A few weeks ago we packed the Subaru to the gills and pointed our rusty, I mean TRUSTY, steed south to the warm embrace of The Diocese of South Carolina. We had a number of appointments set up with youth leaders, rectors, and missions minded folks around Charleston, and enjoyed our time there immensely. Except for the fire ants. Lesson learned: don’t place a sandaled foot or bare hand within their reach. Lesson number two: Camp St. Christopher is a beautiful place and the people there are amazing hosts. We made some great new friends/contacts, were prayed for and ministered to in needed ways, and left encouraged and buoyed in our call to launch Agape Year. Now we are prepping for May recruiting trips that will see us in Texas and California. Being on the road with a 3 year old and a 5 month old has its challenges, and a side-of-the-road temper tantrum has a way of stretching my patience.
There are times in my life when I really need an Ebenezer, a reminder of God’s faithfulness. As Erika and I dive headlong into starting Agape Year, building a program, recruiting students, and raising our financial support there a times of great doubt that we are on the right track. But God has given me an incredible reminder of His faithfulness: my health.
Most of you know that I have Crohn’s Disease, and many of you know how debilitating it has been at various times over the past 20 years. And a few of you have seen me hospitalized or bed-bound for months on end. But just a few. Most people don’t know my story of healing (its a miracle and I’d love to talk to you about it!) so when I talk about running a half marathon, the miracle of that is lost on them.
By the grace of God I’ll run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 7th. We are raising donations here with all of the money going to Erika and my financial support. Getting up early to train on Pittsburgh’s city streets, or running in the dark on unfamiliar South Carolina roads, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness with every step. Thanks for coming along side of Erika and me on the road and on the run!
We were sitting in Lucy and David’s apartment in Falls Church, VA for a little under a half an hour before Lucy begun to share with us their profound story of trusting our faithful God. During their time in Kenya, David and Lucy had seen the unexpected ways God provided for their family and their ministry. They had worked with the local church to provide leadership and discipleship training to local youth. Whether that provision be finances, participants, or a specific need, God had been present in their lives and provision. Lucy repeated over and over again, “God does not disappoint”.
God does not disappoint (think Romans 5:1-5). Nate and I wrestled with that promise most of the way home. We’d cut our trip short due to an impending snow storm (getting snowed in away from home with Henry and Annie didn’t seem like the best idea for everyone’s well being) and were struggling to not feel discouraged. God does not disappoint. At times, we’d rather have the promise “God blesses your plans” or “God won’t let you fail” or “God will make all your dreams come true”, or at the very least “God will help your toddler sleep in the car”. But instead, God comes to us in the cruciform body of Jesus Christ and proclaims He does not disappoint. He gives us grace for today. And, will extend that same grace tomorrow, but asks us to trust Him today. It is hard to abide in that place of trust, but it is indeed the safest place to rest.
We know that all of our striving and preparation will not amount to anything without God’s provision. We need Him to move in a mighty way. Can you join us in praying and fasting for students and provision? The members of our oversight board, some of our supporters, and the missions committee of our sending church have committed to fast and pray for us on March 28th. Can you fast a meal, or spend your coffee time in prayer? Our greatest needs are for students and financial support. We have so many of the components of Agape Year in place. We don’t have students. Can you pray with us?
Erika, Nate, Henry, and Anne
“We’re not sinners, we’re Twichells,” Henry said this morning at breakfast while we read our devotions. Trying to parse our true identity as sinners and saints with a toddler who wholeheartedly embraces literalism is quite a task first thing in the morning. As our family has journeyed toward serving fully with Agape Year we are learning to live more fully into who we are as God’s children, His beloved. Our earnest prayer for Agape Year is that its participants will allow this true name, Beloved, to resound in his or her soul with gladness.
As His beloved, we are trusting our Father for our provision. Upon guidance from SAMS, Nate will be leaving Trader Joe’s on March 5 to engage fully with partner and program development for Agape Year. This is a step of faith for us. We are both terrified and exhilarated. This step makes aware of how little our faith is at times, but are confident of how faithful God is.
We are in need of:
- prayer! Tons of peace and wisdom as we seek to bring Agape Year to reality.
- Financial support! We’re in need of $3000 of monthly support to continue to be sustainable as full time directors of Agape Year.
- Participants! We’ll be in the D.C. area mid March and South Carolina early April with the hopes of recruiting both participants and supporting churches. We’d love to meet up with you or appreciate any connections you think would be helpful!
Join us in this prayer from Walter Brueggemann as we trust our true identity:
You are the God who makes extravagant promises. We relish your great promises of fidelity and presence and solidarity, and we exude in them. Only to find out, always too late, that your promise always comes in the midst of a hard, deep call to obedience. You are the God who calls people like us, and the long list of mothers and fathers before us, who trusted the promise enough to keep the call. So we give thanks that you are a calling God, who calls always to dangerous new places. We pray enough of your grace and mercy among us that we may be among those who believe your promise enough to respond to your call. We pray in the one who embodied your promise and enacted your call, even Jesus. Amen.
Happy Advent to you! We’re grateful for this season in the church year of anticipation, hope, and repentance.
For both Nate and me, Agape Year has been a great teacher for hopeful anticipation. Five years ago, Nate and I met on St. Nicholas Day and shared a call to mission. One year ago, we accepted the call to start and direct Agape Year from the Anglican Global Mission Partners. Often we stand in wonder of how God has heard our prayers. Often we are caught in dismay, knowing it is only through His grace we are sustained. His grace has kept us while we are developing partners and the program and living our daily life of full-time work and child rearing. This year we’ve seen God bring His vision into greater formation and anticipate seeing it more fully fleshed out this year. So, we enter this season undergirded with grace and walking in faith.
In faith, we are accepting applications for Fall of 2017 to be our first cohort. (agapeyear.org/apply). Please pass along this application to 18-21 year olds you think God may be leading to participate.
In faith, we are hopeful to have our full support raised by March 1. At that point, Nate will be able to leave Trader Joe’s and dedicate his full energy to Agape Year. We currently have 45% of monthly support raised, but are still in need of $3000 per month in support. Would you join us? Would you help us connect to others who God may be calling to be a part of Agape Year? Praise be to God, He has provided what we need for our start up costs. We stand amazed.
A few highlights from the last few months:
- We welcomed Anne Elisabeth, 9lbs 22inches, to our family on October 31. She taught us a lot about anticipation, as she was 10 days past her due date. She’s lovely and well loved by her brother and parents.
- We visited the D.C./Baltimore area in September to meet with potential partners for Agape Year. It was a great time of encouragement and engagement. One refrain we heard was how Agape Year is an answer to prayer for youth, parents, and youth directors! Thanks be to God!
- We were able to participate in our parish retreat and grow in relationship with our church family and other missionaries our church supports. We were also able to meet with Archbishop Foley Beach to share the vision of Agape Year.
- We enjoyed having lunch with Bishop Jim and Mother Shari Hobby, and were encouraged by their excitement for Agape Year and its potential for shaping future church leaders.
As 2016 draws to a close, we are incredibly grateful for the support and care our community has offered us. We look forward with great expectation to what 2017 will hold for us and for Agape Year.
As we seek to expand our family’s engagement in God’s kingdom through Agape Year, God has seen fit to expand our family! Baby Twichell #2, dubbed Baby Donut by our resident carb aficionado Henry, is due October 21st! Starting a new ministry, graduating from seminary, moving, and having a baby will make 2016 a year to remember for the Twichells! Please pray for Erika and Baby Donut, and please consider supporting Agape Year as we seek to transition into full time ministry.
Agape Year has a new global headquarters! We are very excited to have relocated our family and Agape Year to Pittsburgh’s Perry South neighborhood. Our new home is perfectly situated for easy access to some great ministry partners, has the space we’ll need to accommodate the next generation of global church builders, and on top of that, it has a porch swing. Please pray with us that this new home will be a place where God’s Light shines brightly, His name is proclaimed, and youth come to be challenged and prepared for what lies ahead.