Offering Something She Never Received
BAO YANG (MA/MFT ’18)
Bao Yang knew about the need for advocates from a young age. As a member of the Fresno Hmong community, she saw many examples of her father—a clan leader—advocating for the needs of people. “I saw a lot of hardships and the advocate work of my parents in the community. I knew that I wanted to work with people, but I just wasn’t sure in what capacity,” she says. That need Yang saw for advocates grew stronger when her brother committed suicide and no grief services were offered to her family.
After graduating from California State University, Fresno she worked for seven years at the Marjaree Mason Center as a victims advocate assigned to the Fresno Police Department. She contacted victims identified by law enforcement and responded to 911 calls with police officers to offer services to victims and children exposed to violence. But she knew she could do more.
Beginning at FPU
One of Yang’s brothers had been helped with his English by Phyllis Martens (MA ‘85). Phyllis and her husband, Elmer (president emeritus of Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary) regularly went went to Yang family functions. “They were our first Christian family friends and listened to our stories without judgment,” Yang says. “They were very accepting of us.” Elmer and Phyllis both taught at FPU and that connection encouraged Yang to apply to the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program through Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, a school of FPU. At that time Yang was not a Christian so she was cautious about what her experience as a student might be.
While Yang thought she was coming to FPU to change other people’s lives, her life was changed the first day in chapel. Growing up Hmong she was involved in animism, but during orientation she was sitting in chapel and she met Jesus. She sensed God telling her, “I’m here and have made myself known to you.” She is now a Christian and lives out her faith in her daily ministry. “FPU is a sacred place for me,” she says. “FPU has always held a special place in my heart because FPU is a place where I met Jesus. And is also where I learned that he was always there.”
Yang graduated from FPU in 2018 with her MFT degree. Currently she serves as a school-based clinician with FPU’s On-Site Counseling Center. She conducts counseling at two elementary schools in Fresno County and meets with FPU students too. FPU has helped her understand how religion helps people in the healing process. She finds herself asking, “How is Jesus present in this room? How is he present with me in this healing process with these individuals?”
While there were limited services offered to Yang and her family while she was a child, she’s now part of services offered to all people of Fresno that need help with social and emotional trauma. “All my professors at FPU imparted a piece of wisdom I utilize personally and professionally. They taught me to walk with individuals in a time of healing by shedding light and speaking truth into a person’s life to help individuals find their voice,” she says.
While no one outside Yang’s immediate family was there to help her find her voice as a young woman, she now is an outside voice helping others find theirs.