SO MUCH MORE
THAN A DIPLOMA
SO MUCH MORE
THAN A DIPLOMA
SO MUCH MORE
THAN JUST SHORT-TERM
SO MUCH MORE
THAN JUST SHORT-TERM
Since 2009, Hillcrest senior's have traveled to the Dominican Republic. These short term mission opportunities have had an enduring impact on the student body, but there is also desire to ensure a lasting impact on the people of the Dominican. To that end, Hillcrest began a ministry partnership with a Christian grade school in a barrio of San Pedro named Santa Fe. Santa Fe is an impoverished area comprised of about seventy percent Haitian immigrants. The school has an enrollment of about 150 students which meet in two separate shifts when Hillcrest arrived in 2009.
A large part of Hillcrest's ministry on the ground in the Dominican Republic takes place in this school. Their campus consisted of nothing more than an open dirt yard with two concrete classrooms, surrounded by a fence made mostly of scrap metal. On the mission team's first stop at the school they spent time cleaning and repainting desks and chalkboards, helping the school to make the best out of the limited resources available. On subsequent visits to the school, Hillcrest has seen an explosion in the school's reach. Classrooms have been added, a water bottling factory now provides the school with income that will enable it to continue long after God calls Hillcrest to another mission location.
This is a whole new world. It is very loud. Horns honk nonsensically. It is extremely dirty. Beyond what I could have imagined. Trash is strewn everywhere.
After unloading bags from the bus the first day there was a swell of voices ascending from the concrete stairwell. The boys left their bunks with backpacks disheveled. Some stumbled out the door with one shoe on and one in hand. The girls walked gingerly through aisles between their bunks, working to lay claim to new beds. The noise evaporated from the building, soft echos could be heard outside, as the boys sprinted down the sidewalk to a nearby park to play basketball.
Teenagers swarmed the park and a pick-up Basketball game was followed by a series of Gospel presentations. Various team members shared the reason we are in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican streets are filled with people hungry for something more than sport.
Sam Isaac practices conversational evangelism tools gained in the mission training used to equip students for street evangelism.
Boarding a bus in the Dominican heat, we departed the mission house and arrived in a muted neighborhood. The quietness was eerie as we stepped off the bus. Colors weren't as bright in this part of the island. We were sent out, door-to-door, to share the Gospel. Darkness covered the rough neighborhood we were evangelizing. Nervous excitement filled my heart. It seemed like there were incessant prayers for the Lord to speak through us. Every step I took was filled with a short prayer. This pace prepared us for day two.
We woke up the next morning at 5 a.m. to what sounded like a choking hyena, marking our second day in the Dominican Republic. I'm told that’s what roosters sound like here. Between cackles, I drifted in and out of sleep until the call for breakfast.
There was a slight dance to our shuffling feet in the breakfast line, syncopated beats are constantly in the air in the Dominican. We hustle to grab water bottles before boarding the bus to visit a christian school. Poverty cannot be escaped. Though they have little, the kids are filled with joy.
We transition from the poor Christian school to our sister school, Santa Fe. After walking through the gated fence all the senior boys became “caballos” (horses). The school yard was a shower of dust and bubbles. The mothers needed to turn their eyes from our dirty faces. Smiles are brighter in a face caked with dirt.
The following events are a blur because of the evening street evangelism. It's exhilarating.
In the first moments of going door-to-door for the second time in two days I made a new friend. His name is Jerry. Reggie Undseth and I shared the Gospel with him. Closing our time in prayer, we shook hands and continued down the street, thoughts moving to the next people we would share Jesus with.
As we turned the corner of one of the dusty, make shift street, I saw Jerry in the distance. He wasn't alone. Five friends flanked Jerry, whose smile was contagious. Jerry informed us that his five friends wanted to hear the message of the Gospel from “los americanos.” We said Jesus' name a lot in the next few minutes, showing the release from sin in Christ after identifying the pain of sin.
We left the boys smiling, eventually meandering back to the church for a worship service. During the boisterous singing and clapping, six young boys stepped from the darkness of the street to the church stoop. Their faces lit up the room. All five of Jerry's friends showed up to the church service, Jerry by their side, and we praised the Lord together, as brothers.
Hillcrest provides an opportunity within the academic program for students to participate in local missions. This course engages students in mission opportunities in the Fergus Falls area and helps them to gain context for living a missional life through studying God's Word and reading mission-focused texts.
In addition, there are plenty of opportunities for local mission involvement outside of the school day via service projects, local church outreach, volunteering and through organizations like 40 Days For Life.
Church Planters Visiting HLA
Church planter Erick Sorensen spoke to Hillcrest students encouraging them in God's word to share their faith as he spoke of his work in New York City.
The Evangelism Club materialized days after church planter Erick Sorensen spoke at Bethel Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls about his New York City mission, Epiphany Lutheran Church. His presentations inspired a group of students to embrace conversational evangelism. The new group was a reprise on mission trips Hillcrest has taken over the past 10 years that place students in real world setting to share their faith.
Over the years Hillcrest has led conversational evangelistic trips to places like Missouri, Biloxi, Minneapolis, and Chicago. These trips took students inside the FermiLab in Chicago, sharing their faith through conversation and calling out truths in museums and on the streets. Students served in hurricane ravaged communities in Texas and Mississippi.
Hillcrest has a strong history in evangelistic opportunities, now offering an evangelism club that teaches advanced tools to students on engaging in conversation, offering real world environments in the Minneapolis area. This training is in an effort to equip students to partner with churches in their college and and adult life in reaching their communities for Christ. Hillcrest continues to bring in church planters to bring encouragement and offer opportunities for students to continue their conversational evangelism practices after Hillcrest.
Leaders Visit Hillcrest
Ryan Nilsen is a Hillcrest graduate who is a leader in the Fifth Act Church Planting initiative. The group is a ministry arm of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America. Their visit to Hillcrest's Evangelism Club was met with practical ways Hillcrest is training students to engage in their future church ministries.