Tyndale’s Dr. Daniel Wong has held the record for being my favourite professor for the past 7 years. Let me tell you why!
The year is 2009. I have just graduated from a very small Christian high school and moved to the metropolis of Toronto. Hard to believe, but due to my past rural life, Tyndale seems like a massive mini-city to me! Like most 18 year olds I have many questions about my major, my calling, and this foreign concept of what exactly a university education consists of. I wonder how I will connect and befriend students from so many diverse backgrounds and denominations.
Many of these questions were readily answered once I started getting into the rhythm of community life. From the start, the different experiences Tyndale offers on and off the campus provide excellent grounds for connecting with likeminded peers and fostering friendships.
Academically speaking, I originally entered Tyndale through the Leading Edge program. This one year certificate allows students to take classes in an intentional cohort without declaring their major. There are opportunities to engage with guest speakers, mission’s organizations, and mentors which all benefit recent high school grads. At the end of the year, students choose their program and receive credit for all courses already completed. This is where I first met Dr. Daniel Wong who coordinates and facilitates this program.
From the outset, Dr. Wong evidenced a high passion for education and interest in his students. For Dr. Wong, school is not merely about academics, but rather focussed on creating well-rounded leaders who can engage with the church and world. In Leading Edge, Dr. Wong constantly supports his students through their various struggles and transitions. He also strives to bring classroom rhetoric into practical ministry arenas such as volunteering with inner-city youth and local churches.
Part-way through the year, I joined the Bachelor of Religious Education (BRE) program which Dr. Wong also oversees. This meant I was able to become the student who took the most amount of courses with him.
Dr. Wong is a multi-faceted man which makes it difficult to choose only a few characteristics. However, I will highlight three areas that have profoundly impacted my own personal and professional growth and development.
#1: Dr. Wong has a heart for his students.
During a recent visit to Tyndale, I noticed some admission’s brochures. One of them read, “At Tyndale, you are a person, not a number. In fact, I don’t even think my professors know what my student number is.” This statement accurately sums up my experience at Tyndale, but in particular with Dr. Wong – a man who truly cares about his students both inside and out of the classroom.
One moment that I treasure happened during my second year of university when I became very ill. I had a very unusual disorder (which the Lord has thankfully healed me from) and this caused me to miss many classes. During that time, Dr. Wong prayed over me and completely understood all of my needs. He was very accommodating and tried to put good supports in place. When I missed classes, he sent emails and called to make sure everything was okay. Although all my professors were very respectful of my condition, Dr. Wong had a lasting impact both pre and post recovery. I will always appreciate his servant heart and extending his pastoral role to all his students.
#2: Dr. Wong believes in field trips.
Being a very academic institution with a good reputation, it can be easy to neglect the diverse learning styles of our students. In Dr. Wong’s classes the idea isn’t about getting straight A’s, but allowing each student to reach and exceed their potential. This means experiencing ministry first-hand through guest speakers and trips. We visited the local Buddhist Temple, local coffee shops, and ethnic churches which gave us fresh insights and challenged our assumptions. Our classwork was also heavily project based providing sustainable ministry research. Dr. Wong’s courses are always practical in nature which helps ensure longevity in a pastorate, on the mission field, or in a para-church placement.
#3: Dr. Wong pushes his students to get out of their comfort zone.
For many people, public speaking is a great fear. Dr. Wong realizes this, which makes taking a preaching class with him a wonderful investment (even if you aren’t considering a pastorate). Dr. Wong pushes his students to do things that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but in a lovingly gentle way. Whether it’s preaching a 15 minute sermon (and believe me, he will ensure it’s only 15 minutes!) or volunteering with those on the margins, Dr. Wong sees ministry as being inseparable to Christian faith and life. He prays over his students and supports them regardless of which ministry direction they are pursuing.
In my very first course with Dr. Wong, I was amazed that he opened the class with a prayer and asked us to fill out a questionnaire. Along with questions about ministry background and experience, he asked us what we wanted out of the class so he could best meet our needs. At the very end he wrote six profound words “how can I pray for you?” This is the type of personal and spiritual investment Tyndale professors have in us. For Dr. Wong, it’s not just a question to get out of the way, it’s an honest question that he truly wants an answer to because he cares.
If you are able to take a course with Dr. Wong, do so. You won’t regret it. Years later when you are sitting in your church office or working with street youth you will think back to the lessons learned in his classes. But more than that, you will remember the person himself – the great giant of faith who has his heart on his sleeve and the Bible in his heart – Tyndale’s very own, Dr. Daniel Wong!