Posted: November 10, 2023
Hosanna Wong (‘11) is an international speaker, best-selling author, and spoken word artist helping everyday people know Jesus for real. Widely known for her spoken word piece, “I Have A New Name,” Hosanna shares in churches, conferences, prisons, and other events around the world, reaching across various denominations, backgrounds, and cultures.
Born and raised in an urban ministry on the streets of San Francisco, Hosanna later packed her life into suitcases and traveled to churches and other ministries throughout the United States to share about Jesus through spoken word poetry. During those years without a permanent home, she began speaking and creating resources to serve the local and global Church.
She currently travels and speaks year-round, and serves on teaching teams at churches throughout the United States.
Hosanna never meant to attend a private, Christian university. She was raised by a father who had struggled with a heroin addiction and the gang lifestyle. When a man introduced him to Jesus, he turned from gang activity and addiction, and then raised Hosanna in a church that looked very different from those that most HIU students experience. They served in the streets and worshipped outdoors, with no stained glass or comfortable seats, and it was in those streets that Hosanna built the foundation for her current ministry, through which she preaches, teaches, and helps others know Jesus “for real.”
“I learned spoken word poetry and hip-hop on the streets, and I never realized that those art forms could serve Jesus,” Hosanna said.
Her non-traditional childhood meant that school was a struggle, because she didn’t quite fit the model of a scholar. Still, her grades were sufficient to lead to multiple scholarship offers when it was time for college. She chose Hope International University, the only faith-based institution among her options, not because of the faith base, but because it offered her the biggest scholarship package.
Shortly prior to her freshman year, her father was diagnosed with cancer, and Hosanna did not want to leave him, but his desire for his daughter to earn a college degree persuaded her to move to Fullerton. Once she arrived, she planned to stay for a year and then leave, but her father lost his battle with cancer during her first year and, not really feeling like she had a place to return, she continued in her pursuit of higher education, ultimately declaring an English major. She struggled with her faith, feeling deeply wounded and confused by the church, but she found a stronger spiritual connection midway through her college years.
“I had met Jesus when I was very young,” she said, “but, when I was about 20 years old, I realized that I needed my own relationship with Jesus, not connected to my father’s relationship with Jesus.”
That fresh relationship with God, combined with her English major, led Wong into mentorships with two professors who supported her in ways that profoundly impacted her life:
Professor Cora Alley, now retired as Chair of the English Department, and Dr. Natalie Hewitt, currently Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She said they always allowed her to be raw and honest, but demanded her best; she remembers that the “A” she earned in a grammar class with Dr. Hewitt was the hardest-earned grade ever.
“They supported my desire to use my art form to help others know Jesus,” said Wong. “They pushed me to be excellent, to learn literature and writing in their more classic forms, and to express myself in written form. I wouldn’t be a published author without them.”
Hosanna also had a small group of friends who, like her, also found it difficult to relate to many other HIU students. She and her group of friends drove to Los Angeles on weekends, so that she could perform her work at slam poetry gatherings and other types of events. A lifelong friendship with her best friend, Kasey Martin-Lau (2011), thrived when they played tennis doubles in their senior year, and Wong is privileged to have performed Martin-Lau’s wedding ceremony this past summer.
During college, she began ministering through spoken word, feeling convicted that she didn’t want to wait until after graduation to start serving. Her friendships and L.A. experiences, in addition to the guidance of faculty members who helped her through a dark time of loss and discovery, were all part of the growing realization that she really could use her talents to minister, but it took some time for her heart to soften toward the church as an institution.
She was prepared to teach English after graduation but was beset by invitations to work at local churches that summer, sharing her unique spoken word poetry. The girl who didn’t feel like she fit in with typical congregations found herself living with pastors’ families and that work grew into more than four years of traveling and ministering. Early in her travels, she met her husband, Guy Johnson, and they married two years later.
Hosanna has written two books, How Not to Save the World: The Truth about Revealing God’s Love to the People Right Next to You, and the recently-published You Are More Than You’ve Been Told (Unlock a Fresh Way to Live Through the Rhythms of Jesus). Her husband, Guy, is a pastor and president of their nonprofit, Word on the Street Global. The themes of sharing the gospel with everyday people and authenticity in faith feature prominently in all of her words and work, and she continues to travel extensively, spending about 42 weekends per year, ministering in churches, conferences, and prisons.
To learn more about Hosanna and her ministry, go to HosannaWong.com.