Ezekiel Hong: A Trilingual Journey of Faith

by Nathan Foster

Ezekiel Hong, MDiv ’22, walked up to the podium for the Azusa Pacific Seminary commissioning service full of gratitude and awe. Just eight years prior, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to move to the United States or if he could afford to live in California while seeking his Master of Divinity degree. Placing his faith in God, Hong moved from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Los Angeles. It was the second major move Hong had made in his life, after moving to Brazil from South Korea 20 years earlier at the age of 11. Hong used his proficiency in the Korean, Portuguese, and English languages to deliver his commissioning speech at APU in all three. “The seminary has a Hispanic and Korean program and I really wanted to honor graduates from all programs and to celebrate the diversity we have in the school,” Hong said. “I was honored and humbled by the opportunity to give the speech. It felt like a confirmation from God that His faithfulness had carried me and my family through and He fulfilled his promises.”

Hong was born in South Korea in 1982. Following a divorce, his mother decided to move to Sao Paulo in 1994 where much of their family already lived. “There was a population of more than 30,000 Koreans living in Sao Paulo, but culturally, it was completely different from Korea,” Hong said. “Brazil’s culture is very open, more relational, while South Korea at the time was more hierarchical and systematic.” Hong said the transition was difficult, that learning a new culture and language led to an identity crisis. “I struggled a lot after the move. It was at the peak of my emptiness and loneliness when I had my first encounter with Jesus at the age of 20,” he said. “I realized life made more sense when I thought about how God created us and is in control, so I decided to surrender my life to the Lord.”

A decade later, Hong made another life changing decision. He had visited L.A. in 2012 and connected with a woman he knew from high school named Bibiana who is also Korean-Brazilian. They began dating, a long distance relationship, and a year later they got engaged. In the beginning of 2014, Hong moved to L.A. and they got married that October. The move was full of challenges, mainly because Hong did not know English and was not financially prepared. “It wasn’t an easy process and there were many hardships along the way, but I heard God telling me that He was in charge, that He was the one who was leading us here and would take care of our family,” Hong said. “In the midst of all these challenges, it’s not that God came and just solved our problems, but He gave us the strength to overcome them. He walked with us. He reminded us of His promise for our family and our ministry. Because of his faithfulness, we persevered through that season.”

While he pursued his M.Div. at Azusa Pacific Seminary, Hong began to work as a youth pastor at LA Full Gospel Church, a Korean church. “The funny thing is that after living in Brazil for so long, Portuguese became my main language, so I had to relearn Korean when I started working at the church,” he said. “I don’t have a favorite of the three languages I speak, in my house we speak a mix of all three, but I do love being able to connect with others in different ways.” Hong plans to continue working as a youth pastor for now, but is open to different paths in the future. “I used to be adamant that I wanted to go into church planting, to have my own church. However, God has been working on my heart and I’m really happy where I am right now. My heart is always focused on pastoral ministry, that’s my calling, but I don’t know where the Lord is going to lead me next.”

In his commissioning speech, Hong read the passage 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. This Scripture shares that God did not choose the wise, the strong, or those of noble birth to bring His glory. Rather, He chose the foolish, the weak, and those who came from nothing to bring His glory to the world. “That’s literally how I felt. I didn’t come from much, but God is still using me for His purpose,” Hong said. “The only reason I was on that stage is because of the Lord.”

Nathan is the public relations manager in the Office of Strategic Communication and Engagement.