Winston Tjong-Ayong of Tammenga, Suriname, had a decision to make: continue his education in mechanical engineering or serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he explained to an administrator at his school that he wanted to go on a mission and then return and continue his studies, he didn’t get the answer he had hoped for. He explains, “She basically told me, ‘If you leave for two years, you will not be allowed to continue going to school here.’” That’s when Winston’s faith kicked into gear. He knew what his decision would be. He had already prayed about it and had received an answer that he needed to serve. “So I went on my mission and had a wonderful experience,” says Winston. “It changed me forever.”
When Winston returned home and tried to enroll again into the school, he was rejected. He thought his hopes of getting an education and providing a better life for his future family were gone forever.
A hard worker, Winston began working as a data communications tower rigger—the person who climbs up cellphone towers and installs, repairs, or replaces equipment. “It’s dangerous and very high,” says Winston. “The highest [tower] I’ve worked on was 130 meters high. Sometimes you have to climb a mountain before you can even climb the tower. It’s windy sometimes too.”
When Winston heard about BYU-Pathway Worldwide, he thought he couldn’t afford it, until he learned about the scholarship for missionaries who had returned home from their missions in the last five years. His hope for a better future has since been restored. “I want a degree, because I don’t see myself climbing towers for the rest of my life,” says Winston.
Winston has enjoyed his virtual gathering group, which includes students from Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, and Puerto Rico. “They’re wonderful,” he says. “If we have problems, we get online and help each other. The missionaries and instructor help us a lot too. I’ve learned a lot from my classmates in our discussions—how they think and how they see certain things with their different experiences. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father loves me and has created BYU-Pathway so I can continue my studies.”