A youth outreach program that was launched nearly two years ago in South Africa has expanded globally to other parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the United States, where dozens of ministry partners of the International Bible Society have helped provide the books to students at schools, churches, sports venues and other gathering places for youth.
The devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic that has affected more than 39 million people worldwide caught the attention of IBS some two years ago. The numbers alone were enough to stir the ministry to step in on the fight with the power of Scripture, beginning with the youth.
"Reach 4 Life is designed to prevent the next generation of young people [from] catching the deadly HIV/AIDS virus and going to an early grave," said Colin Bishop, IBS-South Africa Director, in a released statement. "IBS is preventing deaths, one young person at a time."
In February 2004, Reach 4 Life was launched in South Africa where a majority of those affected with HIV/AIDS resides. The new youth outreach program was derived from Uganda's successful abstinence-based program and focused around a youth-friendly NIV New Testament Bible. The book caters to the younger generation in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts with 250 pages of straightforward notes on issues of sex, alcohol, drugs, pregnancy and the epidemic itself. The discussions and Bible studies both challenge and lead young people in a spiritual revolution.
Recently, in the United States, the youth-oriented New Testament got into the hands of 4,500 teens at the Rock 2006 retreat in Ocean City, Md. And, according to Marcus Manuel of Maryland Bible Society, one of the events sponsors, not one young person left the Bible behind at the sold-out retreat.
With more of today's youth generation embracing Scripture, the holistic message of abstinence is creating a larger reach. Already, hundreds of testimonies have been given from youth choosing to either remain or become abstinent as a direct result of their encounter with Reach 4 Life, according to IBS.
"Reach 4 Life is great! Its helping my ministry to South African youth because it makes the Bible relevant to current situations such as the huge problem we have with AIDS. The kids are reading the Bibles!" exclaimed Thabo Phati, coordinator of Into Africa Sports ministry.
According to IBS, "while the program warns youth about the risks of walking the low road, it positively calls teens to walk the higher moral road, as given in Gods Word, with all its benefits.
For more information, visit www.r4l.org.