Distinguished Alumni Award Winners 2017

Date Published

April 1, 2017

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Published by Calvin Seminary


Baptized in First Christian Reformed Church in Muskegon, MI, by his grandfather, Rev. Samuel Eldersveld, Howard Vanderwell subsequently received his early education at Muskegon Christian Schools and Western Michigan Christian High School. 

In 1959 he received the A. B. Degree from Calvin College. In 1962 he was awarded the B.D. Degree from Calvin Seminary and later the Th.M. Degree. In 1989, he received the Doctor of Ministry Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in California.

Over forty years he has served four congregations: Lebanon, Iowa; Trinity, Jenison, MI; Bethel, Lansing, IL; and Hillcrest, Hudsonville, MI. He has also served on numerous denominational boards and committees and has served as delegate to the CRC Synod ten times, five times as an officer. He was elected the president of the Synod in 1990, 1992, and 1998. Throughout his ministry, the preaching of the Word, faithful worship, and the provision of pastoral care have been his high priorities.

He has authored eight books, co- authored two books, and with Norma dewaal Malefyt produced one CD and edited a book on intergenerational worship. We anticipate his next book on Caring Worship in the near future.

In 2002, he retired from the pastorate and began a position as Pastoral Resource Specialist at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and as adjunct professor of worship at Calvin Theological Seminary. Currently he battles a fourth encounter with cancer. To God be all the glory!

Advice for graduates – 2017:

  1. If God has called you to the pastoral ministry, then embrace it with all your heart, give it your absolute best, and know that though it will not always be easy it will always be rewarding as you share a front row seat in participating with God as He grooms His people. You will discover there is no more special way to have spent your life than in the gospel ministry.
  2. If the local parish becomes the location for your ministry, embrace it willingly and affirm that it is the location in which God’s people are formed spiritually, children and youth are brought to faith, spiritual discernment is developed, and the gospel meets the world constantly。
  3. When God’s people gather in worship and you have the privilege of leading them, consider that place of worship a sacred place, provide for them the best of God’s word, give them God’s gracious greeting, promise them His grace, and send them out with a sacred benediction. Always provide a worship liturgy that will caringly nurture their spirits. As you stand before them always love them. 



Born in Xiamen, China on July 17, 1942, his father died when he was 17 months old. Raised by his devout mother, he migrated to Indonesia with his mother, four brothers and one sister. He heard the call to ministry at the age of 16 and entered South East Bible College at age 17, graduating at age 21. He was called and ordained as the pastor of the Synod of Church of Christ the Lord Indonesia at age 24. 

At the age of 30, Rev. Tong came to the U.S. for advanced studies, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at Calvin College, and a Bachelor of Divinity and Th.M. in 1974 and 1975 at Calvin Seminary. Later, he pursued and received a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, specializing in Personality and Socialization, Research Methodology and Counseling (1978) at the University of Southern California, and an M.B.A. specializing in Church Administration (1991) at the Graduate Theological Foundation, Indiana. He has been heavily engaged in Theological Education for nearly 50 years. He has taught systematic, philosophical, biblical and pastoral theology, as well as education and management courses. He retired from the Presidency of International Theological Seminary (ITS) in Los Angeles, California and Bandung Theological Seminary, in Indonesia in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Now he serves as Professor and President Emeritus at ITS. He served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of ITS (2010-2012) and serves as Chancellor at ABDI Allah Seminary in Indonesia and China Aletheia Theological Seminary.

In recent years, Rev. Tong has been heavily engaged in speaking at conferences and seminars, teaching in various countries, and serving as an adjunct professor at various seminaries and universities in the the United States, China, Brazil, the Philippines, and Indonesia. He has founded over eight Theological Seminaries and Training Centers in Indonesia, USA, and China, and has over 1,000 Baccalaureate graduates in China alone. He was responsible for bringing over 1,300 key church leaders, pastors, and theological teachers from the majority world to the United States to complete their advanced studies, obtain their Master’s and Doctoral degrees, and return to their home countries to serve the Lord there.

Dr. Tong has written hundreds of articles, books, and treatises including: Basic Christian Beliefs; A Reflection and Rebuilding of Christian Beliefs; On being a Servant without Shame; Collection of Theological Treatises; Philosophical and Ethical Contemplations; Theological Contemplations; A Study of the First Born Rights. Most of his works have been published in Chinese and/or Indonesian and are available on the web.

Dr. Tong’s words for graduating students:

A Person with Whom God Is Well-Pleased

Be human

Be a servant

Be a servant of God

Lest you think that you are Master of the world, other human beings, and even God! 



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