A young woman with a somewhat unconventional upbringing, Caroline Smith found a loving family at Ashland United Methodist Church in Nebraska.
"My church was – and is – my family through everything, every moment, both good and bad," Caroline said. "They have encouraged me throughout my walk with God, guided me through family struggles, and supported me through every need, hope and calling."
As a high school senior, Caroline served on the Great Plains Annual Conference Council on Youth Ministries. "It was such a great way to grow in faith, [meet] other youth and serve The United Methodist Church," she said. Involved in the OneEvent for conference youth, she became acquainted with a woman who urged her to check out United Methodist scholarships. "I went online, applied and was selected as a recipient," Caroline said.
|Caroline Smith poses for photo in grass field. Courtesy photo.|
Her first school choice was Nebraska Christian College in Papillion. "NCC is a small, private school – and expensive – but I stepped onto campus, and it was as if God knew this was just where I needed to be," Caroline recalled. "When I was accepted, my heart burst with happiness!" However, she knew neither her parents nor she could afford the tuition.
"The support I received from The United Methodist Church was life changing," Caroline said. "It gave me hope that I could do it. God will always make a way."
One of Caroline's most memorable college experiences happened when she and her friends traveled to Cincinnati for a missions conference. They encountered a homeless woman, Beth, who asked them about a soup kitchen. When they couldn't find a soup kitchen opened on Saturday, they shared their food, a Bible and money with Beth and listened to her story.
"She thanked me for smiling at her and acknowledging her," Caroline recalled. "She said I had made her day, all because I said 'hello' to her." The students also laughed about their experience "because we had skipped a session on mission work and ended up doing mission work."
With a goal of becoming a counselor, Caroline considers NCC a perfect fit.
"Nebraska Christian College," she said, "pushes students to get a lot of the classes and credits taken care of in the first two years. The third year is for preparing for residency, and the fourth year is for full-time residency and getting the experience and knowledge you actually need to be prepared for your career. Most students already have a job in their field right out of college."
Caroline works with middle schoolers at Calvary Christian Church in Papillion. She looks forward to mission trips to Guatemala and Romania. On campus, she is a member of the student events team, the ministry honors program and the One Body group that focuses on unity.
"Now that I am at college," Caroline said, "I don't go to my home church as often as wish, but this semester I'm challenging myself to get back at least once a month because they always want to hear about how things are going and what I am doing. One of my favorite parts of coming back is seeing their open arms and smiling faces. It's truly heartwarming."
Barbara Dunlap-Berg, freelance writer and editor, retiree from United Methodist Communications
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.