Last month we dug into the Lifeline archives for a look at the history of Pure Freedom, our abstinence-based relationship education program. Abstinence Educators like Leslie Kuehner and Sarah Melton clued us in on how they saw God transform the lives of middle and high school students in Northeast Missouri, as well as how He transformed their own lives as they taught. Let’s jump forward to Pure Freedom 2017 to see what He’s doing now.
Ten counties, 22 schools, and 2,056 students: that’s how far Pure Freedom reached in the 2016-17 school year. We taught over 500 more students than the previous year. There was such a demand for the program in schools all over Northeast Missouri that it became too much for just one person. Lifeline now has two Pure Freedom educators, Amy Burbee (right) and myself, Kathryn Farmer (left). Amy just finished up her second year as Abstinence Education Coordinator, having accepted the position after Sarah Melton left in 2015. Sarah and Amy have been good friends for awhile, and when Sarah was trying to find a replacement, Amy was right alongside her trying to come up with possible applicants. “I didn’t realize it would end up being me,” she laughed “I used to say to Sarah all the time, ‘I could never do your job!’” But after some arm-twisting (Sarah took the liberty of turning in Amy’s application for her), Amy interviewed, got the job, and now wouldn’t trade it for the world. “This position ended up being a great fit for me because it offers a perfect blend of my passions for education and for ministry. It also allowed me to be a part of this amazing team at Lifeline. I truly enjoy coming to work every day.”
I was first introduced to the Lifeline team as an intern for two consecutive summers during my time at Truman State University. After my second summer internship, I knew I desperately desired to work for Lifeline full time. Throughout my last semester of school, I prayed for the Lord to provide a place for me at Lifeline. The week before I graduated in December 2016, I was offered a brand-new position of Community Outreach Coordinator. This role allows me to utilize many of my passions to serve the Kingdom: my desire to teach others about healthy relationships through the Pure Freedom program, my love for writing through the Life in Action blog, and my heart for new and expectant moms through everyday interactions with clients at the clinic. Anytime someone asks me about my job, I tell them it’s pretty much a dream job that I got right out of college.
When I first started out as a Pure Freedom educator, Amy told me I need to have tough skin and a tender heart. We can never predict exactly what questions, struggles, and heartaches we will encounter when we enter a classroom. We cannot let the everyday troubles of these students throw us for a loop, but we can care for them with the love of Christ. “I am only with each group of students for three days, but I long sometimes like Jesus did ‘to gather the children together, as a hen gathers a chick under her wings,’” Amy says. “These students are inundated with messages that sex is all about personal pleasure, taking rather than giving, and based on the whims of peer pressure rather than the foundation of commitment. I do my best to contrast this with the light of truth, that love is patient and kind, not self-seeking but always protects, that the joy of sex comes from the security of commitment. That’s not the message that most kids grow up hearing.”
If Amy and I are ever tempted by apathy to go on autopilot in this job, the reality of spiritual warfare wakes us right up. The Holy Spirit reminds us through conversation with the students of our deep-seeded desire for them to know true love; not the cinematic stuff, but the holy, beautiful love designed by our Creator, the ultimate romantic. Amy told me about such a conversation: “I actually had a student ask me, ‘What is the best age to lose your virginity because I’ve googled it and it doesn’t really say on the internet.’ The answer to that question should not come from a random blogger. That answer should come from a person who cares about this 8th-grade girl, her health, and her future. The students are longing for a place to ask questions, to be heard, and to be reassured that they actually can make healthy choices. They need a real person, not a video or a textbook, and one who is excited to share helpful information with them and not embarrassed to talk through what they are wondering.”
Despite the darkness surrounding these young men and women, Amy and I see hope win in every school. We have students fill out a pre-survey before we visit and post-survey on our last day in class. These surveys ask about the student’s opinions and understandings of the subjects we cover in class. We compare their pre- and post-survey answers, and the results reveal the victory of Christ. This year, the top five questions with the greatest positive change were as follows:
I want to point out that students aren’t just choosing to save sex for marriage because we tell them to. There’s a reason that the top three questions with the most change precede number 4. Student are choosing to save sex for marriage because they’re beginning to see that that’s the best way–what it was made for. Over the course of three days, Amy and I see the wheels turning in their heads as they put it together that sex without commitment doesn’t make sense, it only brings physical and emotional hurt. Even if every student doesn’t choose abstinence, what I value most is that each young man and woman is exposed to the truth, and that those mental wheels do start turning. That is what Pure Freedom is about: providing teens with reliable information they need to make a decision for themselves. They don’t have to be slaves to the world; it’s their body, their heart, and their future. Every Pure Freedom educator that has come before me has paved the way for where we are now, a program that covers miles and miles with truth and compassion. We don’t know what the future of Pure Freedom looks like. We don’t know how many students will be reached in the next twenty years. What we do know is that our Lord is King, and He reigns. His design for human relationships will overcome our planet’s distorted ways, ultimately at the end of days, but also in the here and now. One road trip in the Lifeline van at a time.
By Kathryn Farmer