On Empathy

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On Empathy

It is not enough to feel bad.

A classmate-a friend,  so resilient, abounding with courage and joy- is plagued with the heavy burden of cancer. Our hearts bruise with grief and confusion. Sorrow clouds joy.  

Our screens splatter with Syrian blood, mocking the grief we already feel. A young boy, bursting with potential, innocent and confused, wipes bloody ash from his face. This is the fruit of war.

Overwhelmed, our tender heartstrings are plucked- like a tearful harp. Notes of sorrow resound. This is empathy.

Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is more than seeing grief, acknowledging it and attempting to comfort, to restore. It is not pity, it is not even sorrow. Empathy is tearing.  

Empathy is an irrational anguish towards injustice. When we hear the inconsolable cry of a mother, robbed of her life’s treasure, as a child, ravaged with cancer, is meaninglessly laid to rest. When our bones scream with a confused anguish towards all this wrong; when this essence of who we are moans for a grief that is not our own. When has your heart stopped beating? When has time stood still?

The Jews know empathy.“Sitting Shiva” is a vivid example. “Weeping aloud they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat there with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights. No one spoke a word…” [from Job 3:12] Throughout the seven day tradition of grief not a single word is spoken. No utterance of pity, no consoling sentiment. They sit together and grieve as one. This is empathy.

Jesus changes one’s view of empathy. Jesus did not feel for us, he felt us.

The same hands that molded galaxies, moved with love, touched the leper’s brow. His heart went out to all: the blind, the deaf, the lame, the pharisee, the tax collectors, the prostitutes and sinners, the woman at the well, the rich, the poor. He felt them, he was moved by them.  He felt the ache of hunger, the weariness of the traveller, the confusion of the refugee; he was the man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.  He felt the warmth of welcome, and the bitterness of rejection. He took our transgressions and bore our infirmities. He was crushed. He was bruised. He was ultimately betrayed. He died.

And in Jesus’ glorious victory few words ring truer: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are,and yet was without sin…  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.  

So when tragedy clouds joy don’t just feel bad. Feel. And remember, Christ felt it first.

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Daniel Preston Shares Faith Formed in Stretching Time

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Daniel Preston Shares Faith Formed in Stretching Time

Daniel's faith is being made his own. Struggling to know if he is personally saved, Daniel felt challenged knowing that his faith was highly informed by his family. Over the years, Daniel has been stretched, and in the process, had his faith developed. Hear this quick testimony from Hillcrest's student body president.

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History Gains Perspective from Bible

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History Gains Perspective from Bible

Some believe studying history is a practice in learning from past mistakes. Mr. Garvin thinks it is much more than that. 

As Mr. Garvin opened his class this year students were found nose deep in the Bible. Classes around the nation hung quotes from famous and infamous men on white boards. The quotes from men gave perspective to why History is important. For Mr. Garvin, the truth in those quotes echo a Biblical Truth. History reveals what happens when men focus on Jesus Christ.

His class opened with a Biblical reading that propelled student to wrestle with God's chosen people and their careless abandonment of God. In calling Israel back, God iterated that the nation needs to remember what He has done. 

At Hillcrest, history is the discipline of studying nations that honor God, and those that don't. Those that don't hold up quotes from men as an ultimate truth, groping in the dark for guidance. Nations that honor God stand strong in both resolve and humanitarian works. 

Check out this video from his class and gain a deeper understanding at how Mr. Garvin started his class, and the path his class is on now four weeks into the school year.

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Consumer Math

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Consumer Math

Part of the Consumer Math class curriculum at Hillcrest is a Money Management Course by Dave Ramsey. Hillcrest's newest instructor, Mrs. Smith, is focusing her students not only on the advanced aspects of mathematics, but how understanding fundamentals can redirect student's life trajectory.

Today, Mrs. Smith's class focused on stocks and bonds and money markets. Students talked about high and low risk investments and discussed what makes for bullish or bearish markets.

“Why do this to teens?” you may find yourself wondering. “Why submit them to financial concerns that are beyond their years?”

Dave Ramsey says, “Money touches every area of life. In fact, 86% of teenagers say they would rather learn about money management in a class before making mistakes in the real world. However, most schools, churches and parents aren't talking to their teens about it—and the result is a generation facing more debt and financial stress than ever.”

Studies show that teens are often targeted by advertisers as consumers since they often have a higher percentage of expendable income than most adults. What do we want our students to learn about work and money as they are first experiencing these elements of adulthood? What do we want to teach them about the pitfalls of credit and debt? Is there any part of life that is not affected by money and spending? How much marital stress revolves around money? How does God expect us to conduct ourselves financially? These are all matters open to discussion in the Consumer Math class at HLA.

Students who are wise in their spending also tend to exercise restraint in other unhealthy behaviors and learn to see themselves as stewards of God’s gifts and channels that He will use to bless the people around them. Money really does matter and these are conversations we are excited to have with our students.

 

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Lady Comets Turn The Crank in Big Win

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Lady Comets Turn The Crank in Big Win

Thursday marked a turning point for the Lady Comets. Under new coach Brian Pickering, the Lady Comets played with renewed confidence under their coach's new scheme that propelled them over the Ashby Arrows in four sets.

"This was a good indication that we are starting to feel comfortable with the new defensive concepts," Pickering noted, giving special praise to a noted senior hustler. "Hanna Lavin was all over the court tonight running the offense." Through the first few sets, Hanna proved to be an X factor for the Comets. After stepping in to back-up spikes, Lavin shot under the ball and put teammates in key locations for kills. Lavin ended the game with 35 set assists. 

Fellow Senior Abigail Christenson was a key beneficiary to Lavin's hustle. With the ball popping in the air on the Comet side off Lavin's series of sets, Christenson was found attacking the net in using her height to get on top of the ball and beat challenges by the Arrows. Christenson found 18 holes in the Arrow line on the night, killing volleys with precision and aggression before returning to her huddle as the Arrow gym reverberated in noise.

Fans from around the area descended to Ashby to watch a new look from both teams. The Comets played without their libero, forcing freshman Bella Beck into the lineup for her first varsity start. Beck responded with a near perfect night from the line (19/20) and backed up her front line with a team high 21 digs. 

The gym was packed for the match. An even set series drew more fans from the streets and hallways as the Arrows met the Comets forcing sets three sets to go beyond 25 points. After the Comets pulled out a 27-25 nailbiter in the first set, the Arrows worked to regroup, but fell 25-20 thanks to the Comets owning the serving line. Hillcrest pulled out the stops with Lydia Juhl (14/14), Abigail Christenson (15/17), Hanna Lavin (17/20), Olivia Foss (20/22), Bella Beck (19/20), and Sophia Iverson (9/14) dominating the unforced errors from the serving line. The Comets were an eye-popping 94/107 from the line, an 87% efficiency with 1/3 (33 aces) of their successful serves finding holes in the Arrow line. The Comets used their serving line to propel themselves to a four set victory, scoring 27-25, 25-20, 25-27, and 32-30 in their 3-1 set victory.

It was hard for coach Pickering to pull out a top player of the night. Each had a spot in the limelight. "I liked her (Hanna Lavin) leadership, and she put the ball in the right place at the right time when we needed a kill to turn the momentum or key a big run.  Meghan Peterson stepped into the middle back position tonight for the first time all season and played really well.  Bella Beck got her first varsity start tonight and came away with 21 digs to lead the team, contributed 7 kills and was solid from the service line.  Abby Christenson had a huge night at the net.  When we needed a point she stepped up and found the hole in their defense.  Lydia Juhl had a perfect night at the service line and was active in the middle at the net.  Olivia Foss was solid again continuing her excellent play the last couple of weeks.  Finally, Sophia Iverson had some big kills and digs when we needed them, and was clutch serving the last two points of the match.  It’s nice having her experience and leadership in those big situations.

The Comets look to prep for the Section 6A tournament when they play Pack Christian at home Monday night.

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Retzlaff Speaks to Truth in Tough Times

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Retzlaff Speaks to Truth in Tough Times

Ryan shared his journey in finding answers and truth in the shadow of the death of his 8 month old son, Carter. His testimony was a timely message for students facing difficulties and obstacles that leave them wondering where God is.

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Comets Make Move to Save Football and Preserve Teaching Points

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Comets Make Move to Save Football and Preserve Teaching Points

People die playing football.

On October 22, 2015, Bogan High School was playing Chicago Vocational School in a Friday night battle for bragging rights. It was the last play of the game when Bogan senior Andre Smith took a bone crushing hit.  When he came off the field he collapsed at the team’s bench.  Doctors later said he suffered a blunt force head injury. Smith died the next morning.  

Smith’s story is one of many that has some asking if America should celebrate or jeer a sport that is promoting violence and savagery.  Can football be tamed? Hillcrest’s football staff think the sport is worth saving.

Hillcrest is taking steps to make football safer because they think there are important lessons for young men to learn in the sport. Coaches are teaching tackling techniques that allow players to keep their head out of the play, preventing unnecessary head or neck injuries. Concussions can occur frequently in football.

“Teaching proper tackling technique is very important,” said Zack Tysdal from Tysdal Chiropractic. “People don’t understand the seriousness of concussions, and that’s where they can get in trouble.” “Eyes through the thighs”, and “heads up” are a few tackling sayings, joining techniques, that Hillcrest players are being taught to implement on the field. The sayings call attention to actions that prevent dangerous and fatal concussions. Concussions that inhibit players abilities to participate and therefore limit the lessons they can take from football.

The “Hawk-tackling technique” is another tool that has also made it’s way into Hillcrest’s locker room. The technique is an initiative coming from the National Football League that teaches players to tackle by keeping their head on the backside of the opponent’s thigh. The name “Hawk-tackling” comes from the mascot of the professional team in Seattle, Washington, the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks were the first football team to incorporate this style of tackling into football. They are sharing videos, that were watched in the locker room at Hillcrest, to teach this method of tackling. All of this is being done in an effort to make football safer without ruining the lessons students can learn in the sport.

Another step Hillcrest took over the summer is purchasing higher quality equipment that provides more protective features. The Xenith football helmets provide better protection and ultimately reduce the number of concussions occurring in the sport.  Xenith helmets strap into a protective, shock-suspension, head-padding wrap that is separate from the shell of the helmet.  This allows a player’s head to move independently from the shell, mitigating dangerous rotational forces induced by major hits on the football field.

When speaking about the purpose of Hillcrest football, Steve Moline, who has been an assistant coach for eight years said, “Hillcrest football is about teaching discipline. We are trying to build men of character.” Taking shots and getting bumps and bruises is part of the sport, but what one decides to do after he gets knocked down is what builds character. That’s why many times at practice, Hillcrest coaches are throwing out phrases like, “When you get knocked down, get back up,” and “Never quit.”  

Coach Moline also talked about the bond players form when they face trials together. He identified hard work, and getting hit, in games or at practice, highlight a bond that shows up when teammates go through trials or hard hits that life brings. “Life’s not always easy. Every day is a battle, every play is a battle.  What I love about Hillcrest is you have that family, those brothers, that will battle with you every day no matter what.  And knowing those guys have your back is uplifting.”

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Undseth's Excitement Carries the Day in First Weeks at Hillcrest

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Undseth's Excitement Carries the Day in First Weeks at Hillcrest

Steve Undseth shared his philosophy in teaching English. Highlighting that all people bear God's image, Mr. Undseth gave a poignant Biblical explanation to the study of English. His explanation is a quick example of what has Hillcrest Academy listed as one of America's top Christian Boarding Schools

After 34 years of teaching English at Hillcrest Academy, Steve Undseth has never been more excited to begin a school year. His primary function at HLA is to instill a love of WORDS in his students, beginning with “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” When God speaks, things happen and he has granted humans a portion of this same creative power in language--the spoken and written word. Words are powerful. Words can outlive and outlast the one who speaks/writes them. How important then, that we learn to use words wisely?

Mr. Undseth opened American Lit this week with the account of the prophet’s verbal trapping of King David, exposing his murderous and adulterous acts with Uriah and Bathsheba. “You are the man!” Nathan announced. When confronted with the truth, David was immediately brought to contrition. He was later called, “A man after God’s own heart,” and yet he was far from perfect.

The study of Proverbs, written by David’s son Solomon--will be central in Mr. Undseth’s classroom this year. Bringing God-breathed Scripture alongside classic literature makes for enlightening, in-depth discussion about the true nature of man and the things that undo him. Take, for example, this piece from 19th century poet, Stephen Crane:

In the Desert

In the desert

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,

Who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,

And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”

“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it

“Because it is bitter,

“And because it is my heart.”

Analyzing this poem was the students’ first writing assignment of the year. They needed to consider: What does the Bible teach about the heart of man? Is it easier for us to be comfortable with our own bitterness, our own sin--because it is ours? In what ways can bitterness destroy us? Who is the creature in this poem and who is the friend?

Mr. Undseth teaches his students to look at facts and make inferences as they read; to think critically and to draw conclusions they can defend verbally and in writing. In so doing, they will grow in their ability to use God’s gift of language effectively, a skill that will serve them well as they move through and beyond high school.

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Students Hear The Why of History in New Way at Hillcrest

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Students Hear The Why of History in New Way at Hillcrest

It is impossible to understand world events without the foundation of the Word of God
— Gregg Preston

Uncertainty.

With the push of a button or the click of a mouse, our eyes are filled with images of terrorism, starving refugees, and natural disasters. On Day 1 of Gregg Preston’s Global Studies class, he asked each student to tell him what threat they considered most concerning in the world today. Among those mentioned were:

-Russian intentions in the Ukraine
-Border safety and illegal immigration
-Environmental changes
-Iran using nuclear weapons
-The upcoming US election
-The assimilation of Syrian refugees in Europe

One of the most unique aspects of Hillcrest Academy is its diverse student body. Not many high schools can report having students representing over 6 countries and the richness such diversity provides. Mr. Preston’s Global Studies class alone could be a social study all by itself with students from Korea, Seattle, New Jersey, Norway, California, Washington, and Nicaragua.

The bright-eyed 16 and 17 year-olds are the ones who answered his question about world-wide concerns. They, along with all of us from every nation, sit together on this powder keg of a planet we call Home. All eyes are on our world leaders to see what will happen next as this global drama daily unfolds. We are all looking for help in interpreting the events around us as we wade through conflicting and often confusing media summaries.

Herein lies the “Why” of Christian education: Mr. Preston holds two things in his hands and raises them high so everyone in the room can see. In one hand, he holds a newspaper--a copy of the New York Times. In the other, he holds a Bible.

“It is impossible to understand world events without the foundation of the Word of God,” he says with certainty. Each young face in the room is fixed on Mr. Preston’s face with expectancy. They want answers. They want hope. They want the world they are growing up in to make sense. They need to know how to view nations that rise up against God without fear in their hearts. They need to know that Jesus foretold of perilous times filled with “wars and rumors of wars.” They need to know how to take their places in history--His Story--as it unfolds. They need to know that they were born “for such a time as this.”

The students’ 6th hour social studies class will provide a safe place to hear and analyze the world stage from an eternal perspective. In these uncertain days, one thing is certain: God is on His throne and nothing escapes His notice or disrupts His plan.

Global Studies may well prove to be the most important hour these students will spend all year.

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Comet Basketball Preps for Strong Season with Spiritual Focus

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Comet Basketball Preps for Strong Season with Spiritual Focus

The boys basketball team got after it this weekend against some tough competition at the Minnesota Pacesetter tournament in St. Cloud. Their hard work on the court was steadied by times of discipline in the locker room.

Each year Hillcrest athletes begin a long road of preparation. Routine open gym times have some students flipping tires on the football field while others are jumping rope or honing their jump shot for a sports season that is months away. When the balls slowly trickle away from the basket as the lights turn out Comet players are seen connecting in a unique way.

After the Pacesetter tournament this past weekend Hillcrest players huddled under a stairway to discuss their successes. As the conversation shifted to fundamentals that need more honing during the open gym times there was unique focus in the eyes of the players. A clarity came over the conversation because of a simple practice the team conducts after each summer gathering. They prayed.

During their prayer time the Comets actively submitted to the Lord. In prayer, players take a purposed step to acknowledging that they are not perfect. Prayer puts people in a posture of submission. And for the Comet ball team this submissive practice allows them to critique their play and understand their roles as they continue to workout their faith through disciplined steps in their daily life.

The tournament was a great opportunity for the players to gather in unity under the banner of Christ. The coaches drew the team to consider how Hillcrest basketball can be a microcosm of the body of believers and a witness to others. These small moments will create significant building blocks in the lives of these young men. It's one of the many practices that makes time at Hillcrest worth so much more than a diploma.

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Preston's Dream Class Has Alumni Considering Re-enrollment

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Preston's Dream Class Has Alumni Considering Re-enrollment

Students have poured into Mr. Preston's classrooms for over twenty years. Each student has common appreciative word for Hillcrest's history teacher and Varsity Basketball coach. The word reflects appreciation in how Mr. Preston teaches students to care about their world. Mr. Preston's new Global Studies class is likely to make many who have sat in Mr. Preston's room look to re-enroll. The class prepares students to engage the world by deciphering current events. 

The Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), gay marriage, and El Chapo are issues that frequent the topic list on Mr. Preston's whiteboard. Students lean over their classroom tables, reading beyond headlines in some of today's top sources for news. The class trains students to surf through the media and news to find what is happening in the world around them. Newspapers and TV broadcasts are the class' text. Their training is in searching for truth in the muck of today's biased journalism. Mr. Preston hopes students will leave his class feeling ready to think through the problems facing the world.

Christians can be actively involved in having an understanding of what is happening around them

"(Global Studies is a) fun combination of major political and economic events, but also social and cultural issues around the world," notes Mr. Preston. Students dive deep into causes and responses to hot global issues plaguing the world. Understanding ISIS terror in the Middle East and Russian Imperialism in the Ukraine become complex lessons in history. Mr. Preston involves the class in deep sociological discussions and encourages reading current news reports.

The Wall Street Journal is placed in the hand of each student, replacing the traditional textbook. Conservative and progressive journalists for FOX and CNN news outlets are referenced and analyzed daily as students deconstruct sources for meaningful information.

The classroom setting encourages classroom discussion. Everything is communicated through active lectures and dialogues. Mr. Preston presses the class with the big questions, looking to show how sin causes brokenness as man works to solve the world's problems without acknowledging God. He challenges students to go beyond accepting tragedies happening in the world, pushing students to see God's design and their role in defending God's order as image bearers. Mr. Preston hopes that, "Christians can be actively involved in having an understanding of what is happening around them." 

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Nhi Testifies of Love Found in Jesus Alone

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Nhi Testifies of Love Found in Jesus Alone

Nhi's life changed at Hillcrest. Walking these ancient halls Nhi built life-long friendships, uncovered her self-worth, and accepted Jesus as her Savior. 

He wants us to know Him and become part of His family. Hillcrest has shown me that. Before Hillcrest, I did not feel confident. I always felt so stupid. But now I know that God thinks I’m not stupid.

In the summer of 2012 Nhi surfed the internet for a boarding school. When the Hillcrest banner popped up Nhi knew she wanted to attend. She carefully filled out the application and nervously interviewed with Wayne. She received a letter in the mail. She anxiously opened it. As she read it, her heart dropped. The letter explained that she could not attend Hillcrest because her knowledge of English was insufficient. 

Nhi found another school in America. She set learning English as her number one goal. Her desk quickly piled high with reading and writing textbooks. She spoke English as often as possible. She applied to Hillcrest again, hoping to become a Comet. She received another letter. Her hard work paid off and Hillcrest welcomed Nhi into the student body. 

Nhi Nguyen and Ashley Jarvi pose at Hillcrest's Christmas banquet photobooth

Nhi Nguyen and Ashley Jarvi pose at Hillcrest's Christmas banquet photobooth

Nhi's first  year in the Castle started quietly. She stayed in the shadows, keeping her comments to herself. Her fear of speaking English stopped her from reaching out. But the people at Hillcrest took Nhi under their wing, making her feel at home. "The people care about me, love me," Nhi explains. Through the kindness of students and staff at Hillcrest Nhi says she began feeling confident in herself and loved by everyone around her.

In her Junior year Nhi began an inner argument that would reshape her world eternally. The constant discussion of God and Jesus made her question her Buddhist faith, the main religion in Vietnam. She heard the Gospel message at Hillcrest. For the first time she saw God's love and acceptance for all people. Her heart tugged as God called to her. 

Nhi says she felt Matthew 7:7 giving her directions to search for God. Her ears started listening intently during chapel and class devotion times. Her eyes sped over Scripture. 

God wanted me to come to Hillcrest

Nhi developed a close bond with an American student and Mr. Peterson. The friendshipopened doorways for a Bible study that transformed Nhiís life. Meeting after school, Nhi asked questions of her close friends, probing for answers and intensely searching for God. 

God revealed Himself to Nhi in her pursuit for Christ. Nhi boldly proclaims the Good News in Jesus Christ. She thrives in Hillcrestís Bible classes and looks forward to her personal devotion times. Her friends say she possesses a caring nature that models Christian love for girls in the dorms.

"God wanted me to come to Hillcrest," Nhi testifies. "He wants us to know Him and become part of His family. Hillcrest has shown me that. Before Hillcrest, I did not feel confident. I always felt so stupid. But now I know that God thinks I'm not stupid. I am a good person. I am confident...I don't care if people talk about me. Hillcrest is my small family."

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Marching Next to Death

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Marching Next to Death

Never before have I seen the Church of Satan flamboyantly preached. In the United States, Satan knows he must be cunning and secretive. Proof of evil is proof of good. But in the vudu-plagued Dominican Republic, those who worship the Devil are not secretive. 

On Good Friday we drove through the barrio of Santa Fe with the Dominican Mission team. While driving, we saw a parade of people dressed in weird, brightly colored costumes, waving purple flags, yelling and shouting as they marched through the streets. Assuming this gang of people simply paraded around in celebration of something, my teammates asked our Dominican translators what caused this public parade. The translators looked at us solemnly. "They are devil worshippers, celebrating and mocking the death of Christ." Unprepared for that answer, our bus was silenced. 

Continuing into the barrio, we began leading a children's church program at one of the local churches. After some time we set the kids loose and split into three groups with translators. We walked around Santa Fe, stopping at seemingly random homes, sharing the Gospel with anyone that would listen. We met many people. Some loved the Lord. Some ran away from Him. But one man differed from all the rest. He sat outside his store with a stone cold expression on his face, eyeing our team.  A teammate named Lucas began sharing Jesus with him. Suddenly, I looked to my right and saw the Satanic parade marching a block down the street. As I watched the parade of devil-praisers, I became aware of the struggle that Lucas was fighting. Attempting to get words out of his mouth, he stuttered and stumbled over each syllable. Lucas stared blankly at the translator not knowing how to react to his obvious speech impediment. "I physically couldn't get words out- they wouldn't pass my lips. I felt like I failed at giving the Gospel" Lucas remembers. Unsure how to end this problem, the group began praying over the man. 

I soon realized the parade could only be seen by one translator, Elizabeth, and myself.  I saw the parade members waving a big purple flag with morose markings on it. I leaned over to Elizabeth and asked her what the flag represented. She gave me a one worded answer. Death. Immediately, I turned toward the adjacent street, reached out my hand towards the death march, and began praying for them. I prayed for the evil in their souls to be cast out in the name of Jesus, and that someone from our missions team would be able to speak to one of them about Jesus. 

My small group finished praying for the man at the store. We left that place, turning onto a different street and continuing our evangelism campaign. I never saw the Death March again. However, at our team debrief that night I realized the story did not end there. Our team leader shared his experience with the Satanic church. Not mentioning detail of their encounter, Mr. Preston revealed that he and some other members of his small group confronted a person in the march. They shared with him the hopelessness Satan offered, and the love and redemption that was found only in Jesus Christ. 

I am taken aback by this experience. After realizing the story that was developing around him, Lucas says, "There was definitely something stopping my words that day." We witnessed true spiritual warfare. Demon fighting angel for the soul of a child of God. But in the midst of that, we witnessed God's unrelenting promise to answer prayer, using us as soldiers in this war over souls. 

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A Student's Open Letter To Parents

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A Student's Open Letter To Parents

This is a letter to teenagers, parents of teenagers, and all those in between. For us teens we're being taught that religions and worldviews aren’t walls that need to be argued and dismantled because there’s a hole in each one with a string pulled through to make everyone connected. Everyone's ideas are equal in spite their view of their foundation and consequences. If it seems too good to be true it’s because it is, for teenagers at least.

Our culture is raising us to think that when we’re faced with challenges we’re to ignore them, maybe make the obstacle legal and socially acceptable. For some teens this is a nightmare casted as a dream. We’re faced with wondering how far this thinking is going to go, we don't know how long it’s going to last. Culture is distracting us from all those wise men of past eras who seemed to have a keen take on life?

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” Those sharp-witted words came from a British academic, C. S. Lewis, with the quote still mentionable to this day. Although there are up-to-date genius movements rising around us, we have overlooked history’s greatest influences as we stand on their shoulders.

While our culture is reinventing solutions to past problems teens yearn to look to past influencers to lead us in an uprising direction. This culture move would build confidence to know that the problems we face today were overcome generations earlier. The success of men like C.S. Lewis to lead a generation to crave courage and bravery in a new world is inspiring. Lewis captured the power of a youthful imagination. We need more of that.

With his Narnia book series, Lewis provided a way for kids to understand an in depth message of Christ through fiction stories. But Narnia does more than point to Christ. Lewis' diligent pursuit in to find virtuous truths, mixed with his storytelling prowess, cultivated a love of the good and beautiful in a war-torn generation. Lives have been shifted and drastically changed in the world. At Hillcrest, with Mr. Undseth’s use of Lewis’ Screwtape Letters in the school’s British Literature class, students have been taken down this road of looking back to forge ahead.

Adventures between wars and wizardry, a pursuit to destroy one ring that rules all has had a number of people quoting grey-haired wizards and pudgy-footed Hobbits. J.R.R. Tolkien, in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, embarked on a similar path in a similar time as Lewis, having almost the same impact.

Outside the shire and beyond Cair Paravel a prolifically gifted writer and honored war hero, Winston Churchill, emerged in the same violent epoch of history as Lewis and Tolkien. Churchill is remembered through his writings and courageous acts he performed throughout his life both in and out of the spotlight. Well known for saving Britain during World War II, Churchill was also notorious for his speeches and wasn't afraid to rain God’s name and good graces.

Lewis, Tolkien, and Churchill all share a heart that urged their generation in an uncommon direction in the face of conflict. Each man stood for what he believed in. There comes a point in time where lines need to be recognized and drawn. But teen culture paints over lines, erases boundaries, and forces paint on white canvases.

Rather than creating new normals and constructing new virtues, teens would do well to realize that others have suffered before us to lead generations to come. God specifically placed Lewis, Tolkien, and Churchill with gifts of words to lead a generation to rise and be the voice of a fortified past era. Rather than dismantling our foundation, namely stripping Christianity out of anything and everything to create new normals, teens feel more supported when we can look back and see the strength of our system. 

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McGuire and Aasness Earn MVP as Comets Closing Books with Accolades

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McGuire and Aasness Earn MVP as Comets Closing Books with Accolades

Sean McGuire and Megan Aasness earned top honors in the Pheasant Conference as the season closed. Both students were recognized as MVPs for the conference, showing a unique dominance on the diamond that led their teams to successful seasons. They were joined by a host of underclassmen who look forward to future success in the Comet's spring sports.

Megan Aasness hung her cleats up this weekend after playing in the State Softball All-star game. Megan was recognized as the Pheasant Conference MVP after setting career steals records for both individual season and career. Noted as the most valuable player in the conference, Aasness saw a similar accolade fall to teammate Nicole Dekok who was recognized as Co-Pitcher of the Year, sharing the title with Sara Jacobson from Brandon-Evansville.

The Comets put 4 players onto the 11 player roster for the all conference team. Senior Annie Murphy, and junior Sophie Iverson received recognition for their work on the field and behind the plate. The Comets will look to replace the two-time all conference player in Murphy at first base. Her graduation creates a hole, while Aasness' work holding down short stop will also cause pause for the Comets looking forward to next year. However, Iverson displays a versatility that Comet Coach Craig Nersten could utilize. Iverson earned her accolade for her work at third base and second base, showing an ability to field well and throw across the diamond. 

Emma Royce and Ruthanne Erickson were recognized as honorable mention for the all conference accolade. Emma's bat opened scoring opportunities for the Comets. First year catcher Ruthanne Erickson displayed a unique ability to take tough pitches from the region's top pitcher and rise above the conference's other catchers. Ruthanne will join teammates in another run at playoffs, where they were considered one of the region and state's best teams.

Joining McGuire on the stand of All-conference for baseball was fellow hurler Chris Tungseth. The Comets created a great one-two punch with McGuire and Tungseth, causing every team to realize they would face tough pitching against the Comets no matter who threw last. The two pitchers were known to go the distance for the Comets, pulling off big games at the Comets took their season three games deep into playoffs.

Sam Ihrke hopes his success behind the plate can translate to winning more games next year as he also earned recognition as the one of the conference's best catcher. Ihrke's all conference award will propel him to continue honing his skills behind the plate as he teams up with McGuire next season to go deeper into the playoffs next year. Senior Jordan Foss was recognized with an honorable mention for all conference.

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Noah Chase Lands 53 out of 90 in State Golf Meet

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Noah Chase Lands 53 out of 90 in State Golf Meet

While the rest of Hillcrest preps for fall athletics 8th grader Noah Chase finally ended his golf season this weekend at the state meet. The only member of Hillcrest's golf team, Chase continually outshot competitors throughout the season, joking that he is always Hillcrest's top scorer. With golf bag in tow Chase ventured to Pebble Creek golf course in Becker, Minnesota to close his season.

Chase is a student of golf. After falling in love with the sport hitting a hole in one shot with his grandfather when he was 8 years old, Chase has since worked on his game continually at Balmoral golf course near his home. He knows the course like the back of his hand, but has relentlessly worked on difficult shots to prepare himself for the challenges he faced against a high school competitors as a pre-teen junior high student.

Noah earned the bid to the State golf meet after practicing with Ottertail Central's golf team. He worked to secure rides to golf meets with the team and out shined most of his carpool friends. In the first day of the Section 6A meet to earn a trip to State, Noah shot an 83, five strokes out of first place. He was holding down fourth place, knowing the next day of the Section meet would require more focus and more attention to earn a ride to Minneapolis to compete with the state's best. He retained his pace the second day, shooting an 84, marching to grab his fifth place medal and a ticket that was punched for a trip to Becker, Minnesota to represent Hillcrest at the state golf meet.

Noah was a young representative at the State meet that held 80 competitors. Noah packed up his 8th grade text books and plopped himself behind his computer when the final bell rang in Hillcrest's hallways marking the start of summer vacation. Noah's computer screen was locked on the Pebble Creek course as he looked at a schematic and map for the State meet. He studied the hazards, looked at the fairways, and noted the boundaries. His mental preparation is prodigious for such a young student. Study skills started to fall into place as he shot a number of rounds of golf before practicing at the Pebble Creek course.

In Noah's first round of competition his nerves seemed to get the best of him. A 47 is not Noah's best score, and he knew it. His determination settled his hands for the back nine of his first round, looking to close the day on a high note. His shots dropped with more precision after his first 9 holes, and his club selection changed. He closed the final 9 holes with 43 strokes, shooting an even 90 on the challenging course. 

When the sun rose on the second day of the tournament Noah walked with more confidence. Remembering the schematic of Pebble Creek he studied for weeks on his computer, Noah took care of his shots with greater precision. He shot a 45 on the front 9, knocking off 2 strokes from his performance 24 hours earlier. Between the front and back it seemed like Noah was purely focused on golf as his family cheered. According to family members he was wondering where the family would eat dinner. Noah's sense of humor allows him to rise above other golfers on the course. He has a unique focus that keeps him rolling even after having a poor performance at a hole.

In both of his second rounds in both days of competition Noah shot better. Noah's second day earned him a 2 stroke better performance than the previous day, and his back nine the second day had him knock off one stroke, finishing the second day shooting 45 in the opening 9 and 42 on the back. His 89, coupled with his 90 in the first day of the tournament, earned him a spot in the top 53 golfers at the State Class A meet. 

The state meet carried a host of junior high students competing with other high school students. While many shot well, Noah's performance is wholly unique as he is the only member of his golf team. His work on the links is likely to build momentum for a Hillcrest golf program that has had a nearly 20 year drought in state competition. With the support Noah received from his family this season it is easy to see Noah making more trips to Minneapolis for golf competition. 

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Aasness Represents Comets in All-Star Softball Game

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Aasness Represents Comets in All-Star Softball Game

Megan Aasness wasn't finished with softball when her team packed up the bags and threw the bats into storage last month. Aasness was selected to Minnesota's All-Star softball team. They played a game last week and Aasness showed why she was selected as she continued to tear up the base path and score runs in representing Hillcrest.

In Megan's first at bat she practiced skills she developed in red and white. Wearing a blazing yellow jersey for her all-star team, Megan sat low in the batters box and watched pitches miss her small strike zone before she smiled in taking first base. After earning her walk she leaned back on first base and stretched her leg. She was hoping to practice a skill that earned her top honors in the state.

Timing her steps carefully, Aasness took off to second base and earned a steal, showing her prowess on the base path that earned her the steals title for both career and single season marks. She moved to third base as her fellow all-stars worked at the plate, scoring on a sac-fly. Her trip across home plate is something Comet fans remember well, scoring first in many games thanks to Megan's work in eating up extra bases.

Megan's quick feet earned her a trip to first base as a pinch runner. Even though she was doing work in the field, the all-star game grants special rules for pinch running because each team has 10 all-stars from around the state. Megan easily rounded the bases to score her second run of the game, where her team only scored 3 runs in the first game 3-3 tie.

In the second game of the all-star game double-header Megan displayed her work with the stick, sacrifice bunting 3 times to advance runners to scoring position. When she wasn't playing small ball behind the plate, Megan was in the field eating up grounders to create a host of put outs. 

Megan's Hillcrest coaches made the trip to watch her play one final time in representing Hillcrest on the diamond. The coaches weren't surprised with how she led the team, she's been doing that each season they've had her lace up cleats and jog to short stop to hold down the infield. 

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Comets Close Seasons with Impressive Showings

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Comets Close Seasons with Impressive Showings

8th grader Noah Chase is the last one standing in Hillcrest's 2015-16 sports season. After shooting an eye-popping 167, Noah earned himself a trip to the Class A State Golf Tournament. When Noah turned-in his card he noted he was only 8 strokes off the pace, falling in the middle of a pack of high school students who are looking at Noah's grade and taking a second glance. 

Waving to Noah as he passes Hillcrest and continues to state is Hillcrest's successful 4X800m team. In the Section meet last week the Comets blew opponents away from the start. Hans Holzner started the race and earned Hillcrest a nearly 50m lead before handing the baton to fellow junior Luke Bowman. Bowman stayed with Holzner the night before the race, and the two mentally prepared for the section meet. Luke set his stop watch, closed his eyes, and hit the timer while he was laying down in bed. His mental preparation had him running his fastest time in his head, beating his personal record before he stopped his watch and opened his eyes. The dream leg would become a reality after Holzner passed him the baton at the meet. Luke beat his mental time by 1 second, running a 2:04 800m and setting a new personal record by over 5 seconds.

When Bowman passed the baton to Toby Simonsen Hillcrest was holding tight to their 50m lead. Simonsen retained the lead. As the baton passed to Tommy Thompson there was a rush around the stadium. Thompson quickly circled the first 50m and could hear the pounding footsteps of his competition. They hustled to catch Tommy. 

As the race neared the final 100m Tommy was drafting his opponents. Tommy kicked in his final push, knowing this could be the last time he ran the straightaway this year. Next to Tommy ran two other teams, each beating their body and crossing thresholds of exhaustion in the final 30m. When Thompson crossed the finish line there was a one-two-three punch on the track. The final footsteps across the line had all three runners nearly collapsing. It was a race for the annuls of history. Hillcrest hadn't been beaten all season. Their final time was 8 seconds faster than their school record sub-section time. Each runner in Hillcrest's platoon ran their best time of the season. Hans Holzner ran 2:01, and the all junior team congratulated him as they looked at their 8:21:93 time. It was the best race of their year, and they blew past the school record.

After the track team closed their season there was a caravan that followed the Baseball team as they worked to keep their season alive in playoffs. The caravan barely got settled in their seats before the Comets scored their first run. After Jordan Foss singled, Reggie Undseth stepped into the box and took a pitch off his mid-section. Trey Bosek stepped past the white painting marking the batters box a few times before he connected on a low pitch that dribbled from home plate into the infield. Foss was sick of standing on the base path and leapt decisively off Bosek's hit. Watching the ball, Foss rounded third as the throw went to first base, scoring easily. 

The Comets made it 2-0 in the 3rd off more hustling on the base path. Sean McGuire reached on a fielder's choice before Undseth took another pitch off his body. With McGuire watching the pitcher's feet, he darted for third on an errant pick-off move and rounded 3rd as Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (BBE) dug the ball out of the fence behind first base. 

The Comets went on to commit 7 errors in the following innings, playing what Coach Steve Undseth called their worst game in the field all season. Their errors gift wrapped 4 runs for BBE, closing the season with the playoff loss as they ended their season 4-2. The Comets closed their season with a record of 11-9. 

As the Comets closed the game with the ceremonial handshake they looked in the stands to see the Lady Comets, who closed their season a few weeks earlier. The Lady Comets nearly created a moniker as heart attack Hillcrest in their final handful of games. Fans knew that no matter what deficit Hillcrest faced in the second or third inning, the Lady Comets would pull together a multi-run inning in the final few frames. So when Hillcrest fell behind in the first inning on the back of three errors, there was hope.

In the bottom of the first Hillcrest put a run on the board after giving up 4 runs in the first. Senior Annie Murphy reached first base on a single, stole second during Sophie Iverson's at bat, and scored after Iverson tripled.

The Comets looked to continue their bounce back in the second after Senior Emma Royce walked to first base. Tara Fercrenzy hit Royce around to start what looked to be a rally inning. After Karina Larson walked and a few Comets made the pitcher work, Jordan Matranga walked to load the bases. With one out Hillcrest looked to bounce back with a full deck of base runners. 

With Megan Aasness stepping in with a tight strike zone and quick feet on the base path, Hillcrest's base coaches were leaning in to see what would happen. But after Aasness popped out to the pitcher and Annie Murphy followed suit with a ground out the Comets grabbed their gloves to curb more damage on the field having left the bases loaded.

Nicole DeKok did good work from the mound considering only two of her pitches were working. Primarily using her fastball and changeup, DeKok earned 5 strike outs and retired 12 batters in a row after a four run 1st inning where 3 of the runs were unearned. 

The Comets saw great production from the bottom of the lineup, who went 2 for 8 with 6 walks and all 3 Comet runs. As the Comets look forward to next season they have building blocks in place to make another run at the playoffs, despite losing state steals record holder Megan Aasness. The Lady Comets close their books with an 11-7 record.

The Comets are now in the off-season, meeting 3 times per week as they look forward to the 2016-17 school year.

 

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Staff Gather to Pray Over School Theme

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Staff Gather to Pray Over School Theme

In 1843, a twenty-one-year old Massachusetts scholar was doing research on the American Revolution and what led up to it. Among those he interviewed was Captain Levi Preston, a Yankee who was seventy years his senior and had fought at both Lexington and Concord.
“Captain Preston,” the young man began, “what made you go to the Concord Fight on April 19, 1775?”
“What did I go for?” The old soldier, every bit his ninety-one years, was very bowed, so he raised himself to his full height, taken aback that anyone should ask a question about anything so obvious.
The young man tried again. “Yes, my histories tell me that you men of the Revolution took up arms against ‘intolerable oppressions.’ What were they?”
“Oppressions? I didn’t feel them.”
“What, you were not oppressed by the Stamp Act?”
“I never saw one of those stamps,” Captain Preston replied. “I certainly never paid a penny for them.”
“Well, what about the tea tax?”
“Tea tax? I never drank a drop of the stuff,” the old veteran replied. “The boys threw it all overboard.”
“Then I suppose you had been reading Harrington, or Sidney and Locke about the eternal principles of liberty?”
“Never heard of ’em,” Captain Preston said. “We read only the Bible, the Catechism, Watt’s Psalms and the Almanac.”
“Well then, what was the matter? And what did you mean in going to fight?”
“Young man,” Captain Preston stated firmly, “what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: We always had been free, and we meant to be free always. They didn’t mean we should.”
~A Free People's Suicide | Os Guinness

The above quote was read aloud for faculty and staff gathering in prayer Wednesday. With birds chirping in trees casting shade over Dawn Synstelien's chicken coop staff sat huddling around a simple story that is part of many real world examples finding their way into Hillcrest's 2016-17 school theme.

The theme narrative started last week as staff gathered in the Union conference room to deliberate issues that are facing students and staff. Pulling out examples from the classroom a common theme emerging was freedom. However, many staff repeated a phrase that freedom in Christ is really a freedom that is not earned. The staff continually ended comments with the word done. 

Living in the light of the cross, Hillcrest staff are excited to communicate a reality to students. This reality is that their freedom is only given them by Christ. It is a reality that Captain Preston knew. His words, "we had always been free," refers to a self-evident truth. The Declaration of Independence hinged on this reality. That the simple truths of freedom are self-evident, and mankind is endowed with freedom by the creator that leaves all men created equal to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

The devotional before the prayer referenced the freedom given Adam and Eve in the garden. Their freedom was not earned. It was not fought for, stained with the blood of soldiers. Freedom comes from God. 

However, a bondage set in. The bondage came from Satan in the form of shackles that man could know things apart from God. This work to know good and evil without referencing God's definition placed Adam and Eve into bondage. Their freedom was stripped.

The devotional shifted to reference the book Leviticus, highlighting the 10 Commandments in Exodus, where laws are emphasized to show God's order. Unfettered freedom is slavery to live a life void of God, and the consequences destroy man, relationships, and God's intended purpose for man to have relationship with his Creator. 

Ultimately, the devotional rested in Jesus. Jesus is the defender of freedom. His work on the cross, spilling blood for all of mankind in defense of freedom, granted the world a true path to relationship with God and wholeness in a freedom that liberates man to an intimate relationship with God. 

The devotional closed with Galatians 5:1. As the words were read aloud there was a simple peace that came into Dawn's sunporch. Staff nodded in agreement when it was declared that it is for freedom that Christ set us free. There was a soft sigh, some uttering a gentle grunt, when the command to avoid the yoke of slavery was given. The devotional sparked a 30 minute focused prayer time for the faculty and staff, some 11 adults and spouses, gathered to declare Jesus Christ the Lord of the school year. Their bowed heads stood as a reference to their vocal commitment.

A creative team is continuing to develop the theme. Progress will post to Hillcrest blogs throughout the summer as faculty and staff commit to joining together every two weeks for prayer. 

 

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Lady Comets Close Season Carried by Bottom of the Lineup

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Lady Comets Close Season Carried by Bottom of the Lineup

The Lady Comets nearly created a moniker as heart attack Hillcrest in their final handful of games. Fans knew that no matter what deficit Hillcrest faced in the second or third inning, the Lady Comets would pull together a multi-run inning in the final few frames. So when Hillcrest fell behind in the first inning on the back of three errors, there was hope.

In the bottom of the first Hillcrest put a run on the board after giving up 4 runs in the first. Senior Annie Murphy reached first base on a single, stole second during Sophie Iverson's at bat, and scored after Iverson tripled.

The Comets looked to continue their bounce back in the second after Senior Emma Royce walked to first base. Tara Fercrenzy hit Royce around to start what looked to be a rally inning. After Karina Larson walked and a few Comets made the pitcher work, Jordan Matranga walked to load the bases. With one out Hillcrest looked to bounce back with a full deck of base runners. 

With Megan Aasness stepping in with a tight strike zone and quick feet on the base path, Hillcrest's base coaches were leaning in to see what would happen. But after Aasness popped out to the pitcher and Annie Murphy followed suit with a ground out the Comets grabbed their gloves to curb more damage on the field having left the bases loaded.

Nicole DeKok did good work from the mound considering only two of her pitches were working. Primarily using her fastball and changeup, DeKok earned 5 strike outs and retired 12 batters in a row after a four run 1st inning where 3 of the runs were unearned. 

The Comets saw great production from the bottom of the lineup, who went 2 for 8 with 6 walks and all 3 Comet runs. As the Comets look forward to next season they have building blocks in place to make another run at the playoffs, despite losing state steals record holder Megan Aasness. The Lady Comets close their books with an 11-7 record.

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