Pastor Toby Wong stands outside of the Stettler Seventh-day Adventist Church, of which he’s been leading for the past year. photo submitted

Pastor Toby Wong stands outside of the Stettler Seventh-day Adventist Church, of which he’s been leading for the past year. photo submitted

Local pastor broadens reach during pressures of ongoing pandemic

Seventh-day Adventist church is opening up from noon to 2 p.m. every Tuesday for the month of May

With the ongoing impact of the pandemic, a local minister is broadening the scope of his church’s ministry to help care for the community.

Toby Wong, pastor of the Stettler Seventh-day Adventist Church, recalls an early life of attending church, but it was more of a social event.

But eventually, his mom discovered more about the faith and started to explore it more deeply, which in turn helped prompt Wong on his own spiritual journey.

“We came to Canada (from Malaysia) in 1976, and (at the time) we were all basically nominal Christians – we searched around for a church to be in.” They eventually kind of gave up on the idea, but again, Wong’s mom did instill in him that Saturday was considered a day of worship (part of Seventh-day Adventist doctrine).

“But one day, God showed me something through my martial arts teacher,” Wong explained.

They had some pretty meaningful discussions about the faith, and his teacher even went on to quit the martial arts and become a pastor.

“I had met him in an unemployment line when I was really down and out in my life. He had decided to lead some Bible studies, and my mother was also very surprised that he was a Seventh-day Adventist!”

The pieces began falling into place for Wong.

“After being baptized and going into the church, I felt a calling after about two years of being active in the church through doing Bible studies and working with the youth. So I went into the ministry – and I also met my wife at the time,” he recalled.

Wong started his ministry in Lacombe where he studied theology at Burman University.

He worked hard, too – fitting four years’ worth of studies into just two and one-half years.

“I just wanted to get out there – that’s how eager I was!”

This was 2003 – and Wong, who is now also dad to an 11-year-old daughter, was well on his way on an exciting new path.

“I started out in Ponoka, and I had initially thought that I would be going back to Ontario after I was done my (studies).”

That’s where the family had initially settled, with Wong having moved west in 2001.

He served in Ponoka for four and one-half years, and then headed to Calgary for a one-year chaplaincy position.

Then he was off to Edmonton for an associate position for just over three years.

Another transition came along with a stint in Smoky Lake for eight years. It was there he served several districts which also included the village of Boyle and Lac la Biche as well.

And it was about a year ago that the Wongs moved to Stettler – pretty much as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to impact virtually everyone’s lives.

These days, regular services are running within the AHS restrictions, and Wong is also excited to announce that the church is opening up from noon to 2 p.m. or possibly longer every Tuesday for the month of May.

“We are calling it the ‘Walk-in Prayer Clinic’. People can come in there and pray – and you can take your time. It’s open for prayer,” he explained.

Also, Wong noted that the pandemic has also opened doors to further help others and communicate what the Gospel message is all about – something he emphasized is needed all the more in such uncertain times.

”We have an opportunity to share that there is something far greater than what is going on in this world – that’s how we are as a people,” he said. “We aren’t doom and gloom and saying, okay, that’s it. There is something far better than what we have right now!

“The human contact is also so important,” he said, adding that the lack of it in society today because of the pandemic is unfortunate and rather troubling.

“When my daughter comes home from school, she is just always wanting hugs.

“Jesus healed people – he touched them. And there is something about the physical touch that makes a world of difference,” he said.

“The isolation doesn’t help mentally either – yes, we are trying to safeguard everyone from the situation but there has to be some semblance of a sense of normalcy,” he added.

“Coming to church was really the best thing that people had felt in a long time. And so, we are open on Saturdays from 9:45 a.m. to around 1 p.m. – that’s pretty much our main service. We do have restrictions, but that’w what we are here for – to minister to people,” he said.

“We are here to minister in every way possible, and that’s also why we are opening it up on Tuesdays between 12 to 2 or 3 p.m. People can take a break, come in and have a five or 10-minute private prayer session,” he explained. “Come in and relax in the sanctuary and meditate on your own.”

Outside of ministry, Wong has a passion for tennis and even considered going pro at one point.

“I like to work out, and a lot of times I like to listen to classical music and just chill. And I also like cooking – that’s one of my hobbies!” He often checks out Facebook for inspiration when it comes to finding new recipes to try, too, he added with a laugh.

Meanwhile, the ministry itself is certainly not always a walk in the park.

But Wong recalls some encouraging words a leader once shared with him.

“He told me, when you get to know Jesus, you will be attacked. But you will always have this source of peace in knowing Jesus – no matter how bad it gets,” he recalled.

“You also have a purpose each day – despite all of the challenges I’m going through, I still hold onto Jesus.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 2,271 new COVID-19 cases, Red Deer cases rise slightly

Across Alberta, there are 666 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 146 in the ICU

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe at Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders.
Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Health inspectors and RCMP locked doors early Wednesday

Premier Jason Kenney (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is seen at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. An Alberta woman in her 50s has died from a rare blood clot disorder after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta confirms blood clot disorder death linked to AstraZeneca vaccine

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been linked to VITT in a very small number of cases

Premier Jason Kenney says with COVID-19 numbers still rising, the province’s health-care system will be tested in the coming weeks. (photography by Winston Pon/Office of the Premier)
‘Please stay home’: Kenney imposes new COVID-19 restrictions

New measures will be in place for at least three weeks

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA: NACI

Panel says single shot vaccine can be especially useful for populations unable to return for second shot

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is prepared at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for kids 12 to 15 years old in Canada

The vaccine was previously authorized for anyone at least 16 years of age or older

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to speakers appearing by video during a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada will align policy on ‘vaccine passports’ with international allies: Trudeau

Trudeau says Canadians could begin travelling outside the country again by summer

Ranging from 11 to 20 in age and representing seven provinces and one territory, the plaintiffs are appealing a Supreme Court judge’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit last fall. (David Suzuki Foundation)
15 youths not backing down in their fight to sue Ottawa over climate change inaction

The group has filed an appeal after their lawsuit was struck down by a Federal Court judge last fall

A 2021 census questionnaire. (Black Press Media file photo)
2021 census responses due May 11

By law, every household must complete a census questionnaire

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi attends a senior’s home in Calgary on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Nenshi says he’s frustrated to hear that tickets given to people for breaching COVID-19 public health orders are being thrown out in the courts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘Incredibly frustrating:’ Calgary mayor wants courts to uphold COVID-19 measures

Large groups without masks have been gathering in Calgary public spaces in protest of health measures

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
NACI advice on ‘preferred vaccines’ for COVID-19 sparks confusion, anger

Panel said that people who can wait for an mRNA vaccine should do so

Michael Bonin, 20, from Alberta, was discovered deceased on Peers Creek Forest Service Road north of Hope on April 20, 2017. (Black Press Media)
1 of 3 accused in 2017 murder of Alberta man pleads guilty, sentenced to life in prison

Joshua Fleurant pleaded guilty in a Kelowna courtroom to the second-degree murder of Michael Bonin

Most Read