An era is coming to an end. For the past thirty-eight years God has worked in the lives of many students and faculty through Dean Erkenbrack. With a servant’s heart and the ability to reach those who seemingly could never be reached, Dean has exemplified what it means to be a follower of God. One whom the Lord will call, “My good and faithful servant.”
It was in a jail cell in Chicago where Dean came to Christ. Until that point, he lived a different life and didn’t follow the Lord. But God worked in Dean’s life in unseen ways. When he hit rock bottom in jail he realized what God wanted to do for him, and from that point on he has walked with Jesus Christ as his Savior.
In 1976 Dean was looking for a job. A pastor at his church told him about Hillcrest , explaining the school’s need for a custodian. He still remembers the day of his interview when he showed up in bib overalls and a white t-shirt. Although the years have passed quickly, Dean thinks often of the many lives God has given him to serve at Hillcrest.
One of the things that Dean cherishes about Hillcrest are the close relationships with students and faculty that he has developed. God gave Dean opportunities to reach those who couldn’t otherwise be reached, and these relationships are still strong. He has seen generations of families walk the halls of Hillcrest Academy, and has felt it a privilege to be a part of these lives.
Being at Hillcrest gives Dean an opportunity that not many jobs can match. Dean shares about the Lord openly as part of his job. As Dean says, “a job is a job,” but when this job creates opportunities for him to further God’s kingdom, then it becomes much more than just a job; it becomes a ministry.
Everyday Dean asks himself, “How can God use me today?” And many times the answer is to help those who have problems, offering a word of encouragement and being there to talk. These are small things that make all the difference. Dean believes, “It’s the small things in life that pay big dividends.”
The mission of Hillcrest Lutheran Academy is to equip students in a Christ-centered, Bible-based environment for a life of significance, and Dean fulfills this mission daily. He takes time to remember the song Amazing Grace because it reminds him of the grace and forgiveness that Christ has given him. He takes every opportunity to help and encourage those around him. He does this for the sake of others, not for the betterment of self. In this way, he fulfills the mission statement daily.
Over a period of nearly forty years there are bound to be changes, and Dean has seen some major ones that have helped to make his job a little bit easier. Some of the most memorable ones include the renovation of the boys’ dorms, the remodeling of the classroom section in 2013, the addition of the football and soccer fields in 1981, irrigation systems in the fields, and the addition of the west parking lot. When Dean’s job requires him to keep the campus running, every little bit helps.
Over the years, Dean has been involved in other activities around the school, aside from custodial work. He enjoyed coaching football and baseball, and still finds himself helping out with softball. Driving bus throughout the years has given him countless opportunities to be involved in students’ lives and cheer on the Comets at many different venues.
When Dean isn’t working, he spends his time doing a variety of things. Being an avid outdoorsman, he loves to camp, fish, and hunt. Being a husband to his wife for over forty years, a father of two, and a grandfather of seven, he has been greatly blessed with a wonderful family and takes every chance to spend time with them. He enjoys making time to help his neighbors and church family. He does this with a servant’s heart, without expecting anything in return.
The end of May will mark Dean’s retirement from Hillcrest. His last day is going to be sad for him, but he is looking forward to what the Lord has in store for him for the rest of his life. He knows that the Lord will continue to provide opportunities to be a blessing to others, and that he will use these opportunities well. Hillcrest is going to miss him greatly as well, and his years of service will not be forgotten.
If there is one thing Dean has learned over the years it is that no one should ever underestimate the power of God. He provides us with opportunities to help and encourage those around us, and these opportunities may be the ones that save someone’s life. God has given Dean a great blessing, his testimony of service serves as a call for others to minister to those around. His example shows these actions are all for the glory of God.