When Leah “Lei” Teresa Espino-Ponio retired from the insurance industry after more than two decades, she had no idea that God was about to call her into a second career. A successful marketplace executive and the mother of seven, Lei attended the Haggai Leader Experience (HLE) in 2012. It was there that God gave her a clear vision to disciple Asian youth for Biblical leadership.

“Having a strong academic and training background, I felt the urge to build a leadership High School for the youth in Asia. This was my plan, but not God’s. After three Divine experiences with Him 30 days before Maui, God boldly asked me, ‘Would you not do for others what I have done for you?’ … In Maui, alone in my room, He revealed the vision for the youth in Asia.”

Convicted, she shared this vision with three Haggai faculty members. And as a confirmation of the journey that awaited, she had a providential encounter on her flight home. Lei was seated next to a family with a different worldview, and she shared the love of Jesus Christ with the family’s 9-year-old daughter, using candy to illustrate the sweetness of knowing Jesus.

“God’s hand was intentional for this girl to receive Christ and know of His love.”

Within weeks of returning home to Manila from the HLE, Lei enrolled in a master’s program at Asian Theological Seminary. In the years since Lei has worked tirelessly to disciple a new generation of believers in Asia. In 2014, Lei began equipping local teachers, high school students, and church groups, and that same year, she donated her family’s ancestral estate to a local Christ-centered organization inspired by Isaiah 65:17-25.

Since attending the HLE in 2012, she has shared the Gospel with over 3,150 individuals through Gospel-focused plays on stage, retreats, social settings, travels, and business in the marketplace.

She is also an active leader of Haggai’s national seminars in the Philippines as a faculty member and facilitator. With her fellow Filipino leaders, Lei has been able to develop a new program for next-generation leaders and assisted the development of a new Haggai chapter in the southern region of Manila.

“For the first time, there is vibrance in the Haggai Philippines and among the youth and young professionals as they discover their gifts and use them for God’s Kingdom.”

Leah “Lei” Teresa Espino-Ponio

Lei has been a believer since childhood, but it took years of growth and discipleship to fully realize God’s calling on her life. For more than two decades she raised her family and built a successful career in the insurance industry, and though she knew God was calling her to something different, it was the HLE that finally helped her pursue a brave new course.

Now firmly established in her new ministerial role, this grandmother of four shows no signs of slowing down.

“To minister to win souls among the poor, the sick, the dying, and the lost is all a privilege… much more to obey the command of Christ!”