DANVILLE — As a child, Nicholas Porter was touched by the suffering he saw on television. He urged his parents, Jim and Lynn, to send money to the American Red Cross to help those hurt by natural disasters.
Now, at age 24, he still has a passion to help, but now he’s found a way to make a difference with his own hands.
Porter will leave Jan. 17 for a six-month medical compassion program in New Zealand through Youth With a Mission, a Christian ministry that helps in several locations.
He’s making his last fundraising push with a chicken-and-noodles meal from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday at CrossRoads Christian Church, 3613 N. Vermilion St. All proceeds from that and a silent auction will go toward his trip fund. Freewill donations will be taken.
Porter wanted to be a police officer or firefighter when he was small.
“I just really want to help people,” he said. “I grew up wanting to help people.”
When he was 5 or 6, he saw the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on television, and donated his piggy bank to local firefighters.
As a member of Morey Chapel Church of Christ near Westville, he’s been inspired by the church’s mission programs with Haiti, especially after a hurricane.
“That piqued my interest in wanting to help people in some way,” he said.
Hurricane Katrina hit close to home when his aunt’s house was damaged in Mississippi.
“I think Nick can do a lot for God and for the community at large through the church,” Dan Ziebart, pastor at Morey Chapel, said, referring to the universal church, not just Morey Chapel. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in his potential if he gets the encouragement he needs.”
Ziebart has watched Porter develop over the past eight-and-a-half years, and noted that his background coming from a preacher’s family has helped. His maternal grandfather, Melvin Cunningham, was a minister at Morey for many years.
“That gives him a different perspective,” Ziebart said. Also, his mother is involved with the church’s mission program.
Ziebart hopes people will support the young man, saying, “Through him, we can do things. We ought to get behind those who are taking the opportunities (to help others). We can financially, emotionally and prayerfully get behind him — and that lets us participate without leaving home.”
Porter is a 2014 graduate of Danville Christian Academy, and attended Danville Area Community College for a semester. He then attended Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn., where he studied preaching and church leadership for three years.
However, he heard about summer mission programs at the national parks through A Christian Ministry, and that began to occupy his time. The program combined his love of travel with a desire to live his faith.
He requested a post at Yellowstone National Park, and spent three summers there. He and other volunteers engaged in activities such as organizing interdenominational worship services every Sunday and Bible studies during the week for employees and visitors.
In Yellowstone, he heard others talking about Youth With a Mission, a Christian missionary and outreach group that has been around since 1960. Youth learn basic health-care skills needed for medical missions and also learn about Christian discipleship, so they can help those hurting both physically and spiritually.
He applied for the program in New Zealand, and was accepted.
Porter decided he wanted to do his discipleship training school there because it offers a medical compassion focus. He had to raise $9,000 to get there and back, but once he arrives, Youth With a Mission will pay his expenses.
Porter will get training in basic medical procedures, such as wound care and first aid, and will learn about other topics, including nutrition and prenatal care.
After three months of training, he will be sent to various Pacific islands to help in a medical capacity.
“I’m really excited to be able to get this training opportunity and to help other people,” he said.
When he returns to the United States in June, he wants to undergo training as an emergency medical technician or certified nursing assistant.
In the past, Porter has been to Europe with People to People, a student ambassador program.
His mother, Lynn, who works as an office clerk at the Vermilion County Animal Shelter, said she’s a little worried about her son’s safety, but supports him.
“If this is something the Lord wants him to do, far be it for me to stop him,” she said.