Current Status: Alumni
Graduation Year: BA '02
Many Christian leaders successfully build their ministries by creating something brand new, such as planting a church or starting a faith-based organization. As a student, Kevin Mo-Wong (BA ‘02) and his HIU friends believed God was calling them to establish a local outreach more organically. That initial prompting has since grown into the Orange County, CA, non-profit organization, Solidarity, where Kevin now serves as Executive Director. Solidarity’s mission focuses on equipping and empowering Latino immigrant families in under-resourced neighborhoods to help transform their communities.
Kevin and his classmate, Steve Carter (‘02), were leading a Wednesday evening small group at HIU that routinely performed random acts of kindness as a way to bless others. But the group, believing it could have a greater impact, began to look for other ways to serve more effectively. That desire turned outward after Carter returned from a mission trip in Santiago, Chile, where he worked with a local pastor and was surprised by how connected the pastor was with everyone in the surrounding community.
When they discovered that a Community Center in the Garnet neighborhood of nearby Placentia needed help with an after-school program, they jumped at the opportunity, along with another HIU student, Tommy Nixon (‘01).
“We went into it thinking we would save the community,” explained Kevin, “and, after a while, we felt like God was reminding us that He had already been loving that community for a very long time, and that we needed to listen to Him, rather than building our own thing.”
Wong says God taught them to listen to people, instead of prescribing fixes for the primarily Latino community in which they served. As a result, they developed a growing desire to meet the challenges of youth violence, a broken immigration system, financial and food insecurity, and the community’s lack of representation in places of influence.
“We wanted them to experience shalom (God’s peace),” said Kevin. “It became clear that following Christ’s example of empathy, compassion and dignity, not ‘fixing’ people, effectively broke down any existing barriers. The ministry grew as we asked ourselves and God how best to love people.”
While they were still students at Hope, these friends pondered such questions as how to re-envision what the Church could look, in light of their new understanding. Kevin remembers faculty members meeting those questions with open minds.
“Instead of doubting our calling, they encouraged us to dream,” he said. “They urged freedom to explore and didn’t put up any barriers.”
Kevin is especially grateful to his faculty mentors, including Dr.Kelly Dagley, Dr. Joe Grana, Dr. Curtis Holtzen, and Dr. Paul Alexander, now President of HIU, for nurturing the ideas and inspirations that grew into Solidarity. The non-profit organization was formally established by Kevin, Tim Anderson (’06), Randy Choi, Lori Coshow (’04), Chelle Deloof (’05), Marcy (Hebzynski) Jensen (’03), Rachael Nixon, and Tommy Nixon (’01).
Kevin shared that the Solidarity founders and staff do encounter other Christians who don’t understand the organization’s commitment to immigrants, and that those people may ask challenging questions, such as, “Why are you helping law-breakers?”
“People who ask those questions frequently have never known people who live in the margins and suffer from a broken system,” he said. “I didn’t understand, either, until I got to know them in the context of relationships.”
When asked what advice he would offer to HIU’s future ministers and community leaders, Kevin said: “Listen well and learn to view the world through God’s eyes, not through the eyes of your parents’ church, and remember that God often reveals his character through voices that are overlooked.”
Kevin and his wife, Crystal, have two young daughters, Kai and Liana, and they are part of A Place to Worship in Orange County.