Van’s Story

Hi everyone,

It is such a privilege speaking here in front of everyone today. My name is Van Hong and I’ve been going to SCAC for a bit over 2 years, which is around the same time I first heard of Jesus. A little background about myself; For many people here that grew up in the church, I grew up in the temple. For about half of my life, I went to a Vietnamese Sunday school where I was part of  a Buddhist youth group. Within those 13 years, I learned a great amount of Buddhist teachings and practices. One of the main practices for this religion was getting rid of all desires: emotional, physical and spiritual desires. By doing that, you are supposedly rid of all immoral temptations. The accumulation of your good deeds would also be a weight towards redeeming your fate.

My parents were essentially strong practicing Buddhists and enforced their beliefs on my two full-blood siblings and myself. Their strong perseverance during the Vietnam war, fleeing their home from government tyranny, starting with nothing after immigrating to the states to live the American dream, and practicing their religion led to relying on only themselves and family during times of adversity. Essentially, it was like putting up a mask and just powering through with whatever life throws at you. It wasn’t until I was in high school when our family was challenged with a traumatic incident that changed me. My older brother passed away during the summer of 11th grade from a drowning accident.

This led to a ton of guilt, pain, and shame for my parents, older sister, and I. Entering my junior year, I didn’t really know how to process this incident and was advised by my parents to put on my mask, act like “everything is okay”, suppress my emotions and continue persevering. Putting on this mask became a natural instinct for me as I continued on with my life, attend college, entered my gap years working and continued building my career.

After my brother, Mark passed away, I developed a void that was filled with discontentment. I became self-critical of my successes but especially my failures. Buddhism didn’t answer this void I felt, it made things more difficult because I couldn’t clear this void. I then began internalizing a lot of criticisms and failures. I fell ill easily whenever I got stressed.  Work was always tiring, and I sustained a few injuries.  I felt like I was in the body of a 60-year-old. I thought to myself “Is this all there is to life? What is my purpose and why am I here?” It was until I had a deep conversation with a friend that talked about her faith and allegiance to a man named Jesus Christ.

I began going to church with her, started learning about God, his creation and his desire to have a relationship with us. After weeks of going to church, worshipping God and listening/discussing the sermon, I felt a sense of hope for the first time in a long time. The void I felt started to fill and I wasn’t just happy but JOYFUL about life and for those around me. I was hesitant to what I was experiencing, so I began going to different churches by myself to “reassure” if this change wasn’t simply just because of my friend. It wasn’t until a few churches later where I stumbled upon SCAC.

During my time at SCAC, my faith solidified. I began learning more of the love Jesus has for us and how we are redeemed not through our acts, but through his blood. Ephesians 2 says: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Eph. 2:8-9

Once, being overwhelmed with so much emotion to know about this type of love, I started crying. These weren’t tears of anger or sorrow from my brother’s loss but tears of joy and grace, for in the house of God, I felt consoled and protected.

Over these past few years, I personally have heard from the Lord of his love for me and his encouragement for self-care. After struggling with criticism and rejection from my parents after sharing with them about my faith and searching for my identity for the past few years; Over this past week at Urbana, I’ve heard from Jesus reassurance that he loves me, that I am his son and he is with me.

And so brothers and sisters, I first want to thank everyone (Pastor Roy, Pastor Tung and those in my fellowship, community groups and Sunday schools) for being with me during my new walk. Our God is a glorious, beautiful and a victorious God. I still will miss my brother, and will continue struggle with my old self and upbringings. Jesus has done so much for me and all of us and I want to share him with those who haven’t heard of him. He has given me trust, clarity, wisdom and direction; Even though I don’t know what the future holds for me, I know that I want to honor God and advance his kingdom.








– Van Hong

Yvonne’s Story

My mom sent me to SCAC when I was in 5th grade because of how naughty I was; she was hoping that the church would teach me good morals and how I should behave. Growing up in Church, I had always identified myself as a Christian, though I didn’t truly understand what it means to be a Christian.

Then came junior year of high school – that year was a turnaround for me. Through much pain, I started to really see God’s work in me, and His mercy & His grace, and how He allowed me to suffer to receive something much greater – a relationship with Him.

Many things happened that year. It started off with the discovery that my dad had been unfaithful to my mom and our family. When he told my mom that he had a son outside of their marriage, my mom collapsed, and she was in severe depression. Meanwhile, we lived on Beacon Hill, but our landlord wanted to sell her house, so we were forced to move out. Due to financial and other reasons we ended up moving six times in less than two years.

This all happened during my junior and senior year, my two busiest years of high school. I was taking five AP/college level classes and was active in various clubs & extracurriculars, while applying to colleges. And because of everything that were happening at home, I was unwilling to compromise anything that would potentially hurt my chances of getting into a good college. I believed firmly that a good education is the way out of poverty and that my mom will only have me to rely on in the future.

I was overwhelmed to say the least. My broken family broke me. Having to move so many times and the heavy workload in school were like the chili pepper and salt rubbed in my wounds; Although I felt so lonely, so empty and dead inside, my faith in God was the ONE thing that kept me going. I’d turned to God, constantly seeking for His presence, this great loving God that I had been hearing about for years. I started praying a lot. And somehow, I felt God’s presence and felt as if God held tight on me every time I thought I was about to sink into the deep waters.

At one point, during the summer between my junior and senior year, we couldn’t find a home and we had to stay in my uncle’s place. But my uncle’s place was very packed already, and I didn’t want to add any more trouble for my uncle or be a burden to my mom, so I packed some essentials and went homeless for almost a month without my family knowing. I moved from one friend’s place, to another, to another. Being homeless was scary. I had to constantly worry if I’d have a place to stay the next day, who was going to keep me, and how will I be able to return the favor in the future. All those worries added to my fear and desperation. Then I came across Luke 12:24: “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” I felt like my heart was resurrected. I was enlightened. I held tight to the verse and trusted that God will provide for me and that He has a plan for me, the best plan.

And He really did provide for me. I had a roof over me for every night I was homeless. And He for sure planned everything out for me. Through all the fear and pain, I learned to seek God as my refuge and my cornerstone, the One whom I can rely on for everything and at all times. He also taught me how to be resilient by trusting in Him, and how that I can be so loved by Him and the wonderful people He put in my life who helped me walk through my darkest days.

I also learned to see the good things in my life, not as a coincidence, but blessings from a God who loves me dearly. So when I got accepted into Carnegie Mellon, and when we finally found a stable home in a very ideal location, and when my mom finally ended the unhealthy relationship with my dad and walked out of depression, I was able see and embrace God’s love for me. All that had happened in the last two can’t be a coincidence, there must be a loving God out there watching and caring for me. And the more I learn about Him and the more I experience His love, the more I want to be with Him. I am finally ready to say that He is above all else King of my heart.

-Yvonne Liang