African Students Find Home at Hillcrest 100 Years After Trailblazing Missionary
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.
The Lutheran Brethren had a decades old ministry to China at this point. Revne knew his future was in missions. But when his letter from the Lutheran Brethren’s mission organization directed him to China he politely declined. He felt called to another people.
The Lord has established an incredible ministry in the Church of Lutheran Brethren (CLB) through their Bible school and high school, what would grow into Hillcrest Academy. Numerous churches have been planted and grown from students attending the Bible school and high school departments from the CLB. A four-star general stood next to President George W. Bush during 9-11 after his training. Countless philanthropists and business leaders have made a significant impact in the country after their training. And of special interest here, the mission focus in Africa was passed along to Revne in his formative education.
The emphasis on understanding the world from a Biblical perspective, studying general revelation, was significantly impacted by the CLB's view of law and grace that comes across in every class. This teaching and preaching to see and communicate the Gospel opened and is continuing to open the eyes of students to see the entire world from God's perspective, propelling many to foreign lands. In the overall history of the Bible school and Hillcrest Academy, there is a foundational reality that students respond to the Gospel at Hillcrest. It was first realized in men like Revne 100 years ago, but continues.
From this foundation Hillcrest has continued to see the Lord open opportunities to minister to places that He first directed missionaries at the outset of these two powerful training institutions. What we see now at Hillcrest is that trailblazers of the CLB traveled thousands of miles overseas and opened a door in the hearts of Hillcrest to receive students traveling the same distances from places like African and China. The people Hillcrest and Bible school students bravely ventured into unknown territories to reach are now boarding planes to receive the training these trailblazing missionaries had.
This year, Hillcrest has over 5% of their student body from Africa. The path that Revne paved in 1918 is becoming a well worn road into classrooms that first called Revne to proclaim the Gospel to a hungry generation yearning for the Gospel on the African continent.
Revne prophetically announced that his path would become a well groomed path. What he likely didn't forsee was this path would be traveled by student looking for the training he had in the Gospel. His letter to the 1920 Lutheran Brethren National Convention is eyeopening to what he saw happening in venturing into the heart of Africa.. He wrote:
An air route from Algeria to Lake Chad and Congo is in the planning, so the prospects are that missionaries can make the trip from the center of Africa to France in just a few days. Oh, yes, some of you probably sit and smile at my optimism. Just go ahead and smile (Ja, ja, bare smil were the words written in Norwegian). But, I believe that airplanes will be no small factor in spreading the Gospel, especially in Africa. I for one won't waste much time in thinking about this kind of a trip if a couple of months of travel time can be saved by plane travel.
Little did Revne know that his letter written nearly 100 years ago would be read by a host of staff at Hillcrest Academy as a pin in the board of God's faithfulness. God continues to expand the reach and scope of Hillcrest Academy. Students from around the world are coming to Hillcrest to be trained in the Gospel. Because of trail blazers like Berge Revne, we have an affinity and comfort with how God calls foreign nations to unite under the banner of Jesus Christ as Hillcrest Comets.