyday parts of life. At least, just for 40 days.

    We are in the Christian festival period known as Lent. It began on the day after Shrove Tuesday, which you probably know better as Pancake Day. During Lent, many Christians give up some luxury, for a period of 40 days, ending their fast on Easter Sunday. They do this to remember the mental, spiritual and physical suffering that Jesus went through leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection at the first Easter time. Their small amount of personal deprivation is a symbolic reminder every day for them of what Jesus experienced.
  3. Denial during Lent often brings additional benefits. If you give up some sweet or fatty treats, denying yourself can become part of a calorie-controlled diet and result in weight loss and better health. It can provide the opportunity to do other things rather than watching TV, and may improve your personal finances if you don’t go clothes shopping. Most of all, if you stick to your intentions for the whole 40 days, it can make you feel good with yourself, because you’ve shown self-control.
  4. For many children in the world, of course, it would be no novelty to deny themselves chocolate, TV or fashionable clothes. Take the so-called ‘nowhere children’ who live in Chennai, the fourth largest city in India, as an example. They’ve been given the title ‘nowhere children’ by the Indian government because they literally don’t belong anywhere. Some are runaway children, fleeing from abusive family situations. Others are the children of immigrant families, born without an official birth certificate, so they don’t exist on any register. They’re found living on the streets, begging to keep themselves from starving, or they are forced into child labour with its long hours, physical suffering and pitiful pay.
  5. I’d like to suggest a way that, during this Lent period, you could link a small amount of self-denial with the ‘nowhere children’ of Chennai.

    The Christian charity World Vision organizes a 24-hour famine every year that children over the age of 12 can become involved in. Those taking part gather sponsors, and the money raised goes to fund a project in the developing world. This year the chosen project is to set up a Street Children Prevention and Rehabilitation Programme to help at least 2,000 children in Chennai.
  6. In some ways this is a much easier challenge than the 40 days of Lent. The famine (give dates - see the World Vision website) lasts only 24 hours and you’ll be asleep for a third of that! However, in another way, it’s much harder. This is a total self-denial from food: no breakfast, or snacks, or lunch, or tea or supper! Are you big enough to go for it? For most of us such a famine is perfectly achievable. There are no health risks unless you have special dietary needs. Even then you could create a special version of the famine that lasts for a few hours.

Time for reflection

World Vision’s 24-hour famine may not be your cup of tea (you are allowed drinks during the famine). The principle at the heart of Lent is a good one, however, especially if your own self-denial can lead to the benefit of someone more needy than you are. Why not create a simple Lent response for yourself? You could:

Give the price of a chocolate bar to a charity you sympathize with.

Miss your favourite soap opera for a week and visit a relative, or lonely person instead.

Sort through your clothes and take those you no longer wear to a charity shop.

Buy a copy of The Big Issue instead of your usual magazine.

Or maybe you’ve got a better idea?!

Spend a moment considering the following thoughts. You may wish to turn them into a prayer:

Be thankful for whatever gives you most pleasure (it may be food, people, places, music, a piece of technology or something else).

Be sorry for those times this week when you’ve thought more about what you wanted than the needs of others.

Make a plan to take some action that arises out of today’s assembly.

Music

Play the track ‘Something Inside So Strong’ by Labi Siffre.

Publication date: February 2008   (Vol.10 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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