Joe & Irene Hwang
I grew up in northern New Jersey, loving sports, Haagen-Dazs ice cream (my parents owned a store), and martial arts (my brother and I eventually practiced six different disciplines). My parents taught me to work hard, both in my studies and at the ice cream store (free labor for them, but also free ice cream for me!).
In high school youth group, God was more like a concept or a vague idea. What grabbed my attention in college was a group of believers who actually tried to live out how the Bible calls us to live — and they lived lives of such strength, joy and devotion that it made me realize I didn’t have the same things in my own relationship with God.
I fully gave my life to the Lord my freshman year of college, and God flipped my world upside down. I went from caring mostly about myself and my own success, to trying to love whoever God would send my way. I’ll never forget my senior year, when I first led someone to Christ — the thrill and joy of it made me think: “I want to do this for the rest of my life!”
I graduated Berkeley and served as bi-vocational college minister for 12 years while working as a developer at Apple. In 2018, my wife and I went into full-time ministry, and we moved down to Southern California, to lead our college ministry at UC Irvine. In 2021 we moved to help plant our church in Boston, along with our good friends Josh and Jacqui (whom we’ve known since our freshman year of college!!), and then moved back to Irvine.
Favorite ice cream flavor: Deep Chocolate Peanut Butter … or Double Belgian Chocolate ChipHobbies: Basketball, volleyball, football … pretty much all sports … building/fixing things, reading, hiking (favs: the Narrows @ Zion, Cloud’s Rest @ Yosemite!), watching my three hilariously cute daughters play togetherMyers-Briggs: ISTP (the complete opposite of my wife, who is ENFJ!)
I regularly attended church, served on praise band, led small groups, but being “Christian” was like my ethnicity, just a label. My life’s goal was to have a good time and be well-liked, and it had very little to do with being a Christian. It wasn’t until college at UC Berkeley, where I started to question my beliefs and come to a personal understanding that being a Christian is so much more than how you spend your Sundays. I found a compelling group of believers whose lives were completely defined by their identity as Christians.
Ultimately, it was through this group of believers that I more fully understood how amazing it is that God would save a sinner like me. So, my life’s goal is to now share this incredible news about Jesus with others and try to recreate that compelling group of believers. I’ve had the privilege to serve as a college mentor at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, help start the ministry at Boston University, and now I'm back in sunny SoCal at UC Irvine again.
No matter where we live (my husband, Joe, and our 3 little girls), you’ll likely find us playing sports, jamming on a guitar and cajon, or eating lots of good food surrounded by lots of good people.
Myers Briggs: I’m a major extrovert, ENFJ.
Enneagram: I’ve been told that I’m an Enneagram type 8 wing 7, but I feel the most identified by the phrase, “Almost everything can be more fun with a little effort!”