War Veteran Prayed to God To Keep Him Alive, Now Lives Each Day Fulfilling Promise


“God, I don’t want to die in Iraq. I’m gonna make a deal with you,” Yauo Yang prayed. “If you can get me out of Iraq alive, when I come back to central Wisconsin, whatever you want me to do, I will do it for you.”

This desperate prayer said soon after Yang watched a dear friend and mentor die from a bomb explosion has defined the war veteran’s life and set him on a course he would have never dreamed for himself.

Yang’s entire life has been touched by war. Before his birth, his parents along with his three older siblings fled persecution in Laos right after the Vietnam War.

They landed in a refugee camp in Thailand where Yang’s three older siblings died from malnutrition. Even though he never met them, he often thought about them during his childhood.

The family later moved to central Wisconsin in 1987 as legal residents.

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Yang attended the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point in the fall of 2000. He was studied communication and political science; He wanted to be the next Connie Chung.

But soon, the 911 terrorist attacks changed it all, and Yang wanted to do something more.

He remembers thinking, “How dare these terrorists come to destroy our country. We have good, loving people, so I need to defend the freedom of this country.”

Even though he was not an American citizen at the time, he wanted to show his gratitude toward the country where he had been given so many opportunities.

He enrolled in the National Guard at the age of 20 and was deployed just four years later.

“For being a 24-year-old you think that you’re just immortal, that you’re going to live forever. So I realized with the passing of my squad leader that I had a pretty high probability of also not making it out of Iraq,” Yang said.

With his wife at home and pregnant with their first child, Yang began praying for God to keep him safe while overseas. He promised to find ways to thank God if he could only return home safely.

He was so grateful when he was finally able to return to his central Wisconsin home.

Coming home brought its own share of struggles, though. Yang admitted that he constantly battles PTSD and depression from his time in Iraq.

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“For now, I want to put it behind me. It’s like living through that experience night after night. It’s kind of tough for it to come back to haunt you. And it’s one of those things you can’t control,” he said.

He went back to school and continued to build a family with his wife, but the promises he made to God while overseas were always in the back of his mind.

The promises, he said, seemed to be “carrying a burden” in his heart and he was determined to keep them.

Yang soon began developing his spiritual life as much as he could. He regularly went to church, taught Sunday school, and even became a leader in his church.

He said that he was constantly checking in with God to make sure that he was following God’s will for his life.

One day, God tapped Yang on his shoulder. “I think God said, ‘You can do a lot more,'” Yang recalled.

So he soon began taking classes to become a pastor which would eventually lead to him becoming a church planter.

But Yang wanted his church to be a safe haven for people of all backgrounds and ethnic groups.

He started The Cross in 2016, in his living room, but the church quickly grew too large for his home. They now rent weekly space from the local YMCA.

“We are a non-denominational, multi-ethnic church that wants to spread the gospel message of the Good News of Jesus Christ to all people in Central Wisconsin,” reads the church’s Facebook page.

He is also working on starting a “gospel rescue mission” where hungry people can find a meal and homeless people can find a place to sleep.

“This is what I want to do. I don’t just want to be a Sunday morning pastor,” Yang said. “We can provide for the spiritual support. But first we need to provide physical support. The two go together.”

Yang says that his church along with the rescue mission may just be how he thanks God for bringing him home safely.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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