Michael and Julie Meissner – Founders; Executive Director and House Mom
Michael and Julie have been married 25 years and have three children: Caleb, Courtney, and Joshua. Pastoring churches for 24 years in San Antonio, Colorado Springs, and Cypress, Michael is the founding pastor of LifeBridge Church in Cypress, and has an M.Div. from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Michael has a passion for gardening, the outdoors, good conversation, and telling “dad” jokes. He can be found most days working in the garden or visiting with a neighbor.
Julie, with a B.A. in education from Concordia Texas, homeschools their children, is a trained spiritual director through Leadership Transformations Inc. and a member of the Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association. She offers soul companionship and spiritual formation through Dwell Ministries and also now serves part-time with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Graduate and Faculty Ministries on campus at Texas A&M University. Julie loves great books, inspiring art, nature, and cooking/eating with her Paleo friends. She can most likely be found helping the children in the home with their school work, cooking up dinner in the kitchen, or hiding in her prayer closet with Jesus.
Their family has fostered children through Loving Houston, a YWAM ministry that provides Christian foster homes for street babies. They have taken numerous overseas mission trips to Nepal, Africa, and Belize, and worked extensively with local refugees from a variety of nations. One of their greatest delights was hosting four girls from the India Children’s Choir to live in their home for a month in 2004 and 2005. Together, they have a passion for helping women and children in vulnerable situations, especially refugees. The Meissners will live in Abba’s House to work daily with the refugees in residence.
Wendy Lemmons – Administrative Director
God led Wendy to LifeBridge Church in January 2012. A few months later she went on her first mission trip… 3 1/2 weeks in Nepal. During that time God filled her with such a love for the country and people of Nepal that she did not want to leave. On May 29, 2013, Wendy arrived “home” in Nepal where she worked alongside Nepali Christian church planters, helping with their micro-finance program for 2 years. In early 2016, having returned to the States, Wendy joined a small group from LifeBridge that began meeting to fellowship and pursue the possibility of something God had been putting on their hearts for years… it seemed God was guiding them towards His plans for Abba’s House! Of course, having lived overseas, and having experienced first-hand Nepali Christians who lovingly helped her learn a new language, new customs, and how to simply navigate day-to-day activities, Wendy feels beyond blessed to offer those same gifts to refugee women and children who will be arriving in America.
Arin Yost – Summer College Intern
Originally from Houston, Texas, Arin Yost is a first-year college student at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, studying International Relations and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. These fields inform each other with a focus on international systems of politics and power and how they interact to shape the world we live in. In the future, Arin hopes to attend law school and work on transnational human rights issues. Arin is excited to begin work at Abba’s House Texas because of its focus on some of those same topics and is looking forward to seeing how God will use them in the coming months!
LIFE SKILLS TEAM
Jenn Harkless – Life Skills Director
Jenn Harkless came to know Christ at the age of 22. Two years later she married her husband, Toby. Jenn grew up in Colorado and moved to Texas with Toby for his job. While in Texas, Jenn had her first child, Elyse. Another move took them to Singapore and while there, they were blessed with their second child, Anastasia. In Singapore Jenn and her family traveled and experienced many different cultures. When Jenn first arrived in Singapore, she learned the importance of having relationships with local Singaporeans. They showed her around the markets and introduced her to new foods and traditions. Jenn knows first hand what it is like to be in a foreign country and feeling lost. This is one of the reasons she was drawn to Abba’s House. She would like to help refugees as they navigate a new land and make their culture shock easier to bear.
Angie Trevino, LVN – Health & Wellness Director
Angie met Rob in 1996, and they married in 2000. All she wanted to do since she was a little girl was take care of people and make them smile–a calling she does so well. In her vocation of wife and mom, Angie cares for her husband and their four children, which brings her heart great joy. As a nurse, Angie has worked in hospitals, doctors’ offices, a nursing home, natural medicine, and a school over the past 19 years, including Hotze Health and Wellness Center in Houston, TX. Ever since Lifebridge Church began working with refugees at Los Arcos several years ago, Angie has felt compelled to care for these vulnerable people in a more real and direct way.
“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10
Renee Johnson – Life Skills Volunteer Coordinator
Renee home educated her 2 beautiful daughters through their high school graduation and has been married to her husband, Ricky since 1995. During her years of home educating, she served on the leadership team for multiple home education cooperatives and performed duties such as volunteer coordinator, teacher and scheduler. She has a heart for missions and has been on mission trips to Mexico and Guatemala. Renee is excited to serve the Lord in the mission field right here in Texas!
CULTURE & LANGUAGE TEAM
Christine Murwangira – Cultural Integration & Translation Director
Christine Murangirwa Ngoga was born as a refugee in Uganda. Her family of origin comes from Rwanda. Christine is a mother of five. She and her husband Simon Peter were led to Houston just days before Hurricane Harvey, but in the perfect time to serve the Lord at Abba’s House. Christine attended Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. She volunteered with World Vison Rwanda for a year, later being employed with the organization for five years. She then worked for All God’s Children International – an adoption agency – for three years before moving to America in 2012. She volunteered with other Christian organizations in Rwanda during her time there. Christine speaks five languages, and she has compassion for people that have not come to Christ for salvation. She works as a translator and interpreter for many refugees and immigrants who do not speak English in the USA, Canada, and UK through a language line. Christine is passionate about sharing the gospel and serving the underprivileged one person at a time.
Ericka Grappe – ESL Director
Ericka has a heart for missions and attended Youth With A Mission’s (YWAM) missionary training schools and bible college. She has traveled to numerous countries and loves different cultures. She and her husband have been married 13 years and have 3 daughters. Ericka serves as a volunteer for her church Bayou City Fellowship as they have launched a new ESL program in Cypress. She worked as the coordinator for the children’s program and now also teaches an adult ESL class. She loves the international community and enjoys making them feel welcome while helping with the practical skill of learning English. She is excited to serve Abba’s House and love on all who come through the door.
Catalino Muniz – Cultural Orientation and Prayer Team
Catalino is a gracious man who is well-traveled, especially taking the Gospel to foreign countries. His heart for the nations shines through in his interactions with all who come through Abba’s House. We are so grateful for his role as our Prayer Team Coordinator, holding us all in prayer as we seek to keep company with Jesus and love in His name, and as he provides the required refugee cultural orientation and administers the test with our residents, enabling them to do this from the safety and familiarity of the home in which they live.
CHILDREN’S EDUCATION & CARE TEAM
Shanna French – Children’s Education Director
Upon graduation from Texas A&M University with degrees in Biochemistry and Genetics, Shanna and her husband Jason moved to Houston, TX where she began working as a Technical Sales Representative in the refining and petrochemical industry. Since being entrusted with three sons, Gavin, Wyatt and Luke, Shanna has been blessed by the opportunity to stay at home with them and relish the homeschool adventures God has entrusted to them.
God has created a love and passion in Shanna for studying His word and sharing His great love and hope with others. A passion for relationships and intentionality shapes their family, as well as a heart for journeying with the broken in spirit. Shanna also enjoys reading and spending time in nature and with people. She loves dance, as music speaks volumes to her soul. “Jesus is my greatest love and my reason for all I do.”
Carolyn Watkins – Children’s Education Volunteer Coordinator
Heather Pedoto – Artisan Skills and Creative Play
Heather Pedoto is an award-winning author, as well as an artist. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Houston’s honor’s college, where she majored in creative writing. In her free time she enjoys experimenting with different forms of art, from sewing and weaving to sculpting and painting. She’s also working on learning Swahili and French to help the women and children she will be working with feel more at home. She has a particular soft spot for making sure people know that they’re valuable and loved in the eyes of God (and that she loves them, too). On any given day she can be found with paint smudged in her hair, glasses, and clothes.
Rick Sims – Campus Project Coordinator
Rick has been married to the love of his life, Julie, for 35 years. They have three grown sons: Cooper, Ben and Matt, and one daughter-in-law: Natasha. After 30 plus years in sales, Rick has found a new home in the nonprofit world as a disaster case manager with Hope Disaster Recovery. He also works alongside a ministry based in India that operates orphan homes, trains pastors and plants churches in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. If you have a group interested in volunteering for one of our many campus projects, Rick is your go-to man for the job. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred Billings – Landscape Architect
Fred, co-owner of Buds and Blossoms in Cypress with his beautiful wife Barbie, has developed a gorgeous master plan for the property on which Abba’s House is situated. As groups volunteer to take on various campus projects, this plan will come to life over the course of the next year or so. We are incredibly grateful to Fred for lending us his gifts and skills so that our guests can enjoy the beauty of God’s outdoor creation!