In Between

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Brothers and Sisters,

A blessed Advent to you. As we inhabit this intentional season of waiting and anticipation for Christ’s coming, we invite you to rest in the waiting and to see this time as where God is at work. Let’s not hurry to Christmas. Let’s not miss what He has for us along the way.

You’ve journeyed with our family in our call to Agape Year for a while. You’ve waited with us to see Agape Year come to be in flesh and blood. You’ve prayed, encouraged, and offered hope while the ‘waiting’ seemed so long. Since the inception of Agape Year, our family has spent many hours traveling, in flux, inhabiting the in between. We’ve been eager to get to the destination: Agape Year’s first cohort. And, we hurried our way there.

Then, Caleb and Lucas, our first fellows, came and started to inhabit the plans and prayers that came before them. But, we still felt this hurried drive toward the ‘destination’ of transformational discipleship. As we shared life with Caleb and Lucas, it was easy to rush to a service project then rush home to study together and then rush to prayer. Nate spent much time with our fellows in our faithful Subaru and I was side by side with them in the kitchen multiple times a day. These, along with others, were our ‘in between’ times. On the way to community group or ESL tutoring, Nate’s been able to have frank conversations, listen intently, and pray with our fellows. While washing dishes or prepping meals, I’ve heard our fellows share their hopes and fears for the future, chatting theology, and learned much about rugby and robotic battles. And, in these ‘in between’ times, we’ve been surprised by the Spirit’s movement, reminding us that the ordinary is indeed sacred.

We are continuing to tweak and shape the curriculum and formation of Agape Year to meet its goals. But, as we do that, it is easy to lose sight of how discipleship happens along the way, in between the books, projects, seminars, and service. In the gospels, Jesus stops to heal the bleeding woman while on his way to raise a girl from the dead. Jesus shares the words of Life with the Samaritan woman at the well on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus heals a servant’s ear on the way to the Cross. These examples, along with others, remind us that to be His disciple we must allow Him inhabit all places of our lives, even those stray, throw away moments of the day where we are waiting for the next thing. This Advent, while we wait and groan for His coming, we pray that you’ll be surprised by His peace and joy in the ‘in between’.

We are also living in an in between spot financially. We’ve grown in our partners and support as Agape Year has started. We are still praying for God to provide monthly partners as we are currently at 50% of our need to be sustainable for years to come. Would you join us along the way? Would you consider a year end gift to help close this gap? Please also join us in prayer as we seek partnership with churches. We hope to have three churches join Agape Year’s vision by financially supporting our family.

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Agape Year is 1 Month Old!

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Born September 5, 2017
Maybe saying that Agape Year was born on September 5th is a bit misleading. As so many of you know, this has been something you’ve walked with us through for almost two years. But on September 5th, Caleb and Lucas walked through our front door and all of the dreams, prayers, and work became real. It took on flesh.

We are going through a study on incarnational ministry with our Agape Fellows. The reality of the Incarnation is so powerful for us. The God of creation, the God who who placed the sun and moon in the sky, this God took on flesh and came and dwelt with us in the dust and mess of humanity.

As we seek to daily be transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ, we are challenged to walk how He walked, serve how He served, and see the world through His eyes. On Tuesday nights that looks like Caleb and Lucas running a trivia night for homeless men as they wait for a meal. On Mondays it looks like welcoming the stranger by providing free English as a Second Language tutoring for Pittsburgh’s immigrant community. And sometimes it looks like stopping to help someone who doesn’t look like us to change a flat tire.

We’ve settled into a rhythm of service and study that will carry us through the first 5 months of Agape Year in Pittsburgh, and our trip to South East Asia in January is right around the corner. There are still a lot of loose ends that we would love to see God tie up in the next few months. Can you pray for:

  • our support as we are about $1500/month short of our family need
  • our Agape Fellows as they grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus
  • our family as we seek to find places of rest and care in the midst of a busy schedule
  • a van, preferably 12 or 15 passenger

Finally, we have 1 Agape Fellow confirmed for next year! Please pray for Tessa as she starts to raise her support for Agape Year 2.0 and for others to be raised up to join her. Applications for 2018-2019 are now being accepted at here.

This is really happening

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This is really happening! And yes, we are surprised.


Thanks be to God, Agape Year 1.0 will start September 5th! Thanks to your prayers and financial support, we will welcome our first cohort, Caleb and Lucas, to Pittsburgh in just a few days. We’ll be in Pittsburgh September through January serving with multiple ministries around the city while studying just what this whole Kingdom of God thing is that we talk so much about.

February and March will see us travel to Thailand with our cohort to live, worship, and serve alongside our Thai brothers and sisters.

The last 6 weeks of Agape Year 1.0 will take us around the US, visiting churches, sharing the story of what we have done and seen, and bearing witness to the missional creativity of the Body.

If that sounds like a lot to handle, it is. We covet your prayers. We are still about $2000 a month short of our financial need. Were you waiting to see if we actually made this thing happen? Smart. But now’s the time! You can jump on board here.

Of Weeds, Soil, and Waiting

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Nate and Henry marvel at the California Redwoods

Most Tuesday mornings you can find us at our community farm, Ballfield Farm.  Henry finds a friend and Annie sleeps in the stroller while I attempt to rid the outfield of thistle and weed and Nate moves large amounts of soil or wood chips or compost in a wheelbarrow. We are joined with a slew of folks who have come together to give what they can to make this patch of earth bear all kinds of harvest. But the harvest we anticipate this year is a result of hard, back-breaking labor of folks, many of whom we don’t know, who saw potential in the fallow ground of an overgrown baseball field.

As dirt gets into my fingernails and I fight to make a patch of soil hospitable for seed, I am reminded of our brothers and sisters who are also planting and waiting for harvest. These past two weeks, our family was encouraged by visiting churches throughout Texas and California, most of which are in their early stages of growth as church plants. We heard a repeated and faithful refrain from several rectors, saying “We don’t expect to see the flourishing of the our work now. Perhaps are children will.” We were amazed by this faithful, sacrificial vision while laboring in at times hostile soil. Friends, your brothers and sisters in San Antonio, Austin, Plano, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Modesto are witnessing God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for them to be encouraged in the Spirit that unites us to each other.

Similarly, we press on to root Agape Year in the Kingdom for the life of the world. While there are times the soil looks dormant to our eye, God is at work! We have accepted our first applicant. Praise God! We are growing in our own support! Praise God! These sprouts of growth remind us of God’s ever-growing, ever-living work while we rest in His faithfulness.

We continue to trust God for a few more participants for this Fall. Please pray that the Lord of the Harvest will bring those He has called to pioneer Agape Year with us.   We’ve seen God surprises us with His provision for our family while still trusting Him to call senders to come around us in this call. Is He asking you to join in this particular field? Consider giving a monthly donation of $40.

S’more Summer Sundays!
Would you join us this summer for fire, s’mores, and prayer for mission?
We’ll gather the fourth Sunday of the month in June, July, and August at our home, 2623 Linwood. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, or musical instrument if you like. We’re excited to see you!
Mark your calendars for June 25, July 23, and August 27.

Love,
The Twichells

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Flying with 2 children is no joke!

On The Road /On The Run

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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!

Of Disappointment vs Encouragement

God Does Not Disappoint


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.

Fast and Pray March 28


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?
Thanks!
Erika, Nate, Henry, and Anne

Of Sinners and Big Steps

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“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.

Advent 2016 Update

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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.

In Him,

Erika

Baby Donut

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.

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