She is bright, energetic, passionate, and shares a story as unique as she is. Outspoken and engaging, she is not afraid to tell how she navigated today's sex-saturated culture and emerged as a young adult with no regrets.
Proclaiming a message of abstinence, Kimberly Poovey regularly speaks to groups of teens and young adults through a program called Project 180, the strong abstinence arm of Daybreak Crisis Pregnancy Center in Columbia, South Carolina. Bold and straightforward in her delivery, Poovey sometimes shocks Sunday school classes and youth groups with the announcement, "Sex was God's idea, and it is GOOD!"
Using the illustration of fire that is warm, safe, and nurturing, she compares sex within the boundaries God created and sex outside those boundaries. "What happens when a spark from the fire jumps out of the fireplace, becomes a flame that runs up the curtains, and before you know it, is a raging inferno that is destroying your home? That is sex outside the protective 'fireplace' of marriage," she explains.
"I CHOSE ABSTINENCE, AND YOU CAN TOO."
Barely out of her teen years herself, this 25-year old Director of Youth Programs for Daybreak CPC brings a powerful personal testimony to her message of abstinence. Her testimony of "I chose abstinence, and you can too" gives credibility to her message. Reared in a strong Christian family, Poovey considers herself "very blessed to have grown up with parents who instilled at a very young age that sex was a special gift reserved only for marriage."
When she was 13, her parents gave her a purity ring and talked about what it meant — that she was pledging to remain sexually pure until she married. "Through middle school and high school," she recounts, "I was tempted to date the wrong kind of people, but God protected me and showed me that to date someone who didn't share my values was not the best for me."
From ages 16 to18, Poovey chose not to date at all. "I decided that I didn't want to date again until I met the man God had for me to marry." Far from being dull, Poovey recounts with animation, "I had the best time! I spent time with friends of both sexes, I concentrated on my hobbies and interests, I traveled, and I excelled in school." Free from the emotional drama that premature emotional and physical relationships bring, Poovey feels that she was able to fully enjoy and maximize her teen years. Her own experience allows her to pursue her professional goal, "To empower students through education to make healthy decisions regarding life, relationships, and sexuality."
Poovey counsels many young women through her ministry at Daybreak. "I see so many girls in horrible relationships and situations. Nobody ever told them that they have the power to make a different choice. I want to reach young women and men and teach them that there's so much more out there for them (than what the culture offers.)"
Oftentimes her job can be emotionally exhausting. "I am very, very empathetic," she says. Some stories are so tragic that when she is finished counseling, she has to go back into her office and cry. With a maturity that belies her young age, she concludes, "That is when you pray. You give it to God and say, 'It's up to you, Lord. I've done all I can do.'"
Project 180 and Daybreak offer a message of warning for those young people who haven't become sexually involved and a message of hope for those who have. "It's never too late," Poovey states emphatically. "God forgives all your sins. No matter what, your past is your past, but from this day on, you can change your future. Now you know," she tells her counselees. "Go live the lives you've always wanted to live."
Many young people, even those who find themselves pregnant, choose to start over and choose abstinence. "They are so inspiring and courageous," Poovey observes. "I tell them, 'God is going to bless that commitment, no matter when it is made.'"
Poovey believes that the message of Project 180 is about more than simply saving oneself for marriage. "It is saving your whole heart for that person you will one day marry. We are trying to shatter the misconception that as long as you haven't gone all the way physically, you are okay. When someone becomes emotionally involved," Poovey states, "they are investing their heart in a person in that same intimate way. When you meet the person you want to marry, you want to be able to give them your whole heart."
Poovey is living, dynamic proof that young people choosing emotional and physical abstinence until marriage continue to reap the benefits of that decision throughout their lives. Her husband Braden also made a commitment to purity as a teen. "He was well-rounded and logical," Poovey says with a grin. "He spent his time focused on things he wanted to accomplish and goals he wanted to pursue. It was a logical choice for him — choosing to wait was the healthiest choice. He wanted to save himself for his future wife. I tell students all the time, 'It is SO worth it to wait until marriage.' Sometimes Braden and I look at each other and say, 'Wasn't that the best thing we ever did?'"
THE CHURCH TENDS TO OVERLOOK THE SUBJECT
Project 180 is a program that Daybreak provides free of charge to schools, youth groups, Sunday school classes, "or anyone who will have us," states Poovey. She has taken her message of abstinence-based sex-education into many public schools. Though she is limited to promoting abstinence without its biblical basis when she speaks to public school groups, the program remains very effective. Surprisingly, she has had fewer invitations from church groups. "The church tends to overlook the subject," she comments, "and that's dangerous. Kids are dying, not just spiritually, but physically. (If we don't talk about it,) they have only the world's perspective. They need to hear God's perspective."
After hosting Project 180, Kilbourne Park Baptist Church Youth Minister David Hatcher said, "Project 180 was a shining light cutting through the dark culture with the Truth of God's Word. To ignore this issue (of teenage sexuality) is to seriously handicap our students in making some of the most important life decisions they will make. Kimberly gives a delightfully real and practical view of God's plan for sexuality."
Poovey summarizes the benefits of choosing abstinence and emotional and physical purity in this way. "When you meet the person you marry, you won't have this deep and entangled history. You don't have to worry about people in your past, either emotionally or physically. You don't have to worry about pregnancy or STDs. You don't have to wonder if a person is with you for the wrong reasons. It is wonderful to have no baggage. You are free. Abstinence is freedom."
Lori Hatcher lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and is a free-lance writer, wife of a youth minister, and mother of two daughters. She is the author of a devotional book for homeschooling moms entitled Joy in the Journey due out next spring and is the author of the blog "Be Not Weary," www.lori-benotweary.blogspot.com.