EDITOR’S NOTE: The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the Gospel overseas. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. The focus is on celebrating what God has done in recent years, praising Him for allowing Southern Baptists to be a part of His work, while emphasizing that reaching those who remain untouched by the Gospel is a doable task, but these will be the hardest people groups to reach — requiring that believers pray, go, partner and give as never before. The 2010 Week of Prayer for International Missions is Nov. 28-Dec. 5. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering. An additional note: This story can be used in conjunction with World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.
LUSAKA, Zambia (BP)–“All these years I’ve been looking for love and I’ve found it,” Cassius says.
He and his wife Lukunda, 20-something Zambians, look lovingly at each other as they remember their recent wedding day. Standing in front of family and friends, they exchanged True Love Waits commitment cards they signed years ago as teenagers.
True Love Waits, a LifeWay Christian Resources initiative, is an international campaign to encourage youth to strive for God’s best for them through sexual purity before marriage and faithfulness during marriage. True Love Waits International is now working in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Swaziland, Malawi, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, the Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Zambia’s culture is one in which witch doctors and traditional healers in some areas suggest sleeping with a virgin or a married person to cure HIV/AIDS. It also is culturally acceptable for a Zambian man in some areas to have sex with another woman if he isn’t satisfied with his wife.
Cassius and Lukunda are proud they resisted societal pressures and now are positive role models for their friends and family.
“Most people would say you couldn’t manage to live without [premarital] sex,” Lukunda says.
However, “we [exchanged] our cards and everyone [was] able to know we were able to keep the commitment — that we actually waited for each other,” Cassius adds. “People now refer to us as examples and ask us about the cards.”
When Cassius and Lukunda signed the cards, they promised a commitment 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.”
Many of Cassius and Lukunda’s peers have not remained pure and are now living with HIV/AIDS. They also have children who are at risk. Many more are in unhappy marriages.
Zambia has one of the world’s most devastating HIV/AIDS pandemics. More than one in every seven adults in the country is living with HIV and life expectancy at birth has fallen to just 39 years. In 2009, nearly 83,000 adults were newly infected with HIV — about 200 new infections each day. Nearly 5 percent of those diagnosed will die each year.
And unlike many countries, Zambia’s HIV/AIDS plague does not primarily affect the most underprivileged; infection rates are high among wealthier people and the better educated.
Cassius and Lukunda, now employees of True Love Waits International in Zambia, are trying to improve the chances for longer, healthier lives for their countrymen. They look forward to the future and hope one day to show their children the commitment cards they exchanged.
They also know that marriage will present its own challenges.
“The battle that we are in now is [for] faithfulness,” Lukunda says. “It is important that we abstain [from sex outside of marriage], because it is God’s plan for us to be faithful to our marriage partner.”
“True Love Waits comes as a solution,” Cassius says. “Not only does it help one run away from HIV/AIDS, [but also] from things that can affect them, destroying their dream families, destroying their life goals. True Love Waits looks at God as the solution. He has given us the solution to use sex in the right manner, in a marriage relationship. The Bible is the solution.”
Jeffrey Aaron is a writer for the International Mission Board in Africa.