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Paying it forward

Growing up in a broken home only made Abigail Peper stronger. She credits her mom and The United Methodist Church with giving her the support she needed to succeed in life.

"My mom made many sacrifices for us growing up that never left us without anything. She never missed getting my brother or me to our activities and has always been our rock," she said. "I value family and my relationships so much more as a result of my parents' divorce."

Those relationships include the ones made at Wesley United Methodist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri. Peper calls the church her second home.

"I look to the people in the church as my family and support system," she said. "I have many role models within my church that have taught me servant leadership skills and have shaped me to be the person I am today. My church family surrounded my family and continually supports and encourages us."

The church also fostered her passion for helping others. She's been on two international mission trips to Haiti to work with an orphanage and school there. Closer to home, she's been involved in several missions working on housing for lower-income families and individuals.

"I have a heart for people and helping better their current living situation," she said.

A Gift of Hope scholar, Peper attends Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri. She's pursuing a degree in religion and church leadership, which has kept her active in the church.

She's completed two internships at Faithbridge Church in Osage Beach, Missouri, gaining experience preaching sermons and organizing youth events, including vacation Bible school. She also recently returned to Wesley UMC.

"I decided to invest my education back into my home church. I was able to work with my former youth director and lead various events and Sunday school. I chose to return to my home church to give back a little of what has been invested into my life over the years … Getting to work with the youth meant much more to me than simply completing a requirement for graduation."

Peper's also been working with children through her college ministries, including organizing an after-school program for local elementary students.

"We give out a children's picture Bible to all the first-time students, and for several, it has been their first Bible ever. By the time I graduate, I hope to give out another box full of Bibles," she said.

After graduation, she hopes to continue to work with children at a church or with a nonprofit agency so that she can pay forward the support she received from her church growing up.

"I want to be the kind of individual I needed when I was younger, for the next generation. I had a great support system growing up that helped shape me into the person I am today," she said.

Peper is grateful for the scholarship she received and urges United Methodists to continue to give generously on United Methodist Student Day.

"I truly believe that education is a stepping stone to empower individuals to create a better life for themselves and the society around them. It is scholarships like this one that help individuals pursue this very education. It is a gift that I cannot necessarily pay back monetarily, but it is my goal to repay the support of The United Methodist Church with my investment of making small ripples of change in my sphere of influence," she said.

Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, 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.

When you give generously on United Methodist Student Day, you support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge. Give now.

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