Our Board and Staff

International Board of Directors

Julie Heisey
Board President

Julie Heisey

Julie grew up in Roxbury, PA. However, it was her youth experiences while living abroad in Zambia (3rd grade) and Mali (11th grade) that directed her heart to be engaged in holistic international development, focusing on the spiritual, physical, and economic needs of people. In line with this vision, she received her bachelor’s degree in economic development from Messiah College, PA, graduating in the spring of 2017. She then spent a year of service with MCC in Kigali, Rwanda, with a local non-profit, before moving to Boston, MA where she was mentored in leadership positions with Starbucks Coffee Company.
In her current position as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Lancaster, PA, she continues to be a learner, deepening her understanding of the ways that communities, organizations, and governments build holistic and sustainable livelihoods for their members.

Julie’s Interest in Abogar International Ministries:

I have known Jesse for many years through our friendship, which began at Roxbury Holiness Camp. Jesse’s passion and love for children is unmistakable, exemplified in his commitment to their well-being both spiritually and physically. Resonating with Jesse’s heart and having a desire to contribute to my friend’s passionate work, I became involved with Abogar as an independent consultant. I learned more about the ways Abogar is actively the hands and feet of God’s heart for children across Latin America, and then in 2018 I accepted a position to serve on the BoDy (Board of Directors y [and] Jesus). In this role I have become more intimately aware of the impactful work of Abogar’s ministry and God has developed a greater desire in me to contribute to its growth as a farther-reaching ministry that enables children to flourish as whole human beings.

Kara Holland headshot
Secretary

Kara Holland

Kara Holland joined Abogar in September 2021 as the Executive Assistant to the Founder/CEO.
As a life-long member of the Church of Christ, she has always had a service focus on helping others and always enjoyed mission work. When a need was identified to support Abogar's board during transition, she was happy to step up to help maintain continuity and continue to grow the organization while the board fills its open roles.

Kara is based in Houston, TX and loves to support children’s organizations as a mother of two. She is a strong believer in the church’s role and scriptural mission to end the institutionalized care of vulnerable children by creating life-long homes supported by a church family.

Laura Stoner
Treasurer

Laura Stoner

Laura Stoner grew up on a dairy farm in East Berlin, PA. She grew up in a Christian home with three younger siblings and accepted Jesus Christ at a young age. In 2008, she graduated from high school, having been homeschooled the whole way through. She then completed her first two years of college at Harrisburg Area Community College before she transferred to Messiah College. She graduated from Messiah College with a degree in business administration in 2012. Since graduation, she has been working at Apple Valley Creamery, where she is currently the inventory and invoicing coordinator.

She attends Pathway Community Church, where she is involved in the children’s ministry and the young adult ministry. She never had a desire to serve overseas in any capacity (short or long term) until an experience in 2011 changed her thinking on this. The Kuyasa Kids Choir from Horizon International in South Africa came to her church for a concert around Easter. Her family hosted 10 people from the choir for the weekend, and through that experience and hearing them share in music and testimony at church, her heart was opened to the possibility of serving overseas, should God call her. Although it was not overseas, she went on her first missions trip in July 2012. She went with a group from her church to New York City to do outreach for a week, which was a great learning and growing experience.

Laura’s Interest in Abogar International Ministries:

I met Jesse Rivers at Roxbury Camp in August 2012, and he has been like a brother to me ever since. As I had an interest in children and missions, I was immediately attracted to Jesse’s passion for Jesus and reaching the children in Latin America. In May 2013, I was on the team for Abogar’s first Xposure Xperience trip, and we went to Guatemala. I enjoyed loving on kids during that trip, as my eyes were opened to the poverty that so many children are living in. I then had a desire to become even more involved with Abogar. So when I was invited to serve as the finance manager, I gladly accepted. That quickly grew into the opportunity for me to join the board and serve as the treasurer, which I stepped into in faith that God would work through me for His glory.

Lun Jiang
Board Member

Lun Jiang

Lun Jiang grew up in Beijing, China and received B.S. in Electronic Engineering in Tsinghua University. After graduation he worked for two years as a programmer in the game industry. At age 24 he moved to United States to pursue PhD in computer science. The challenges in graduate school eventually compelled him to reexamine his atheist belief, and gave him a renewed life in Christ. Eventually he graduated with the PhD, specialized in solar energy. It has been his passion since then to love on his fellow students on campus with the open dialogue about Christianity.

Lun’s interest in Abogar International Ministries:

After hearing from Jesse’s talks describing his experience in childhood, I have been deeply touched by his vision of bringing children who are orphaned, not just into a place that can feed them, but also truly gives them a life experience of having a family in Christ. As an immigrant I can relate to the emotional pain of being lonely and outside of the protection of my family, the fear and insecurity that comes with it, and the lack of a consistent support structure that helps to establish an identity in the society. My hope for Abogar is to see it being used by God, to directly or indirectly serve these children in a way that can help them regain their identity, family and love within the community.

Jesse Rivers Headshot
Ex Officio Board Member

Jesse Rivers

Jesse’s early life included a large degree of various types of abuse. Finally rescued from a dangerous and abusive family at the age of 13, he entered the foster care system, where for years he continued to experience many types of living situations that were never really “home.” The yearning for a sense of belonging and connectedness is deeply personal to Jesse.

It is Jesse’s desire to advocate for vulnerable children whose circumstances may make them feel powerless and worthless—to give them not only a voice but also the love and support he knows first-hand is life-changing.

On January 7, 2011, while Jesse was studying Spanish by reading a dictionary on a plane, the Holy Spirit locked his attention to the Spanish verb “Abogar,” which means, “to advocate for, to plead on behalf of, to intercede for.” Because of the Holy Spirit’s work, Jesse couldn’t seem to think about anything else on that plane ride. The next year, on February 19, 2012, Jesse received a specific vision and calling from God to begin an advocacy nonprofit organization named “Abogar International Ministries.” God made it clear that the organization would advocate for and work on behalf of children of Latin America who are orphaned, abandoned, abused, homeless, and/or living on the street.

Just a couple weeks later, on March 1, 2012, Jesse officially started Abogar. Jesse now serves as the founder, CEO, and vision-caster for Abogar where he is grateful for the chance to raise up others, sharing and fulfilling his passion to be an advocate, mentor, and minister for youth at risk in Latin America so that they would know Christ-centered forever families, forever homes, and educational opportunities. Jesse sees his real role in all of this as the chief beggar and servant for the precious children of Latin America.

Staff Members

Jesse Rivers Headshot
Founder, CEO

Jesse Rivers

Jesse’s early life included a large degree of various types of abuse. Finally rescued from a dangerous and abusive family at the age of 13, he entered the foster care system, where for years he continued to experience many types of living situations that were never really “home.” The yearning for a sense of belonging and connectedness is deeply personal to Jesse.

It is Jesse’s desire to advocate for vulnerable children whose circumstances may make them feel powerless and worthless—to give them not only a voice but also the love and support he knows first-hand is life-changing.

On January 7, 2011, while Jesse was studying Spanish by reading a dictionary on a plane, the Holy Spirit locked his attention to the Spanish verb “Abogar,” which means, “to advocate for, to plead on behalf of, to intercede for.” Because of the Holy Spirit’s work, Jesse couldn’t seem to think about anything else on that plane ride. The next year, on February 19, 2012, Jesse received a specific vision and calling from God to begin an advocacy nonprofit organization named “Abogar International Ministries.” God made it clear that the organization would advocate for and work on behalf of children of Latin America who are orphaned, abandoned, abused, homeless, and/or living on the street.

Just a couple weeks later, on March 1, 2012, Jesse officially started Abogar. Jesse now serves as the founder, CEO, and vision-caster for Abogar where he is grateful for the chance to raise up others, sharing and fulfilling his passion to be an advocate, mentor, and minister for youth at risk in Latin America so that they would know Christ-centered forever families, forever homes, and educational opportunities. Jesse sees his real role in all of this as the chief beggar and servant for the precious children of Latin America.

Kara Holland headshot
Executive Assistant

Kara Holland

Kara Holland joined Abogar in September 2021 as the Executive Assistant to the Founder/CEO.
As a life-long member of the Church of Christ, she has always had a service focus on helping others and always enjoyed mission work. When a need was identified to support Abogar's board during transition, she was happy to step up to help maintain continuity and continue to grow the organization while the board fills its open roles.

Kara is based in Houston, TX and loves to support children’s organizations as a mother of two. She is a strong believer in the church’s role and scriptural mission to end the institutionalized care of vulnerable children by creating life-long homes supported by a church family.

Crystal Cox headshot
Social Media Specialist

Crystal Cox

Crystal Cox is a native of Somerset, Kentucky. She holds two associate’s degrees from Somerset Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Campbellsville University. Crystal serves as the Executive Director for United Way of South Central Kentucky in addition to her work with Abogar International Ministries. Prior to United Way, she served as the marketing director for Modern Systems, Inc., during which time one of her marketing campaigns won a national award.

Before Modern Systems, she was the marketing coordinator for Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital for nearly 8 years, managing all of their marketing and social media campaigns. She has also been a graphic designer for several years with Somerset Printing & Sign.

Crystal was a “40 Under 40” recipient from Young Professionals of Lake Cumberland in 2020, serves as an Ambassador for the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce and is a graduate of the 2020 class for the BRIGHT Kentucky Leadership Program.

She has been married for sixteen years and they are active members of South Maple Street First Baptist Church. In her spare time, she enjoys studying God’s word and working with yarn. She is juried into both Sheltowee Artisans and Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen for her crochet work.

Christina McCoy
Bookkeeper

Christina McCoy

Interested in joining the team?

As a Volunteer? Staff member? Board member?
If you’d like to offer your skills and talent to serve Abogar, we’d love to hear from you.

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Our Theme Verse:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27