I was a student of birds from birth. As a child, I  knew where every nest in the neighborhood was hidden, how many eggs it contained, and when they hatched. I watched with fascination as the parent birds exhausted themselves stuffing all those gaping, demanding mouths with every manner of creepy-crawliness.

Before long, one by one, the young fledglings left their cozy nests. And now, you would think, the parents’ work was done when in truth, this is where the pace picked up. No longer protected in the safety of close quarters in high trees, the young adult birds were wide open to hawks, cats, and cars. The parents flew around frantically trying to locate each bright-eyed “baby” and tide him over with food while he learned to fend for himself.

As a parent of an impending or recent high school graduate, you can probably relate to the birds. Leaving home for the first time is an exciting and frightening time for both students and their parents. At Hillcrest, we realize our mission is not to produce complete, finished adults on graduation day.

Our mission is to equip students to live lives of eternal significance. Our motto is, “Live, Learn, Go.” The class of 2017 has dispersed from our familiar hallways last May  like so many seeds on a windy day. They are off, settling into new communities all over the country and the world. We are not physically able to run around after them to make sure they are safe and well-fed and cared for.

This past week, I have been busy connecting with our most recent graduates, collecting their college addresses and just generally popping in via social media to see how they are getting on with new roomies and classes. I am encouraging each of them to seek community in fellow Christians, I am asking how I can pray for them during this time of intense transition. Their responses have been enlightening.

Whether near or very far, secular or Christian, many are homesick. They miss Hillcrest and the sense of safety and inclusiveness they once took for granted. Most are overwhelmed by the sheer size of their universities and the complexity of their schedules. Some have already located Christian clubs, others are promising they’ll look. After hearing these precious students that I have grown so fond of, I am more motivated than ever to pray for them and I hope you will join me.

Prayer is flying down to check on them. Prayer is chasing away the cats. Prayer is bringing them the Bread of Life that they need to survive. Prayer is posturing ourselves to acknowledge the One who cares more for these young people than we can even imagine--One who is certain to finish the good work He began in miraculous ways. Let me share one story with you:

I spoke recently with one international student from the class of 2016. Since leaving Hillcrest and going off to a state university hundreds of miles from Fergus Falls “Q” has become increasingly outspoken and evangelistic about his faith. He had mentioned to me that he was flying out to another university across the country to “visit some friends and preach the gospel.”I did not remember where it was he had said he was going.

Yesterday, I heard from another student, a 2017 grad whom I had encouraged to seek out a Christian club for support. “A” told me that she had already done so but that she was confused and disappointed to learn that the Christians she had met were just as prone to partying as everyone else on campus--holding their weekly party right next door to a church. I told her not to give up hope, but to keep looking for people who could encourage her in her faith. She sent me a note today asking, “Do you remember “Q?” He is here--visiting my campus today and I am leaving now to meet up with him.” Do you see what just happened? God sent “manna” for “A” in the form of a former fellow classmate! I have no doubt that “Q” will be a tremendous source of encouragement to this sweet girl’s faith.

We are a small school that embraces students for only a small fraction of their lives. Yet these are years that are formative and life-defining so that the effects of Hillcrest are long-lasting and deep. As we shift into cooler fall weather and you see signs of the transition to a new school year, may God prompt you to pray for our young people and, in so doing, help mobilize this generation to change our world.

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