By Kara Witherow, Editor
Ashlyn Avera is not afraid to take a stand for God. The 16-year-old Columbus High School sophomore is vocal about her commitment to remain sexually pure until marriage and boldly encourages her peers to do the same.
A member of St. Mark United Methodist Church, Avera, daughter of Stacy and Rev. Matt Avera, recently attended a True Love Waits rally, held at St. Mark UMC on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Coordinated by One Accord Youth Pastor’s Fellowship, an ecumenical group of youth pastors from the Columbus area, the rally was attended by nearly 300 students.
Thomaston, Ga.’s R.U.S.H. Ministries provided the rally’s worship and message. The evening’s speaker was Marc Pritchitt; founder of R.U.S.H. Ministries.
“The rally’s theme was ReThink Purity,” said St. Mark UMC youth and recreation ministries director Shannon Baxter. “Purity goes beyond just sexual purity, it goes into purity of your entire life – how you treat people, the things you think about, and those sorts of things. The rally was a call for students to be pure in all parts of their life, including sexual purity.”
Avera made her commitment to purity when she was 15. On her birthday her parents gave her a purity ring, which she wears daily.
“It’s something I very strongly believe in, and having an outward symbol of my purity has helped me to reach out to others and tell them about it,” she said.
Zach Pate, 17, is another member of St. Mark UMC’s youth group who attended the rally. At the last two True Love Waits rallies he signed commitment cards vowing to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. This year, he said, the rally focused more on making an internal vow and pact with yourself.
“To me, True Love waits means that I’m preserving something for my future wife that nobody else will have,” he said.
St. Mark UMC has been a Columbus-area True Love Waits rally host for four years. The church is glad to be a steady, reliable host location, Baxter said, and that they want to help encourage students in their purity and help show them the benefits of remaining pure.
A multi-denominational effort, the True Love Waits rally was attended by youth from a variety of churches, including those from United Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches.
“I think what’s really neat about the rally is the multi-church aspect of it; so many churches get together for this,” Baxter said. “The students see their friends from other churches and I think the fact that they’re all there together … it’s important and helps them know who’s out there and can support them at school. With that comes encouragement and accountability to remain pure in the decisions they made and helps them keep accountable.”
The rally’s focus was on living a life of purity, and the message resonated with teens. Avera estimates that about 25 students gave their lives to Christ that evening, five from St. Mark UMC’s youth group.
“This is something I have been raised in, purity and that true love waits,” Avera said. “Being able to go to the rally and be associated with other teens with the same mindset is really encouraging.”