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More than 4,400 young people are in Niagara Falls to the spread the gospel of abstinence

The highlight of the three-day gathering, called "Bridge the Gap," got under way Sunday evening, when Pamela Stenzel of Okabeana, Minn., began collecting pledges from the delegates to remain celibate until they marry.

"We've collected more than 1,000 signatures in the past," said Mrs. Stenzel, who noted that one young man indicated that signing the pledge "will be the hardest thing I'll ever do, but I'm going to sign it anyway."

"Those who sign the pledges," Mrs. Stenzel said, "take them back to their own campuses and use them in an effort to make a difference in their own community."

The three-day gathering, which concludes Tuesday, featured lectures and musical entertainment keyed to the belief that the gap between hell and heaven can be bridged by the acceptance of Jesus Christ.

Local sponsor for the gathering is Buffalo/Western New York Youth for Christ, headquartered in Lancaster. The Youth for Christ movement was started more than 50 yers ago by the Rev. Billy Graham.

According to K.C. Carlsen, local coordinator, the local movement had its genesis in 1993 "and has been growing ever since.

For Sarah Sirgey, a Depew teen-ager, this is the third year she has attended the gathering.

"The first year was very interesting," Miss Sirgey said, "but the next two years were a learning experience. I grew up in a Christian family and I'm glad I have the chance to learn more about the Bible."

Delegates from Western New York, 13 states, Canada and Israel represent all Christian beliefs and a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Sara Burt of Niagara Falls, Ont., says she is using the gathering to learn more about the Bible.

"I am gaining the ability to go to others and talk to them about God."

Eren Besim, also of Niagara Falls, Ont., said he is learning more about Jesus "and what he lived for and died for."

John Cornell of Elma said he was looking forward to this year's gathering more than Christmas.

"This experience is better than Christmas," he said. "As a matter of fact, I found myself counting the days, not to Christmas, but to here."

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