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Taking Community to the Capitol

Published on September 14, 2023

Allison Gibeson
Last summer when Claudia Nichols was serving as a Huddle Leader at the FCA Sports Camp in Pella, Iowa, she received an email requesting an interview for an internship in Washington, D.C.

It was a position the political science major from Southwest Baptist University (SBU) in Bolivar, Mo. had applied for in the spring. Immediately, those at the camp began praying for Nichols as she considered the opportunity.

“That made a huge impact on me because I had met a lot of these people for the first time just a few days earlier, and they were already so encouraging,” Nichols said. “For them to pray for me was a huge game-51lxN-Dwchanger going into that interview.”

She later received word she’d been accepted for the position, and she spent the fall semester of 2022 in Washington D.C., assisting in the office of Missouri Congresswoman Ann Wagner by researching, attending briefings, and giving capital tours.

“It wasn’t a coincidence that the interview happened during camp,” Nichols said. “God put me in that place and that time for a reason.”

Nichols, a native of Hannibal, Mo., attended the camp as a student-athlete throughout her middle school and high school years, and she said it was essential in her spiritual development. As a member of the track and cross-country teams at her high school, she was involved in FCA as a Huddle Leader and often gave devotions.

“It gave me a platform in the public school system where I was able to share my faith with my peers and my teammates,” Nichols said.

Nichols said the political science program and opportunities with the track and cross-country teams attracted her to SBU. Then when her political science ambitions led her to Washington, D.C., she connected with FCA Area Director Jolee Paden to see what God was doing in the nation’s capitol. This provided her with an opportunity to develop friendships in a like-minded community.

“FCA has really given me a sense of community and belonging,” Nichols said. “Without Jesus, sports and competing are meaningless because the focus is on ourselves and our abilities. But with our focus on the glory of God, suddenly competition has more meaning because we are using our platforms for an even greater purpose, which is to serve the Lord.”

Deanna (Nan) Veach, Area Representative for Central Iowa, said Nichols demonstrated at the Iowa camp just how passionate she is about her sport and how dedicated she is as an athlete.

atlIHQjw“On the hottest days of summer camp, she trained harder than everyone,” Veach said. “She was deeply empathetic and spent a great deal of time sharing Scriptures and the Gospel with her campers in the evening Huddles. Her heart for souls to know Jesus was evident in the amount of time and love she invested in her campers. Her leadership, maturity and kindness are unmatched, and her passion for the Lord is contagious.”

Veach said Nichols uses great discernment and understands how difficult it is to walk with Christ without community, and that’s a discipline she’s learned from her FCA involvement.

Due to health issues, Nichols was unable to compete as a runner for SBU when she returned to campus for the spring semester. Even so, she served in a role as an encourager for the team and still sees God working.

“I think it’s really easy for student-athletes to put their identities in their sport,” Nichols said. “That was a struggle of mine. Through everything I have been going through–all the health issues I have been dealing with–I have learned to trust in God more and put my identity and focus on Him, because I know when I do that, everything else will fall into place.”

Nichols will begin her senior year at SBU this fall and continues to have her ambitions set on pursuing a career in politics or government.

“Moving forward, no matter where I end up or where I am, I know that through FCA I will always have a great group of friends and a great community,” Nichols said. “I will always be able to reach out to them and grow spiritually.”

The Iowa FCA Sports Camp at Central College in Pella, Iowa has been a longstanding FCA Camp and helps young leaders’ spiritual development. Please pray that the Huddle Leaders who served at camp will take what God taught them back to their campuses this school year, that they would be bold in their faith and find strong faith communities.


Photos courtesy of Claudia Nichols