Lina Loong was a good friend of mine at university, and her testimony on how God prospered her as a dental student in Manchester serves as an encouragement to all students (especially those of the same background) to trust that God has the best plans for your lives.
I came to the UK five years ago to study dentistry at the University of Manchester. So much was strange to me at first, and many times I felt completely alone and out of my depth. Finding a good church was my top priority. I came to King’s in my first week, and knew immediately that I was where God wanted me to be.
Initially, however, I struggled to fit in. I was painfully quiet, and found it difficult to shake off cultural inhibitions. I spent hours talking myself into attending every cell group and student event because I was so afraid of those uncomfortable moments when I was standing awkwardly by myself, or grappling for things to say to people with whom I had seemingly nothing in common. I wanted to serve, but deliberately chose the task I thought I could do most quietly and unnoticed (washing dishes!).
God, by His grace, didn’t let me stay alone. Every time I succeeded in getting to a meeting, seeds of precious friendships were sown. Bit by bit, He chipped away at the wall I’d built around myself. I found myself opening up to others and came to see the church as it was always meant to be – my family. I had learned important lessons, and vowed to do my utmost to make sure no-one else had to struggle through the same difficulties. International student work became my special passion, and I dedicated much of my five years to building bridges between people of different cultures.
At the beginning of my final year last September, with work and pressure piling up, I wondered if I should cut down on the time I spent with church. As I pondered this, God spoke to me with a very clear “no”, telling me to simply do what He’d given into my hands to do and to trust Him to take care of me. I took Him at His word and threw myself back into church life, putting even more time and effort into it than before.
As the year progressed, plenty happened to make me doubt I’d heard Him correctly. I’d planned my university work meticulously and expected things to go smoothly; instead I found myself scrambling for time as my best-laid plans went awry and my patients’ treatment plans had to be changed several times. Just one week before the final exams, I was warned by school staff that I might not be allowed to take them, since I hadn’t yet been able to finish all my patients’ treatment.
How blessed I was then to have such an encouraging church family, who prayed with me and challenged me to have faith. My housemate Natalie even said, “Just imagine when you get your results and it’s a distinction!” Hearing this, I actually laughed aloud. Right then, I merely wished to graduate. The extra clinical work had taken up precious study time; I’d failed the type of exam used in finals (the viva) twice in previous years; and as if that wasn’t enough, I was now in danger of not being allowed to take the exams at all!
I clung stubbornly to God’s promise, determined that I would not neglect spending time with Him and with His family during this impossibly stressful time. By God’s grace I finished my cases and sat for my exams. On results day, I found to my complete surprise that I was, incredibly, on the distinction list. But God wasn’t finished. A month later, at a post-graduation awards ceremony, I had a second shock – my results had topped the graduating class, earning a permanent place on the school’s ‘honour roll’.
God had done the impossible – immeasurably more than I could have asked or even dared imagine.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matt 6:33