The Instagram caption reads, "This photo was taken 8 years ago on my last trip to Kisii before leaving for Canada and leaving Julius in Kenya. I didn't know exactly what our future held and I knew it would be hard but I also knew I wasn't going to let go of us..."
It’s the future Mr. and Mrs. Kenyamanyara. In the photo, they’re still Julius and Jade; two separate people that God ended up bringing together, whose lives would become intertwined through a love of missions and would eventually join in marriage and ministry. How did those young people in the photo find themselves in love and in ministry together?
Julius and Jade saying goodbye for the first time
Jade is a self-professed, ‘All-Canadian girl’ from Oakville, Ontario. Her dad is a pastor and a church-planter and in her words, “as a Pastor’s Kid, I was basically born in the church.” Jade invited Jesus into her heart at age five, she was baptized at eight years old. But one day, when she was thirteen sitting alone in her room, it dawned on her, she couldn’t just ride her parent’s faith or the fact she was raised in the church. Her relationship with Jesus had to become personal or it wouldn’t be hers, since that time she has accepted God’s call on her life to full-time ministry and eventually into missions.
Julius was born and raised in a small village in Kisii, Kenya. He is the youngest of six siblings. As a child and teenager, Julius faced many struggles, his father was an alcoholic, who was abusive towards his family whenever he was in the home. Julius often had to fend for himself since his family didn’t have much and getting the basics could be a struggle. Julius also found himself getting into trouble as a kid and most people had written him off as a troublemaker.
But he was introduced to Jesus at the age of fourteen by some of his classmates and that is when his life truly began to change. He was like a different person, to the point that many in his community couldn’t believe the change in him. He still had many day-to-day struggles and struggled with being the first one saved in his family, but God gave him grace for it all. As soon as Julius was saved - he became a missionary - sharing Jesus with anyone and everyone he could. God then opened the door for this continue into high school and then to Bible College. Julius knew he was being called to full-time ministry but he didn’t think it would be as an official missionary, ministering in different cultural contexts.
The village where Julius grew up.
Jade went on her first official missions trip when she was fourteen years old, it was an eye-opening experience to travel to northern Ontario to help run a children’s camp at a native reserve. It was difficult to imagine that in her own country there were people who had great needs-physically, emotionally but especially spiritually. After her trip, Jade didn’t see herself becoming a full-time missionary but she knew missions work was going to be part of her life.
When she was seventeen, Jade accepted that God was calling her into ministry (she had been reluctant for a few years but she decided to follow God’s prompting her life to attend Bible College). Before she could go to Bible College, she met Kirk and Shelley Kauffeldt who were missionaries in Kenya. They told Jade she could have the opportunity to complete some of her degree at Bible College in Kenya if she wanted to go. Jade had followed God’s prompting this far so she decided to do her first year of Bible College at Pan Africa Christian University (PACU). While she was there, she met Julius, a third-year student.
Julius and Jade at PACU.
“It was definitely not ‘love at first sight!” says Jade, “My mind was so far from ‘looking for anyone’ that it really caught me by surprise as our friendship developed and I started to feel something more for him.”
Julius agrees with Jade, “I can’t say I thought we were ‘meant to be together’ at first when we started as friends. I honestly didn’t think about her in ‘that way’ when we met.” But as they spent more time together in different situations at Bible College, like being in prayer or doing street evangelism, they began to see how the complemented each other. They began to realize they had a connection that was more than friendship.
Julius was one of Jade’s first friends at PACU and they spent a lot of time together, hanging out with a group of friends but it seemed like feelings had developed out of the blue, not to mention it was crazy! It would never work, they were from opposite sides of the world! But God was there right from the beginning. Jade and Julius did a lot of praying and seeking during their eight months together, they decided to take a leap of faith and make their relationship official even though Julius still had to finish his final year in college in Kenya while Jade went back to Canada. They were apart for a total of a year and a half with only a few visits in between that time.
Julius came to Canada and went through the immigration process. They were married and thankfully they didn’t have to spend any more time apart until Julius’ citizenship was approved. The big question for both of them was, now what do we do? They both knew God had called them to ministry but where and how, were the questions that followed.
Julius' first visit to Canada and snow.
Julius shares that once he and Jade had agreed to marry, he knew that his ministry would include missions, “I knew God would use us in different parts of the world. I was excited about all the possibilities but I was nervous about the unknown that lay ahead”. Jade also knew they would be back on the mission field together, that God would use their unique relationship to speak to people, they would just have to wait to see how that would take shape.
In the first year of their marriage, Jade and Julius felt God was calling them outside of Canada so they connected with the STM Network to “get their feet wet” on a short term assignment. They had the opportunity to go to Tanzania, which had a personal connection because Kirk and Shelley Kauffeldt (who had encouraged Jade to study abroad) knew a pastor there who could connect with Jade and Julius and support them.
Jade, Julius and Ezra in Tanzania.
Julius says, “When we visited the pastor and the church, at the end of a visit to Kenya, we knew we would be coming back; in that church service, we knew that’s where we were supposed to go.” The next year of marriage was a busy one, Julius and Jade were preparing for a mid-termer assignment and they were planning for the arrival of their firstborn! Two weeks after baby Ezra celebrated his first birthday, the family left for Dar es Salaam.
Seven years of marriage, two children, and multiple addresses later, Jade and Julius are still loving each other and the missions life. “[Missions} has helped us learn to adjust to change and to become more accommodating and flexible, which has helped us understand each other better.”
The Kenyamanyara Family.
Being in a third-culture in Tanzania, where it's new for both of them, has given Jade and Julius a greater understanding of what the other person goes through when they're in one another’s respective first-culture. For instance, Jade can appreciate what it is like for Julius in Canada and vice versa when they visit Kenya, which only makes them grow closer. “You learn to face challenges together - because neither of you instinctively knows what to do when it's not your home culture”.
Jade and Julius still believe that missions work, whether on the field or off will always be part of their marriage and their family life. “After all, if it wasn’t for missions and following God, we wouldn’t have found each other!”