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How Anita found Joy(Shop)

Through the anguish of teenage pregnancy, one woman discovered the delight found in the word of God

by Ruth Rosentrater

Shortly after graduating from high school, Anita Keagy, the daughter of a Brethren in Christ pastor, found herself unexpectedly pregnant. Frightened and ashamed, she prayed through her options, eventually discerning that God wanted her to place the child up for adoption. Ten years later, Anita still struggled with the pain of separation from her child. In desperation, she called the adoption agency and discovered that she could start a file of letters there for her daughter, Twila. Anita wrote to Twila over the next several years.

“With each letter I wrote, I wanted to let her know that I loved her and greatly desired a relationship,” says Anita. “I could only pray that curiosity would draw her to the file and that it would lead to a wonderful friendship.”

One day, as Anita was reading her Bible, the words of Acts 17:27 exploded off the page: “God did this [made the world and humans] so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” She suddenly realized that the Bible was God’s “file” of letters to her and all the children who He loves. “I saw that, like me, God is a parent who desires more than anything for His children to seek Him, and He too knows the pain of writing words that remain unread by His people,” she says.

Following this epiphany, Anita approached the Bible with new enthusiasm and purpose, drawing the two most important reasons for doing so from Jesus’ words in John 8:55: “[. . .]but I do know Him and keep His word.”
“Knowing God and keeping His word means getting intimate with Him, which requires spending significant time with Him,” she observes. “I have been convicted to make my time with God the first priority of each day, ordering the rest of my life around that.”

It was Anita’s desire to share her passion for the Word that inspired her in 2005 to hold a workshop at her home church, Manor BIC (Lancaster, Pa.). Little did she know that this single workshop would lead her to establish what is today JoyShop Ministries, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching participants practical ways to seek God in Scripture each day. Since its beginning, Anita has conducted JoyShops on college campuses, at churches, in prisons, at retreats, and—to her special delight—at public and private high schools across North America.

While Anita’s teenage pregnancy and the surrounding circumstances were exceptionally challenging, they have given way to the many blessings in her life today. In addition to her reunion with Twila, Anita celebrates the home that she and her husband have made for their four children in Lancaster. And most importantly, she experiences new depth in her relationship with God, which she loves to share through the telling of her story.

To learn more about Anita and her journey, read her book, The File: A Mother and Child’s Life-Changing Reunion, available to order at joyshop.org.

This article originally appeared in the spring 2009 issue of In Part magazine.
Ruth Rosentrater

Ruth Rosentrater, of Nappanee (Ind.) BIC Church, coaches volleyball and works in the athletic department at Oswego (N.Y.) State University. She enjoys drinking hot tea, especially in New England’s cold winter months.

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