By Amy Abdelsayed for Boulder City Review
Instead of spending the next few days comfortably lounging out by the pool like most teenagers on summer break, five young ladies left Boulder City for the Central American country of Belize on Tuesday to begin a weeklong trip of snacking on termites, wiping out jungle vegetation with a machete and doing charity work.
The girls going to Belize all have one thing in common: they pledge to stay pure until marriage.
They also are all students of local author Denise Ashurst, who teaches a purity class called “Pride in Purity.” The class and accompanying book are intended to guide young women to make smart choices about sex and peer pressure. Ashurst, who has organized the Belize mission trip for the second time this year, said that there is a worldwide, cultural problem that puts pressure on kids to become sexually active at a young age.
“Today it’s just so rampant. Sex outside of marriage is almost the norm,” she said.
The 56-year-old Ashurst said that when she was 20 she was pressured into having sex before she was ready. At the time, she wished that she had someone to tell her that it’s OK to be a virgin or practice abstinence.
“My goal is to reach their minds and hearts,” said Ashurst. “And you know, in the class we don’t even talk about sex that much. We talk about what (the girls) are created for, doing community services, going on mission trips, about how they can be a productive citizens rather than mothers early in life.”
Judging by the response of her students, Ashurst just might be achieving her goal.
Samantha Hanson is one of the first among the current group to take the class and has been a regular attendee for about three or four years now.
“I think it’s important because there is a lot of pressure in high school. It’s crazy,” the 15-year-old said. “With the movies that are out, and just everything really, it makes you think that it’s ok to do things like not stay pure.”
Velzani Moncayo, 14, agrees with Hanson and feels good about pledging to a life of purity despite any stress to do the opposite.
“You try to stand out and not be one of those girls who give in to pressure,” Moncayo said.
Both girls point to the media as the number one cause of pressure in society. Hanson said that living in a small town is another reason she wants to stay pure. In a town like Boulder City, according to Hanson, everyone knows each other and nothing stays secret for long.
She said that being promiscuous can easily ruin your reputation.
Some of the girls say that Ashurst’s classes give them the support they need to stand up to peer pressure.
“It’s kind of hard having friends that don’t believe the same thing so it’s nice to have the class and be with all of the other girls who believe the same thing,” said 14-year-old Alexis Fenyves, who was introduced to the class by Hanson. “It kind of makes it easier, takes the pressure off.”
Shawna Rivera, 17, attends Pride in Purity classes because she said that they reinforce a desire she has always had to stay abstinent. “For me it’s about self worth, not being like every other girl,” she said. “I’m not ashamed of it; I tell people if they ask me.”
The girls are not shy about their message, wearing and selling “Got Purity?” T-shirts around town to raise money for their mission work. The organization was even an entrant in the local Damboree parade July 4.
Now the girls have an opportunity to teach purity classes in Belize and help build churches. Rivera went on the first Pride in Purity trip to Belize in March. This is the second mission trip for the group.
“Being there you experience a sort of culture shock,” Rivera said. “Even if you come from a family with almost nothing, you feel terribly spoiled.”
She said that she is going back to Belize because she loves helping people and making people happy.
Rivera also seems to enjoy the adventure aspect as well.
“Last time we were down there we used machetes to clear the area for a new church,” she said. “Before that I had never used a machete.”
The Pride and Purity girls credited Fenyves for eating raw termites in the jungle.
“I had to pluck them from the trees,” she said.
The termites may have been a little bit too much for Rivera, who chose not to eat any.
“They all tried to peer pressure me into it but I didn’t try them,” she said jokingly. “Peer pressure’s bad.”
Ashurst said that she has not advertised the purity classes and that the growth of the program has pretty much been word-of-mouth.
“I just started with the young ladies at my church and they would invite friends, and now it is what it is today,” she said.
Ashurst is the author of a self-published book series with the same name. In December, she retired from the Department of Energy to commit her time to teaching women, especially young teens, about living a life of purity, refraining from premarital sex and having confidence not to give into peer pressure.
Although the group sometimes meets in churches, and Ashurst’s book quotes literally from the Bible, the group is open to girls of any faith. Go to http://www.prideinpurity.com for more information.
This article was originally published here: Boulder City Review