Students shuffled between rows of chairs to circled groups Wednesday morning at Hillcrest. The groups were a small sample of the Hillcrest community. A junior high student sat amidst a student from Norway, one from Asia, and a handful of friends from the United States. There were over 16 groups, each led by a student from the senior class who would usher in the purpose of their gathering.
Sam Ihrke, Hillcrest's chaplain, has a gameplan to have a Hillcrest Huddle each month. The huddle time divides the student body into groups for a time of focused prayer, guided conversation, and meaningful practices. On Wednesday, the group prayed for friends who are now Hillcrest graduates.
The time opened with a reading from John 17, followed by a guided conversation on the purpose of Jesus prayer for unity. Three bullets followed the series of questions on the leader's worksheet. "Spend time praying for unity, a spirit of inclusiveness --everyone belongs, and No student left out or left behind." The simple call to prayer led some groups to visit on how connected they feel after homecoming week. The conversation seamlessly moved into the next exercise.
Bibles passed from senior leader to Asian, Norwegian, African, or American students in the small groups. The thin pages of the Bibles led to a chorus of reading as if each group started reading in cue, slightly ahead or behind the group next to them. Ephesians 1:16-20 was read, and students began praying for their classmates, solidifying the spirit of unity in the student body.
Prayers for wisdom and a revelation of God's character were spoken on behalf of students for their friends. Some prayed that the eyes of hearts would be enlightened to have confidence in their calling in life. Others prayed that friends would know the riches of what they've inherited and the power that is available in Christ.
Following the prayer time, leaders read Philippians 1:3-6, which led them to pray for Hillcrest grads in college, at home, and in the military. Some jotted notes behind names on a list of the class of 2017. Luke Bowman is in the Naval Academy. Lexi Gray is taking a gap year to process her future. Sophia Iverson is at MSCTC in Moorhead. Ellen Jacobs is seeking God's calling at Olivet Nazarene University. The names and college plans rolled off tounges of students who prayed for last year's class of seniors who are now encountering homesickness, a new environment that might be boosting or hindering their faith formation, and opportunities to share faith in Jesus Christ with classmates.
The prayer time closed with a reading of Hebrews 12:1-3. Glimpses of the great cloud of witnesses was evident as students considered the way they were living the Biblical passage.
Suddenly, groups closed their Bibles. Tables in the middle of the chapel and main building gym were visited by members from each group who were seeking note cards, lined paper, and colored pencils. They gingerly walked back to their prayer circles where each student wrote a personal note to their friends at college, communicating that every member of the class of 2017 was prayed for.
Dawn Synstelien is collecting the notecards as you read this, ensuring that each graduate from 2017 receives a personalized note that communicates they have been prayed for by name by the school that dearly loves them and prays for them continually.