(from left to right: Lucas Seithel, Agape Year Co-Directors Erika and Nate Twitchell and Caleb Collins)
Amid much bad news about false teaching in the Anglican Communion, litigation against Biblically faithful Anglican congregations and disciplinary actions against their clergy, there is some good news—so I’d like to share some from the March 7-9, 2018 meeting of the Anglican Global Mission Partners (AGMP) at Camp St. Christopher in the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina.
The first is an extraordinary initiative launched by AGMP called “The agape year.” The initiative is a ministry “gap year” for those who are graduating from high school and who would like to offer themselves full-time for ministry and service to others in Christ’s name. The “Agape year” involves three months of study and supervised ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, followed by three months of cross-cultural ministry in an Anglican diocese abroad, and concludes with three months of sharing with congregations, dioceses and youth groups in the ACNA and beyond about Christ-centered and Holy Spirit directed ministry and service.
I heard the testimonies of the two young men above, Lucas and Caleb and about the surprising and exciting things they learned during this “Agape year” about the Lord, the Kingdom, the direction of the Holy Spirit—and themselves.
Lucas shared how he interned in Pittsburgh under the “Living Hearts” ministry that helps repair and rebuild homes in poorer neighborhoods. He described how he watched the leader of this ministry interrupt their assignments on any given day to stop and share about Jesus with people on the street with whom he was building a relationship. The priority of building relationships and seizing opportunities in to share Christ under the gentle leadership of the Holy Spirit made a deep impression on Lucas. The experience helped him engage in the same kind of relationship building while he and Caleb spent their next three months in Thailand teaching English to young people under the direction of Anglican missionaries. He has already been “friended” by 15 of his Thai students on Facebook, with wonderful opportunities now to continue those relationships from afar. As a result, he is thinking about youth ministry and teaching as he prepares for college this Fall.
Caleb shared how he had a similar experience working in a men’s shelter for the homeless in Pittsburgh, with the same focus on relationship building. In the process he was convicted by the Lord to care for the least, the last and the lost in the city, and to address the systemic injustices that aggravate the lives of the homeless. “The Agape gap year is a time out from school,” he told me, “a time to offer my life and this year fully to God and to confirm my identity and calling in Christ.” So, Caleb shared how he is likely to declare a major in pre-law at the college in which he will be enrolling with the intent to further discern a potential calling to minister to others in Christ’s name as a Christian attorney.
Both young men were lovingly discipled, encouraged, and supervised by Nate and Erika Twitchell (see above), who are the Directors of the AGMP Agape Gap Year, live in Pittsburgh and worship at Church of the Ascension. If you or your church have graduating high school students who might benefit from the Agape Year, you can find out more information or invite them (and Caleb and Lucas) to share with you by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Let me close with two other items of good news:
We are living in a Kairos moment where God has gathered all the nations on our doorstep through international students studying at our colleges and universities—1 million international students in the US, 500,000 in Canada, including representatives from over 350 people groups who have never heard the Gospel! Like the day of Pentecost, we have an unprecedented opportunity to reach “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). For this reason, the AGMP is launching the Anglican International Student Mission Network to help provide Anglican congregations of every size and shape the resources to help extend hospitality to international students and build relationships that lead to sharing Christ with them. This ministry will be led by long-time international student missionaries Lisa and Leighton Chinn, and the Rev. Dr. Mary McDonald. You can find out more about this exciting new initiative at www.newwineskins.org.
Finally, over dinner I heard the testimony of two Anglican Rectors who shared how the Holy Spirit miraculously “orchestrated” the financing and purchase of property for their congregations after losing their buildings. All I can say is that it is the result of faithful prayer, listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit and miraculous provision. We will publish their testimonies when they share them publicly. In the meantime, it is a reminder again that our God will supply all our needs out of the abundance of his riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19)—especially as we give ourselves continually to the Great Commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ of ALL peoples!
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.