Liz Encinia has a string of short phrases under her name on Twitter.
It reads, “Girly girl. Jesus-follower. Change maker. Coffee drinker. Fair trade advocate. Traveler. Doctoral student. Someone who wants to share real hope!”
It’s a good start, but a bunch of staccato sentences couldn’t begin to describe the person God created and who now leads the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union.
Undoubtedly, the annals of Kentucky Baptist life will note Encinia as Kentucky WMU’s first Hispanic executive director. And possibly, the 37-year-old will be recorded as the youngest. But who is she, really?
Encinia grew up as a preacher’s kid in Sinton, Texas. Her father still serves the tiny church nestled among the town of about 5,000 people just north of Corpus Christi. Her only sibling is a brother seven years her senior, and in some ways, they both function like first-born children.
The Encinia family can trace its lineage back four, proud, Texas-born generations, but that’s where the trail ends. With commercial DNA tests, Encinia has pinpointed her ancestors as Spanish-Native American with a curious link to some Scot-Irish roots. Encinia said that may explain why each of her grandfather’s seven sons have a redhead in the family.
Encinia says she can speak Spanish, but not fluently. She recalls her parents talking “Tex-Mex” when they wanted to converse in private. Still, she was competent enough during college to communicate with Mexican immigrants in the churches she served and to act as a translator during a mission trip to Spain.
She loves to bake. Played the clarinet in high school. In college, she worked in radio under the name DJ Glitter (pronounced glit-ah). She’s a graphic designer. She has three best friends, one of whom works at the White House. She has a Chihuahua named Rocco. And while still in high school, she once spoke in front of a crowd of 10,000.
But if there was one aspect about Encinia she wants others to know, it would be that above all she seeks “to honor the Lord with my life and be obedient to His call.”
“When I think about leaving my home state, leaving everybody, it was definitely a step of obedience,” she said.
Encinia never planned to lead Kentucky Baptists into the next decade of missionary and missions education. Being an executive director wasn’t something she dreamed about as a little girl in GA’s (Girls in Action) or Acteens meetings on warm Wednesday nights.
When she was on the cusp of college, Encinia’s focus was studying music and perfecting her singing voice. She ended up joining the choir and a sorority. It was fun and unencumbered by protective parental tethers. Suddenly church attendance was optional — and so was class. While out with friends one weekend, Encinia distinctly remembers the Holy Spirit’s whisperings regarding the Lord’s adventurous calling on her life.
Encinia went back home. She wanted to realign her compass and point it straight to God. Before long, she was enrolling at Dallas Baptist University, a place to which she knew God was calling her from the start.
“As I aligned myself with His plan and what He wanted from my life, that’s where change happened. That’s where transformation happened.”
In Dallas, Encinia said God surrounded her with good friends and encouraging Southern Baptist mentors. She grew in confidence and ability. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and then a master’s in Christian education. Eventually, she would go on to serve WMU of Texas as the Missional Lifestyle Strategist for preschool, children and youth groups.
And she would have been content to stay there. But God, Encinia said, had other plans.
Invoking Galatians 2:20, the scripture she’s chosen as her life verse, Encinia said, “It’s not me who lives. It’s Christ who lives in me. So, whatever He wants me to do, I going to do because I’m nothing without Him.”
Fifteen months have passed since the Texas transplant took a step of obedience that landed her in the Bluegrass State. When she’s not leading Kentucky WMU, Encinia is pursuing a doctoral degree in strategic leadership at Regent University. She is a member of Springdale Baptist Church in Louisville, and often visits the local dog park with her “Little Man” Rocco in hopes of sharing Christ with other pet owners.
Robin Cornetet is marketing and media relations associate of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.