WHAT STUDENTS SAY
Victoria Synstelien tucked her chin inside the collar of her jacket -- the wind whips hard in the streets of Fargo in November. Victoria stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle of Hillcrest students singing Amazing Grace. Above them a sign read “Red River Women’s Clinic,” North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic at the time. It was here that Victoria received a voice for the voiceless.
Victoria sang softly in front of the abortion clinic. The song sheets provided by Pastor Rich Iverson led the students through a series of hymns and Scripture readings. Speaking truth in front of a place of confusion made a strong impression on Victoria. She built a reasoned defense for the pro-life position in class at Hillcrest, but getting on the streets stirred something eternally significant in her soul.
“The beauty of what Hillcrest does in praying and singing outside the abortion clinic often gets a negative view from the pro-choice side because of the pro-life extremists,” Victoria said. She’s a junior at a State University now, and is excited that Hillcrest still takes students to sing and pray at abortion clinics. “Standing out there made it more real. In class it was a discussion, but singing on the street made abortion more real.”
With a Biblical grounding in defending the right to life, and forming strong muscles to stand and pray for life with Hillcrest staff and students, Victoria is setting out to engage her college community to care for women and children.
Victoria works in a childcare facility down the hall from her college classrooms, caring for the children of staff and students from her University. She played an integral part in reviving the campus Students for Life group, serving as the President for the campus-recognized organization. Their leadership team is taking strong steps in ministering on their campus and with local crisis pregnancy centers.
“College campuses are a huge target for abortion, but unless you’re on a campus, as a student, it’s hard to help,” Victoria noted, sharing the importance of the mentorship she receives from the local centers that care for women in unplanned pregnancies. “The organizations really can’t do much [inside college campuses without student support]. We’re not mainly focused against abortion. We’re supporting people in crisis pregnancies, helping them see there are more options than abortion.”
Hillcrest’s Biblical training instilled a strong foundation for Victoria’s pro-life passion. Trips to the abortion clinic set a structure to minister to those facing crisis. And through continued support and encouragement from faculty and staff, Victoria is housing a caring community where she connects with people in challenging positions and speaks life into difficult situations.
Challenging Missions Experiences
Hillcrest’s senior mission trip is not simply a mercy experience. Where some schools will hold a capstone experience for students to experience a foreign culture, Hillcrest holds an evangelism trip that challenges students. The Senior class mission experience to the Dominican Republic is part of a decades long emphasis on getting students to foreign cultures to share the Gospel. Students are armed with a Bible and evangelism tools to communicate the Gospel to people on the streets. These challenges encapsulate the training students receive in the classroom, where they are pushed to link everything in creation to the glory of God.
Training in Evangelism
Hillcrest not only equips students to share their faith in the classrooms and through chapel, but pushes students to express their faith in public places. The Evangelism club is the most direct way Hillcrest students are trained and equipped to share their faith. Students go through a series of trainings and experiences that put them on streets in Minneapolis and Chicago where they strike up conversation to understand people and share the love of Jesus. Using their apologetics training, students highlight proofs and examples of God in the world. In learning how to hold meaningful conversations, students build muscles to listen and work to hone discernment on how God is speaking to individuals as they share their story. Students humbly and prayerfully exercise linking people’s stories to the Gospel, equipped with habits and experiences in evangelism.