ANDERSON — Gathered in the pews of an old brick church, it doesn’t matter to the young girls that it’s a Friday night. It doesn’t matter what the rest of their friends might be doing. It doesn’t even matter that they can’t take off their coats because of a broken furnace.
What matters to the group of 9- to 25-year-olds is God, self-esteem and abstinence.
That’s why they gather twice a month at Restoration Fellowship Ministries at 1207 W. 9th St.
For almost three years, the church has tried to be a safe haven for local girls to talk about issues adolescents face.
Desion Hunter said she started Daughters of Destiny and Rubies and Pearls after moving to Anderson from Houston. She noticed a high number of local youth becoming pregnant and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and low support and resources for them.
“We do teach the girls to be abstinent,” she said. “Living in the real world, that may not always happen, but we do try to stress that if you can maintain that, then it will really stop a lot of drama in your life.”
Hunter, known at the church as the "First Lady" or "Prophetess," said the girls usually gather for a while before splitting into two groups. Girls aged 9 to 16 years old go to a “Daughters of Destiny” group, while girls 17 to 25 years old are considered “Rubies and Pearls.”
Both sets are encouraged to sign abstinence contracts and attend an eight-month purity class, Hunter said. The Rubies and Pearls get purity rings after they sign the contract and graduate.
“The purity program is one of my big things,” Hunter said.
Abstinence-only programs have long been controversial. Opponents often argue it’s unrealistic to expect teens to wait to have sex before marriage, and that they’re missing out on valuable health information.