Cars and Jesus and education
Scott Lovaas and Anne Marsh – South Africa
I pull up to a parking area and this man runs up to me and requests that I give him my car, a 1983 Toyota Corolla. After a few pleasant exchanges I left to do my errand. When I returned I found a note that read, “I beg you in the name of Jesus, please give me your car” The note proceeded to give his name and number. I was struck on how this perfect stranger was calling on Jesus to try and receive something. This invoking the name of Jesus is not new to our ears in South Africa. Both Anne and I have heard Jesus’ name evoked many times- in the street, in the prison, at our front door in the face of beggars. It has been our experience in South Africa that people will freely evoke the name of Jesus as a way of trying to get something or to disarm a stranger.
Evoking the name of Jesus has been with humanity a long time, but one can see that it can take on a different meaning in different locations.
The South African government spends about 8% of it’s gross domestic product on education, which is slightly higher than the US or Britain. The government sees education as an important step toward the goal of reducing poverty and unemployment, with unemployment currently running at 43%. However, all schools have to charge fees to stay viable which often excludes large numbers of students. Families cannot afford the school fees and uniforms. Often, families have to choose between food and schooling. School fees can range from $10 dollars a year at the low end to over $10,000 for the private international schools. Plus students have to wear uniforms which cost an additional $20. The end result is that a third of South African students don’t make it past the fifth grade. The consequences of having large sectors of the population uneducated are horrific. Almost all the missionaries we talk with struggle with hearing these family stories about the struggle between schooling and food. In some ways it is similar to poor people in the US who struggle with heat or food.
Scott Lovaas and Anne Marsh
Scott Lovaas and Anne Marsh serve as missionaries in South Africa with the South African Council of Churches. Scott is a policy analyst in the policy unit. Anne serves with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, assigned to the Rondebosch United Church as an outreach assistant.