Abby Leija-Cardenas has spent more than one quarter of her life being the hands and feet of Jesus. She’s only 17, but her mother began laying the foundation for loving and serving others at an early age through homeschool, church activities, and involvement in missions. Mayra and Javier, Abby’s mom and dad, along with the HUB Student Ministry at Houston’s First, facilitated opportunities that have influenced Abby to dedicate her life as a career missionary.
A new high school graduate, Abby recently returned from her last season of Rush Week, an annual camp-missions experience for students in seventh grade through high school. “Rush Week is a neat experience that is half camp and half missions,” said Abby. The past four years, she has participated in various types of ministry: door-to-door evangelism, intercessory prayer, Vacation Bible School and as a Spark Team member, going where she is most urgently needed. “I’m kind of shy,” said Abby. “Every time it’s a new challenge — but I do it anyway.”
Attending classes and seeking practical ways to minister over the years has also prepared her to speak to others about her faith in Christ. As a sophomore, Abby took “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,” and later, a version of Evangelism Explosion. Mission trips to Canada, Costa Rica and home-based mission experiences like Houston 1:8 have built her confidence, expanded her horizons and deepened her love for people of other cultures.
Missionary friends working in Nepal for eight years returned to Houston and began ministering to a Nepalese community living at Los Arcos, an apartment complex in southwest Houston. For the past two years, Abby, her mother, and little sister Becky have helped students at Los Arcos with homework and Bible lessons, among other activities. Abby’s heart was won over by sweet, 11 yearold Gyopi, a Nepalese girl. “She didn’t come to the group much last year, and when she did she really didn’t sit and pay attention,” said Abby, “but this year I see a passion for God and an understanding of the Gospel that I don’t often see in a girl her age.”
As Abby says her goodbyes to the HUB Student Ministry and begins a new chapter of life at Houston Baptist University, she leaves behind a legacy of love and determination that no doubt has influenced other students toward evangelism and service. As the Lord leads, Abby dreams one day of working for Wycliffe Bible Translators, introducing written language to people groups who have none. And though she has a love for Hindus, she says she will go — or stay — anywhere the Lord leads.
“There’s a little phrase I like to remind myself of,” says Abby. “Panta ta ethne: It means ‘All the nations,’ as found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28. The Gospel needs to go out to all the nations of the world, and really, the nations live right here in Houston.
NextGen Ministries partners with Houston’s First parents to help guide and nurture their children, birth through twelfth grade, in spiritual growth and maturity. Visit the Parents Page to discover opportunities for education and practical experience presented to families as they prepare their children to trust in Christ and share the Gospel with others.