God Can Use Your Niche
By Jessica Steyn
Niche: just another word for opportunity
[niCH, nēSH] (one’s niche) a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment. synonyms:
ideal position | calling | vocation | place | function | job | opportunity
I sing daily life to my child! She is four and a handful. So, I sing (read, beatbox, scat, and rhyme) about taking a bath, brushing teeth, being good at daycare, the list goes on. She is immediately drawn in and engaged (most of the time). Every tune is an original so when she joyfully screams, “Again!”…it ain’t gonna happen!
It’s my niche with her – my opportunity to speak into her world in a way that allows us to connect in the midst of burgeoning chaos and leads to joy in the process of working things out together.
We all have niches in ministry. We work to bring the gospel to a certain group of people, to shed light on a certain issue with people struggling with that issue, or to use a particular language with a specific group of people who speak that language. All ministry calls us to connect and build relationships.
After 7 years as a single woman on the mission field, God brought me a husband. We figured we’d spend the next five years in Kenya (where we met and married) before we started making any future plans. That gave me five years to make my ministry sustainable should we decide to leave. God had other plans and a little over two years later my husband and I were headed to the US with our 8-month-old daughter.
My ministry niche was adolescents living with HIV in Kenya. How am I going to do that from the US?
Through relationship of course! Connecting happens to be my niche in all areas of life. I’ve been known to call it my vocation! I love connecting people to one another and through connections create opportunity.
As the pandemic worsened in Kenya, I received a text from Joshua, who works on the ground doing the day-to-day things I can’t do from the US. He said that the adolescents living with HIV did not have masks putting them at an even greater risk for contracting COVID. I went through the rolodex of contacts in my head and strategies to get masks to these youth.
I settled on Amani Ya Juu, a faith-based, social enterprise organization in Nairobi that trains displaced women to work with textiles. I learned from their designer, a friend of mine who lives in Chicago, that the Amani Ya Juu showroom and restaurant in Nairobi were shuttered due to the virus and there was only a limited amount of production work in the factory. They only had one more month of stipends left for the women who worked there. I emailed the president of Amani Ya Juu and inquired if they could make 1000 masks. She said that due to COVID, they had to stagger their workforce and so production would be a bit delayed, but that they would be thrilled to make masks for these youth. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to help another organization while caring for the needs of adolescents living with HIV.
Joshua is also an example of useful relationships. I met Joshua 8 years before he started helping me find implementation partners for the Maarifa curriculum in Kenya. Because I had known him for so long and his integrity and excellent work ethic were legendary among other missionaries I knew, it was an easy decision to partner with him.
Looking back to when we had to leave Kenya, I can see now that my niche role with Maarifa in Kenya was over (I’m a writer and a connector) and while I can do implementation, that does not mean that I should be doing it. God moved me out of Kenya because Kenyan’s can do what I was doing. The Maarifa curriculum can stand on its own. No hand-holding necessary.
I am now using my connector niche to find implementation partners and financial partners so that the Maarifa curriculum can reach a wider audience of adolescents living with HIV. Is it the exciting fieldwork that makes every missionary’s heart sing? No, it’s not. It’s hard and frustrating and not very exciting at all. It’s actually uncomfortable…but God has called us to this side of ministry as well. It’s just a different ministry season and it fits perfectly with the raising my daughter season of life.
Maybe that’s why I sing daily life to my daughter; because no matter where you are, your niche (your function) is to spread the gospel and through it the joy and peace of Christ. What an amazing renewable opportunity!
Romans 14:17-19 says, For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by man. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Let’s get going people, there’s Kingdom work to be done. Go find your niche!