Febyan Rustandy was raised in Singapore after his family moved from Indonesia when he was a boy. Febyan’s father is a self-made business leader who has forged remarkable success in the ceramic tile industry in Indonesia from very humble beginnings. According to Febyan, his father has always seen his Christian faith, rigorous education, hard work, and strict discipline as the keys to his success, and he has always strived to instill these same values in his children. Thus, Febyan grew up with a strong faith, education, and work ethic, but he also felt a persistent pressure to perform at the highest levels and a fear of falling short.

“My dad’s authoritarian approach to life was intended ensure my sister and I made the most of our opportunities. His faith also followed that approach. We were leaders in our church and Christian school, and we knew the Bible really well, but at a certain point, it was all starting to feel kind of suffocating to me.”

By the time Febyan was in high school, like most teens, he was questioning authority. “Our house was like a Steve Jobs household. Very much a ‘work longer and harder every day’ Asian model. My father taught us a lot about how to succeed, and he did a good job of providing for us, but we did not always feel warmly embraced by him.” Febyan began to pull away and developed a wild side that was foreign to his parents.

“I grew up in a very liberal, big city. The drinking age was 18 but was basically unenforced—fake IDs were easy to get. The Indonesian culture is all about the parents and family honor, so if you were underage and for some reason came into police contact, you would be brought to your parents. That was far more effective than anything else. But even law enforcement was apathetic toward underage drinking—most of the big clubs were largely populated by young teens, and I was one of them. I got into that scene in a big way, and that was a huge source of tension in my family.”

Still, Febyan remained focused on his education and career goals. “My dream was to become a doctor, and I breezed through AP chemistry and all my science courses. I also wanted to fly airplanes and became a junior pilot. Once I achieved that, I thought, ‘That’s just flying; it’s easy. I want to build the plane!’ He added aeronautical engineering to his career aspirations. But then, at age 16, he inexplicably found himself struggling in algebra—baffling for a high-performing student who had always found it easy to excel. He shrugged it off, thinking he was just not paying attention.

From Dream to Disaster at the Speed of a Tweet

In his senior year of high school, Febyan was accepted into a prestigious private university in the US where he would enroll as a freshman. Upon graduation from high school, he immediately moved to the US to get a jump start on his studies by taking summer classes. Unfortunately, he found that his academic struggles continued. He recalls, “I completely understood the logic of math, and calculus was easy, but graphs and trigonometry were driving me crazy!”

Frustrated, Febyan went to the counseling office. “The counselor said, ‘you are doing so well in physics, science is clearly not the problem.’” The counselor suggested Febyan take a learning disabilities test. The test revealed Febyan had dyscalculia, a numeric form of dyslexia, which meant that his brain could not process symbols and numbers in certain ways.

Febyan was understandably upset. “I was advised to stay away from sciences and math, to stick with languages, writing, and creative work, and I was not happy about it. I have a good brain. Since I was 10 years old, I read encyclopedias for fun! The dyscalculia only became a problem when I got to the highest levels of mathematics. I’ve always loved science and have always had a hunger for knowledge – how things work – but my dream of becoming a doctor or an aeronautical engineer was beginning to disappear right before my eyes. I was devastated.”

During those early months in the US, friends from Singapore came to the states for summer classes, too, and Febyan welcomed it. “We were drinking and hanging out, which was no big deal at home, but in the U.S., the drinking age was 21, and we were all underage.” Then one day, a social media post from one of his friends gained the attention of university administration, and Febyan found himself in trouble for providing alcohol to minors.

Febyan’s father was livid. He called for his son to be removed from school. “I had disgraced him and our family. I was given an ultimatum, ‘Go to a Christian college or nothing.’ The choice was between two schools, one of which was Calvin. I wanted nothing to do with a Christian college but chose Calvin because the other one seemed even worse.” And that is how Febyan came to Calvin as a freshman transfer. 

Exiled to Calvin

“I was negative, bitter, and angry, and at the lowest point of my life. By then, I was an avowed atheist, seeing my family’s Christian beliefs as forcing religion down my throat. I told myself I would simply survive at Calvin and transfer out the first chance I got. I arrived in Grand Rapids and hated everything about it. I went straight to my resident assistant and said, “I don’t plan on being here long, so I’m not going to follow any of your rules.” To Febyan’s surprise, the resident assistant handled his defiance with diplomacy and thanked him for his honesty.

Exiled to a place he did not want to be, something strange began to happen. “I was going through the motions. I was getting to know people, slowly. But unexpectedly, I found myself in a caring, accepting, and understanding environment. I heard that institutional religion and God are two different things. I challenged everything in my religion classes. I argued all the time, but nobody seemed to get mad at me.”

Love Struck

Then Febyan was invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of a new friend and classmate, Austin Evenhouse. He left the dinner gob smacked. “Austin’s parents are nice,” he thought. “They seem to like Austin, and they seem to like me. That was so much fun!” Another friend and classmate, Britt Botterman, also brought Febyan home. “I felt such love from his family, too. These people welcomed me as if I was something wonderful. They would say that God loves me and feels that way about me all the time. Being welcomed into these cheerful, loving homes—that’s when it dawned on me. I saw myself as an outsider, but to them, it was as if I belonged. I had never felt anything quite like this before. To me, God was just another critical voice: ‘Good performance is everything, condemnation is coming, and God wouldn’t be happy with me.’ That spiraled into, ‘I don’t want anything to do with God,’ and then, ‘There is no God.’ My Calvin friends upended that narrow, negative view of God. I began to see a different side of God, and I got to know him better. I became a Christian at Calvin because I experienced and understood love in a deep, rich, and personal way.” 

Over the years, in his coursework at Calvin, Febyan discovered more and more different sides of God, and he experienced the same kind of love from his professors and faculty mentors that he did from his friends and classmates. He says, “There were so many people at Calvin who were instrumental to my growth. Professors spent extensive time with me. They really took me under their wing and had a profound impact on my life.”

Growing as Christ’s Agent of Renewal


Febyan graduated from Calvin in 2015 with a degree in economics and minors in business and biology. Soon after graduation, his father made him an offer. His father had purchased a winery in Italy and gave Febyan the opportunity to run it. “It was an offer he knew I would not refuse.” The winery was a unique chance for Febyan to apply his college education in a comprehensive and creative way, but it came with a catch. It meant he would need to move to Italy and separate himself from his girlfriend. “I was upset about that; but I was confident God had a plan. The breakup and the move to Italy were not easy, but they allowed me to grow personally and professionally.”  

Calvin Taught Unconditional Love 

After running the winery for a period of time, Febyan felt called to return to Indonesia and work with his father in the family business overseeing the company’s brand and marketing strategy. He is married, enjoys playing the piano, loves to cook, and has invested in a restaurant group. Returning to Indonesia wasn’t always easy, but he strives to live the principles he learned at Calvin as he navigates the dynamics of family relationships and leading multiple global business enterprises.

“Calvin taught me about unconditional love. To be open minded. It is our job to love and God’s job to judge. Calvin is so dear to me now because it was there that God opened my heart and my mind and invited me to follow Him. I’m kind of a poster child for Calvin, going there as an angry atheist jerk and truly having a conversation experience. Few institutions achieve this level of education that changes peoples’ hearts by welcoming them, showing love and acceptance, taking on the tough questions, and pointing always to the sovereignty and goodness of God. If I can be changed, anyone’s life can be touched by the unconditional love of Jesus that is on full display in the Calvin community.”