History

Amani ya Juu History

Amani ya Juu is an example of how the power of peace, Christ’s peace, can transform isolated and broken lives into ones of celebration and hope. The story of Amani itself reflects what can happen when God’s peace truly takes root in hearts. From a fledgling group of hurting women to a vast network of diverse centers and cultures, the story bears witness to the power of Peace.

A PLACE TO HEAL

Amani began in 1996 with four women sewing placemats together in Nairobi. One of these women was an American named Becky Chinchen. Originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Becky’s vision of working with marginalized women emerged from her own experience as a refugee. After fleeing the civil war in Liberia with her husband and four daughters, she found herself in Kenya among other refugee women. She saw the need to affirm the dignity and worth of those around her. Along with Magdalene from Mozambique and Lucy and Veronica, both from Sudan, she gave birth to Amani ya Juu, “Peace from Above.”

Each of the ladies began their journey with Amani having been broken and devastated by the horrors of civil conflict. They needed healing, a restored vision, and a renewed energy to live again. Yet while they came with need, they also came with gifts. They brought together skills in stitching, a love of African textiles, an eye for beauty, and a passion for peace. The convergence of their talents, needs, and desires brought Amani ya Juu to life. With a loan of $500, they began making placemats in Becky’s home in Nairobi and selling them wherever they could around town — in hotels, at events, in shops. Becky saw great potential in this creative blend of ministry and business, and in adhering closely to both of these, Amani began to come into her own as a self-sustaining organization.

The Amani center in Nairobi has grown over the years into a thriving oasis in a bustling city. It now boasts a beautiful production building, a welcoming shop, and a spacious garden cafe. The Nairobi center offers a sensory experience of peace to many. It has welcomed hundreds of new friends, including hurting women looking for a place to heal and visitors curious to learn more about Amani.

SISTER CENTERS EMERGE

As women returned to their homelands, they carry Amani with them. For some, encountering peace at Amani has left such an impression that they developed a vision for an Amani in their home community. Through these women, Amani has established a presence of peace in five African nations and two US cities.

The first daughter center, Amahoro ava Hejuru (“Peace from Above” in Kiyarwanda) was established in Kigali, Rwanda in 2000 by a small group of women who saw the need for reconciliation among bitter ethnic tensions. Many of these same ethnic tensions play out in Burundi as well, where a woman named Goreth and her husband Evariste returned to establish Amahoro ava Mw’Ijuru (“Peace from Above” in Kirundi) in Bujumbura in 2004.

In 2007, Becky and her husband Del returned to Yekepa, Liberia to rebuild ABC University where they had worked before fleeing the country, African Bible College-University. In 2010, as the pain this community carried became clear, Amani Liberia emerged as a place of healing and restoration for women of many generations who had seen war ravage their nation.

A Ugandan woman named Simprosa worked, healed, and grew at Amani Kenya for eight years alongside her husband before returning to Gulu with their children in 2008. In 2011, Simprosa returned to Amani Kenya recently to reconnect and train, and in early 2012 she began stitching with a small group of women in Gulu.

In the same way that Amani has sent out women to other African nations as ambassadors of peace, it has also sent women to other parts of the world. Early on, visitors to the Amani centers were moved to share the products and story with those back home. Individuals volunteered their time, energy, and resources to present Amani to their communities through sales and events. Eventually the Amani DC center in Washington, DC opened in 2009 to support these individuals and open the first Amani boutique in the US. The boutique was warmly embraced by its community, and in time, the need for a separate distribution center lead to the establishment of Amani Chattanooga in TN in 2012.

GROWING TOGETHER IN PEACE

As Amani has grown from one location to a network of interdependent centers. Each Amani center is locally registered and independently managed with support from an international leadership team. All Amani centers share a common goal: operating as self-sustaining communities that share God’s peace holistically.

Amani centers are interdependent. As with individuals at Amani, each center is encouraged to find ways to give back to the family and support others out of its strength. This may mean hosting a visitor from another center who wants to train on specific technique or product. It can also mean walking alongside another center to help it develop some area of operation. Ultimately, everyone has something to give, and this mentality permeates all levels of operation within the Amani family.