On obedience and being a rock…

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And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…

After spending a couple of weeks in Thailand this January I had the opportunity to stopover in Laos for a few days on my back to Pittsburgh. I was excited to see another ministry that is run by the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, our partners in Chiang Mai Thailand. I was also excited to visit a new country and culture.

My meeting with the workers there went well. I came away challenged and encouraged by what my brothers and sisters in Christ are doing in that amazing country, but I also came away with a story.

Years back, two missionaries traveled to a Hmong village in the northern part of Laos. When they arrived in the village they rented a house that, unbeknownst to them, was haunted. After a week they prepared to leave having seen no fruit from their visit. As they were getting set to leave, the local shaman came to them and told them that he needed to know their God, because their God must be the true God since the shaman had put the curse on the house and it hadn’t effected the missionaries one bit. The missionaries shared the gospel with the shaman, led him to Christ, and went on their way.

A while later the missionaries returned to find a vibrant Christian community, started by the shaman, and growing daily. And this was all built in their absence.

In a few days our Fellows will return from Thailand having lived and served in Chiang Mai and the mountains for close to two months. Early on into their time there, one of the Fellows expressed some doubt about how impactful the work that they were engaged in would be. They wanted to see results. Who doesn’t?

I want to see results! I want to have an impact. I want to build the church. When the worker in Laos shared the story of the haunted house with me it was during a conversation about impact. It is easy to loose sight of our job. Just like Peter, we need to understand just who is doing the work here!

It is Christ who builds the church. Peter’s job was to be a rock. Peter’s job was to be obedient. And that is my job. And that is your job. We are simply to be obedient to God’s call and let Him do the work of church building.

I had a front row seat in watching our Fellows answer their call to obedient rock-ness in Thailand. It wasn’t easy for them. Over the next few weeks we’ll send out another update with some stories from their time there. But my takeaway, my impact story, was one of encouragement. Take heart Church. Christ is at work. He is building His church. I for one am stoked to just get to be a rock!

In Twichell family news, we are probably about a month or so away from the arrival of the Twin-chells. Erika is feeling well and the kiddos are super excited for two babies at one time. We covet your prayers for the safe delivery of healthy babies!

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God With Us

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The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
 the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish
.John 1:14

In our son’s Sunday School class, they speak of the three great mysteries of the church year: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. These mysteries are so full of wonder we need time to prepare to enter them. Advent is the time to prepare to enter the mystery of Christmas, the mystery of the Incarnation. This year, the Word’s flesh and blood have taken up residency in our lives in a new way.

Since their arrival in September, we’ve seen our missional fellows, at times beautifully and other times clumsily, become the hands and feet of Jesus to those whom they serve. Whether through building friendships through teaching ESL or making banana pudding for a homeless woman’s birthday, we see the Word taking on flesh. Kieran, a fellow from this year, reflected on how he sees this incarnational truth: “I can see the kingdom being built by us through literally building a house. What’s more, we’re not building up a castle for kings or anything. No, we’re building it for a family who needs it, who may have been outcasts. That’s how I imagine God is building his kingdom up as well. From building up relationships with children, the homeless, one another, to building up a healthy garden to even building up our bodies through embodied Spiritual disciplines, I see Jesus.”

But here’s the mysterious part: Christ Incarnate always ends up meeting us in those we have come to ‘serve’. Every Tuesday our family joins our cohort at Daily Bread, a lunch served for the chronically homeless, underemployed, or anyone who is hungry. We walk down stairs to the church basement, wait in line to receive the day’s food, and find a seat with a new or familiar face. We sit and share a meal together. Sometimes there’s conversations of Sunday’s football game or stories of childhood shared.

One Tuesday, we met Martin. He introduced himself as a “hobo” who rides the rails but we came to call him “Martin, the Holy Ghost filled hobo”. He ended up in Pittsburgh by accident having jumped on to the wrong train. But what started as an accident was quickly shown to be God’s provision. After sharing a meal with Martin, we invited him to stick around for the Bible study. His response was, “I haven’t cracked that book in 6 years. So, why not?!” We sat down to a study on Moses and Martin quickly jumped into the discussion. He shared insights that revealed he had a very deep understanding of scripture. As we got to know Martin over the next following weeks, he revealed that he hadn’t been listening to God for a few years. He was running. But, during his time in Pittsburgh he started listening again. He started studying Scripture again. And, he started praying again. And, before we knew it, he was gone; he found his southbound train. In his story and friendship, we met with Jesus. It was truly a one of a kind glory.

We are grateful for how you have been God’s presence to us as we respond to God’s call to Agape Year. We continue to walk in faith trusting God to provide for our material resources and also to provide future missional fellows. Would you consider an end of year donation to support our ministry?

Please pray for us as we trust and behold Emmanuel “God with us”. As you enter the mystery of Christmas through Advent, we pray that you will see the Incarnation being offered to you, wholly and fully in all its flesh and glory

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You Know My Name

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You know my name!
More than a month ago, Erika had introduced herself to the elderly man sitting across the table from her. We were at the weekly lunch for the houseless and unemployed that our family and Fellows attend on Tuesday afternoons.

“My name is Gus,” the man replied.
Erika asked, “Is that short for anything?”
“Augustine,” he replied.
“Like the saint, Saint Augustine?”

Gus paused, then exclaimed, “You know my name!”

Gus had never met another Augustine, and didn’t know the origin of his name. As Erika told him the story of the great Saint Augustine of Hippo, Gus’s eyes became wet with tears. “I never knew I shared a name with someone like that,” Gus kept saying.

A month later I found myself sitting across from Gus. When he introduced himself as Gus I asked if it was short for Augustine. Again he exclaimed, “You know my name!” I told him about how my wife had sat across from him a month before, and how she had printed out a history of Saint Augustine for him. We’d been hoping to see him again so we could share it with him. I pointed Erika out to him as she sat across the room with Henry.

Gus shared with me the deep pain and isolation he feels from being illiterate. He shared his struggles with alcoholism. He asked me if I knew what it was like to wake up at 3am shaking, sweaty, and needing a can of beer to be able to function. And in truth, I don’t. I don’t know what that is like. The pain and embarrassment in his voice as he shared this with me was so strong. For a while we sat across from each other in silence, both of us holding back tears. After a while Gus said, “I can’t believe you know my name. Can I go talk to your wife? I can’t believe she remembered me.”

Church, we serve the God who knows our name. We serve the God who knit us together in our mother’s womb, the God who loves us more than we can ever know, and as the prophet Isaiah says, “…called you by name, for you are mine.”

This fall during the Go Deep portion of our year, we have walked with our Fellows Tessa and Kieran as they grow more and more in their understanding of the name that God has given them: beloved. Beloved son and beloved daughter. As we study God’s word and serve together, we’ve heard God call out to us by name, and affirm our status as beloved.

In two months we’ll be in Thailand sharing that same message: you are a beloved child of God. Welcome to His family where you are known and remembered. Can you pray for us? Would you consider supporting us financially? Thanks be to Him who calls us by name!

We are currently looking for three more applicants for our third cohort of Agape Year! Do you know a young person (18-20) interested in experiencing a deep dive into discipleship, service, and seeing the Body of Christ at work around the globe? Please pray with us as God leads those He has called by name. Apply by December 15 and receive a $2000 scholarship!

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Why The Anchor?

Why The Anchor?

We chose the anchor as the Agape Year logo for a number of reasons, but the one that is on my mind right now is that the anchor holds us secure, even in the tumult of a storm.

I remember sitting down with our graphic designer to brainstorm ideas for our logo.  He was kind enough to come to our house after we had put Henry down to bed, and as we sat around our dining room table, he asked us some very good questions about our hopes for how our Fellows would be formed through the year and about our desired outcomes for them. Erika and I kept coming back to this idea of Agape Year anchoring the Fellows in their identity in Christ. Anchored in God’s Story, in scripture. Anchored in the Body of Christ, in the Family of God. Anchored in their call, in participating in bringing God’s Kingdom come here on earth as it is in Heaven.

A Story to Believe In. A Family to Belong To. A Kingdom to Build. This is the identity we pray our Fellows will be anchored in.

There are no shortages of storms that come into a young adults life. This past year we saw our Fellows buffeted and tossed by trials. And we saw them cling to their anchor when all felt lost. We were honored to hold on alongside of them.

In the letter to the Hebrews we read that “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…” (Hebrews 6:19 ESV) God made Abraham a promise, and Abraham clung to that promise, to that hope, like an anchor. The Apostle Paul knew something about clinging to things in the midst of a storm, shipwrecked and adrift in the open sea.

And we ourselves cling to that anchor. Erika and I lost a baby to miscarriage this summer. It happened while we were close to the sea, and we spent hours watching waves crash against the rocks as tides rose and fell. We cried and clung to our Anchor.

In just a few days our new Agape Year cohort will arrive in Pittsburgh. In the coming months you’ll be updated with stories and pictures of their journey. But for now, can you pray for them? Can you pray for Kieran as he comes from Florida? Can you pray for Tessa as she journeys from Massachusetts?

And can you pray for us? We are so honored to co-labor in building His Kingdom alongside of you. We could not do this without your prayers and financial support. Speaking of financial support, we are in need. We daily trust that God will provide for all of our needs and right now we need financial support. Would you consider supporting us in our call with monthly financial support? You can do that here. We’d love to chat about that.

Visit Agape year website to learn more about getting involved! 

Nate and Erika Twichell are SAMS Missionaries and co-directors of Anglican Global Mission Partners’ Agape Year.

Apply for the Agape Year Apprenticeship

Apply for the Agape Year Apprenticeship

Agape Year seeks a missional minded, Gospel-centric individual to serve the future church by sharing life, ministry and gifts with gap year fellows (18-20 year old) for a 5 month* (January-May 2019*) apprenticeship.

This apprenticeship will encourage the growth of spiritual gifts, engage in deep relational ministry, and have opportunities to see the wealth of imagination in God’s kingdom. From serving with the Church overseas (In 2018-2019, we will be serving with the Diocese of Singapore in Chiang Mai, Thailand) to engaging in parishes’ calls throughout the country, the apprentice will grow their own personal network and understanding of call.  This apprenticeship is ideal for an individual who holds the global church and mission in high regard, adheres to and desires to practice spiritual disciplines in the context of community, and has affection for young adults in transition.

In the future, Agape Year hopes that an apprentice will be called to plant a second Agape Year in another hub of Anglicanism in the United States.

An apprentice will:

  • provide residential supervision and hold fellows accountable to community standards
  • share in meals and study portions with fellows
  • travel with fellows overseas and throughout the country.
  • Help transport fellows to ministry sites and commitments.
  • Support and lead spiritual formation throughout the program through daily offices, Scripture studies, and spiritual direction.
  • Assist as needed with the administrative and logistic elements of the program (planning travel, booking churches, newsletters, blog updates, etc.)

Requirements:

  • 22 years of age or older
  • Robust faith and trust in Jesus Christ and commitment to a local church
  • Cross cultural and youth ministry experience
  • Strong interpersonal skills and problem solving initiative.
  • College degree or seminary study in related field preferred.
  • Appreciation for the Anglican tradition and communion.

Compensation:

  • Room and board provided for the 5 months (with a host family on the Northside of Pittsburgh)
  • Travel expenses covered to overseas portion and Sojourn (visiting parishes in the U.S.).
  • $2000 stipend, with the option of raising additional funds for personal support as well as partner development training. There may be an option to become a SAMS bridger providing more resources.

*There is an option of extending this internship to September-May.

Now what?

Now what?

In my previous blog entry I gave an abbreviated account of some of what I did during my seven-month assignment to the Solomon Islands.  I returned home to the USA three months ago and set about transitioning to the “next thing.”  As I transition, I thought it would be useful to readers of SAMS’ blog  to learn about what I will be doing next, and more importantly, why the SAMS Bridger program has been such a helpful component of my discernment process.  I should add that I am in no way under compulsion by SAMS staff to write this blog entry.  The opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own, but I hope that they will be an encouragement to SAMS staff and supporters.

Shortly after returning to the USA I married my long-time friend Kyria.  You can read about her life and work on her blog.  The two of us met as volunteers at Uncommon Grounds Cafe in 2010.  Since then Kyria has been serving as a long-term missionary with Mission to the World (MTW) in West Africa helping with Bible translation research, and in the United States receiving training at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics.  As of our marriage we have begun transitioning into the MTW family as a married couple.  We don’t know where God is calling us to specifically, but we have expressed our willingness to serve in a majority Muslim context.  We hope to combine our diverse gifts and experiences and return to international work sometime in 2019.  Over the next year we will be exploring potential field locations and continuing to raise support.  You can partner with us by giving by following this link (please note: for security reasons our number shows up, 13703, and not our names).

Kyria and I in Crete meeting with MTW international workers.

How has the SAMS Bridger program helped prepare me for the road ahead?

Before Kyria and I were going to get married, we knew we would be facing roughly seven months apart as she conducted literacy research for her Master’s thesis.  I set about thinking of ways to utilize the time to get myself some further training and experience working internationally.  I had finished my MAR from Trinity School for Ministry, and had several years experience working with faith-based non-profits in the USA, but I only had short-term experience serving internationally.  That’s when I was reminded of the SAMS Bridger program.

The Bridger program was recommended to me by a former colleague whose son was a Bridger.  As I looked into it, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for:

  • Instead of a short-term trip, the Bridger program offers highly flexible opportunities ranging from 1 month to one year.  This allowed me, with some advanced planning, to schedule an internship during the time my fiance was away.
  • SAMS Bridger program involves mentoring for individuals seeking to explore missionary service as a vocation.  This was a very big draw for me.  My Bridger mentoring experience taught me a lot about team dynamics, met and unmet expectations, and the daily challenges of international life.  I formed close relationships with my teammate/mentors that will last for a lifetime.
  • My Bridger  experience was highly personalized–through conversations with my mentors before arriving in-country we found work that would utilize some of my previous skills and experiences.  I also had opportunities to try new things such as preaching and teaching cross-culturally.  Every Bridger will have have a uniquely designed missionary experience.

Beyond these program qualities, God’s providence was evident throughout my whole experience–from Bridger training, to support-raising,  arrival in country, and returning home–God’s plan was continually confirmed in my being sent and my coming home.  God raised up supporters.  God kept me safe.  God gave me the strength to preach, teach, and live.  I may be transitioning out of the SAMS community, but I will never forget the experiences I had as a SAMS Bridger in the Solomon Islands, nor the genuine relationships I formed with SAMS staff.  Moving forward Kyria and I hope to collaborate with SAMS workers wherever it is possible.

Who is the SAMS Bridger program for? 

In the 9th chapter of Matthew we are told that Jesus went throughout the towns and villages, full of compassion, preaching good news and healing the sick.  He told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”(9:37b-38).  If you are considering longer term missionary service, or if you have considered it in the past, then this is a program for you.  Don’t let money be a worry that keeps you from pursuing a God gifted vocation.  I think this is a program especially suited for college age (in between semesters), recent grads, graduate students, or even second-vocation adults.  If you are interested in learning more about the program from me, or if you are a Bridger raising support looking for advice, don’t hesitate to email!  You can also contact the Bridger program coordinator directly.

Blessings!