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Teens stake claim to purity at True Love Waits milestone

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Six years and a million teens later, True Love Waits returned to Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center to stake a claim for purity.

One hundred and forty hammer-wielding students arrived early Tuesday morning, June 13, for a 7 a.m. rally and the posting of 450 True Love Waits yard signs on the lawn in front of the convention center.

True Love Waits is a program sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention that challenges teenagers and college students around the world to remain sexually pure until marriage. As a statement of their commitment, youth sign covenant cards.

LifeWay launched the sexual abstinence program in 1993. The first public display occurred in 1994 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando. Since that time, True Love Waits cards have covered the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (1994), been stacked to the roof of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (1996), and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (1999).

“Being here is a public sign of my commitment to Christ,” said Lindsay Stavish, 17, a member of First Baptist Church, Orlando.

During the rally, Richard Ross, True Love Waits co-coordinator from LifeWay, called the beginning of the program in Orlando six years ago as the starting point for a world-changing event.

“In ’94 we had a surgeon general [Joycelyn Elders] who was a confused lady,” Ross said. “She said teenagers couldn’t control themselves sexually. She was dumping condoms on high schools.

“Prior to True Love Waits, teenagers committed to purity were feeling very isolated. We needed to give these teens a way to find each other and to discover how many hundreds of thousands shared their values,” Ross said. “We needed to make an impact on secular culture by showing them that abstinence is a viable message for teenagers that will be recognized by significant numbers of teenagers.”

Randy Devinney, youth minister from Oakdale Baptist Church, Rockhill, S.C., has seen the effect of True Love Waits since its beginning. “When [youth] can see college students who have been through the program it makes a big difference,” he noted.

After the rally, the youth put their hammers to work as they displayed True Love Waits yard signs on the convention center lawn where they remained until 4 p.m. Parkway Baptist Church, Orlando, collected the yard signs and prepared them for posting. Each sign represents one church and 10-200 signatures.

Jessica Woodyard, 17, of Parkway, said she was at the rally “to show people the commitment I made to God.”

Future plans for True Love Waits include an Internet strategy. On Feb. 14, 2001, True Love Waits will expand moral purity to the World Wide Web with a “Seize the Net” campaign, which will allow students to sign and mail True Love Waits cards on the Internet at www.truelovewaits.com. A counter will show current totals.

More information on the program can be found at the TLW website.

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  • Hilary Palmer & Bill Seaver