Vietnamese student travels providential path to La Sierra and Adventism
September 3, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( www.lasierra.edu )He was only 16 years old, but “Kevin” Phung Nguyen was determined to leave his small, peaceful town near a tropical Vietnamese beach and pursue a better education in America. He would then use his schooling to aid his family’s business back home in Vung Tau.
At least that was the plan in 2005. Nguyen was unaware that a God he didn’t yet believe in was the Author of those plans and would lead him to La Sierra University, a school he’d never heard of, and there speak truths to his heart he’d never before contemplated.
“I want to go out of the country to see how different the outside world is. I want to gain knowledge in the number one country in the world, and then I will go back to improve my parents’ business,” said the junior accounting major, recounting his reasons for leaving home.
“I was a little nervous at first because it’s the first time I go out of the country and the first time I stayed away from my family. Now I know that I made a right decision by coming to the [United States]. …attending La Sierra is so far my best decision. I feel very blessed because God leads me to La Sierra, and I can learn truly about His death for human race. I never regret coming to La Sierra.”
Pastor Shawn Boonstra and Vinh Nguyen, pastor of the El Monte Vietnamese Seventh-day Adventist Church, baptized the La Sierra student on May 23 at the Shrine Expo Center in Los Angeles during Boonstra’s evangelistic series at the center.
“When I read the Bible I see the verses there really apply to me. I can see myself. I see the people I know [at La Sierra] really believe in God,” Nguyen said. “There must be something about the SDA God that people really want to believe,” he said, explaining how his interest in the Adventist faith grew. “The more I study the Bible the more I think I find the truth.”
After he graduates, Nguyen plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration in accounting and eventually become a certified public accountant. He is a member of La Sierra’s international award-winning Students In Free Enterprise team and traveled in May with the group to national competitions in Philadelphia. La Sierra’s SIFE team came in third in the nation during final rounds.
The team has won a record-setting six national trophies and two world cups. “I’m very proud to be a member of La Sierra SIFE, because when they see me with this badge on they say, ‘Oh, you’re from La Sierra,’” Nguyen said during a break in competitions at the Philadelphia Convention Center. SIFE teams at universities around the world implement local and international economic empowerment projects. They compete each year with annual reports and presentations depicting the impact and uniqueness of their programs.
The competitive experience with SIFE helped increase his confidence, Nguyen said. Through SIFE and his experience at La Sierra’s business school, Nguyen said he has learned that business and ethics can be interwoven. “Businessmen usually have to try every trick and bad thing to get whatever they want,” but helping others through SIFE “shows a different way,” he said.
Nguyen’s story began four years ago when he arrived on a student visa from his community south of Ho Chi Minh City to study at Fairmont International Academy and Fairmont Preparatory Academy, private, non-sectarian schools in Anaheim. He left behind his parents, a younger brother and other relatives and neighbors with whom he shares close relationships. The family often drove along the coast in the evening to catch the tropical breezes and talk. “Life in Vietnam is slower and more peaceful than the U.S. … studying in the U.S. was a huge decision for me,” Nguyen said.
Before graduating from Fairmont in 2007, Nguyen attended a college fair and there met a recruiter from La Sierra. After receiving some information about the university he filled out an application. “The lady at the table was sitting there alone. I came to talk to her and found out she was a Christian,” Nguyen said. “I went to La Sierra because I didn’t know anything about Christianity before,” and Nguyen was interested, he said.
Back in Vietnam, the government oppresses Christianity, he said. His mother, who works hard to support her son’s life in America, occasionally attends a Buddhist temple, but Nguyen grew up with a primarily secular perspective.
At La Sierra, Nguyen, like other students, was required to attend university worships and other religious events. “I attended the university worship every Thursday, and I loved it a lot. I love to sing Christian songs because I never heard any of them before. Christian music gives me a special feeling when I sing with a group of people,” he said.
Through friends at La Sierra, Nguyen learned of the El Monte Vietnamese Seventh-day Adventist Church and began attending services. He became involved in youth activities there. “… I made it my second home. I started reading the Bible, and I found many verses applied to my life. I started discussing about the Bible, about God, about my life at school and at church. I think I finally found the truth a few months ago, and I decided to get baptized.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University