Family finds faith at La Sierra
February 24, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( www.lasierra.edu ) When Daniel Young took a first look at La Sierra University’s campus back in the summer of 1972, he wasn’t impressed. The grass was brown, the air was hot and the students were gone on break.
“I’m looking at this campus and thinking, how in the world can I go here? It looks like the desert,” said Young, now a pediatric radiologist at Children’s Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham. Yet at his mother’s urging he transferred from Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he had endured a chaotic freshman year, to La Sierra’s biology program. Little did he know that God would use the Riverside school to profoundly transform his family of sporadic churchgoers, convert their hearts to Seventh-day Adventism and instill a direction and foundation of faith that had previously been absent.
Daniel’s tenure at Occidental College took place during the Vietnam War era, a time of social and moral upheaval. A tumultuous environment at Daniel’s co-ed dorm proved too overwhelming for the freshman. “I just wasn’t happy at all. I came from a conservative background,” he said.
Daniel’s father, Bill Young, owned a dentistry practice in the family’s hometown of El Cajon. In 1971 he completed a master‘s degree in endodontics at Loma Linda University. Bill liked the university‘s environment and suggested its La Sierra campus to Daniel.
At La Sierra, Daniel took up residence on the seventh floor of Sierra Towers. While the rest of the world churned with wartime turmoil, La Sierra, with its 1970s-era rules and regulations provided a safe haven. “The Vietnam War time was a crazy time. We just didn’t know what was right or wrong. But La Sierra was an oasis of peace, calm, order, and I loved it,” Daniel said.
He also noticed the students’ courteous behavior and neat appearance. He noticed their dedication to their Adventist faith, a sharp contrast to the Young’s occasional attendance at a Methodist church. “We really did not have an organized approach to religion at all. We didn’t take it seriously. [At La Sierra] I was around people who absolutely took it seriously. I thought it was fabulous. It started to organize my life in ways it previously had not been organized,” Daniel said.
Daniel studied Adventist beliefs with Pastor David Osborne, a former La Sierra religion professor and campus chaplain. In May 1973, Osborne baptized Daniel on the La Sierra commons. That summer Daniel went home to his family in El Cajon and told them of his conversion. He asked his parents and siblings to attend church with him.
Daniel’s brothers and sister, Ben, Tom and Susan, attended youth evangelistic meetings organized by La Sierra theology students and took Bible studies with La Sierra religion major Bill Keresoma.
“I thought the whole thing was silly, frankly. About the third study in, at the beginning of the session, when Bill [Keresoma] bowed for prayer, something happened. It wasn’t explosive or externally miraculous, it was just a thought that came to me. And the thought was this: What if right now, we are actually praying to someone?” Ben said. “Before this thought, I believed the whole thing was some sort of ritual, something people did for their own weird reasons. But the idea that there was a person behind this prayer meant that there was a person behind this life and I didn't know who He or She was. From that point on, the Bible study became intensely interesting.”
“We studied the doctrines of the church that summer and they amazed us,” said Susan. “There was and is beauty and symmetry.”
That summer, evangelistic leader Smuts van Rooyen baptized Ben. The Young family also began attending the La Mesa Seventh-day Adventist Church. In October, John Du Nesme, then pastor of the church, baptized Tom and Susan and the siblings’ parents, Bill Lowell Young and Mary Carolyn Young.
“Everybody was so happy. That’s what brought us into the faith. As for the seventh day, it seemed very logical to us,” and the teachings fell into place, Mary said. As a little girl she had attended church with a neighbor, but always viewed God “as a concept not as a person,” she said. Through Bible studies, Mary discovered a personal God. “I found that thrilling,” she said.
Bill Young, a former agnostic, decided to join the Adventist faith after listening to van Rooyen speak. He initially joined his family in learning the Seventh-day Adventist message and attending church to strengthen the family bond. “The fact that everybody was so much together, I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “I found that my coming along really helped the family.”
“It has been wonderful for me to learn about the Lord and the SDA message,” said Tom. “It changed my life. I remain an active Seventh-day Adventist to this day in Kansas City.”
Ben, Tom and Susan all followed in Daniel’s footsteps and eventually enrolled at La Sierra University. They entered pre-professional medical and dental programs with respective majors in English, piano performance and art. During their children’s years at LSU, the elder Youngs packed homemade dinners and fresh fruit from their orchards in El Cajon and traveled to La Sierra each Wednesday for mid-week meals with the siblings.
All four Young children later attended Loma Linda University’s medical and dental schools. They covered tuition with U.S. Air Force and Army scholarships and graduated near the top of their classes. “All my children have outranked me,” joked Bill Young, who also served in the military.
Ben, a retired periodontist, is currently a principal with Voxelogix Corp. in San Antonio, Texas, a firm that develops digital solutions for dentistry and medicine. Tom is a forensic pathologist and sole proprietor of Heartland Forensic Pathology LLC in Kansas City, Mo. He served as chief medical examiner between 1995 and 2006 for the four-county Kansas City metropolitan area. Susan practices dentistry in the small town of Tok, Alaska.
The four siblings are each married and have 10 children between them, five of who graduated from Adventist universities. Tom’s daughter, Miriam, is attending Loma Linda University’s medical school.
“Seventh-day Adventists are always talking about converting people, but it was a very odd feeling to be a part of something where that actually occurred,” Daniel said. “ I think what happened to us, we were a conservative family, but we didn’t have great direction or purpose prior to joining the Seventh-day Adventist church. I would say when you see what took place in all of us, it was probably miraculous. My family really grasped onto this in a big, big way.”
For Susan, her family’s conversion was nothing short of a miracle. As a youngster, the natural beauty of Susan’s rural home inspired in her a belief in a “Creator Designer” and the gift of a Bible influenced a desire to understand biblical truths. She first heard of salvation’s plan while watching Billy Graham on the family’s black-and-white television set.
As a teenager she heard about Christ’s second coming from a Baptist friend and prayed God would reach and teach her family. “I remember praying fervently about this situation. Jesus was coming soon and my family was not ready,” she wrote in a perspective on her family’s experience. She prayed God would work through her eldest brother, Daniel. “He was not particularly religious and I did not know if he even believed in God. God heard my prayer and chose to answer it my way before my very eyes to strengthen my faith.”
“We do not know who the seekers are,” Susan wrote, “so it is vitally important to share the truths of the third angel’s message with everyone.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University