I never imagined that when I stepped onto the pavement driveway of Hillcrest Academy my life would be transformed. I never imagined that soon I would be getting dunked into the steamy water of Pastor Foss’s hot tub, acknowledging my faith in front of friends that I made throughout the year. I never imagined that at the end of my junior year I would be heartbroken, tears streaming down my face as I said goodbye to my friends I made who live halfway around the world. I never imagined that as I stepped onto that pavement driveway, this time leaving for the summer, I would be overflowing with the overwhelming love of Jesus Christ.

Hillcrest is a challenge, a challenge that is well worth it. At the beginning of the school year I felt empty, lost, and unsure of the decision I made to pack up my life and fly to the small town of Fergus Falls, Minnesota. I missed my family, my friends and I spent many nights sitting in my bed staring at a small picture hanging on my wall, with small tears forming in my eyes. I felt alone, and that is when Jesus showed Himself the most. The long nights of thinking of home turned into nights in the Word. Empty thoughts of all the sacrifices I made to come to Hillcrest turned into wholesome thoughts of the sacrifices Jesus made for me.

I reached out to God’s Word more and more, but I still lacked the relationships I earnestly desired. With sorrow in my heart, I walked up the creaky stairs of the girl’s dorm and opened up the heavy door of the prayer room. With dim lights and heavy silence I got on my knees and wept. I begged God. I begged him to bring people and friends into my life. I cried out, face down, with my cheeks getting covered in salty water. I felt alone in a dormitory of sixty girls. I felt empty, and I wanted to go back to New Jersey.

But, God always provides.

He provided in a way that I wasn’t expecting and that I didn’t want at the time. Little did I know that during MEA weekend a dance party with girls in the dorm at four in the morning turned into year-long friendships with people from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Little did I know that some of my closest friends at Hillcrest spoke English as their second language, they were Norwegian.

When I originally came, the last thing I wanted was Norwegian friends. They only came for a year, and I didn’t want to find myself heartbroken, saying goodbye to friends who I may never see again. It seemed too painful, too hard, but God’s plan isn’t always easy. Sometimes, God’s plan is exactly what you didn’t know you needed. And that is what He gave me. That four a.m. dance party turned into staying up every Friday night until three a.m. talking about life in the  same prayer room that I sat weeping in the beginning of the year. The four a.m. night turned into a year of laughter, of memories, and of happiness.

When new friends came into my life everything started to fall into place. What previously felt like empty hallways became hallways filled with conversation and comfort. My dorm room felt like home, and the classrooms became warm and safe as the outdoors grew snowy and cold.

The message of God’s love became the center of my life. My new friendships pushed me closer to God and closer to the Bible. My teachers used time on meaningful devotions, on the history and love of Jesus. Cold winter days melted into warm spring afternoons as I sat in the wooden pews of Bethel church.

I sat there in church one fateful Sunday in May, excited to sing the doxology, but unaware of the spiritual conviction I would feel after the sermon. Pastor Foss stepped on the platform, and a new discussion series title sprawled across the projected screen up front. “Things We (Don’t)/Do Talk About” was presented in big bold letters in front of my eyes. I became excited and antsy for the sermon. “Today we are going to talk about Baptism”, Pastor Foss started, and my excitement immediately dulled as he presented the topic of the sermon, and I sank in my seat, thinking about the fact that I had never been baptized.

I walked out of that sermon and felt extreme conviction, with Pastor Foss’s words ringing in my head. “Why wait?” I suppressed the conviction and went on with my life. When Tuesday came I sat in Journalism class, and I couldn’t contain my thoughts anymore. A heated discussion on baptism filled the room and I felt an overwhelming sense I needed to confess my desire to be baptized. I couldn’t hold it in and I said, “I want to be baptized, like now”. My whole journalism class got up and sprinted over to Bethel Lutheran Church next door to Hillcrest to schedule my baptism.

Walking to my baptism on Thursday I did not have my immediate family with me. But, I had my other family with me. I had my friends who I made, and many people who adopted me as if their own child. They were walking with me into this impactful moment, and I knew in that moment that God was with me in many ways, and that I would never have to feel alone again.

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