30 years ago Hillcrest president Brad Hoganson was a dean in the dormitories at Hillcrest. 21 students from the Danielsen School in Bergen, Norway boarded a plane bound for the United States. They took a bus from Minneapolis to Fergus Falls, Minnesota before Facetime and social media. Their parents were awful brave. They were pioneers in many ways.
Little did we know then what God would have in store for this program. We are seeing second generations of Danielsen students now attend Hillcrest. This year marks the 30th year of this program.
Birger Danielsen, the headmaster at the Danielsen School in Bergen, Norway, gave an address to a capacity crowd at the 2019 graduation at Hillcrest Academy. Below is Mr. Danielsen’s address, commemorating a 30 year friendship with Hillcrest Academy that is strong and powerful as it continues to impact students from around the world.
Dear students, teachers, parents, and staff. Dear friends and colleagues. Congratulations on making it to the end of the school year. To the Danielsen students, congratulations on being group number 30 from Bergen at Hillcrest. You bring the total number of Danielsen students who attended Hillcrest close to 800 since the fall of 1989.
There are a lot of Norwegians who have memories from your teachings, Mr. Preston. What a gift, and what a responsibility. Thank you. Among them is my brother, Jan Magnus, who attended in the year 2000.
Thank you to the brave pioneers who started this crazy idea between Danielsen Skole and Hillcrest Academy back in 1989. Thank you to the present leadership at Hillcrest for still putting forth hard effort into it all.
The big picture, you have a very successful and unique partnership in Norwegian and American school history. You probably do not read the Norwegian Common Law very often over here. This program fulfills important intentions in the Common Law in Norway. And similar, the law for private schools in our country.
This appreciation for our partnership comes also from someone who was also an exchange student in his junior year in high school. I apologize that I did not attend Hillcrest. But, my parents lived down the street for one year in 1995-96, and I visited many times. Your community’s hospitality and hard effort as Christian educators will make an impact in students for their lifetime.
International exchange programs are important because students learn to see differences and similarities, they get new perspectives. Afterwards, when they come home, they can compare thoughts and ideas with integrity because they have experienced different cultures.
I cherish my personal experience as an exchange student. I have memories. I learned a new language. I learned to miss my parents. I made new friends. I missed my friends back home. I had very good days, I had some bad days, and lived quite a few ordinary days. I progressed in academics. Most importantly, coming from a society that increasingly continues to forget and ignore God, I learned that far away from my home, in a different community than what I knew, people trusted God.
It was normal, in a way. I learned that God was there, in a completely different country, with all new people. Everything around me changed, but God was the same. Through my exchange year, far away from my home, I learned how constant God’s created world is, and through that how big his love for us is, in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is also true for many of the 800 students from Danielsen who have spent a year at Hillcrest. We should all say a thank you to God for allowing this program to come into being.
Three days ago, the late Svein Mella, a former Danielsen and Hillcrest student, was inducted into the Hillcrest Hall of Fame. The recognition was for his goal keeping skills and achievements back in 2002. Thank you for allowing Norwegian students into your athletic program. A special thank you for recognition of Svein Mella this week. His family in Norway is moved and touched by the recognition.
I know that Svein, in his period of disease before passing away, had many perspectives. He was asking the question, “will anyone remember me?” Seventeen years after being a student at Hillcrest, and eight years after his passing, your community has remembered Svein. Thank you. Our two schools share the belief that although we may and will be forgotten around us, God will never forget us, and will never leave any one of us. What a rich and important perspective to hold as educational institutions.
In Acts 17 it says, “The God who made the world, and everything in it, is the Lord of heaven and earth. He does not live in temples built by human hands, and he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so they would seek him and reach out to him and find him, though he is not far away from each one of us. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” I think that the Danielsen and Hillcrest program helps students to see that anywhere we are, and although we come from different places far from each other, God is not far from any one of us. As an educator in a Christian school, that makes me think that we are succeeding in our most important task.
Every year the Danielsen students return home changed and richer than they were when they left Bergen in August. On behalf of Danielsen Skole in Bergen, Norway, Congratulations and thanks for your community’s hard effort through an amazing 30 years.