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This is lesson is part of the “What’s in the Bible?” series, starting with “Memories & Stories” on Genesis

For The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

By Sally Ulrey

Key verse: Lamentations 3:22-23

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every
morning; great is your faithfulness.”

 To understand the book of Lamentations as the laments and cries for help and justice from
an oppressed people, whom God loves and is working on their behalf
 To learn a little bit about what’s in Lamentations
 To apply the idea of an oppressed people whom God loves and is working on their behalf
(through us) to the refugee crisis, particularly in Syria.
The Set up: Moderate (only because there is some reading and video watching you’ll need to do in advance)
The Plan:
 Hook: Disaster Scenes (15 mins)
o Show photos from the aftermath of disaster, and try to determine whether they’re real or from
a movie
 Book: Overview of Lamentations (10 mins)
o Go over some of the historical context of Lamentations (Babylonian exile, etc)
 Look: Refugees (20 mins)
o Learn about the Syrian refugee crisis, and look at Lamentations again in light of that
 Took: Working for Restoration (15 mins)
o Discovering ways to work for justice, hope, and restoration for oppressed peoples
The Supplies: The Preparation:
 Copy of lesson  Print and copy everything
 Copies Scripture passages  Read the Scripture and get very
 AV Equipment familiar with the mini-lecture
 Bibles  Watch videos
 Read about the Syrian refugee crisis:
 Set up AV Equipment and cue videos

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
ABOUT THE LESSON: Lamentations was written in response to the fall of Jerusalem, its destruction, and the
exile of many of its people to Babylon. It is a crying out to God for God to see their distress, answer and take
care of them, and bring justice to their people, who were being oppressed. So much of what the Israelites
were going through is currently happening to people around the world, but this lesson focuses particularly on
the refugees from the war in Syria. Just as the Israelites asked God to work on their behalf in their oppression,
God asks us to work on behalf of oppressed peoples. The bottom line take-away of the book of Lamentations
is that God loves and is working on behalf of oppressed peoples, and so should we!

Disaster Scenes (Hook, 15 mins)

For the opening of the lesson, you’ll show several photos depicting the aftermath of disasters. Some are from
fictional movies, and others are from real-life things that have actually happened. The youth will try to guess
which is which. The point is that sometimes we are desensitized to what’s going on in the world because
we’re so used to seeing it in fictional movies, that it may be easy for us to gloss over it or look away, but we
need the book of Lamentations to activate our compassion so that we don’t look away. Instead, we turn
toward those in need and act on their behalf.

 Instruct the youth that you will be showing a bunch of pictures depicting the aftermath of disasters.
They will have to guess whether the picture is from a fictional movie or a real-life event. (Fake... “Rampage” movie) (Real...Earthquake in Italy) (Fake… “Mockingjay part 1” movie) (Real…Cathedral in Nagasaki, 1945) (Real...Earthquake in Italy) (Fake… “Earthquake” movie) (Real...Syrian War. Homs, Syria) (Fake... “Wolfen” movie) (Fake... “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movie) (Real...Syrian Civil War) (Fake...Mockingjay part 2...Prim) (Real…Syria) (Fake... “Blade Runner 2049” movie)

 LEADER TIP: Preview the following pictures before showing…in reality, no one was harmed, but not
knowing if it’s real or fake can be concerning for viewers (Real…Indonesian Earthquake) (Fake... “Phoonk” movie)

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Disaster Scenes Continued… (Hook, 15 mins)

Instructions Continued…
 Once they’ve gone through all the pictures, show the clip from Mockingjay Part 2 (7 mins)
Set up the clip: Katniss lives in a dystopian future where there’s a dictatorship which gives most
of the nation’s resources to the elite, leaving the people poor (so they can’t rebel). The
government also forces children from each region to fight to the death to remind everyone
what the government will do to dissenters. In this last movie, a rebellion has started against
the dictatorship, but as in most real life wars, civilians are the ones who suffer. In this scene,
the civilians are seeking refuge from the fortified capital since they know the rebels are about
to attack. Meanwhile, Katniss, who has reluctantly become the face of the rebellion, is trying to
get into the capital to end the war, but is also a wanted person…. This is kind of a stressful
scene with some violence….
 Ask them what recent events in real life it reminds them of
o Answers may include: Separation of children at the border, Syrian war (rebels vs the
government, and the regular citizens are the ones being hurt), refugees trying to get into other

Transition: It’s so striking that some of the fictional movies we watch are so close visually to things that
happen in real life…but since it doesn’t happen near US very often, it’s easy to think about it as something
unreal, something fictional. The Hunger Games’ author Suzanne Collins wrote that dystopian future based on
her knowledge of history…of all the times throughout the ages where people wanted to get and hold on to
power by restricting freedom. The truth is the powerful have been oppressing those with less power
throughout time. It even happened in biblical times, more than once, to the Israelites. The book of
Lamentations was written by the Israelites at a time when the Babylonian empire oppressed them, destroyed
their capital city of Jerusalem, and carried their people off into exile….It was their lament, their cry to God for
help, freedom, salvation, and for justice from what their oppressors had done….

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Overview of Lamentations (Book, 10 mins)
In this section, you’ll briefly look at some of the laments and cries for justice from an oppressed people.
Lamentations was written when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and the Israelites were carried
off into exile. The Old Testament sets this up as a consequence for their sin of forsaking God and God’s
covenant, cozying up to nations, trusting them instead of God for help, and taking on their harmful practices,
and turning to worship idols through human sacrifice and other misguided human rights abuses. The author
of Lamentations (who many believe to be Jeremiah) acknowledges their sin, but that isn’t the focus of this
lesson. The focus of this lesson has nothing to do with whether or not the Israelites “deserved” it, but rather
on their cries to their God for salvation, help, justice, and care at a time when they were being
oppressed…Cries that their God was moved to answer, as we should be.
 LEADER TIP: You will want to look over the Scripture passages and Mini-Lecture in advance to be
familiar with what all is in Lamentations.

 Pass out the Lamentations Scripture passages. Everyone should have their own sheet of paper with a
passage on it, but there should also be equal numbers of each passage out (so, for example, if you have
12 kids, pass out three Passage 1s, three Passage 2s, three Passage 3s, and three Passage 4s)
 Go over the Mini-Lecture
 Instruct them to read over their passage and circle or underline words or phrases that stick out to them
 Ask them to get in a group with the other people who have their same passage
 Have them share with their groups what words or phrases stick out to them and what strikes them
about those words or phrases.
 Have them discuss what groups of oppressed people today (and throughout history) might have felt
the same way

Mini-Lecture (5 mins)
BACKGROUND: For YEARS prophets, like Jeremiah, came to the leaders of Jerusalem to tell them to turn away from
foreign gods and NOT to trust in other nations, like Babylon, for their deliverance from the nations that threatened
them. They were instructed to trust in God and not make alliances with other nations. Well, they didn’t listen, and
cozied up to Babylon to try to have some backup in case other nations tried to conquer them (like Assyria had previously
tried). Well, selling their soul to Babylon for protection came back to bite them, and Babylon decided to just conquer
them. Then they tried to get Egypt to help, but that didn’t work. After a long and brutal siege to their capital city of
Jerusalem, Babylon finally prevailed, destroyed their city, conquered them, and carried their people off into exile.

Lamentations is written from the perspective of an eye witness to Jerusalem’s destruction (many believe it may have
been written by Jeremiah). It is a lament and a cry for help and justice from an oppressed people.

It is chiastic in structure, meaning chapters 1 & 5 have similiarties, 2 and 4 have similarities, and it peaks at chapter 3,
which is where you find some of the beautiful hopefulness of the book: that God is faithful even in their hardship, and
that God wants to work on their behalf to restore them and bring justice.

Take a few minutes and read the Passage given to you, and underline 2 or 3 words or phrases that really jump out to
you, and tell your group what strikes you about them.

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Small Group Discussion Questions (after the Mini-Lecture, 5 mins)
 Which words or phrases were striking to you? Why?
 What groups of oppressed people today (or throughout history) might have felt the same was as
described in these passages from Lamentations?

Transitional Statement: Often, we think of that kind of destruction and devastation and mistreatment of an
entire people as something that happened way a long time ago, but it’s happening right now today. The overt
oppression of people of color happened up until very recently in our own country’s history, and in countries all
over the world, oppressive governments STILL mistreat their peoples.

Lamentations is very relevant today, because it records the complaints of oppressed peoples and their cries
for help, relief, and for justice. And Lamentations rightfully trusts that God sees and cares about people, cares
about justice, and is moving to act. The God who cared about oppressed people and worked for their justice
and restoration back then still cares about that today. And so should we.

We’re going to learn about one of the biggest groups of people in HISTORY that have experienced loss and
devastation and the destruction of their homes (like the Israelites), and who, therefore, need our energy to
work for their restoration…

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Refugees (Look, 15 mins)
In this part, students will look at people who have suffered devastation and need restoration, particularly the
refugees from the Syrian civil war, the greatest refugee crisis of our time.

 Read the following article:
 Be ready and able to summarize the reason for the Syrian civil war and current refugee crisis, as well as
what happens to a refugee once they flee their homes.
 Watch these videos:

 Summarize the reason for the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis (5 mins)
 Summarize what happens to a refugee once they flee their homes (4 mins)
 Show this video: (6 mins) which is about Hillsong United
(a Christian worship band out of New Zealand) and their experience of understanding the refugee crisis.

 LEADER TIP: OPTIONAL ADDITION: (Add time for this), you may want to show some of the following
videos created by various countries throughout the world to help activate compassion for refugees and
help others see them differently:
the-way-you-see-refugees/ OR if you have LOTS of time, show one of the movies recommended by
Episcopal Migration Ministries (see below under “Further Resources” section of the lesson).

Group Discussion Questions (5 mins)

1. What did you learn about the Syrian refugee crisis that you did not know before?
2. If you had all the money and power in the world, how would you help the Syrian refugees?
3. In light of the Syrian refugee crisis, what words or phrases from your Lamentations passage stick out to
you now as relating to that? Why?

Transitional Statement
Lamentations was written from the perspective of the Israelites when they lost everything and had to leave
their homes and go to another country. It records their cries for justice from oppression and prayers for
restoration. It records their professed faith in a God who cared about their suffering, and was working on
their behalf. God still works on behalf of people who are oppressed and suffering. God often does it through
US! So, what are we going to do….?

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Working for Restoration (Took, 15 mins)
For the closing time, we’ll invite students to start learning about things other compassionate Christians have
done to help refugees, and get them started thinking about ways they can help.

 LEADER TIP: Disclaimer: A lot of these involve raising money for various organizations. You are
welcome to research and vet other organizations, but here are a few that have had boots on the
ground in affected areas for YEARS, and use most, if not ALL, of the money they raise directly on those
in crisis: TogetherRising, Preemptive Love Coalition, The Compassion Collective, and World Vision.

 Share stories (7 mins)
Share inspirational stories about some really awesome human beings/organizations that are stepping up
because they believe in God’s call to love ALL those made in God’s image. Click on the links to go through
and show pictures of the work they’re doing:
o TogetherRising gives 100% of the money they raise for various things directly to the people
affected. It was started by a mom/author who believes “there are no such thing as other people’s
children”. When TogetherRising heard that people were dying trying to cross the Mediterranean,
they partnered with organizations who were there and provided floodlights, tents and blankets to
keep people warm as they regrouped for their next leg of the journey, and medical care right there
on the beaches of Greece. When they heard that refugees in Germany were freezing in the winter
temperatures, they provided blankets and coats. When they heard that moms had no way to carry
their babies, they provided baby slings. Later, they partnered with other Christian authors to form
the Compassion Collective:
o Preemptive Love Coalition’s mottos include “wage peace” and “love across enemy lines” and “love
anyway”. They are often at the very front lines of the civil war, risking their lives right outside
where violence, fighting, and bombings occur, in order to provide immediate aid to those fleeing.
They were there when Aleppo was under siege and no one could get aid in. So many amazing
stories on their blog:
o World Vision has many videos on their YouTube channel showing what’s going on, and how they
are helping. This is a link to their “Refugee Crises Around the World” video play list:
o World Relief and New American Pathways: two refugee resettlement agencies, both have offices in
Atlanta, which help newly arrived refugees get settled in the USA. Churches can partner with these
agencies to “adopt” a refugee family, meet them at the airport, get their apartment set up, provide
community for them as they figure out how to live here. The government only provides aid to
refugees through these agencies for the first 3 months, but churches who adopt a family can
continue to help them as they get settled. One obstacle to caring for refugees is that the President
decides how many refugees the USA will accept every year, and from what countries. President
Trump has drastically limited the number of refugees allowed to enter. The Episcopal Church has
an advocacy branch that can help you contact your representatives to advocate for more refugees
being admitted:

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
 Say something like: Now it’s our turn. The last question you were asked was “What would you do for
refugees if you had all the money and power?” Well, let’s get started. We can raise money, and we can
speak to power. What can we do? In your group, brainstorm some ideas.
 Give them about 5 mins to brainstorm and have them share their best ideas with the group.
 As a group, decide on which 1 or 2 you want to pursue (3 mins)

Follow-Up: As a leader, you will actually need to come up with a solid plan of how to pursue their ideas so that
this doesn’t get dropped!!!

Close in prayer, asking God to help us hear the laments and cries of oppressed peoples who need justice and
restoration, just like the Israelites asked for in Lamentations, and asking for wisdom to be effective at acting
on their behalf. Close by reading Lamentations 3:21-23 and 3:55-59 as a prayer.

 LEADER TIP: Optional: You can also go around before you close with those verses from Lamentations
chapter 3 and have the youth turn verses from Lamentations into prayers. For example, 2:11 might
become “We pray for all those whose eyes fail because of weeping…we those whose lives are ebbing

Prayer from Lamentations 3:21-23 and 55-59:

Yet this we call to mind and therefore I have hope:
We know of the LORD’s great love for refugees, and that God’s compassions for them never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
On behalf of all refugees, we call on your name, LORD, for those who are in the depths of the pit.
Hear our plea for them: Do not close your ears to their cry for relief.
Come near to them when they called you, and say to them, “Do not fear.”
Lord, take up their case; you redeemed their life.
LORD, you have seen the wrong done to them. Uphold my cause! And help us do the same! AMEN.

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Further Resources
Episcopal Migration Ministries has some amazing educational resources, particularly those for study and

You can also watch Presiding Bishop Curry’s message about refugees:

Episcopal Migration Ministries also recommends 5 videos about the Syrian refugee crisis:
 Dayla’s Other Country
 4.1 Miles
 From Damascus to Chicago
 The War Show
 The Last Men of Aleppo
If you have time to spend learning more about this, one of those movies would be so powerful!!

Learn more about what the Bible says about refugees/immigrants here:

More info about The Episcopal Church’s ministry to refugees here:

The Administration JUST announced (Sep 17, 2018) the number of Refugees they will allow in the USA for
Fiscal Year 2019, and it is the lowest in our nation’s history…only 30,000. Since the refugee program we use
today started in the 80s, the average was about 90,000 refugees per year. Under Obama, many people,
including The Episcopal Church, advocated to raise that number to 100,000, since the Syrian refugee crisis was
the worst in history, and more people than ever were displaced and in need of a place to go. But under
Trump, that number was reduced to 45,000 last year, and now only 30,000.

Read more about the caps here:


Advocate for the number of refugees admitted to the USA to be raised here:

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Passage 1—Lamentations 2 & 4—Complaints

2 11
My eyes fail from weeping, 4 Because of thirst the infant’s tongue

I am in torment within; sticks to the roof of its mouth;

the children beg for bread,
my heart is poured out on the ground but no one gives it to them.
because my people are destroyed,
because children and infants faint 9
Those killed by the sword are better off
in the streets of the city. than those who die of famine;
They say to their mothers, racked with hunger, they waste away
“Where is bread and wine?” for lack of food from the field.
as they faint like the wounded 10
With their own hands compassionate women
in the streets of the city, have cooked their own children,
as their lives ebb away who became their food
in their mothers’ arms. when my people were destroyed.

Arise, cry out in the night,


as the watches of the night begin;

pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
at every street corner.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Passage 2—Lamentations 3—Hope

3 16
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Passage 3—Lamentations 3—Cries for Justice
3 52
Those who were my enemies without cause
hunted me like a bird.
They tried to end my life in a pit
and threw stones at me;
the waters closed over my head,
and I thought I was about to perish.
I called on your name, LORD,
from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.”
You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”
You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life.
LORD, you have seen the wrong done to me.
Uphold my cause!
You have seen the depth of their vengeance,
all their plots against me.
LORD, you have heard their insults,
all their plots against me—
what my enemies whisper and mutter
against me all day long.
Look at them! Sitting or standing,
they mock me in their songs.
Pay them back what they deserve, LORD,
for what their hands have done.
Put a veil over their hearts,
and may your curse be on them!
Pursue them in anger and destroy them
from under the heavens of the LORD.

New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Passage 4—Lamentations 1&5—Complaint & Prayer for Restoration

1 How deserted lies the city,

5 We have become fatherless,

once so full of people! our mothers are widows.

How like a widow is she, 4
We must buy the water we drink;
who once was great among the nations! our wood can be had only at a price.
She who was queen among the provinces 5
Those who pursue us are at our heels;
has now become a slave. we are weary and find no rest.
Bitterly she weeps at night,
tears are on her cheeks. 9
We get our bread at the risk of our lives
because of the sword in the desert.
After affliction and harsh labor, 10
Our skin is hot as an oven,
Judah has gone into exile. feverish from hunger.
She dwells among the nations; 11
Women have been violated in Zion,
she finds no resting place. and virgins in the towns of Judah.
All who pursue her have overtaken her
in the midst of her distress. 13
Young men toil at the millstones;
The roads to Zion mourn, boys stagger under loads of wood.
for no one comes to her appointed festivals.
All her gateways are desolate, 15
Joy is gone from our hearts;
her priests groan, our dancing has turned to mourning.
her young women grieve,
and she is in bitter anguish. 17
Because of this our hearts are faint,
Her foes have become her masters; because of these things our eyes grow dim
her enemies are at ease.
You, LORD, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to
Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
The “What’s in the Bible?” Series

Genesis “Memories and Stories” Nov 2017

Exodus “Near” Nov 2017
Leviticus “You Want me to do What Now?” & “Fellowship” May 2017
Numbers “Unfinished” Nov 2017
Deuteronomy “SuperHero Wanted” Nov 2017
Joshua “Never Give Up” Sep 2016
Judges “No Rules” Dec 2017
Ruth “Loyalty” Feb 2017
1&2 Samuel “Who’s on the Throne?” Dec 2017
1&2 Kings “Lights in the Darkness” Dec 2017
Ezra “Read the Book!” Jan 2018
Nehemiah “Build the Wall” Jan 2018
Esther “Courage” Apr 2017
Job “Bad Theology” Feb 2018
Psalms “On the Couch” Feb 2018
Proverbs “Just Sayings” Feb 2018
Ecclesiastes “What’s the Point?” Apr 2018
Song of Songs “Love Being In Love” Apr 2018
Isaiah “Songs of Trust” Sep 2018
Jeremiah “Creative Communication” Oct 2018
Lamentations “Disaster Scene” Oct 2018

“Disaster Scene” (Lamentations)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta

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