KING WILLIAM’S TOWN, South Africa (BP)–The students chant proudly as they walk the streets, ignoring the stares and questionable looks from those they pass by.
Gaining confidence in their message, more than 300 high school students shout out in unison, “True Love Waits, True Love Waits, True Love Waits.”
A dozen government departments, aid organizations and religious leaders signed an agreement June 25 with True Love Waits International to promote abstinence in schools within Eastern Cape, a province of South Africa.
Student representatives from 15 schools gathered to celebrate the partnership between TLWI and the Eastern Cape government.
“I see my prayers being answered,” said Xolani Klaas, a South Africa national TLWI leader. “Most great changes come from the east in South Africa, like the sun. I see this partnership as the birth of a movement.”
With the agreement, TLWI gains access to all the schools within the Eastern Cape.
South Africa is home to more than 10 million youth between the ages of 13 and 30. By the time most of them marry, studies indicate that they will have had approximately 10 different sexual partners.
In Eastern Cape, more than 1 million youth can now hear the life-changing message of abstaining from sexual impurity.
“True Love Waits helps students set goals and then helps students reach those goals,” Cindy Schirle, a TLWI South Africa country consultant, said, adding that the sexual decisions students make are leaving them with no hope and no knowledge of a better life.
To launch the partnership, the students marched along some of the main streets of King William’s Town in spite of strong winds and rain, boldly proclaiming their belief that true love will wait.
After the march, the students gathered to hear part of the TLW presentation that will be taught in the schools.
“The passion I have for the future of this country is because we are faced with the crisis of HIV/AIDS,” said Tomi Matomela, chairman of the finance committee and African National Congress whip. “I believe if we act correctly we can beat it.”
About half of the youth gathered raised their hands to show they knew someone who has died of AIDS.
“I believe your generation could come close to ending AIDS,” Sharon Pumpelly, lead consultant for TLWI, told the students, encouraging them to remain sexually pure.
“TLWI helps students build a better future for our generation and the next,” Thanto, an 18-year-old national TLWI team member, said. “TLWI helps us with our health, our lifestyle.”
Thanto and his friend Sinethemba teach TLW in schools, youth programs and clubs. Most of the after-school programs started from passionate youth at their own initiative.
In the last three months, 4,500 South African students made TLW commitments stating they commit to “my God, myself, my family, my country, my friends, my future spouse and my future children to remain sexually pure until the day I give myself only to my marriage partner in a faithful marriage relationship.”
As the main man to push a formal partnership between the Eastern Cape government and TLWI, Matomela wants the program to be a model for change in southern Africa.
“A young girl just told me she wants the program to come to her school because ‘we are dying,'” Matomela said. “We have made mistakes as adults … [and] we need to warn our kids to keep them from making the same mistakes.”
Schirle also wants more for the youth of South Africa. She wants the youth to have the life God intends for them, for them to have dream families that will stay together instead of ending in brokenness.
Currently, TLWI teams present TLW programs in all nine provinces of South Africa, but Eastern Cape has seen the biggest surge in TLW commitments and is the only province with a partnership with the government.
“Because of this program I am sure future generations will be better than we are,” Matomela said.
True Love Waits International’s vision is to “Engage youth throughout the world in attaining God’s best for their lives through sexual purity that leads to faithfulness in marriage and life.”
TLWI movements have begun in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Swaziland, Malawi, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, the Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The national TLWI team in South Africa wrote a True Love Waits song which says, “True love waits, Waits upon the Lord, Waits on love, Waits on everything. You don’t have to rush, The Lord cares for you, You can wait, True love waits.”
Jace A. Williams writes for the International Mission Board.
* Name changed for security concerns.