International (MNN) — In 2004, when the HIV/AIDS pandemic was at a high point in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Biblica developed a prevention program for teens called Reach4Life.
Most people can say being a teenager is hard. There are a lot of questions and not a whole lot of answers. And sometimes, churches just simply aren’t equipped or they’re not sure how to engage with the questions and answer them. Reach4Life was born as a solution this.
Biblica’s Southern Africa Regional Director Marius Brand shares:
“We worked with experts to develop a program and then also a New Testament Bible, which gave young people the resources first of all to be informed about sex and sexuality, and HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, but also to give them the resources, the spiritual resources to deal with the kinds of choices and pressures that young people face.”
In the 12 years since Reach4Life was first created, it has grown and expanded across the globe. Today, it’s a full curriculum being used in schools in 24 countries and has been translated into 11 languages. In fact, Reach4Life recently started its first program in the United States.
“The Reach4Life Bible is a little New Testament Bible…packed with lots of extra resources in addition to the text of the New International Readers Version of the Bible,” Brand explains.
“We have four kinds of resources. The primary one is 40 lessons, so in other words, it is a whole year with the Bible teaching, based on four different journeys. The journeys are ‘Believe’, ‘Grow’, ‘Live’, and ‘Change’.”
The “Believe” journey provides the Gospel message with 10 lessons. The “Grow” journey details how users can grow in faith and mature spiritually. The “Live” journey gives guidance in how to practically deal with the challenges teens face. And finally, the “Change” journey gives 10 lessons in how to create world change for God’s kingdom.
As one can see, Reach4Life doesn’t just teach kids about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, but it also provides a type of life roadmap for living a healthy life both physically and spiritually in Christ. The Reach4Life Bibles also include inserts which answer questions teens may have on sexually related issues including pornography, pregnancy, STIs, sexting, and more.
“So it’s all the kinds of things that young people really grapple with but don’t always know who to ask. And then of course, all of this [is] from a Biblical perspective,” Brand explains.
Growing, Expanding, Revamping
Two years ago the program was revamped and is essentially what Brand calls Reach4Life 2.0 version. The revamp came after Biblica decided to expand the program to include other issues that teenagers and young people face.
“In our second version or second edition, we also pay a lot of attention to things like addiction. You know, how to deal with drugs and alcohol. Friends, peer pressure, school work, money, emotional pain, you know, self-image, those kinds of things,” Brand explains. “So all of that has really helped to expand the reach of Reach4Life.”
Over 1 million young people have gone through the Reach4Life program since it began. And in this time, Brand says there has been a lot of positive feedback about the program.
“One of the keys to the way we run the program is that almost all the teaching and the discipleship is done by what is called peer educators,” Brand shares.
Young persons are trained in how to use the Reach4Life resources and are then able to go into their schools, youth groups, churches, and even prisons and drug rehab centers with the Gospel message and Biblical guidance to living life.
Impact for Life
One example Brand has is of a girl called Caroline. Caroline is a peer educator and works in the Johannesburg, South Africa program. Here’s the catch that makes Caroline’s story unique—she’s HIV positive. She’s been positive since birth, when she first contracted the disease from her mother.
“To see the impact she has on other young people when she tells them, ‘Hey, I’m HIV positive, but I’m still reaching for life and living positively,’” Brand says. “That is so precious to see that and it really does have an impact on other young people.”
And you can have an impact too. Ways to get involved include becoming a peer educator, financially giving to the program, and, of course, praying.
Pray the hearts of these young people in the Reach4Life programs. Ask that their hearts would be open to the Gospel and that they’d grab hold of the wisdom and virtue of living a life for God by His will.
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