Tony Chung, City Vision University's First Intern
From Nebraska Bible College Student to Executive Director
How did you get involved with City Vision University and Rescue Mission work?
I started with City Vision University before [it was even called] “Rescue College.” Rescue College wasn’t on the internet, it was 1991, and I’m not even sure we had fax machines back then! Rescue College was in the form of correspondence courses accredited through Grace College of the Bible (now Grace University) in Omaha, NE. I was going to school there and working part-time as an evening chaplain at the Open Door Mission which was then under the direction of the late Rev. Bob Timberlake. It was partly through Pastor Bob’s influence and my need to declare a major that I decided I would do my third year as an internship with a Rescue Mission. I went to Union Gospel Mission in Seattle because it had a reputation of being a “cutting edge” rescue mission at the time. Oh, and I almost forgot my wife, Donna. She was a big influence, too. She worked for Pastor Bob in the rescue mission in Buffalo, NYduring the 1980’s and moved to Omaha and worked at Open Door as a volunteer. I probably wouldn’t have continued in this work without her.
What was your experience as City Vision University Intern like?
One memorable event was my first day when I met Rev. Herb Pfiffner, the Executive Director of UGM. It was Saturday and I was impressed that he spent the whole day with me telling me about different aspects of the ministry. Over my time there, I had an opportunity to work a little bit in a few different departments. I spent some time at the Men’s Program. John Frank, who was then Development Director, allowed me to attend some of the development meetings during their Capital Campaign. I also spent a little time at the Women & Family shelter---but not much. Most of my time was spent working in the Youth Department, which was kind of funny, because I was 35 at the time and I was a little bit older than the kids in the program.
So in 1992, you graduated from Grace College of the Bible with a BS in Bible — where did you go from there?
It really took me at least 4 years before I knew I wanted to be in leadership and become an executive director. In the beginning, my heart was really to be a chaplain. My ministry path went something like this after graduating from Grace College: I worked for Ron Willoughby in the Springfield Rescue Mission in Massachusetts, then back to Seattle and worked under Mike Teague and Jack Martin. While in Seattle in 1997, I received a Master’s in Business Administration because I thought God might be calling me to be an executive director. My heart was always in the chaplaincy, but I could see that leadership positions gave you the ability to enhance programs that could really help people. I was then offered a position as Executive Director at the Boise Rescue Mission in Boise, Idaho and stayed there for 5 ½ years. I did a brief stint at the Open Door Mission in Omaha and I’m now Executive Director of the Highway 80 Rescue Mission of Longview, TX.
How has Hiway 80 grown since you’ve been there?
I’ve been here for almost 5 years. This is a small rescue mission, in a city with a population of 85,000 but we house about 3 times the men we did at the beginning and 10 times the women and children. Our annual budget has increased from $250,000 to $1 million. We are now working on a capital campaign to build new facilities.
What do you think was the most helpful thing about City Vision University for you?
I see it as an introduction to all of the various areas encompassed by rescue ministry. It was most helpful to me to “try out” different areas of ministry and to determine my calling. In reality, it took a little time to really determine where I belonged, but I couldn’t have done that without the initial City Vision University experience.
What tips do you have for current students taking City Vision University courses?
Well, of course, I was highly motivated to learn. I would say, ‘Take the courses, experience the different areas of ministry and find out where you have an interest and a gift.’ You also might find out where you have strengths and where you have weaknesses. Our mission has a staff person who is going through City Vision University right now, and that’s what I tell him. Also, City Vision University is accredited, so the credits transfer if you go on for further education.
What about staff people who say they don’t have time or they’re getting too old to take college courses?
City Vision University gives you the opportunity to stretch yourself, plus there is built-in accountability measures within the classes. I finished my Bachelors at 36 and my Masters at 42; so if I can do it, they can do it, too.