Catch a Glimpse of the Class of 2018
Luke Bowman | Attending Naval Academy
Luke Bowman is a coffee loving man who was born and raised on the plains of Jamestown, North Dakota. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, Bowman was deeply rooted in the scriptures from a young age. He has been confident in his relationship with Jesus since he can remember.
Luke had known about Hillcrest his whole life. He never expected coming here to become a reality. That changed at the end of his sophomore year. Cracks of light began to appear.
At an Inspiration Point family camp Luke saw a presentation given about Hillcrest and he began to consider attending. The tipping point of his decision was another presentation given at YC15. He sensed God was tugging on his heart. “All these things softened me up to His will.”
“I came here not really knowing what to expect.” If anything has exceeded Luke’s expectations, it has been his teachers. Luke is most grateful for the teachers’ willingness to speak the truth. Coming from a public school, Luke had become used to teachers not being allowed to speak about religious beliefs. They weren’t allowed to speak about total truth. “Here, teachers speak what they believe and they are sincere.”
The biggest lesson Luke will take away from his time at Hillcrest is this. “When you create a culture of free thought, you restrict people. But when you, create a culture of freedom, you empower people.”
“You’re constantly going back and looking at what it is that defines you, just looking for truth (at Hillcrest). ”
— Luke Bowman
Danny Isaac | Attending SDSU Studying Engineering
“I wouldn’t go back in time and change my life if I could,” Danny Isaac started, shifting in his wheelchair. Adjusting his legs to fit onto the feet plates, he pushed himself up, his wheels moving slightly forward as a smile shifted across his face, “Running and that stuff looks fun, it’s not worth changing my whole life over.”
At eight months old Danny’s life changed drastically. He was an active baby, starting to roll over to delight his parents, before an unknown virus attacked his toddler body. Danny grew paralyzed from the neck down. Over time he gained control of his upper body movements, from the fingertips up, but from his mid-chest down Danny lost all control. His physical growth was stunted, changed forever by an unknown cause. But, his spiritual life would develop no matter the circumstances, “My faith with God is still the same, it’s just unique to me and my wheelchair”.
While friends run through life, making room for purpose and significance in sports and chasing work, life is more than running or walking towards significance for Danny. His purpose is much greater, much broader, and much better than physical movement. Growing up in a Christian community showed him this.
Sitting under church lights continually drew Danny’s focus upward and molded his life. Friendships made in Sunday school and youth group were solidified in Hillcrest’s classrooms. The bonds were developed over more than winning the basketball game and rope swings into the river in the summer. The bond of friendship revolves around a conviction in Jesus Christ, and Danny and his friends live it out.
Twenty-five stairs were a significant obstacle for Danny when a sign reading “Out of order” was plastered across the elevator door at Hillcrest this winter. An equipment failure during Christmas break posed a problem for Danny as crews waited for specialized parts to arrive to fix Hillcrest’s elevator. So, before and after every class period, a groups of boys gathered together and basket-carried Danny and his wheelchair up and down the stairs for three weeks, refusing to watch their friend climb stairs by himself. Their friendship is strong, but their identity in being the church is stronger, and Danny has gifts and platforms his friends don’t, and they respect that.
In April Danny received a gold medal, part of the national champion sled hockey team from Fargo, North Dakota. Danny attends a special wheelchair sports camp, given opportunities to speak and encourage others. His attitude and kind heart open doors for conversation. Using the gifts and situation God has given to him, Danny is showing the glory of God through every action he does.
Danny sees his purpose in life being rooted in God. While his wheelchair is a part of him, and his life is directly affected by its limitations, Danny sees his faith and living out a relationship with Jesus as his defining characteristics. Although many find significance in cutting a few seconds off a mile time, or dribbling faster and harder than teammates, Danny sits on the sidelines recording times, fouls, and points for the coaches. For Danny, it is not how he is serving the team but why he is serving the team. He sees his role to show the grace of God through everything he does. It’s evident that Danny leads a normal life like his friends, he is just able to see situations and do some things differently than others.
To go back in time and change what happened would change his whole life, and that isn’t something he wants. “I can’t even imagine my life any different. I wouldn’t reverse it, there is so much opportunity that comes with my wheelchair.”
Hanne Yndestad | Completing a GAP year
High school, for me, wasn’t the typical public high school experience, with rowdy kids and wild parties. It was worse.
Students frequently reeked of weed or alcohol, and would openly discuss their sex lives. Kids visiting from other schools would say, “I hear they call this school the Suicide School because all the students are depressed and try to kill themselves.” Others chimed in, “The kids here have way too much money to just smoke weed--they do cocaine, too.” I was ashamed of the school I attended. It became harder and harder to get out of bed each morning, to find the will to go to school. Between the detached and uncaring teachers, the out-of-control students, and the hours upon hours of homework, I hated school. I fell into a depression that haunted me for two years.
I tried talking to the school counselor and a psychologist. They told me my depression was irrelevant and I was just being overly ‘sensitive’ or ‘dramatic.’ They laughed at students like me who went for help and wanted to get better.
I developed a sort of tunnel vision and lost perspective. I was trapped in a pit and all I could see was darkness and no way out. When I tried to pray, I felt like I was talking to myself. It was as if God had turned his back on me. I was lost and without hope. I let go of faith entirely and considered myself an atheist. “What kind of loving God,” I wondered, “Would let me feel this badly?”
This past summer I visited Fergus Falls to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. And, as we do whenever we’re in Minnesota, my family had dinner with our friends, the Prestons. We enjoyed lots of laughs and great food when our hosts made their traditional offer: “Hey Hanne, if you want to attend Hillcrest, we have a room for you!” My equally typical response to this suggestion would normally be to laugh, nod politely, and say something along the lines of, “Maybe someday…” But this time I actually hesitated, thoughtful. On the drive back to my grandparents’ after dinner, I spoke up from the backseat, expressing my interest in accepting the Prestons’ offer. My mom almost had a heart attack and my dad nearly swerved off the road.
Word of my desire to attend Hillcrest spread like wildfire. In a very short span of time, numerous family members and friends messaged me expressing how happy they were to hear that I was going to be living in Fergus with them. I was instantly surrounded by so much overwhelming support and love, I never looked back or second-guessed my decision.
The entire process of moving from near Seattle to Fergus Falls was a whirlwind. How could I have imagined the positive changes that were in store for me? Being encircled by such kind people, the word of God in all my classes has made me happier than I can ever remember. I am now able to see God actively at work in my life and embrace the changes he’s brining. I can feel the fire of the Lord’s love in my heart and I feel physically lighter from the weight of stress that has been lifted off my shoulders.
I now have a renewed outlook for my future. Before Hillcrest, I didn’t want to get married. I never wanted to have kids and I couldn’t imagine a worse career than teaching. But now that I’m living in God’s word, love, and promises for me, I look forward to a wedding to cry at. I hope to have beautiful children to be proud of and love endlessly. I want to send those kids to Hillcrest when they come of age. I’d love to give back by teaching at Hillcrest someday--maybe in the art department. All these things I once promised myself would never happen during the darkest days of my soul. Now all that has changed. Jesus’ light has touched my whole life--past, present, and future. It has changed my perspective, my language, my soul. I am truly happy and free because of what Christ has done for me, and not a day goes by where I don’t pray and thank him repeatedly for all he has given me. God is good.