Changed: Cuong Dang

September 7, 2023

From Sept 10-24, we will be returning to the book of Acts with a series called "Changed." In Acts 8 & 9, we will see three vastly different people whose lives are changed by the one life-saving gospel.

However, that news of Jesus's death and resurrection didn't just change the lives of people in the first century but continues to change lives in the twenty-first century. To give you a glimpse of this life-changing gospel still actively working, we have asked four vastly different people within the Riverwood family to share their stories of how the gospel has changed them. To kick things off this week, we have invited Cuong Dang (pronounced "kuh-ung dong") to share some of his spiritual story.

I grew up in a non-Christian family. Like most families in Vietnam, we practiced worshiping ancestors and the local gods of the land. Did we really believe in their existence? Maybe. I personally never really did. But it was more about, as the Vietnamese proverb goes, “Where there’s worshipping, there’s efficacy; where there’s fasting, there’s peace.”

Changed: Cuong Dang • Riverwood Church

When it was time for college, I went to Yonsei University in South Korea. It was the first university in South Korea and was established by a missionary. As a result, all students must take an introductory course to Christianity and attend chapel services for two years. I was curious; at Christmas in my first year, I went to the school’s bookstore, bought a Bible, and started reading. The four gospels were “foreign” to me. They did not really leave any impressions and were hard to understand. What I loved most, though, was the book of Proverbs; I loved reading the wisdom therein. But that was the end of Christianity in my life at the time. I went through college listening to the world and carrying out its (and my own) desires.

A couple years later, during the last year of college, I started reading literature classics and came across Les Misérables. Unlike the musical, in the book, there is a long section at the beginning portraying the life of the bishop who later gave the candlesticks to Jean Valjean. I was incredibly moved by how he lived and had a burning desire to become someone like him. I told myself, “This is the kind of man I would like to be.” And the redemption of Jean Valjean is the transformation I would like to undergo. My heart was convinced.

Shortly after, I finished Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. My head was convinced; it is arguable that Christianity could be true. And that was when I knelt down and prayed my first prayer. It went something like this, “God, I don’t know if you’re real, but I hope that you are. I don’t really believe, but I hope that I do. I want to become someone like the bishop or Jean Valjean. So please if you are real, grant me the faith. Please help me to believe.” (Later, I realized that my prayer was like what is in Mark 9:24.)

That was the start of my journey. I have come a good way both in terms of how I live and what I believe about Him. I have made many mistakes along the way, had to revise some of what I had believed, and know I am probably still wrong about many things. But God’s existence is always deeply evident, and the desire to know Him and grow in love and obedience towards Him is firmly in my heart (Hebrews 11:6).

Cuong is married to Sarah, who served as a missionary in Vietnam. They make their home in Waverly with their three children.

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

It doesn't matter to us if you:

  • are a Wartburg student or a grandparent,
  • vote Democrat or Republican,
  • are married, divorced, or single,
  • have gone to church for years or haven't been to church in years,
  • make $100,000/yr. or wonder how you're going to pay rent this month,
  • or fear your past mistakes make you unlovable to God or others.

No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, we want to help you become who God has created you to be.

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