(USATODAY) — It's a chilly Sunday morning in Oakland, California, and in the glass-paned school adjacent to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Allison Sass is on a mission to teach 12 small children to love Jesus. Bless their hearts, and Sass' heart too, because despite her smile, this is going to be quite a struggle. One messy-haired boy, all of 6 years old, refuses to budge from the lap of his mom, who's there because he's a little shy. Two girls, both barely 10, are frankly dozing off, sprawled out on the carpet.
Sass holds up a drawing of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and asks the kids to "help tell the story of the Christ child" through toys and other objects in the room. Some of the children pluck wooden figurines from a Nativity scene, and one girl with, yes, purple-tipped hair, chooses a baby doll in a white baptismal gown. It's a move that rouses some of the kids, who gather around the doll and, as Sass watches on, start chanting in a playground manner: "Take it off! Take it off!"