Following his church's example

Nicholas David Goodell has strong roots in The United Methodist Church. His father is a UMC pastor, as were his grandfather and great grandfather.

"I have grown up in UMC churches and parsonages. My family values education and public service. From an early age, I have seen how the church aspires to connect both the good news and the care of the church for the communities she serves," Goodell says.

It is no surprise then that his faith has influenced his career choice.

"I hope to attend law school and possibly focus on immigrant issues, helping those who are trying to establish themselves in our country," says Goodell, a United Methodist Student Day Gift of Hope Scholarship recipient who studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

His desire to help others stems from seeing his own church respond to needs in the community — and instill Christian values in the process. 

"The churches I have belonged to have strived to improve the lives and culture of each community they have served," he says.

He saw this firsthand in 2013, when an F4 tornado struck his hometown of Washington, Illinois.

"Many of my friends lost their homes, and three persons lost their lives in the storm. I saw how the churches in the community rallied to care for those who lost so much. This work deeply impressed me and my vision for how the church can interact with its community."

More recently, he says, he has witnessed that sense of community through a tutoring ministry at his church, First United Methodist Church in Pontiac.

"Every Tuesday and Thursday, volunteers gather at a local housing center to provide a healthy snack, games and homework help for up to 40 students, most of whom are from low-income, at-risk families.

"Though no overt mention of Christianity is made, and some of the students come from non-Christian backgrounds, the students and their families know that a Christian church sponsors this ministry because they care for their community," Goodell says.

He sees United Methodist Student Day as another way the "church can build the community into the image of God."

"When we enable students to go to college, we help prepare them for their work in the community upon graduation, and to see how faith is directly applicable to life. We see the difference church can make."

As for Goodell, he strives to make a difference with his extracurricular activities at school, by volunteering and ultimately with his chosen career path.

"I see the law as a means of 'welcoming the stranger' (Matthew 25), and extending hospitality to those in our midst," he says.

Julie Dwyer, general church content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Student Day calls the church to support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge. The special offering provides scholarships for qualified United Methodist applicants. 

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