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I Won't Until "I Do"

FamilyLife's Passport to Purity guides parents and preteens on an adventure to maturity.

I Won't Until
  • Author: Jennifer Abegg
  • Credits: Photograph by Guy Gerrard
  • Published: May 1, 2001
  • Ministry: FamilyLife
  • Location: USA

Thirteen-year-old Cheyanne Lent from New York won't date a boy until her parents determine she's ready, even if that means turning down an invitation to her senior prom.

Wesley Cummings, a 10-year-old from California, made a similar decision. Furthermore, he pledged to wait until marriage to do more than hold hands with a girl.

"It was easy," he explains, "because my mom and dad would know the right time for me to date."

Cheyanne feels the same way. "My parents know me better than anybody," she says, revealing braces. "So they know what's best for me."

The two are among thousands who made such decisions while on one-to-one getaways with their mom or dad. The retreat is part of Passport to Purity, a resource developed by FamilyLife, the family ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Passport to Purity helps parents explain the "birds and the bees" in a comfortable way, as well as prepare their children for dating.

"I thought it was going to be so stupid," remembers Cheyanne. "My mom is going to talk to me about puberty, I thought. I dreaded learning about sexual maturity. But it was really lots of fun. I learned everything about becoming a woman."

Cheyanne's mother, Mary Ann, surprised her with the details for their retreat. They drove about an hour from their home in Central Square, N.Y., to Alexandria Bay, N.Y., where they spent two nights in a cozy, one-room cottage.

During one of the five sessions, Mary Ann used an example from the Passport to Purity materials to illustrate for her only daughter what happens when people give their virginity away before marriage.

"I show my friends the match example," says the high-honor student. "Once you lose your virginity, you can't get it back. It's like lighting a match. After the first time you light it, it won't strike again."

Cheyanne's half-sister got pregnant at 16, and her half-brother got his girlfriend pregnant at 16, so the weekend was important to Cheyanne's parents, who want to prevent her from making the same choices.

"[The weekend] cost us about $300, and it was worth it," says Mary Ann, a Mary Kay consultant and Wal-Mart associate. "My husband wishes he could have done something like this with his two other kids."

"I decided [during the Passport to Purity weekend] to save my virginity until I'm married," explains Cheyanne. "I'm not going to give it away to some Billy Bob that I date for a week or something."

That's the philosophy behind the program. Creators Dennis and Barbara Rainey want parents to guide their children in making wise decisions about the opposite sex. Between the ages of 10 and 12, they believe, a window of time opens up in which to do this, for the hormones of puberty have not yet kicked in, and children still want their parents' input.

Steve Cummings, Wesley's dad, heard Dennis Rainey talk about Passport to Purity on the FamilyLife daily radio program. He and his wife, Julia, discussed the idea for their oldest son. They had decided they needed to talk to Wesley about sexuality soon, especially since he was attending a public school at the time.

"As parents we are sometimes reactive instead of being proactive," declares Steve, a father of four. "We should build these things into their lives early, rather than put out a fire that's already burning."

So Steve drove Wesley from their home in Southern California to a spring-training baseball game in Tempe, Ariz. "I didn't know what we were going to be doing until I got into the car and my mom came out to say goodbye," says the fifth-grader.

He and his dad listened to the Passport to Purity tapes during the five-hour car ride. "That's one thing that I'll remember as a dad," says Steve. "We were listening to the tape about sexual maturity. Wesley's innocence caught me by surprise. He was looking out the window. As the tape talked about sex, his jaw dropped and his eyes got big."

Passport to Purity isn't just about sex. It's about setting godly standards. "I felt like I was passing on the manhood mantle—part of my legacy—to my kids," says Steve. "Wes learned about something that will impact the rest of his life, and he got to hear it from a biblical perspective."

The Anaheim Angels beat the San Diego Padres, but according to Wesley, "My favorite part of the [getaway] was spending time with my dad."

Cheyanne and Mary Ann enjoyed their times together too. The pair go-karted and visited the Boldt Castle. "I got my picture taken with a knight in shining armor at the castle," says the young athlete.

The mother-daughter pair then ate dinner at what Cheyanne declares is the most expensive restaurant she'd ever visited. During their meal, Mary Ann pre-sented her with a purity ring. It symbolizes Cheyanne's commitment to remain sexually pure until her wedding day.

"While we were at dinner I opened it, and showed it to one of our waiters," says Cheyanne. "I wear it every day now. People always ask me about it. I tell them what it means. Most think it's pretty cool."

In a note she gave to her daughter during the weekend, Mary Ann wrote, "You are gifted in so many ways, like the way you make people feel special. Don't forget our special two days together and your pledge to purity."

Although she spent the memorable weekend with her mother, her father played a role as well by writing a note to her in her Passport to Purity notebook. "I know you may roll your eyes and be somewhat embarrassed by this program, but believe me, we feel this is important for all of us," wrote Cheyanne's dad, Steve. "As parents, we just want what's best for you, and feel this time away is one of the ways we can express our unconditional love for you."

The weekend left an impression on Cheyanne, so much so that she wants to use the materials later. "I want to do something like this for my kids someday," she says.

"I'm going to try to get my mom to do Passport to Purity with me," says Casandra Simmons, a 12-year-old cousin of Cheyanne. "It's neat that there's something that you can go and do with your mom like that."

Casandra's interest in Passport to Purity should be no surprise. In fact, more than 10,000 kits sold last year before the materials were even available in retail stores.

For Cheyanne and Wesley, their getaways were just the beginning of a lifelong journey. But their parents know the kids are prepared—they have their passports.

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