Field of Service: Kenya
Mission Organization: MSC Canada
Ministry: I (Julia) have been living and ministering in Nairobi, Kenya since 2006. I began my missions journey with International Teams, and served on a small team that ministered primarily to urban refugees for about seven years. I am currently sent out under MSC Canada, and serving at 'Amani Ya Juu' (Swahili for 'Peace From Above') which is a Christian, social economic enterprise committed to peace and reconciliation for marginalized women from many African nations and cultures.
Although I wear many hats at Amani, one of my main roles is 'Ministry Coordinator' where I help to organize and oversee all of Amani's spiritual and social programs which include: daily times of prayer, Bible study & worship, monthly medical clinics, kids & teen camps during school breaks, home visits (i.e. to visit moms with newborn babies, to comfort our sisters during times of bereavement or illness, etc.), and annual retreats / days of prayer & fasting.
I've been married to an amazing Kenyan man named Kenny Nyaga since 2016 and we love music, coffee, worship, ministry, our local church / the global church, and our calico cat named Lola!
More about Amani Ya Juu: Amani uses beautiful African materials to create high-quality fair-trade home goods and accessories. We sell our one-of-a-kind products both online, in our centre in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and in our onsite shop here in Nairobi. We also have a lovely garden café where we serve some of the best mochas and salads in the country! I help to make sure we've got new and delicious recipes in the café, and that our quilts and clothing are only made with the very best colour combinations! The aforementioned are the income-generating streams of Amani.
More than anything, our hope and prayer is that the ladies in our care find peace; peace with God, peace within, and peace with others. Everything we do points to and is motivated by that one powerful theme.
Ministry website: www.amaniafrica.org
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Hello dear friends & family!
Happy New Year to you and yours! I hope and pray you had a joyful and meaningful Christmas season (despite the many and varied challenges that 2020 brought) and that 2021 will be a year full of joy, peace, strength, and health for each and every one of you.
Well, if you don’t happen to follow me on social media, then I truly apologize that you were left with a bit of a cliffhanger since my last letter! I had mentioned that we were due to have a baby in early September, and indeed we did! Mr. Imara Josiah Nyaga checked in on September 13th, and our lives, of course, have been indelibly changed. Imara is Swahili for ‘strong’ or ‘solid’, and his little personality is already beginning to show signs that we named him fittingly and prophetically. He smiles huge, gummy grins all the time, and yells at us a little bit if his dinner gets delayed! We’re totally smitten, and are slowly beginning to get a bit of routine - and sleep - in our lives. So very thankful to God for His many mercies: for an uncomplicated pregnancy, for a safe delivery, and for the amazing gift of a healthy, happy son!
When Imara was about a month old, I had to go back to the hospital for a minor procedure, which necessitated a Covid test. I tested positive, and although (thankfully) I was completely asymptomatic, it was still a pretty stressful time for us. It meant I had to isolate at home; although, again thankfully, I was still allowed to feed Imara - albeit with a mask on. Ken was beyond a rockstar as he took care of both of us, and the whole home, for two weeks which was no small feat! Especially given that his back (which he’d injured slipping on ice in Canada in 2018) relapsed during that time. Whew! We’re totally grateful that I remained asymptomatic, that Ken & Imara tested negative, and that we’re safely on the other side of it now! So grateful for the Lord’s protection, and for strength & encouragement during the difficult moments.
My maternity leave is over now, so I’ve started back up at Amani, although on an altered schedule due to Covid restrictions. Our shop and cafe have been fully open for a few months, but our production department (where all the sewing happens) has had to make a lot of adjustments in order to ensure that everyone stays safe and healthy. Instead of the normal 40 ladies that might be there on a daily basis, we’ve been scheduling them so that only about 8-10 ladies are sewing at a time. Of course, we’re ensuring that all proper precautions are being taken, and that mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing are paramount! When we had to shut down in March of last year, we weren’t sure how we were going to take care of our ladies, especially from a financial capacity, as they are usually paid on a commission basis based on the amount of work they sew. We’re so grateful to God, and to so many generous souls who donated to our emergency fund, that we were able to pay them monthly stipends to get them through those tough first couple of months of lockdown. When we’d calculated how long we thought the fund would last, it looked like it could possibly push us to May or June. But God...! (Aren’t those some of the best words in Scripture?!) When the ladies came back to start sewing, the shop wasn’t very busy, which meant that we weren’t selling a lot, which in turn meant that the ladies weren’t getting a lot of work. But despite how the math was (or more specifically, wasn’t) working out, we were able to keep topping up their wages with the emergency fund until December!! What a miracle-working, provider of a God we serve! Loaves & fishes still happen!
Sorry - I had digressed! Yes - I’m back to work, although it looks quite different than it has in past Januarys. I know I’m far from alone in this! Because we won’t be able to gather in the Amani chapel for our normal daily prayers and devotions for the foreseeable future, I’ll be going in twice a week to lead a short time of prayer and exhortation - safe in our outdoor garden. I’ll take that opportunity onsite to pop into the quilting or clothing department to choose and combine materials, colours, prints, and patterns. On the days that I’m working from home, I’ll be posting devotions on our Amani WhatsApp group to ensure that we’re all growing spiritually, and that we remain of one accord despite our physical distance from one another. I’ll also be resuming the responsibility of managing our social media accounts - ensuring that our products, programs, and (most importantly) people are showcased as beautifully as they are in real life, and to maintain and build a meaningful connection with the many friends & fans of Amani!
Let me pause there. Or as our beloved Stuart McLean used to say - ‘So long for now!”
As always, thank you so much for reading, connecting, caring, supporting us, and praying for us! We both need and appreciate you, and are absolutely certain that we could not walk this journey alone!
- Our little guy - Imara! Total gift. Total miracle. Total joy.
- For the peace & provision that we experienced in our home during a year characterized by much fear and loss. We know it is the Lord’s doing, and our hearts are so humbled and grateful.
- That we were protected and sustained when Covid visited our family, and for the full health we are experiencing now.
- We have to move apartments by the end of this month. Not expected or ideal, but we’re thankful that we’ve already found a great place that’s still very close to Amani. Please pray that all the details of the move (landlords, contracts & deposits, moving companies, safety of our stuff and our backs, etc.) would go very smoothly and that our new home would be a sanctuary for us and for all who come to visit.
- That Ken & I would have a tonne of wisdom as we learn to balance work, a new baby, home responsibilities, and church ministry - all during a global pandemic! It’s a new season, and we’ve never walked this way before. But thankfully He has, and He’s promised that we can come boldly to Him and we’ll receive all the wisdom that we both lack and need!
- That we, the Amani leadership team, would make very wise and Spirit-lead decisions as we move ahead this year. Again, it’s uncertain territory, and we need to take care of a large group of dear ladies (and by extension, their families). We desire that they would have holistic health - of body, soul, spirit, relationships, and even finances - and need to lead Amani programs and operations with all of that in mind. May we steward that responsibility with all the care and wisdom it requires - all by His strength and grace.
- As is the case with many people across the globe, Ken & his business partners’ work definitely slowed down last year due to the pandemic. As they deal a lot with high-end, audio-visual installations, there was a marked decrease in demand for their kind of expertise and scope of works in the market. Please pray that the Lord would open new doors, and connect them with new, fruitful projects in 2021.
Lots of love & blessings, Julia & Ken