Rings of water puddle under lemonade on backyard patios. Facebook inbox dings interrupt morning coffee. Slapping mosquitos on the board walk at Bible camps. These are a few quick snapshots from Hillcrest staff who are continuing to connect with students during the summer.

One interaction with a former international student popped into email inboxes this week. The student was raised in a country where religious practices aren't normal. The student's Hillcrest experience set him up for a life of eternal significance that is bearing fruit in college.

The student was raised in what he calls a sorrow-free environment. He was satisfied with a life without God, never feeling pushed to search for answers to big questions before his fourteenth birthday. But a neighbor met him on a sidewalk one day and opened a new world to the student. It was shortly before this student would travel to the United States for school, and their sidewalk conversations led the student to consider big questions in life. 

The student wondered why he hadn't been brought to big questions before. He found a horizon that was bursting with color as he explored ultimate purpose and meaning. He found intense interest in the Bible, learning about the Gospel through stories of life-change in Biblical characters and Christians he was meeting in his home country. 

The student ventured to a boarding school with his fledgling faith and big questions. The school threw weight on the student. Regulations and forcing fruit caused slow faith growth and the student's faith and questions seemed to shrivel. The student looked for other boarding school options with greater grace to open fields of freedom. 

The student came to Hillcrest in his junior year. Through dorm interactions and classroom discussions the student found mentorship and friendship. In his senior year the student was called to practice his faith, explaining fundamental insights in Christianity to searching roommate. The student was mentored in his discussions with his roommate, seeking answers from Hillcrest staff while finding love and support. 

In Graduating from Hillcrest, the student said he was leaving with a deeper knowledge of the Bible, drawing him into deeper faith. He is quoted in the school newspaper saying, "Leaving Hillcrest, I want to study more about God - Learn more about Him." 

After graduation a host of Hillcrest staff reached out to the graduates. A letter writing station was set up where Hillcrest students sent notes of encouragement to the graduates from the year before. Facebook messages started trains of conversation where big questions were followed by quick updates and emojis. 

Through Facebook staff heard the student made a strong commitment to a church, being encouraged to do so as the student approached graduation at Hillcrest. The church called the student to deeper faith, encouraging the student to rest in the gift of baptism. The student wrote to Hillcrest's staff member: "I was told the importance of being baptized, so I decided that I cannot wait anymore. The biggest thing I learned these days is the resurrection is happening everyday in our life. I appreciate everything you taught me about Our Lord Jesus in Hillcrest."

The student is in summer school now, volunteering at a local hospital. He continues to attend church on Sundays, going to various Bible studies throughout the week. He told the staff member, "I need the Word of God. It is life to me!"

The student was asked how we can pray for him. He said, "That I will grow more and more in the things of God's spirit." So, the staff member prayed with him on the phone, and then had the student pray for her. And he made her cry. He prayed for all of HIllcrest, the teachers and staff, he prayed for our students this year and those who have graduated. 

The student spoke of his Hillcrest roommate who was searching. They are planning to connect in the coming years. Their questions formed at Hillcrest are an ongoing conversation that drives the students to deeper discussions and thoughts on God and His character, with the student pulling the conversation to Scripture.

Preparing students to live lives or eternal significance is happening. Students come to us for such a short time and we launch them out, unfinished and incomplete. But God is at work to finish what he's begun, equipping them with everything they need for purpose and godliness. 

We thank God that we get to partner with Him in this amazing, life-transforming work of grace! Good things are happening, friends! What more can we expect in the year ahead?

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