For African Youths, True Love Really Waits

Nearly 1 million African youths have made a True Love Waits commitment, pledging purity until marriage.

Since launching its first initiative in Uganda in 1994, True Love Waits – a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention – testifies to the remarkable decline of the HIV/AIDS infection rate in Africa.

More than 1.6 million African youths have heard the TLW message promoting sexual abstinence until marriage. Additionally, nearly 46,000 married adults have committed to faithfulness, and more than 41,600 decisions to follow Jesus Christ have been recorded.

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What makes the TLW ministry unique from other HIV prevention programs all over the world is their biblical approach to sex – it's about following God's plan for purity.

TLW urges a comprehensive call to sexual purity that involves the mind, spirit, and behavior. God created sex for a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman, the program teaches.

Everyone who makes a commitment signs a pledge card that states: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship."

The biblical view of sexuality is resonating with a growing worldwide audience. Over 79 countries have contacted LifeWay about their sexual abstinence campaign. From the African continent, inquiries have come from people living in Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Tanzania, West Africa, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Uganda is one of the largest success stories of the initiative, where government leaders are crediting the remarkable decrease in the HIV/AIDS infection rate – from 30 percent of the population to about six percent – to powerful faith-based abstinence programs like True Love Waits.

Janet Museveni, Uganda's first lady, actively joins her husband to create awareness in promoting abstinence over "safe sex" methods. For the past 10 years, she and her husband have promoted True Love Waits in speeches and ad campaigns, and worked closely with faith-based organizations such as Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board.

Larry and Sharon Pumpelly, Southern Baptist missionaries, were instrumental in helping implement True Love Waits in Uganda in 1994.

Larry Pumpelly remarked on the Musevenis' influence, stating that they added tremendous credibility to the TLW program. Janet Museveni persuaded Uganda's minister of education to allow TLW material into the schools and opened many opportunities for the ministry to talk and teach students about abstinence for hours at a time.

"We use a visual approach and incorporate a story technique and dramas to teach True Love Waits to Uganda's boys and girls," Sharon explained to LifeWay ministries. "The only paper we use is the True Love Waits commitment card that the students sign promising to be sexually abstinent until they marry. The presentation takes anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, depending on the number of questions the students ask."

"Schools are very open to our presence and presentations," she continued. "Non-Christian kids are also responding, and some are accepting Christ."

Jimmy Hester, co-founder of True Love Waits, told The Christian Post how refreshing it is to see many schools in Africa open to hearing about not only the vital importance of abstinence, but about the life-saving power of the Gospel as well.

"Some leaders in Uganda say that this turnaround has literally saved a generation," Hester highlighted. "We believe that expanding True Love Waits to other parts of Africa has the potential of dramatically lowering the HIV/AIDS infection rate in those countries as well."

In a study developed by Rand Stoneburner, reported that the Uganda prevention model, if used elsewhere, has the potential to reduce the AIDS rate in Africa's worst-stricken countries by a startling 80 percent.

Several African countries have sent representatives to Uganda to learn how it has so radically decreased its HIV/AIDS rate. Museveni told the group she believes True Love Waits could be implemented anywhere and be effective.

Hester, meanwhile, noted that there's a much different attitude with an African student who makes a pledge compared to a student in the United States. Those who make a commitment in Africa have a greater motivation and a much more serious reason to keep it.

"In a continent ravaged by AIDS, these African commitments literally have life-and-death consequences," the co-founder of TLW explained.

From April to October 2010, more than 70,000 young people in Africa pledged to biblical purity through True Love Waits International, bringing the total number of commitments to more than 959,000.

"We are very close to having 1 million young people in Africa make documented commitments to biblical purity through this initiative, which will be an incredible milestone," said Hester.

A new generation of youths is being born again in Africa, carrying a message of hope and boldly declaring that true love waits.

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