Skin Deep

Oct. 2-8, 2003
Skin Deep
By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
Former Miss America shares her story of abstinence at New Hope banquet

Tall and slim, with gigantic brown eyes and a contagious smile, Tara Dawn Christensen, Miss America 1997, is beautiful on the outside. And from the speech she delivered at the New Hope Family Services 16th Annual Fall Banquet, held Sep. 23 at Drumlins Country Club, it was obvious Christensen’s inner beauty far surpasses first impressions. Christensen, a staunch supporter of right to life, used song and personal stories to send a message of abstinence and the value of human life to her audience of 630 people. “We are feeding young adults a lie if we tell them that they are safe from diseases, unwanted pregnancies and emotional scars if we tell them that they can have sex safely,” said Christensen.

Her speech underscored the purpose of New Hope, a pro-life organization that offers help to young adults facing unplanned pregnancies and couples with adoption needs. The goal of the center, according to Judy Geyer, executive director of New Hope, is to help each young woman make a good plan for her child —–– a plan that includes either parenting or adoption. “There are so many teenagers and young women facing an unplanned pregnancy,” said Geyer. “The main thrust of our services is to help them choose life for that child.”

Since traveling the U.S. as Miss America, Christensen has continued to use the title of Miss America for God’s work. It is her personal testimony that makes what she has to say particularly powerful. Christensen made a choice in junior high to abstain from drugs, alcohol and premarital sex. Although it was not a very popular choice among her friends and classmates, God gave her the strength to resist the temptations she faced. “Virginity is a commitment, and I firmly believe that if you make that commitment, God will not give you a temptation greater than you can bear,” she said.

New Hope recognizes that choosing abstinence can be challenging, said Geyer. Its Abstinence Education Program goes into public and private schools to educate young adults on abstinence. Other services the organization offers include pregnancy peer counseling, parenting and childbirth education and post-abortion counseling. Christensen said she can relate to the ridicule and isolation felt by some teenagers who choose abstinence. She added that her decision was worth the hardship she endured when she met her husband, former U.S. Congressman Jon Christensen, on a Valentine’s Day flight during her year as Miss America. One of her greatest joys is to encourage young people by telling them that on her wedding day, she was a 26-year-old virgin. Virginity is a beautiful gift, she said. “There is no greater gift a woman can give her husband than the gift of purity,” Christensen said, looking at Jon, who attended the banquet with her. “It is my hope that every young woman can say to her husband on her wedding day, like I did, ‘I saved myself for you.’”

Today’s teenagers need a positive role model; those who attended the banquet agreed that Christensen fills this void. But during her speech, Christensen said that the best role models for young adults are parents. She encouraged parents to be build strong relationships with their children and keep the lines of communication open. “Rules minus relationships equals rebellion,” remarked Christensen.

Also speaking during the banquet were former New Hope clients. One couple, John and Lydia [last name withheld], shared their story of adopting a daughter through New Hope. They had always wanted a child, said John, but after several years they were still without a son or daughter and were discouraged. After hearing of New Hope, the two scheduled an appointment. On May 20, 2003, they received what they called “the greatest gift of all their lives,” a healthy baby girl. John and Lydia thanked New Hope for helping the young woman who gave her child up for adoption choose life for their daughter. “Because of New Hope, a woman chose life for her unborn child and our prayers have been answered,” said John. “Through the organization, God provided exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.”

The banquet honored one special woman who chose life for her daughter with the “Life Choice Award.” Christine [last name withheld] came to New Hope for a free pregnancy test, one of the services New Hope provides. When the test revealed she was pregnant, Christine was set on having an abortion. After speaking with counselors at New Hope, she decided to keep her baby. “Christine’s story, though not easy to share, is one of hope and encouragement,” said Geyer. Not all mothers choose life for their unborn children. At times, the uphill battle to stop abortion is overwhelming. Christensen told the audience not to be discouraged. Each person, in his or her own way, can make a difference, she said. “Every life counts,” Christensen said. “It is our responsibility to do something to help further the cause.”

As for Christensen, she is doing her part to open eyes and hearts to abstinence. When explaining the reason for her devotion to life, her heart is obvious. “My goal is not to be famous, make a lot of money, or be a household name. All I know is that I have to do what He has called me to do,” said Christensen. “I don’t know what God has planned for me, but I will continue to proclaim His truth wherever there is an opportunity.” For more information on New Hope, call (315) 437-8300, or visit www.newhopefamilyservices.

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