The gold and silver ring decorating 18-year-old Danielle Allen's left index finger is important to her and her future husband. The ring symbolizes her decision to remain a virgin until she marries.
Her brother Derek, 16, wears a similar ring on a silver chain around his neck. And Kimberly Stuntz, 18, keeps hers in a special place, her jewelry box.
During a "True Love Waits" service in early April at Gethsemane Baptist Church in Glenwood, the three teen-agers joined 35 others who pledged to God and in writing to abstain from sex until they marry.
After making that pledge, the teen-agers received rings to give to their future spouses to demonstrate the pledge of chastity.
"I think that's what God wants of me," said Danielle, who said the pledge will benefit her and her future husband. "It's my gift to him, because we're going to go through sex together."
Tomorrow, the three teen-agers will join 1,000 other people expected to attend a "True Love Waits" rally from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Southwestern High School in Baltimore. The interdenominational rally will feature gospel musicians, speakers and two Maryland youth drama groups.
Hundreds of signed commitment cards will be displayed, said Katie Grogan, director of church administration and family ministry for the 400-member Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Ministers and counselors will be available to answer questions and to assist youths who want to pledge to abstain.
"It will be a very positive day for the teen-agers," Ms. Grogan said. "So many young people who want to choose abstinence so often feel they are in the minority and they are going this alone."
She said the event will show that they "really aren't alone and that there are many, many teen-agers wanting a positive approach about how they can make choices about their lives."
In late July, teen-agers from across the country will celebrate "True Love Waits Day" in Washington, D.C., and display hundreds of thousands of commitment cards.
Ms. Grogan said the youth abstinence campaign was begun more than a year ago by a Baptist Sunday school group in Nashville, Tenn., to teach a message that its members say is left out of sex education courses: that youngsters don't have to be sexually active.
Risks of sexual activity include acquired immune deficiency syndrome, other sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
In an attempt to stem sexual activity among young people, local churches have sponsored "True Love Waits" services. Kimberly, a senior at Glenelg High School, made her commitment to abstain in early April at Gethsemane's overnight service.
"We went through the biblical reasons why God commands us not to be sexually active till we're married," said Chester Whisonant, Gethsemane's youth choir director, who serves on the church's True Love Waits committee.
The young adults then were given the chance to take the pledge of abstinence, which states: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, my future mate and my future children to be sexually pure until the day I enter a covenant marriage relationship."
In all, 38 young people took the pledge at Gethsemane. Virgins pledged to abstain, and those who had already had sex pledged not to do so again until they married.
Danielle said she made the pledge so that she could be a good role model when she has children -- and for their health.
"There are just so many risks," said Danielle, a senior at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County.
She said she will keep the pledge.
"I've done it 18 years. What's a few more?" she said, referring to sexual abstinence. "Some people don't give teen-agers credit that we can abstain from sex."
In school, students have asked her questions about her ring. When she explains why she wears it, they usually respond: " 'Wow, that's really cool,' " she said. Some come back and say, "'I wish I could do that.' "
Danielle said that she is afraid and concerned for her sexually active friends but that "I don't look down on them. I don't go, 'Oh my gosh, you're a sinner.' "