Readers’ Writes

Sandy Ting Wong: The Little American

December 24, 2013 

After three failed attempts at abortion, it was a miracle that I was born at all. An American missionary working in Taiwan in 1955 agreed to help my parents financially so they could take care of a sick frail baby that survived against all odds. My mother made an oath to God that if this baby survived, she would dedicate her baby’s life to God.

With much support and prayers from the local church and the whole village, I began to thrive and get stronger every day. They said that I was such a pretty baby, like the American missionary’s wife, Mrs. Aandahl, they nicknamed me, “Little American.” As my health improved, our family hosted Sunday morning services, and it was the happiest place in the village as we sang hymns, learning about God’s stories and sharing how God shows grace even in hard times.

When my dad retired from the military and needed a job, Rev. Aandahl found both my parents jobs at an American charity organization that distributed powdered milk to the impoverished communities. When we had several huge floods, I remembered Mrs. Aandahl showing up at our door and meeting our needs.

​In 1985, I married Tinlup whom I met in college. Tinlup grew up in a Buddhist family. Together we moved when he started his assistant professor position in mechanical engineering at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla. The local ethnic church was very weak, so we decided to go to a Presbyterian church of the mostly majority culture. It was difficult to fit in at this church and we felt isolated and rejected.

Our immigrant life became harder and harder. By this time in our lives, we met a well-known Chinese herbalist in Los Angeles. He had treated many people with potentially fatal illnesses successfully including some of our relatives and close friends. So when he revealed his religion to us, Taoism, we abandoned our Christian faith and decided to explore Taoism.

In the summer of 1993, after knowing the Chinese herbalist and his family almost 10 years, he introduced us to “saint spirits.” My brother David worked for Taiwan’s version of the FBI before he moved to the States. Before his government job, he worked for World Vision. David acted as a medium to the spiritual world. You can imagine how excited we were and even awed by all these happenings. We thought God must have revealed himself in different ways and in different cultures! We started to burn incense and bow to an idol named “guanin” every day.

​Things got more and more intense with the spirits calling, and it took a drastic turn at the beginning of 1994. The herbalist’s closest disciple, a very promising physicist, suddenly died in a strange car accident. We started to suspect this was not the highest God and wanted to stop communicating with the spirits; but they kept coming to us. One late night in April 1994, David died from a sudden heart attack in front of the herbalist.

​Within hours of David’s death, the spirit came again . We were so afraid. Suddenly, I remembered the Jesus I had known since I was little. We knelt down, crying out for Jesus’ protection. We did not even feel safe in that house which the spirits had come so often. Soon we took an IBM job offer at RTP and moved to Chapel Hill in the summer of 1995.

Our family found a local nondenominational church that was very welcoming to different ethnicities and where the good news is not just preached but practiced. Many friendships have been forged here and we feel like our roots are getting deeper here in Chapel Hill. Volunteering at Vacation Bible School this past summer, the happiest memories with Rev. and Mrs. Aandahl in my childhood came flooding back. Their picture is at my bedside, and I often wonder, “What would my life be without them?”

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