LYNDEN - Madison Wiese, a 15-year-old honor student at Lynden Christian High School, was inspired by her deep faith and her love of stuffed animals to create the concept of the Boyfriend Bear. She has donated more than 100 of the cuddly white bears to local middle school and high school girls who have attended one of the dozen sessions she has conducted in the past year on purity.
Wiese is the daughter of Alesha and Clark Wiese. The family attends Cornwall Church.
Question: Madison, how did you come up with the concept of the Boyfriend Bear?
Answer: I did summer mission trips to Ecuador and Panama with a group called "Never the Same." They changed my life. I feel way closer to God.
During my first trip I was hugely inspired when I first heard Dannah Gresh speak about the group she founded, "Pure Freedom." She's an author and speaker who spreads the purity message and talks about God's design for sex.
After I got home from Ecuador, I told myself I needed something to constantly remind me of the fire that God gave me for purity. I really feel called to spread that message.
Q: And Boyfriend Bears is the organization you created to remind yourself and other girls?
A: Yes. I'm very visual and I have collected and loved stuffed animals all my life. My mom found these bears online from Mary Meyer's company in Vermont. We bought 1,500 of them.
Q: What's unusual about your Boyfriend Bear?
A: We asked Mary Meyer to create a "secret pocket" that opens at the neck. Girls can use this compartment to hide letters to their (as yet imaginary) future husbands. Boyfriend Bears are there to hold love, kisses, thoughts and prayers. They're a huggable reminder to stay pure.
Q: How would you describe your mission?
A: Boyfriend Bears is a nonprofit organization that encourages pre-teen and teenage girls to live a life of purity. Through our bears that serve as a reminder, we promote purity as a lifestyle. It's about making right choices that honor God.
Q: What do you say to skeptics?
A: I'm not worried about what people say. The Lord makes me strong. I speak from 1st Timothy 4:12, which says, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."
Q: What's one of your Boyfriend Bear sessions like?
A: I talk before a variety of groups, a lot of them church-based, and the girls on our teen board and I conduct them. They last three hours, but we make them interactive, with PowerPoint and discussions, and we do many different things to make them fun.
There are three primary points at Boyfriend Bear sessions: "What is purity?" Then, "Why live a life of purity?" And finally, "How to live that life."
We'll be featured in the January-February issue of "Susie Mag" for teen girls.
Q: How do you see purity?
A: Purity is a process that girls must continually strive toward throughout life. We encourage girls to share their commitments to purity with others. The purity walk is full of temptation and is not an easy journey, so you'll need trustworthy people in your life; people who can hold you accountable and encourage you.
Boyfriend Bears can be found at BoyfriendBears.org. Email: info@BoyfriendBears.org. Teen girls are welcome to inquire about how to attend or request a session.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.