The students in our AIDS and the Church class at Union Bible Institute had a choice: write a research paper evaluating abstinence programs, or teach a True Love Waits seminar to a school or youth group. Not surprisingly, they all chose to teach the seminar.
It was a win-win-win situation – they didn’t have to write a paper, we didn’t have to grade it, and 150 young people in six different locations around Pietermaritzburg were challenged to trust Christ as their Savior and to “commit to God, themselves, their country, their family, their friends, their future mate and their children to remain sexually pure” until they marry. Many of them did.
Our students were enthusiastic about the program. After seeing how well the program worked, one student returned to his home church in Durban and taught it again on the weekend. Some will walk alongside their youth using the follow-up materials that emphasize planning for the future, making choices, and saying no to peer pressure.
True Love Waits began in the US in 1993 through the efforts of Jimmy Hester and Richard Ross of LifeWay Christian Resources. Thousands of youth responded to the challenge to make a difference through a commitment to sexual purity. The following year the message was taken to Uganda, where again thousands of youth committed to change the history of their nation through a commitment to abstinence before marriage. At present, there are active True Love Waits programs in many countries throughout Africa and around the world.
The beauty of the seminar is that it is an oral program that can be learned simply by watching and participating. Each concept is presented or reinforced with an attention grabbing activity or object lesson. This makes the values and truths presented very transferrable, and the program has a tendency to “go viral” quickly as others hear about it want to participate.
While True Love Waits does inform young people about the dangers of premarital sex through discussions about AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, the primary focus is to implant in young people the desire to save their best for their future mate and fully enjoy sexual intimacy in marriage the way God intended. They instill hope by insisting that young people are able to wait until marriage, believing that most want to, but may succumb to peer pressure along the way.
In South Africa, the country with the highest number of HIV-positive people in the world, it is exciting to see our students – future leaders in their churches and communities – embrace the True Love Waits program with such enthusiasm. Many have done the program for their home churches and continue to receive requests for more. Recently, a pastor attended the program with his youth group. Afterwards, he motioned to me and confided, “We need this. We pastors need this. We are not used to talking about these things, but our churches need this program. Come teach us, too.”
South Africa desperately needs a generation that is willing to live out biblical principles regarding sexual purity, marriage, and family life and demonstrate Christ’s compassion to the world. True Love Waits is influencing this generation to do so. With God’s help, such a generation has the power to change the future of the country and stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
-Written by Susan Binion, TEAM missionary in Southern Africa
-Photos by Hershall Wes Spradley and Susan Binion