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Nippy weather doesn’t cool spirits of 1,500 teens rallying for TLW

SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–Cold hands, warm hearts could have been the motto of 1,500 teens who crossed the mile-long Golden Gate Bridge Oct. 2 symbolizing their desire to head into the 21st century committed to sexual purity.
Nippy temperatures, whipping winds and early hours did not cool the spirits of teenagers who took part in the latest national True Love Waits campaign, “Crossing Bridges with Purity.” Starting at the north end of San Francisco’s famed bridge, the kids carried 100,000 pledge cards bearing signatures of teens throughout the nation who have committed to remain sexually pure until marriage. True Love Waits is coordinated from the Nashville, Tenn., headquarters of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Maura Velasco, a youth group member of Castlewood Baptist Church, Vallejo, Calif., compared walking across the bridge to being a Christian.
“It’s cold out here and we’re getting tired, but this is what we do when we face the world. These people are driving by us, and they don’t know what we’re here for. When we go out into the world, most of them don’t understand what we are standing for. That’s just all a part of our stand to be Christian.”
Organizers held a rally at First Baptist Church, San Francisco, the evening before the public demonstration on the bridge and at a nearby marina greenway. At the rally, True Love Waits co-coordinator Richard Ross of LifeWay told the teens the campaign had gathered enough cards over the last year to stretch the length of the Golden Gate Bridge five times.
“We have enough pledge cards to cross the bridge, not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, but five times. That’s five miles of cards,” he shouted to frenzied applause.
The Crossing Bridges with Purity emphasis was held within the guidelines of San Francisco law, which limits demonstrations on the Golden Gate Bridge to two hours and does not allow more than 50 demonstrators on at one time.
During the rally, Ross praised the teens for their bravery and insight.
“Teenagers, you have made a difference. Laws and policies have changed because of this movement. Since 1993, when adults, government leaders, educators and parents have heard this story of True Love Waits and of the promises teenagers have made, it has affected them; it has changed them.”
True Love Waits is a worldwide campaign designed to challenge teenagers to make a promise to God to abstain from sex until they enter a biblical marriage relationship.
LifeWay launched it in April 1993. In 1994, more than 211,000 True Love Waits cards covered the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and in 1996, more than 350,000 cards were stacked to the roof of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. National True Love Waits leaders estimate more than 1 million teens have signed cards pledging sexual abstinence until marriage.
On Saturday, teenagers carried stacks of signed pledge cards across the bridge from 7 to 9 a.m. From 9 to 11 a.m., 415 youth with special assignments walked across the bridge in 15-second increments carrying cards mounted on large poster boards.
Josh Yasuda, a 15-year-old from Castlewood Baptist Church, Vallejo, Calif., was one of the youth who carried a large poster across the bridge.
“It was real cool. It was just so neat,” he said. “Everyone [driving by] saw you, and you weren’t saying anything, but you were a witness for God.”
Badru Gardner, 16, a member of First Baptist Church, San Francisco, said he took the True Love Waits pledge in late summer while at church camp. Sabrina Lowell, 17, took it along with about 120 others when her church (Castlewood) held a multi-church rally.
Both said they think the best way to keep their pledge is to steer clear of dangerous situations.
“Really, what you have to do is stay away from situations that get you into that kind of trouble,” said Gardner, who is frequently “ragged on” and called “Square” or “Church Boy” by acquaintances. He suggested Christian teens “go out with a group of people. Don’t go into a room with a girl alone.”
Lowell said whenever she hears her school friends express fear they might be pregnant, she takes comfort in her True Love Waits pledge and tells them they could take comfort in it too.
“I tell them, ‘Well, why worry about that? Why put yourself through all those problems? Just don’t do it.”
The most impressive part of the demonstration was the mile-long teen display that took place on the marina green a short distance from the bridge, said Daryl Watts, director of the California Southern Baptist Convention’s youth ministries department. Watts and employees of the California Southern Baptist Convention and Golden Gate Theological Seminary in Mill Valley have worked with LifeWay for the past year and a half to coordinate this latest national True Love Waits display.
Wrapping around the periphery of the mile-long park, about 100 youth groups from nine states lined up, shoulder to shoulder, holding up the large posters with the pledge cards attached. Youth groups from California, Nevada, Indiana, Missouri, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin and Georgia attended the national demonstration.
Watts said he believes the national display served three purposes.
“First, to encourage kids who have already made True Love Waits commitments that they are not standing alone. Second, to present a visual representation for kids who have not yet signed True Love Waits cards and to encourage them to make that commitment. And third, to send a message through the media to policy-makers that abstinence-based education is a viable option.”
In the afternoon, some youth groups provided various ministries throughout San Francisco and others traveled to Paramount’s Great America in Santa Clara, Calif., where they attended Joy Fest concerts during the afternoon and evening.
Ross said the opportunity to participate in a national display changes lives.
“The 1,500 teenagers who were actually standing here in this (mile-long) display (on the Marina Green) will never be the same. They will never forget the images of what God has done through them.
“We know that today God received glory. There is absolutely no doubt that he didn’t just soak up the praise these kids directed toward him.”

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  • Terri Lackey