Hillcrest's school year is winding down, but students are gearing up for a special part of Hillcrest's tag line, "Live, Learn, Go." The marketing slogan was most recently lived out on Thursday's National Day of Prayer as the school sent a delegation to Morning Son Christian School and Nelson Ford to share the fruits of their annual Dominican Mission Trip.
The sanctuary at the First Church of the Nazarene filled with rows of children sitting politely as principal Tessa Martinson introduced the grade school's special service marking the National Day of Prayer. Turning the microphone to Gregg Preston from Hillcrest, Tessa watched her orderly grade school participate in boisterous songs, releasing the pent-up energy present in every grade school student.
Following a time of song, the Dominican Mission team, led by Senior Jake Isaac, transitioned to share their experiences on the trip. Evan Malmstrom spoke to how the team used sports like Basketball and Softball to earn the right to be heard by athletes in parks at the Dominican. Evan detailed how the team played sports, holding a special meeting following the games to communicate why a group from Minnesota traveled all the way to the Dominican Republic. Malmstrom's depiction drew the team back to the dust covered courts and sweaty faces they interacted with as they competed in the Dominican heat. The group was taken back to the joy they experienced as Evan told of countless numbers who would come forward when introduced to the Gospel. Senior Maddie Veum echoed Evan's sentiment, sharing how God used the Hillcrest team to open doors that Dominican softball, basketball and boxing coaches were hoping to break through to share their faith. Veum noted that God used the team to plant seeds that will bear a harvest of people committed to living for Jesus Christ for years to come.
Gregg Preston transitioned the attention from athletics to orphanages, calling Senior Jared Christenson to the microphone. Christenson shared the touching experience he had in visiting a home for orphans with severe disabilities. Sharing how he froze, feeling sorry for the children as he stood in the doorway of the orphanage room that held bedridden boys with baseball caps and toddlers confined to wheelchairs. As time stood still for Jared, he recalled how one small child wheeled over to him, grabbing his hand, leading him to a bed side to introduce him to the friends that were members of the small community. Christenson identified how the students at Morning Son were able to walk and talk, a blessing not often thought of on a daily basis. However, the experience in the Dominican Republic showed Jared that joy is not bound in physical health or material possessions, but in a loving God who cares for the infirmed and the healthy.
Preston then transitioned the focus from sharing Christ to receiving the love of Jesus personally. Calling senior JK Lee to the front, Preston asked Lee to share his testimony. Highlighting his family's athiesm, Lee shared how teachers and friends at Hillcrest painted a picture of a world with God. Understanding that the world made more sense with God than without Him, Lee told students He was led by the Holy Spirit to place his faith in Jesus Christ, culminating in sharing Jesus with the people of the Dominican Republic and being baptized in the Caribbean Sea.
A small group of students broke from the large group of twenty to share their trip with a local sponsor, Nelson Ford. Gathering in a breakroom filled with Nelson Ford employees, the students filled plates with pizza and started to explain what has happened in the Dominican Republic since the local dealership started partnering with the school. Gregg Preston gave a synopsis of the Santa Fe school, the project most impacted by the local car dealership. Painting a picture of a dilapitated barn where nearly 50 students gathered daily in the Dominican humidity and scorching heat to attend school, Preston spoke to the dramatic transformation that has taken place. People in the Dominican Republic know and appreciate Nelson Ford, notably for the dealership's offering of the Drive For Your School event, where Hillcrest has raised nearly $8000 that has enabled the school to purchase the land the school resides on, build a roof, second story, and being a third story for the main school building. The enhancements have enabled the school to set its sights on a 200 person student body with the plan of building a business on the school's grounds to enable the school to be self-sufficient. Preston communicated how the dealership has enabled fund raising of 1/3 of the purchase for a water factory, the school's small business plan, with hopes Hillcrest can complete the other 2/3 of the fundraising through Fergus Falls community sponsors to allow the school to sustain its ministry for years to come.
As the luncheon ended the Nelson family remained with students, talking through the impact the trip has made on the students' personal and professional lives. Laurel Nelson urged the students to explore opportunities in their careers to make a significant difference in the world. As the team drove back to Hillcrest they were reminded of the school's slogan; live, learn, go. For these students traveling from Canada, South Korea, Virginia, and Fergus Falls, they have lived life together at Hillcrest, learned of God's world, and have gone to the far reaches of the United States to share their knowledge.