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Community & Spiritual Development

matthew-profile.jpegMatthew Strong '23, Student Body President

Major: Electrical & Computer Engineering
Grew up in Cambodia & Malaysia

Why was attending a Christian university important to you?

During my high school years in Penang, Malaysia, I found a passion for engineering. One summer in the United States, I took a tour of a few schools offering engineering. I aspired to attend a particular state school until I visited its campus and noticed an emptiness there despite its academic prestige. I wanted to spend my undergraduate years on a campus that puts God at the center of its mission, cultivating an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is welcome in all campus interactions. In the end, I chose LeTourneau because of its unique legacy of Christ-centered education combined with a highly credible school of engineering. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

In your role as student body president, what opportunities have you had for spiritual growth, both in yourself and with others?

The most joyful facet of this role is seeing the active fire of the Holy Spirit in so many hearts around campus. My generation is filled with a remnant that desires to see God’s glory manifested in the darkness, and students from all areas hope to see Christ move in their lives and communities.

Yet this year, I have also noticed that we live in a culture which daily discounts the power of an absolute truth, the veracity of the gospel, and the depth of Christ’s love. This culture often seeks to divide the bonds of unity in the church, and these tensions are also felt on our campus.

My prayer is that LeTourneau is a testimony to prospective students, industries, other institutions, and the church—that “all men shall know that we are His disciples, that we have love for one another” (John 13:35).

LeTourneau is uniquely positioned as THE Christian polytechnic institution. The intersection of STEM academia, faith, and global missions shapes our campus community daily, from lectures in classrooms to midnight conversations in dorms. In an age where culture often drowns out the voice of Christ, our faculty and staff still lovingly speak his heart into students. This must continue to be the heartbeat of the university if it wishes to walk in the legacy R.G. left.

You grew up in Southern Asia. What has your experience been like coming to the U.S. for college? How has it impacted your faith?

I went on the Mexico mission trip in 2020, and the day we were leaving, the COVID pandemic erupted in the world. The CDC made all their announcements, and we knew we’d have to be quarantined when we went back. I remember sitting in a park that day, and I just felt like the world as I knew it was collapsing. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to go back to Asia again. But, I remember Drs. Pat and Kathleen Mays talking with me and helping me realize that just as God had called and integrated me into other countries, he was also calling me to integrate to the US. So, if he’s calling me to do that, I’m going to have to call America my home for as long as I need to.

Once I accepted that, God was really gracious in allowing me to heal and to process. I was able to really enjoy my experience in the U.S. a lot more. Now, I’m super happy to be here and super happy to be an American. I really feel called to America now; I want to be the salt and light here, and I think the largest mission field available to the American church is right outside its doors.

How does LETU help students develop their faith identities?

When I first came to the US, I realized there’s a cultural war going on in America and the western world like we haven’t seen before. The kingdom of God has always been opposed to the kingdom of this world, but I think there’s an unprecedented battle between what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a member of Generation Z. So many identities are chasing after us, and I don’t think there’s a place that better equips young people to wrestle with and work through that than LeTourneau.

Our generation is surrounded by the media; there’s a lot of stress, depression, and mental health struggles. I personally believe it’s because the enemy is working harder than ever to really captivate a generation and tie them down so they don’t realize their full potential. But, the beauty of the gospel and the beauty of LeTourneau is that God does want us to realize that potential and be the most amazing, society-impacting, versions of ourselves we can be.

Also, having professors who are willing to be so available for students is incredibly helpful. You are a person and not just a number here on campus. I can go to almost any professor anytime and say, ‘Hey, I’m struggling with this in my life right now, can you help me?’ and know that they’re going to pray for me and they really do care about me more than the sum of my grades.

How has your faith developed in your time as a student?

At LeTourneau, we don’t require people to be Christians which allows us to have a mission field right at our fingertips. It’s been formative for my faith to see people who have a nominal concept of Christianity (or none at all) come here and be transformed by the gospel. I’ve been able to walk with some international students in that position who have been transformed by the community of faith at LeTourneau. I come from a very conservative Christian family, where we always had answers to our faith, so getting to know people with different perspectives and loving them where they’re at has shaped me tremendously.

I gave my life to the Lord when I was six, but I mark my testimony by moments when, like the prodigal son parable, my mind has been transformed from that of the older brother to the prodigal. My natural inclination is to work really hard in religious circles and not realize that my father has everything and will give it to me. I just have to see myself as the prodigal and see how far I’ve fallen and come home. Being in a community with people at different points in their walk with God is super encouraging because it’s a constant reminder that I also am the prodigal and am also on this journey of reconciliation and repentance with Christ.

How has your faith been challenged here?

Coming to the US, either my expectations were really high or I wasn’t giving grace, but Christians failed and hurt me a lot more than I expected. I’ve seen more divisiveness amongst the Christian body in the United States than elsewhere, and honestly, sometimes it’s made me want to stray.

Secondly, we have a lot of freedoms in our society that can be very entertaining or desiring. You’re trying so hard to hold onto your values, and society screams so loud, so often, ‘you don’t need those values.’ I think that’s something our generation faces: a greater presence of people telling us Christian values don’t matter anymore. I’ve been so blessed by mentors at LeTourneau who have walked with me through this and been very empathetic and understanding in teaching me how to be in the world but not of it.

We often talk about LETU as an intersection for faith, science, and technology. Do you feel that we are well-equipped to speak into that conversation here? How so?

The biggest thing I’ve learned in college is that the more technology is advanced, the more it reflects God’s design of this world and the less it reflects an atheistic view. I think having that reference as engineers is helpful because we can always step back and say, ‘look at how God’s nature and image are being expressed through this technology, and will we use this technology for good or for evil?’ I think having that mindset, which other engineering students from other schools aren’t necessarily going to have, is super important.