Hosanna Wong: Finding purpose in poetry

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By Jessica King
Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of hosannawong.com

Her suitcases, packed. She would leave everything behind in pursuit of her “yes” to tell the story of Jesus in an art form she realized helped people discover their identity. That art form? Spoken word poetry. Hosanna Wong, at 21-years-old, could not ignore the calling that made her heart beat out of her chest, so she embarked on her cross-country journey with only God and her poetry to keep her company.
“I just really wanted to do something that helped people and something that mattered, but all I knew how to do was this poetry thing that I loved,” Wong said. “I decided that I wanted to help other people share their stories. I needed people to know how free they could be, like I found out.”
Spoken word introduced itself to Wong on the streets of Bernal Heights, San Francisco, California, where hip-hop and freestyling raised her to express the emotions brought on by tough sights and experiences.
“I learned through the spoken word community or the hip-hop community on the streets how valuable people’s stories were,” Wong said. The authenticity of the artists on those San Francisco streets inspired Wong to adopt spoken word poetry to share her own story and process her emotions. After Wong found Jesus, however, her faith began to overflow in her poetry.
“I did not discover it as a way to share the story of Jesus, but because it was something I loved and enjoyed and worked hard to try to be good at. It was all I had, it’s just what I used,” Wong said.
Wong discovered the impact her poems were making on the streets as questions began to arise from the community about the God she spoke of. Everything clicked. Her passion had met her calling. It worked, and because it worked, she performed her poetry again the next day. And the day after that. And every day since that day because she watched people decide to follow Jesus.
“If you wanna talk about calling, I feel called to tell people how loved and valuable they are and spoken word has worked as a way to do that, so I’ve been using spoken word,” Wong said. Wong said she rose to the challenge of allowing God to use everything she was, where she was, to fulfill the calling of loving those next to her.
Wong strives to convey the importance of knowing love and value in her poems, which made an impact on Kassidi Kelley, a University of Texas at Tyler student who attended Wong’s spoken word concert in January at Friendly Baptist Church.
“As I was taking in what she was saying, I was thinking, ‘Wow, there is a God above who wants me,’” Kelley said.
In her most famous piece “I Have a New Name,” Wong lists the names God calls His children. One name, “greatly loved,” resonated with Kelley.
“It was amazing to hear those words from someone who truly means it. My God loves me to no end,” Kelley said.
For the last 10 years, Wong’s “yes” to traveling the world as God’s messenger telling the story of Jesus through her poems.
In the beginning of pursuing her calling, however, love was not reciprocated in the support from her friends or family. While no one went with her at first, Wong expressed she had valuable time to cultivate her personal relationship with God.
“Those times alone with God are significant and important and valuable to be closer to the most important relationship in your life. Then, when you build more relationships, you have this foundation of the most important relationship in your life,” Wong said.
Nevertheless, Wong prayed for her community to come. So, she accepted invitations and did some inviting herself. Rejection came and went, but through her fumbling, Wong found friends who have came alongside her and cheered her on, who have failed and stumbled just as much as she had.
“I have taken a lot of risks in my career and I have the luxury that a lot of people don’t have is that I have failed a lot,” Wong said. “There’s something about failure that kind of frees you.”
One of these proud failures, she explained, was roughly five years into her career when she lost all of her projects in a warehouse fire, which caused her to have to start from scratch.
“I started finding my identity in this good thing that I do, this Godly thing that I do, and then when I lost it all, I had to remember that in what I do have or what I don’t have that God is enough,” Wong said.
An excerpt from Wong’s spoken word poem, “These Waters,” reflects this feeling. “I can trust God with my life/God has a plan for me/I was born with a purpose/I was born with talents/I was born with a mission to set the captives free/I can trust God with my life.”
Wong wrote this piece in the midst of her loss, sitting on top of a laundromat dryer, as she was inspired by Jesus’ disciple, Peter, and his response to Jesus calling him to walk on water to meet Him. It had become clear to her that people are a lot like Peter. Her poem continues with “There’s a little bit of this lack of trust manifesting within all of us/Because we stop staring into the eyes of Jesus/And start looking at how scary/The waters are beneath us/But Jesus wants us to step out/To stop drowning in the sea of doubts/And start to walk on this water/He wants us to dive in/Into all his kingdom has to offer.”
Wong realized through her loss how fickle the world’s opinion is about her. “One day they’ll hate you. One day they’ll love you,” Wong said. By overcoming the world’s judgment of her career, she lives in freedom knowing she has failed before and has survived every time.
“God is trustworthy,” she said. “God is enough.”
As she reflects on her journey in following God’s calling, Wong said, “I set off to do something, but God was never calling me to do something. He was calling me to become someone, and I think I’ve learned a lot about who I am without all of this. By doing all of this, I’ve learned who I am without all of this, and as long as this works, I’m going to keep doing it.”