This Traveling Poet Speaks the Word, the Truth, and the Light
Hosanna Wong (B.A. ’11) is living proof that when we let God take the reins, we just might end up in places we never dared dream of. In May 2011, Wong graduated from Hope International University (HIU) with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Just a couple years before, Wong splashed onto the Hope community’s radar with her poignant and powerful spoken word poetry, also known as “slam” or “spitting”. Her powerfully moving pieces are a mix of poetry, dialogue, and dramatic speaking which grew into a spoken word movement that spread across the campus, into the surrounding cities, and eventually took Wong to Arizona where she is currently serving as a spoken word artist for United Christian Youth Camp (UCYC).
When Wong first arrived at HIU, she was reluctant to get involved in anything on campus because she thought she was too different to fit in. “Fortunately, a great thing about Hope is that there is freedom to be you,” she said. “I was the only spoken word poet at HIU when I arrived in 2007, but as I started performing more on campus and at churches and venues around the area, more people’s minds opened up to this unconventional style of art.”
Before long, spoken word was a featured part of the Hope community and other poets and artists began stepping up too. “Open mics became more popular, benefit shows became expected, and a whole new kind of thinking flooded the campus: freedom in expression, freedom in worship,” said Wong. Together with fellow students Nathan McWherter (BA ’11) and Danny Sugimoto, Wong founded Spit in the Mud, a spoken word ministry dedicated to reaching out to others through poetry and art. Spit in the Mud artists traveled across cities, counties, and states to perform and minister to people through their poetic pieces. In November 2010, Wong and Spit in the Mud hosted a benefit concert at Eastside Christian Church in Fullerton for the local nonprofit group, Solidarity, and raised almost a thousand dollars.
“As I look at all I’ve written post-college, I can still pinpoint what classes [at HIU] have provoked certain creative tactics and intentional, syntactical flair.” In the past three months, she has had plenty of chances to put her education and experience to use. “Immediately after college I sold 90% of my stuff and moved to Prescott, Arizona to be UCYC’s resident slam poet, performing 5 nights a week to thousands of kids, with themes for Jr. High as well as High School.” Wong says she is shocked by how many kids and teens have contacted her to say now they want to write poetry for God, and use their talents in music, painting, drawing, and more for worship. “This generation is starting to break out of all the boxes they’ve been put in, and I am so blessed to be able to witness the tearing down of the walls of convention in the church,” said Wong.
Wong’s desire to reach today’s youth compels her. “I do what I do because I think silence and inauthenticity in our youth is Satan's ploy to steal a generation that belongs to the Lord. Through giving our youth a voice and encouraging them to be honest with their lives and with each other, we advocate for the importance of community and honesty, and the reality of the power of God's grace in our lives. In a fast, intense, hip-hop-driven world, I preach the Gospel in a fast, intense, hip-hop-driven way. I have found a way to communicate to today's youth exactly where they're at, and I use the most effective methods I know of in order to point people to Christ. What I do sounds weird and unconventional to a lot of people, but we need to get out of our small, traditional boxes and do whatever it takes to communicate to our generation; their souls are more important than our traditions.”
Since she has been performing in Arizona, Wong has been given so many opportunities to continue doing spoken word ministry full-time that her original plans to return to California have changed.
“I’m not moving back,” she said. “God changed the course of my ministry in Arizona, and my calendar is booked straight through December. I’m being hired not only as a poet, but also as a speaker for church services, and [as a] teacher for writing workshops. I’m working with amazing media teams and different churches, and have been blessed by all of the teens I’ve met who have shown me that spoken word in the church is more powerful and effective than I could have possibly imagined.” Wong notes the idea of being a full-time traveling poet sounds crazy, but as she says, “it turns out, God calls us to do crazy things.”
That belief is something Wong discovered while she was at HIU and it’s something she hopes others will come to know as well. When asked what she would say to prospective students, Wong said, “Come to Hope to be a part of something greater than you. Find a group you connect with. Find an organization your heart beats with. If you can’t find something already established, you’re in the perfect place to start your own movement. Be passionate. Be radical. Scare people if you need to. Forget all you thought was possible, and let God break you and stretch you and bring you to so much more.”