When Michael Wong first came to Pacific Union College in 1993, he had no idea what an Adventist was. Today, the president of PUC's Class of '97 is also a newly baptized Seventh-day Adventist Christian. Here is his story:
Wong was born in the United States and raised in Singapore, where his father is a university professor. He grew up believing in a distant God. "We knew there was a God, kind of, but how He interacted with us or what He did in our lives really had no effect on the way we lived," he said. Wong knew next to nothing about the Adventist church. "All I knew about Adventists was from my ex-girlfriend's mom, who said, 'I've heard about these Adventists; they go to church on Saturday, and I've heard they're a cult,'" he said.
When Wong was ready to go to college, his parents decided to send him back to the U.S., debating between St. Mary's College (a Catholic institution near Lafayette, Calif.) and Pacific Union College. Wong visited both campuses and liked St. Mary's very well. "It was a really nice campus, great tennis courts, cable TV hooked up, meat; you know, it just sounded like a great place for me to be," he said.
However, Wong's father (who had attended Newbury Park Academy) decided that Pacific Union College would be a better place for his son than St. Mary's. "This is where he said he'd let me loose. He wouldn't want to let me loose anywhere else in America. ... At first, I was relatively distraught."
Having no Adventist background, Wong was caught by surprise by his first Sabbath at the college. "The first Saturday I was at PUC I saw all these guys all dressed nice, rushing off to go somewhere. I thought I was late for a youth meeting or something. I dressed up too, and followed the crowd, and I ended up in church."
Wong began learning about Adventist Christianity from a roommate, Ruben Vega, and some friends he began to make on his hall. "That is one of the blessings of my life, that positive peer pressure," he said. "...I began hanging out with these other guys that had been on my floor but I had never really gotten to know very well. Because they didn't do certain things on Sabbath, I felt I shouldn't do certain things, even though my dad encouraged me to get ahead on Sabbath." But Wong points out that the support, trust, and love he felt from his parents also helped him a great deal in his conversion.
Instead of studying, Wong had a good time on Sabbath with his new friends. "We did a lot of fun things, we went hiking together, we went to church together. It was a real bonding experience, and it was a really new experience for me, because I felt that we were really living good; we really had a good life. It was simple and fun, and we really enjoyed it."
Wong was also blessed by his friend Joey Freitas, who helped him learn to play the guitar. "He would show interest, and he would teach me. ... Soon, he got me loving to play song service with him. ... It's been a real blessing to me, to open up some doors that maybe would never have opened, you know. I would never think that I would be playing special music on a church stage."
On April 26, 1997, Wong was baptized at the Pacific Union College Church. Looking back, he can see that God has been working in his life. "Every step of the way I've seen His hand," he said. "A lot of the times I remember most really, ... to tell you the truth, did not happen in church. They happened in the blessings that we received by going out and really taking Christianity into our hands, and singing to people who were sick, or going out to feed the homeless. It was a new experience for me."
This fall, Wong will study physical therapy at the Loma Linda University School of Allied Health. He plans to become a physical therapy professor one day.