Students have gathered on these front steps for decades. When these students pulled together for the picture on the front steps I got a little choked up. There is a faithfulness that spans generations, which enables students to continue meeting on these steps. Thank you for your ongoing interest and generos partnership with Hillcrest, helping us give more kids the opportunity to meet on these steps!
There is a headstone on Hillcrest's campus that I haven't really noticed until now. It is a marker commemorating the life of E.M. Broen. Broen was a strong voice for Hillcrest, founding it out of the Lutheran Brethren Schools (LBS) in 1916. He tragically died in Norway on an evangelistic tour in 1938. The school and his family could not afford to transport his earthly remains back to U.S. soil, so he is buried in Norway. The school erected a headstone that sits in front of a patio facing the Castle to celebrate the life of its founder. In studying this man I have grown to see the steady hand of God on Hillcrest Academy.
Hillcrest's tradition of banquets goes back many years, still holding many traditions. In the fledgling days to the banquets students would receive small booklets to have friends sign, a virtual polaroid that snapped the memories in their hearts and minds. Today, students participate in a photo-booth that does many of the same things the signing books did nearly 100 years ago.
Shelly Choi and Kjetil Nilsen started dating three weeks before graduation. Their last minute romance turned into a marriage proposal nearly two years later, another captivating love story found under the Hillcrest steeple. But, in a recent visit to Hillcrest the couple found a renewed focus for obstacles facing their marriage as they were reminded of the simple love commitment they found at Hillcrest in 2015.
Shelly attended Hillcrest her sophomore and junior year, but left the first semester of her senior year. She attended a junior college in Seattle, hoping to get a jump on her future. But after a few weeks she realized she made a mistake. She missed more than the rolling hills surrounding Fergus Falls, she longed for the close-knit, intentional community of Hillcrest.
Kjetil journeyed to Hillcrest on recommendation of Spiritual mentors in Danielsen School in Bergen, Norway. His elder friends shared that Hillcrest was a great place to build one's faith. Kjetil grew in maturity and leadership during his time at Hillcrest, taking every opportunity to build friendships while growing in confidence in his faith as he plugged in to the worship team.
The two met when Shelly surprised friends in returning to Hillcrest mid-way through her senior year. Unable to sleep due to excitement, Shelly woke early for breakfast and stood as the first person in line for the doors to open to the cafeteria on a chilly January morning following Hillcrest's Christmas vacation. Kjetil was an early riser, and noticed that Shelly was new and, taking every advantage of his American experience, easily introduced himself and started to build a friendship. Little did he know this friendship would later lead to a set of rings that communicate a life-changing promise.
Shelly first realized her feelings for Kjetil at the Junior-Senior banquet, where the two agreed they would accompany each other because of their ongoing friendship formed over a bowl of cereal in Hillcrest's cafeteria. After the banquet, the two went on a handful of dates, resolving to work on their relationship as they faced the looming graduation weekend, where Shelly would travel back to South Korea and Kjetil would join his friends on a plane bound for Bergen, Norway.
Graduation weekend felt like a slap in the face, but the two turned the other cheek, determined to Skype over the next year. Their tear-filled goodbye in the Perkins parking lot lingered before Shelly folded into the back seat of a van bound for the airport while Kjetil hugged friends with tears in his eyes.
Skype was not ideal to communicate, but the two committed to work through the distance to continue their relationship. Shelly eventually joined Kjetil in Norway, serving at a missionary training center which gave her a visa to stay in Norway for longer than a few weeks. Kjetil proposed in August 2016, and the two planned weddings in South Korea and Norway. The melding of cultures seemed natural for Kjetil and Shelly, who exercised cross-cultural communication skills through their time at Hillcrest, honing their abilities to relate to foreign cultures in the fledgling days of their marriage. However, the greatest challenge lay around the corner, and was more serious than deciding on kimchi or lefse for their dinner sides.
After unpacking wedding gifts, and placing their wedding album on the shelf of their new home, Kjetil and Shelly were met with difficult news. Kjetil would need to work nearly full-time to reach the income level Norway requires for an immigrant spouse visa. Kjetil is in the middle of a program to become a dentist, and doesn't have time nor energy to work full-time. The stress was nearly unbearable, causing significant questioning on God's goodness to grow like weeds in soil of their young love. It was in the middle of this storm that the two decided they needed to take a trip to the seedbed of their love, Hillcrest Academy.
When the two arrived at Hillcrest there was an initial shroud that justified their trip. They thought they were simply visiting friends and connecting with Kjetil's cousin who is currently attending Hillcrest. However, what the two discovered is that the trip is saving their hope in their future in Norway.
Lunch dates with Hillcrest faculty and late night conversations in the home of former teachers have encouraged the couple. Shelly confessed, "I really needed this trip. I was questioning God a lot...now, I have hope in what He is doing."
Shelly and Kjetil both confessed that seeing former teachers and mentors who are desperately concerned with the couple's relationship with God, church attendance, and how they're integrating their faith into their marriage has been a balm on a wound of early marriage struggles. They have seen the strength in marriage of former teachers, some of whom have dealt with their own difficulties in obtaining a visa for their spouse. In these poignant moments of reconnecting the two have found a new resolve to face the obstacles that are waiting for them in Norway, a renewed focus after a hearty reprieve in Fergus Falls.
As students closed the day a group of nearly 40 students gathered in the middle of the gym to continue their time of prayer. With staff and teachers in an inservice meeting, the students put a capstone on Prayer Day, expecting to see more movement in their student body similar to the changes the class of 1908 saw begin in the winter of 1907.
President Hoganson sat down with a few students this week to give a quick update on some of his travels, and to share some personal answers to important student questions.
In 1914 Berge Revne sat in a stuffy classroom in Grand Forks, North Dakota listening to a tear-filled teacher. Revne's collared shirts were tucked into his slacks, and his blue eyes and boyish blonde hair gave away his Norwegian roots. His chruch history class was taught in his native tongue, and through the Norwegian language, and this simple course in church history, Revne’s heart was pricked for the African continent.
Depression Era Instructor Highlights Spiritual Growth at Hillcrest and Foreshadows Continued Formation
In 1922 S.L. Klyve was added to the Lutheran Brethren Bible School faculty. He served in teaching and training ministry-minded individuals.
His class record book documents a difficult time at Hillcrest. Klyve was known as a man with keen spiritual insight, added to the Lutheran Brethren School’s faculty to enhance the Bible training for pastors in an era of growth and expansion in the Lutheran Brethren church.
However, in 1931, Klyve took a leave from the Bible School due to the impact of the Depression on the schools. He returned in 1936 to once again bolster and enhance the pastoral training. He noted in 1929 that the school was taking on a different look than many thought. While many thought of LBS as a Bible school, he noted that the high school department was growing at a larger and faster rate than the Bible school, concerning to some who saw the schools as a primary training ground for pastors.
Klyve would later write a testimony to the importance of the high school department in the Bible School for young individuals, noting that, “What we have is a high school with a Bible department.”
Kylve would go on to note that this change didn’t impact the spiritual emphasis of the school, but more was a remark to the age of the students who were attending the school at that time. It was said that one could be as godly as seventeen as at twenty-seven, but he would express his Christian faith and life somewhat differently.
The class of 1926 had a picnic to celebrate their senior year. Gathered on picnic tables they reminisced on their year, a year that changed their lives. This now tight-knit group of kids sat on picnic tables posing for a picture we view nearly 100 years later because God used a man to cast a vision for Hillcrest that held eternal significance.
President Brad Hoganson gave the address below as part of his introduction to the staff at Hillcrest. Speaking to his time at Hillcrest where he gained a perspective that he has "never met a mere mortal," Brad draws from Acts 1 and 2 to give a small picture of what it means to give someone an eternally significant gift when they may be looking for something simple.
It was way back in the fall when we first stood in line to register. Some of us stood there with great big lumps in our throats and felt as if we were only hands and feet. Then after registration we went up to our bare rooms, threw ourselves on the bed and cried oceans of tears. After a while a friendly senior came in and persuaded us to come out and meet some of the nicest girls we have ever seen, and before long we began to feel right at home.
Joel notes there is a distinct future for Hillcrest that is fulfilling God's design. He is starting to see a different future for God’s work at Hillcrest. “I don’t think we can imagine the harvest...the seed doesn’t know that the gardener sees and has an expectation of the harvest. There has been a harvest, but the coming one may be larger.”
To my disappointment, a week later the flowers seemed smaller and faded. I took a closer look and discovered several plants were lying on top of the ground and other flowers were dry. Hungry rabbits had chewed and jerked some, and the others were suffering from days without rain.
"Then after registration we went up to our bare rooms, threw ourselves on the bed and cried oceans of tears. After a while a friendly senior came in and persuaded us to come out and meet some of the nicest girls we have ever seen, and before long we began to feel right at home."
Two things strike me about the 2017 Senior class verse. One is that these high achieving seniors recognize their fears. And second, that they know confidence is found in their relationship with God!
The phrase “its rights and privileges” has often intrigued me. You have heard the phrase. On May 28th, I will address the HLA Class of 2017 “Upon recommendation of Mr. Isaac, Hillcrest Lutheran Academy Principal, and by virtue of the authority…granted by the Hillcrest Board of Directors, it is my privilege to award you the Hillcrest Lutheran Academy High School Diploma with all of its rights and privileges.”
A couple of weeks ago, I put down my foamy razor for a pen and paper to jot down the composer and name of an amazing arrangement playing on our “easy listening” TV channel. I thought, "I want this CD, and I’m going to recommend our music department perform the number.”
To the Colossians (2:20, 3:1), Paul wrote “Since you died with Christ…” and “Since you have been raised with Christ…” Since we died with Christ, the messages and expectations of natural philosophies (worldviews) have nothing for us. They lack power for changing our lives and they offer no eternal hope.