Filipinos embracing purity message of True Love Waits
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--"What the youth need today is love education, not sex education," says Derek Ross, who directs True Love Waits in the Philippines. He should know.
In metro Manila, a city with 5 million high school students, school officials don't need to be convinced of the need for abstinence education.
At Dasmarinas National High, with 20,000-plus students at its main campus and eight annexes, it only took a 10-minute conversation with the principal, David Atas, to generate interest in sharing True Love Waits' abstinence-until-marriage message there.
"You don't have to convince me, I know we need True Love Waits in our campus," Atas said. "We have girls getting pregnant." In 2006, the same year of the initial meeting with Atas, more than 2,000 Dasmarinas students made commitments not only to abstinence but also to Jesus Christ through True Love Waits.
"Schools have jumped on True Love Waits; nationwide, we receive initiations every day," Ross said, noting that schools with 5,000 to 50,000 students within a short distance of each other is not uncommon.
In meetings with True Love Waits leaders at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 14-17, Ross spoke of how God has opened doors throughout the Philippines for TLW in its three areas of emphasis: schools, training churches and large events.
Some of the most famous Christians in that country, such as athletes, models, radio DJs, artists and rock stars, have become involved in True Love Waits through a variety of circumstances, Ross noted. "God brought these people to us," he said, "and others started following True Love Waits."
Media coverage, including an hour-long program on a national TV show whose host Ross described as the equivalent of Larry King, has greatly heightened the awareness and credibility of True Love Waits. Beyond churches and schools, TLW has made connections "out in the world," which Ross described as "a great place to be because kids desperately need God."
Ross told about an invitation True Love Waits received to have a booth at the 2007 MTV Music Summit for AIDS in the Philippines. The main sponsor of the event was a condom manufacturer, with the youth receiving a discount on admission if they bought a condom upon entering the venue. Another sponsor was a beer company.
About 20,000 young people attended the MTV summit for AIDS, where True Love Waits was the only Christian presence.
Student volunteers and True Love Waits staff engaged passersby in conversations about the Gospel, asking questions such as, "Can a condom protect your heart?" In other cases, they simply put the Gospel into the hands of Filipino youth.
Franco Ferrer, True Love Waits national training coordinator, was among those who enthusiastically challenged summit attendees, several of whom described sex as "practice for relationships," to turn to God's pattern for relationships.
"God is on the move and the best is yet to come," Franco said. "It's a great honor to be part of True Love Waits, connecting with churches and schools and being able to make Jesus famous in the Philippines and beyond. We shall impact generations across Asia."
Because so many young people they encounter have had sexual relations, Ross said True Love Waits emphasizes purity more than virginity in the Philippines, because anyone can make a commitment to begin and maintain a life of purity.
Ross likens his message to young people as "spiritual caller ID." Many young people see their Father calling them, he said, but are afraid to answer because they think He's mad at them.
"We try to help them understand that God loves them and wants to bless them, so they don't need to fear taking a call from their Father."
While Ross estimates he has personally spoken to 30,000-40,000 people in the past 18 months, he is increasingly focusing on training others to share True Love Waits' message and finding ways to open new doors.
Ross originally came to the Philippines as an International Mission Board missionary. Today, through Commission To Every Nation, a Texas-based missions organization, he oversees a national ministry in which someone is conducting True Love Waits small-group training nearly every day.
He and his wife also home school their five children, who range in age from 1 to 11.
"I'm totally in love with these [Filipino] people," Ross said. "Our plan is to join God where He is at work, to know him and make Him known."
Don Beehler is a writer based in Nashville, Tenn. For information on short-term missions or how to support True Love Waits Philippines visit, www.truelovewaitsphilippines.org.