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Nightmare becomes sweet dream in Uganda’s HIV/AIDS battle

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–True Love Waits started as a bad dream for Sharon Pumpelly.

She and her husband, Larry, lived in Uganda in 1993 as missionaries with the International Missionary Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Recounting a recurring nightmare, Pumpelly said, “I would dream I was a young Ugandan girl who had to pay for my school fees by taking favors from men.”

“I would wake up in fear and see my nice husband sleeping beside me and would be okay,” she said. “But the dream kept coming back. Larry, Andrew Mwenge, who was [an IMB] Journeyman at the time, and other Christian friends began praying with me to discern its meaning.

The mystery was solved when Larry, Andrew and two Ugandan student ministers attended a student workers conference in Zimbabwe sponsored by the IMB in 1993 where they heard about True Love Waits, a teenage sexual abstinence campaign begun earlier that year by LifeWay Christian Resources.

“When they told me they heard about True Love Waits, we felt we had the answer to understanding my nightmare,” Pumpelly said. Within a short time, the Pumpellys’ two daughters, Lisa and Kayla, received information about True Love Waits from the IMB. Their mother recalls her girls loved the name True Love Waits as did she and her prayer partners. “We all agreed ‘this is it’ when we heard that name,” she said.

Thus began the journey for Larry and Sharon as two leaders of the Christian movement that has helped change history in Uganda’s successful fight to combat HIV/AIDS. In about a 10-year period, Uganda has seen its rate of HIV/AIDS decrease from 30 percent in the early 1990s to 10 percent of the population today.

“We use a visual approach and incorporate a biblical storying technique and dramas to teach True Love Waits to Uganda’s boys and girls,” Pumpelly explained. “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 three to four hours, depending on the number of questions the students ask.

“Schools are very open to our presence and presentations,” she said. “Non-Christian kids also are responding, and some are accepting Christ. The kids feel good about themselves by being bold. They respond to the positive peer pressure that True Love Waits brings.”

Due to health reasons, Sharon and Larry returned to the United States in 1996 but went back to the mission field in 2000 for two years, working in Nairobi. While on that assignment, Sharon spoke about True Love Waits in Kenya, Tanzania, Kinshash Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

They returned to the United States last year when Larry began service as the IMB’s associate regional leader for eastern Africa. All missionaries assigned by the IMB to serve in Africa receive True Love Waits training from the woman whose nightmare turned to answered prayer.

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  • Barbara Brake