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.

In 1903, then LBS President E.M. Broen led a service dedicating the schools to the Lord’s service. He preached from  Zechariah 4:1-10, finding striking similarities between a remnant that desired to serve the Lord in Israel and what he called the “courageous pioneers” launching LBS. Broen noted that both groups faced a mountain of obstacles, drawing out fears that their work would be in vain. But in all this, Broen’s voice must’ve sounded like a confident warrior when he spoke of the work in founding the schools, saying the words from Zechariah, “Not by might nor by power, saith the Lord, but by my spirit.”

I’ve read that Broen was completely convinced that the God who worked miracles in the past, like those in Zechariah, would also perform miracles of grace in the founding of the school. He noted a few small miracles, the forming of teachers and students into a school body, and the impressive show of support from the Church of the Lutheran Brethren in founding the schools. He especially noted the prayers of praying friends who were desperately concerned with training youth to know Jesus Christ. In all this, there is one simple phrase that is captivating me. Broen said, quoting Zechariah, “Despise not the day of small beginnings.” Those small beginnings are continuing to have an everlasting impact one hundred and fourteen years later.

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