Food is an essential part of our lives –a basic need. That’s why Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life.
“Bread was a staple in Jesus’s day,” explained PLNU graduate chaplain Gordon Wong, M.Div. “It was eaten every day. It was the source of life. Jesus needs to be the source of our life.”
Wong pointed out that it is through Christ that we find life, strength, hope, and peace. Just as we need food for sustenance, we need Jesus daily. “Jesus also compares the necessity of Scripture to food in Matthew 4:4,” Wong said. [Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”]. “In the same way we live off of bread, we live off of God’s Word to sustain our spiritual health.”
Wong knows a lot about food – he trained as a chef before becoming a pastor. His father owned a food truck in Hawaii and that spurred Wong’s own interest in food. He earned his associate’s degree in culinary arts from the University of Hawaii, earning Academic All-American honors in food services. He began his culinary career as a breakfast cook at a local restaurant before a professor helped him get an interview at the Sheraton Waikiki. Wong earned the job and was able to work alongside world-renowned chef Alan Wong (no relation). Working in the industry inspired him to one day start his own restaurant – he even picked out a name: Gordon’s Gourmet.
It was the dream of owning his own restaurant that brought Wong to PLNU to earn a business administration degree. While he was a student, he worked as a sous chef at upscale restaurants Torrey Pines Lodge and George’s at the Cove. He also served as the only student cook in the Point Loma cafeteria.
Although Wong loved cooking, he also participated in student ministry and his first summer home felt a call into vocational ministry. After graduating from Point Loma, Wong went to Nazarene Theological Seminary where he earned his Master of Divinity in 1998. He then planted The Bridge Church in Hawaii where he served until 2018. He then came to PLNU as graduate chaplain and director of spiritual care for the university’s adult degree completion (ADC) students.
Though he is no longer a professional chef, Wong hasn’t stopped cooking. In fact, he often uses food as a tool in his ministry.
“When I was a pastor in Hawaii, I used food and meals as a way to attract people to the church,” he said. Then, when he began working at PLNU’s Mission Valley Regional Center, he started a program called “Meals with a Mission.” Pre-pandemic, Wong would cook for the staff and students and raise money for organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and PLNU’s Beauty for Ashes scholarship program, which supports people who have survived human trafficking in pursuing their education.
“I would tell students and staff that the meal was free, but if they wanted to support the mission organization, they could donate,” he explained. “I would also invite the missions to come and talk. We raised thousands of dollars and built community among students and staff. It was fun for me to be able to use my background in cooking.”
Wong has also made feeding the hungry a priority throughout his life. Starting in high school, he would trick-or-treat for canned food instead of candy each Halloween. He brought that tradition to The Bridge Church; he and his congregation collected canned food from neighbors each Halloween. At PLNU, Wong started a canned food drive for the graduate and ADC students each October.
“Food is one of the most basic needs in life,” Wong said. “It is heartbreaking to know that many go without it. We are called to feed the hungry because that is what Jesus did.”
Wong referenced the feeding of the 5,000, recorded in both Luke 9 and John 6, in which Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a large crowd.
“Jesus used food to perform miracles,” Wong said. “Jesus gave us an example of what the church is called to do. Our goal is to become more and more like Christ, so this is an example we need to look at, to feed the hungry.” Wong recognizes that people may feel that problems like poverty and hunger feel overwhelming, but he sees that as a reason to act rather than not to.
“Doing something is so much better than doing nothing,” he pointed out.
To feed the hungry as Jesus did, Wong suggests several strategies. The first is to give. The second is to advocate for the poor. Third, he suggests organizing efforts within your church, workplace, or family to meet the felt needs of people.
“We are called to feed the hungry because that is what Jesus did.”
The canned food drives Wong has spearheaded at PLNU’s Mission Valley Regional Center are a great example of simple actions being blessed to have a big impact. The first year, Wong and the students collected 3,000 cans. By the second year, 4,600 cans were collected. October 2020 meant the food drive had to be done remotely. Using Venmo and aided by a matching gift the second half of the month, Wong and the PLNU students and staff at Mission Valley raised funds equivalent to 10,000 canned goods. The proceeds have been shared with food banks in both San Diego and Bakersfield, Loaves and Fishes in Ocean Beach, Calif., the Salvation Army in San Diego, Point Loma Cares (a PLNU Spiritual Development student ministry that serves people in Mexico), and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ Shechem House in the Philippines.
In addition to meeting the needs of others, these kinds of actions can help us deepen our own gratitude for our daily bread. When Wong was a student, he had the opportunity to cook a meal for people experiencing homelessness in Ocean Beach through a student ministry. After the meal was served and a time of worship was complete, Wong’s friend encouraged him to go out and meet some of the guests. Wong sat across from a man named Larry who shared his story. When Larry found out that Wong had cooked the meal, he said, “Thank you so much for doing that. This is the only hot meal I get all week.” Hearing that deeply impacted Wong.
Suddenly, the discomforts he experienced in his own life as a college student – feeling cold in his dorm room (being used to Hawaii weather), feeling tired from rising at 5 a.m. for his cafeteria job – were put in a new perspective.
“The next time I sat down for a meal, I thought of Larry,” he said. “I had prayed over my food many times and not really meant it. Now, I repented. I asked God to forgive me for never having really meant this prayer before.”
When we volunteer to serve meals or work at a food bank, when we advocate or organize for the hungry, we follow Jesus’ example and we grow in our gratitude for what we have. In addition to connecting our need for food with our need for Him and to modeling the sharing of what we have with others, Jesus reminds us of the way shared meals can connect us.
“In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, ‘Here I am. I stand at the door and knock,’” Wong said. “Then Jesus says that whoever opens the door, He will come in and eat with that person. When we open our hearts and begin a relationship with Jesus, that is symbolized by sharing a meal. When you eat with someone, it conveys acceptance of that person. When Jesus says He will come in and eat with us, He is saying, ‘I accept you just as you are.’”
When we volunteer to serve meals or work at a food bank, when we advocate or organize for the hungry, we follow Jesus’ example and we grow in our gratitude for what we have.
Although we haven’t been able to share as many meals with friends and family during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wong hopes gathering around the table for food and fellowship can be a priority once it is allowed again. That also includes gathering for the Lord’s Supper.
“I long to do communion together, the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup,” Wong said. “Communion allows us to have fellowship not just with each other but with Christ. I long for when I get the chance to do this again as a pastor and chaplain.”
One of Wong’s favorite verses is Psalm 34:8, which says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
“When we accept God’s invitation to experience life with Him, we find that God is good,” Wong said. “God is pleasing in all of His different characteristics. Not only is He pleasing, but He also fulfills and sustains us, giving us strength for each day. In John 6:35, Jesus says, ‘Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”
As a chef and pastor, Wong know that the true source of His sustenance is Jesus, and that knowledge allows Him to use food and faith to bless others.
Keep reading to check out Gordon Wong’s carne asada recipe so you can make your own burritos at home.
Carne Asada Recipe by Gordon Wong
- 3 lb Flank Steak
- 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
- 1/4 cup Beef or chicken stock
- 2 tbsp Canola Oil
- 2 tbsp Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
- 2 tbsp Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
- 2 tbsp Chopped Cilantro
- 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
- 1 tbsp Minced Green Onions
- 3/4 tbsp Garlic Salt
- 1/2 tbsp White Pepper
- 1/2 tbsp Cumin
- 1/2 tbsp Chili Powder
- 1/2 tbsp Oregano
Add all the ingredients to a medium size bowl and stir until blended.
- Add the steak and coat the entire piece of meat evenly.
- Refrigerate overnight or at least 2 hours.
- Pre-heat grill to medium high.
- Grill for 6-8 minutes or until your desired doneness.
- Slicing against the grain and serve
- 3 cup Flour
- 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 cup Hot Water
- Whisk flour and salt together in a bowl.
- Add Vegetable oil and mix until you see small crumbles.
- Add hot water and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir until everything is mixed and the dough forms a ball.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. This step isn’t necessary but we find the dough more pliable.
- Break apart into 8-10 pieces and form balls. Roll out each ball to the desired size.
- Heat up cast-iron pan on medium high. Once heated place rolled out tortilla on grill.
- Cook about 30 seconds per side (Watch out they burn easy!) Repeat until all tortillas are cooked
Pico De Gallo
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 medium onion finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
- ½ green bell pepper finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
- Valentina Sauce to taste and spice
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Chop up your veggies into a small dice and place them into a bowl.
- Season with salt, pepper, lime juice and Valentina sauce. Mix it up and serve!
- Refrigerate until needed, consume within 2 days