GREENVILLE, S.C. — After successfully launching True Love Waits in six African countries a little over a year ago, the ministry has received an additional $350,000 to expand its abstinence-until-marriage message into two more countries. The funding was made available through LifeWay Christian Resources’ A Defining Moment major-donor campaign.
An evaluation is underway to determine the two countries best suited for the expansion, said Jimmy Hester, cofounder of True Love Waits.
Sharon Pumpelly, lead consultant for True Love Waits International, said the message of waiting has made a “huge difference” because countries that promote condoms as the primary way to combat AIDS are not seeing decreases in their rates.
“(Young people) are making life and death choices,” she said at the third annual A Defining Moment meeting, held in October in Greenville, S.C.
Pumpelly gave progress reports for each of the six African countries where True Love Waits has initiated its first phase of new work: South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
From August 2007 to August 2008, nearly 27,000 abstinence commitments were recorded, and more than 9,000 youth committed their lives to Christ. Because reporting is challenging, organizers believe that many other young people have made commitments.
Pumpelly cited statistics illustrating the scope of the AIDS problem: Worldwide, there are an estimated 33.2 million children and adults living with HIV, with more than 6,800 new infections occurring every day. More than 96 percent are in low- and middle-income countries, and about 1,200 of the new infections occur in children under 15 years of age.
Pumpelly also announced that True Love Waits International has created True Love Stays commitment cards for married couples to emphasize the importance of faithfulness in marriage.
True Love Waits’ goal in Africa is to get a quarter of the youth in each of the six countries to make a sincere commitment to abstinence until marriage and to a lifetime of biblical purity. The ministry also plans to train teams in every district and major city to make True Love Waits presentations and follow up with youth who have made commitments.
Since its introduction in Uganda 14 years ago, True Love Waits has been a catalyst for bringing people together to address the AIDS problem and spread the message of biblical purity to schools, youth groups, communities and other places. By creating positive peer pressure through True Love Waits, the ministry hopes to see a reduction in the HIV rate in five years in each targeted country.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Beehler is a freelance writer in Franklin, Tenn.)