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13,000 attend rally linking abstinence & sanctity of life

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–An estimated 13,000 teens and youth leaders packed Orlando’s T.D. Waterhouse arena Feb. 9 for a rally focused on remaining sexually pure until marriage to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

At the conclusion of the evening, thousands of students signed True Love Waits cards, making a commitment to abstain from sex until marriage.

The event was sponsored by the Florida Baptist Convention and the non-denominational organization Florida Right To Life, Inc. FRTL bore the vast majority of the expense for the meeting, chipping in $65,000 to present the True Love Waits message. The Florida Baptist Convention contributed $5,000 to assist in the cost.

“This is the pro-life movement at its earliest stage,” said Terry Kemple, FRTL executive director. “If we can get teens at this stage to become abstinent, they won’t be getting pregnant and won’t be having abortions.”

“We want to raise up a new generation that will take a collective stand for the sanctity of life issues,” added Bob Touchston, FRTL president. “They are the generation that will elect our future government leaders. We believe this will be the springboard for more pro-life events.”

The event was endorsed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood, who both proclaimed the month of February as STAND (Students Taking a New Direction) Month.

Free pizza and a concert by contemporary Christian rock group Audio Adrenaline lured the teens to the event, which was heavily promoted by Orlando’s Christian rock station Z88. The station’s morning hosts emceed the rally, sharing their own Christian testimonies.

The attendance surprised and pleased the event’s promoters, who anticipated a crowd between 6,000 and 8,000, said Kemple, a member of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon.

And while many denominations were represented in the effort, including Methodists, Presbyterians and the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, the meeting had a definite Florida Baptist feel.

Austin Rammell, director of the state Baptist convention’s personal/student evangelism department, served as keynote speaker. All of the youth presenting testimonies were from Florida Baptist churches. And the arena’s parking lots were filled with buses and vans bearing the names of Florida Baptist churches. At the end, Rammell presented an old-fashioned evangelistic call that resulted in hundreds raising their hands signifying their acceptance of Christ as their personal Savior.

Rammell urged the students to remain abstinent, citing alarming statistics on the health and emotional risks when sex is taken out of the marriage context. Among those he highlighted:

— suicide hotlines note that the most common calls concern shattered relationships, especially those in which sex was involved;

— 85 percent of unmarried women under psychiatric care were sexually active;

— 35,616 Americans contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) each day;

— one in four teens who is sexually active is carrying a STD and may have no symptoms;

— in 1996 alone, more babies were born with birth defects from STDs than all of the children afflicted with polio during the entire 10-year epidemic;

— women are 5 to 11 times more likely to develop cervical cancer if their spouse has had multiple sexual partners; and

— nationally, one teen will become pregnant every 30 seconds totaling 1 million each year.

Rammell urged the group to remain sexually pure by recognizing that they have sexual urges but, unlike animals, do not have to act on those urges. Maintaining a pure life means avoiding compromising situations and media acceptance of sex outside of marriage, he said, noting that the best way to stay sexually pure is by committing one’s life to Christ and developing a relationship with him.

During her testimony, college coed Jessica Towns of First Baptist Church of Lake Hamilton shared that she had made a True Love Waits commitment in high school. “My virginity is the most important gift God has given me except for my salvation. True Love Waits means waiting on the Lord.”

Jody Faison, a member at North Jacksonville Baptist Church and student at Stanton College Prep, said he could not “be an effective witness if I had not remained abstinent.” Remaining pure is fulfilling “God’s plan for my life. Is it more important to be in the ‘in crowd,'” he asked, “or to follow him and hear, ‘Well done’?”

The rally set off a chain of events at Southside Baptist Church in Sarasota, said Steve Gustafson. The youth minister took 20 youth and eight leaders to the event. “We had one 14-year-old boy saved during the rally. We baptized him Sunday night. His 8-year-old cousin attended the baptism and came forward. During Monday night outreach, her mother and 14-year-old brother were led to the Lord. This Sunday we will baptize the girl, her brother and her mother as a family.”

    About the Author

  • Barbara Denman

    Barbara Denman is communications editor for the Florida Baptist Convention. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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