End of Mission Report

Dear Friends,

Mark your calendars! Joy and I (along with Hannah, Peter, and Abby) invite you to the Robbins Family End of Mission Report on Sunday April 28th at University Covenant Church at 12:30pm. We have some fun prizes to give out from Ghana, including copies of the Bible study book The Justice Thread that I wrote while in Ghana! We hope you will join us. Feel free to bring your children. I’m bringing mine!

Our time in Ghana has drawn to a close. My work with IJM finished with the launch of the book, and with it, I felt a great sense of completion and joy. Our family just finished a week-long family debrief in Colorado, which was wonderful, healing, restorative, and enjoyable for each one of us. What a gift! It was so very helpful for closure on this extremely adventurous chapter of our lives.

last night at debrief- lots to think about

Another important step of closure is to report back to you on what we have seen and done and lived! Many of you have journeyed with us for two and a half years, with your prayers, your contributions, your encouragements, and by following our blog. We want to thank you so much! We could not have done it without you. We hope you are able to make it on April 28th so we can see you in person, thank you for your support, tell a few stories, answer questions, and pray together for those who remain in Ghana carrying on the work.

I will also be preaching in the worship services at UCC earlier that morning (8, 9:30, 11am), so please feel very welcome to join us for one of those as well.

-Matt

Family Debrief

We are in Colorado this week for debrief at Mission Training International (MTI). Someone here defined debrief as sharing our stories and inquiring about how they have affected us.

We are gatherer here with families who have served all over the world doing all sorts of incredibly difficult things. Most seem to be transitioning off the field though some are in the US on a temporary home assignment before deploying again.

In these first couple of days, we have already found it incredibly encouraging and helpful to be with other families who have had such similar challenges and done such similarly crazy things, though in different contexts.

On a hike

Anyone know what animal made this track? We are on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains

In the same vein, it has been a wonderful gift for my children to get to interact with other children who have lived overseas. They have a wonderful children’s program that facilitates their sharing. One exercise they do is to hold a “pair a ducks” (paradox): a “yuck duck” (hard thing) and a “yea duck” (happy memory) that are related. An example i might share in this exercise would be “seeing God move at the lakeside pastor conferences” (yea duck!) and “missing my family for a week and spending 2 full days on bumpy roads to get there and back” (yuck duck!). These sorts of activities (and their adult equivalents) teach us all to hold things in paradox. There was good and bad, happy and sad, all mixed together. Sometimes people hope to hear from overseas workers a one dimensional answer to the question “did you love it!?!” Reality is always mixed.

Peter showing some pictures of his life in Ghana to his teacher at MTI

Please pray that God uses this time to bring us healing, wisdom, insight, unity, and clarity to our whole family as we reflect on our service in Ghana these last couple of years.

Launched!

Enjoy this highlight video of the Launch of The Justice Thread!

It was a great joy to see professors, church leaders, police and government officials, a member of parliament, media, friends, and IJM staff come together to celebrate and support this project! It was the culmination of my two years in Ghana with IJM.

To my supporters, thank you! You made this possible.

Oral Defense

At 1pm today (in about 2 hours), I report for my oral defense, one of the very last elements in my DMin studies.

I’ve been in this doctoral program now for 8 years, while working full time as a pastor, and later, as a missionary.

In addition to my doctoral studies, I also did my MDiv here at Fuller, so the place is quite sacred to me. I’m spending a couple hours here before the oral defense to pray, reflect, and prepare.


This courtyard has always been my favorite spit on campus.

The motto of this program (at least when I enrolled) was “fire for your ministry, oxygen for your soul.” I signed up for the oxygen. At the time I didn’t really think I would finish the degree. I just really needed someone to be teaching me while I taught others. I was afraid if I was only pouring out and no one was pouring in, then I’d dry up. I realize I’ve now mixed metaphors of both air and water, but they both reflect how the program first felt to my mind, heart and soul.

Early on, I did a lot of work on church health (including the life and family of a pastor). I took a brief detour I to C. S. Lewis (including a stint on his home turf in Oxford and Cambridge). Finally, because I went to Ghana to work with International Justice Mission in its fight against Child Trafficking, all my final doctoral work shifted to biblical justice and mobilizing the Church (particularly in Ghana) to do the work of justice.

My final project (in place of a traditional dissertation) was to design a Bible study curriculum for the Ghanaian context on biblical justice and child trafficking.

This picture shows the evolution of the book through multiple versions we used for field testing to its final published version launched this year.

Please pray for me and root for me in this oral defense! Thank you to so many of you for your prayers, support and encouragement to have made it this far!

-Matt

Thankful day forty three

When one is transitioning back to life in their home country (for us the U.S.), it is surprising the things that become REALLY exciting. For the kids – parks, goldfish crackers, Pirate’s Booty, fresh berries and libraries are all at the top of their lists. Matt is delighting in an abundance of Mexican food. And I love the endless sidewalks and the vast, colorful produce section of the grocery store.

Today Matt bought us a new vacuum. And I am over the moon with excitement. I didn’t know I could get so excited over an implement of cleaning. I am thankful for this moment of delight!

And even more thankful that he is willing to vacuum the house!

P.S. As a result of the 6 floods and a bedbug scare – we moved out of our apartment to a quaint little house owned by Pasadena Covenant Church. The outpouring of support from the church and extended family to help furnish this house, as we transition, has simply been amazing. I am VERY thankful! And grateful we get to stay in Pasadena.

Thankful day forty two

Today I am naming what (in my mind at least) is a new category of thankfulness – defiant thankfulness. In the face of all that is going wrong and bad in the world and in my life right now (namely, 6 leaks/floods in the first three weeks of living in our new apartment), defiant thankfulness says there is something good in today. Some moment that I can grasp on to and say – yep that’s good, that lightened the load if only for a moment.

Today that moment came as Matt and I were exchanging stories on video chat of the various things going wrong within our cars. Our car here in California has a window that broke last week, was fixed and now today leaked rain all over the backseat of our car (not funny). Our car in Ghana (according to Matt) has an electrical problem that causes the horn to randomly honk at other drivers, which has led to some people yelling at Matt and wondering why he’s honking at them. Meanwhile he is throwing both hands up in the air to show them he’s not responsible for the car honking. Oh I couldn’t help it, I was bent over laughing my head off at this! I didn’t even know horns had an electrical component to them – I thought it was all manual (and for good reason!).

I really could just see the scene playing out on the roads of Ghana. In a situation something like this:

I returned back to our apartment to find our 6th and most recent leak all over the kitchen floor. Ugh! Mopped it up, again and then again. And I moaned over it.

Then I took a lovely, rainy walk (my happy place) with these three jokesters.

And still hours later am chucking over my hubby’s own challenges.

Defiant thankfulness – it is sweet to savor.

Oh and if you are the praying type, please pray these leaks and floods would cease. My deepest thanks.

-joy

A Sprint to the Finish

I moved to Ghana 2 years ago. Tomorrow morning, in my final week, is my Magnum Opus here.

We are launching The Justice Thread, a Bible study/ book/resource/ tool that I wrote (in collaboration with the awesome IJM Ghana team) all this last year. I did 7 drafts over that period, each improving on the last. We did field tests on three of those versions with hundreds of pastors and church leaders from communities all around Lake Volta. Many week-long road trips. Hundreds of hours in books and at my laptop. Many strategy meetings. Countless rounds of editing and designing. It has been a long road.

The evolution of the project!

But now we are finished, the book is printed and I am sprinting to the finish line!

It is traditional here to throw a big event to launch a new book. Tomorrow is the launch! Attending will be a number of very prominent high level church leaders coming, two members of parliament, government officials, the head of the anti-human trafficking unit, IJM staff, friends, and reporters from TV, radio, and newspapers.

As part of the ceremony, I am to give a 30 minute introduction and overview of the book. I ask for your prayers!

I am so grateful to my long time friends, the Purnell family, for flying all the way from California to support me in this moment and to represent my sending church at the event.

Please pray also for Joy and the kids. Our new apartment in Pasadena flooded multiple times since I left and now mold is affecting their health (the exact reason we had to leave Ghana in November)! This kind of thing seems to happen every time I leave on a trip. Your prayers are most welcome.

Hitting the Presses!

A big moment for me, my book is being printed!

The video below shows the printing of the cover.

The book is called The Justice Thread. It is kind of my baby. I wrote it as my major IJM project for the year in Ghana while also basing my doctoral project around it.

It is designed as a introduction to Biblical Justice for Ghanaian churches. It also introduces the current problem of child trafficking and IJM’s work against it.

We’ve been blessed to get endorsements from several prominent Ghanaian professors and church leaders, as well as Gary Haugen, founder of IJM.

G-Pak, the publishing house associated with one of Ghana’s biggest newspaper (the Daily Graphic) is printing 8,000 English copies. When the translations are finished, they will print 2,000 each in Ewe and Twi.

Sammy, the designer of the internal layout, finishing up last minute corrections.

Dear tree who gave its life so that this book can live, thank you!… And sorry.

Special thank you to everyone at University Covenant Church for sponsoring the publishing and launch of this book with your Gifts from the Heart offering!

Finishing at Fuller

I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am working in the Fuller Seminary library to meet a deadline…once again!

I have been working for about 7 years on my D. Min. (Doctor of Ministry) degree. I did my M. Div. (Master of Divinity) here from 2003 to 2006.

It is hard to describe how much I love Fuller. I first chose to study at Fuller because the people I met who graduated from Fuller seemed to be the kind of people I wanted to be like. I was not wrong. It is a place of true Christian scholarship, thoughtfulness, dialogue, diversity, faithfulness, and generosity of spirit toward all.

Tomorrow, my first full draft of my doctoral project (in place of a traditional dissertation) is due. It is on my work in Ghana, with the Justice Thread curriculum as the centerpiece. I have done most of this academic work and writing in Ghana, but it is really a cool opportunity to finish here at Fuller.

I ran into my content reader (like a supervising professor), Mark Labberton walking across the quad. So fun.

So far I am at 150 pages and counting!

On Wednesday, I fly back to Ghana for the official launch party of the Justice Thread. Below is the most recent cover design courtesy of Landon Ellis, a friend who was once a student leader in Catalyst.

We have moved into our temporary apartment where we will be staying through June, as I finish my IJM work and my D. MIN, and hopefully discern my next call. The family is loving it down here. Joy’s mom and sister have been over a lot and my kids love apartment life: tons of kids to play with! My kids are just euphoric about other kids knocking on our door to see if they can play. This didn’t happen in Ghana.

We are particularly grateful to my Mom and Dad for hosting us for the last 6 weeks, and more than 6 months over the last two and a half years.

Saying goodbye on moving day…

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Please keep us in your prayers.

Matt