The car horn honks and as I turn my head, I see small fingers rolling down a window to reveal the face of one of my Bible in Schools students. "Hi Miss Alison!", she shouts, grinning from ear to ear. This melts my heart and makes me smile.
In an effort to save petrol costs and enjoy the great outdoors, I walk around town as much as I can. On any given day as I to and fro throughout the city, I might run into five or more children from gymnastics, kids club, Rock Solid, or Bible in Schools. What a privilege! Connections with these precious young people is what makes me come alive and I am so touched when they take the time to acknowledge me as I walk along the road. How boring my life would be without the opportunity to be a blessed by the presence of children and speak truth into their lives. What would life be like if I could no longer go into the public school and teach biblical values to students? What if those special connections with the kids and their families no longer existed?
There is a growing battle here in New Zealand between the Secular Education Network (SEN) and the Churches Education Commission (CEC), which facilitates Religious Education programmes (aka "Bible in Schools") in over 600 public schools nationwide and trains volunteer teachers like myself. Bible in Schools is not a required part of the school curriculum, nor does it technically happen during "official" classroom instruction time. At primary schools where Religious Education is allowed, students and parents are given a choice to "opt out" of the once -a -week 30 minute lesson with no questions asked. It is up to each school board of trustees and parents to decide whether or not they want to allow the programme in their particular school in the first place.
This has been the case for many schools around NZ for decades now, but it looks like times are changing. For years, the expressed purpose of the SEN has been to remove religious instruction from all NZ state primary schools, repealing the New Zealand Education Act of 1964. The battle is becoming more fierce as more and more parents are "opting out" of Bible classes, even taking the matter to the NZ High Court. As one would expect, the subject has evoked much passion and debate, which has only escalated in recent days.
For my fellow Americans reading this, you will know that the Bible has not been allowed in American public schools for decades. What you will also know is that the removal of Bible and prayer in schools also resulted in higher crime rates and a host of issues making the education process much more difficult. Well, now the issue has made its way to NZ and those wishing to enforce a clearer "separation between church and state" are fighting hard to chuck out the Bible.
There is so much more that could be said and written about this subject, but it is not the purpose of my blog to get into political debates. I would ask, however, that you pray for the Lord's favour to be shown on "Bible in Schools" and that those involved, like myself, would continue to be a light in the lives of children in their families, taking advantage of every moment that we do still have, and "making hay while the sun still shines."
God still cares about our kids and his principles still make this world a better place.