GRADUATION

A few weeks ago, my family and I celebrated my graduation (2nd time) from Fuller Seminary, this time with a Doctor of Ministry degree I’ve been working on for 8 years.  It represents the end of a long academic journey full of many sleepless nights and a lot of hard work. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to be challenged, broadened, deepened, and sharpened through the experience.

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Joy, this is your day too!  You sacrificed so much in these 8 years of me studying on top of work.  I traveled for courses, research, and writing retreats and always had projects hanging over my head. This always meant more responsibility for you.  Thanks for making this possible with all your hard work and sacrifice!  In this photo, the stole I am wearing is Kente fabric from Ghana to delight my Ghanaian colleagues at IJM. Kente is the central metaphor for the Bible that I used in my doctoral project: The Justice Thread

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Fuller graduated over 600 students amid various programs with almost 4,000 people in attendance. It was fun to see each professor wearing the academic regalia from their alma matter.  Such a wonderous variety!

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I had the great honor and priveledge to be one of four student speakers at commencement, each of us interviewed as we received our diplomas. The four of us are pictured here with Mark and Janet Labberton. Mark is the President of Fuller Seminary and was my content reader (Academic supervisor/mentor) for my doctoral work and has a passion for biblical justice and has written some great books you should read such as “The Dangerous Act of Worship.”

You can watch my reflections in the video below…

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My son Peter giving me some love.

A brief slideshow from the commencement ceremony…

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The day before the commencement (which was for all programs in the entire seminary) was a much smaller “hooding ceremony” for Doctor of Ministry graduates.  I’ve included some photos from that below…

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The big moment: receiving my doctoral hood! I was touched that Mark Labberton (who was my content reader/supervisor) made it to the ceremony to put on my hood. He is the reason I was able to continue my DMin from Ghana. I am so grateful for his positive influence in my life.

It was so great to have a cheering section at the ceremony, just like they cheer me on in life.  My sisters and their families, my parents, and Joy’s Mom and sister all made it.  For my older sister, it was a long trek down from Sacramento.  Thanks everyone for coming!

 

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End of Financial Support

My dear supporters,

We have come to the end of our time of receiving mission support. I never thought I’d say this, but please don’t send UCC any more checks on our behalf!  UCC has graciously given us these months of transition support since we moved back from Ghana so that we can rest, debrief, re-acclimate to American life, finish my Doctor of Ministry at Fuller (hurray!), and interview with churches as I seek my next call. That transition period is drawing to a close.  Our last support check from UCC will cover July and there is already enough funds in the account to cover that.  Any further checks the church will receive will be used for UCC’s general fund, not for our support, so no trying to slip one more through!  🙂  While I have not yet accepted a new job, I have received several offers and I hope it will not be too much longer until God makes it clear where I am to serve next.

You have been so incredibly faithful in your giving these past two and a half years! Your generosity and partnership have made everything we have done possible!  THANK YOU!!!  I cannot tell you enough how much this has meant to us.

At the end of this road I remember with profound gratitude the first time I withdrew money in Ghana. I had just flown my wife, 3 young kids, and a dog to a country in West Africa I had never been to start a new life and ministry.  Everything was foreign to me, and a bit scary. I had all kinds of trouble getting my ATM card to work and so was having to borrow cash from a colleague to feed my family and pay taxis.  I just kept praying and fretting and feeling that I was “way out on a limb here.”  The first time my ATM card actually worked and Ghanaian Cedis came out of the machine, I cried. I just stood there and wept.

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As I wept, God drew to my mind your faces, the faces of people who gave their own money in the U.S. to join me in this work. You are the ones that put those Cedis into that ATM machine for me, so to speak. I still get teary when I think about it. I had felt so alone, with so much responsibility on my shoulders to make life work there for my family while I serve with IJM in Ghana, and then the Cedis popped out of the machine and it just proved to me that I wasn’t alone.  You were with me.  You were also with me in your prayers, your blog comments, your emails and questions.  Thank you.  Thank you so much. Thank you for believing with me in the mission of IJM, in the value of the children enslaved on Lake Volta, in a God who cares and rescues, and in the potential of our family to make a difference.  Thank you.  Thank you for continuing with me these past two and half years!

Now stop giving!

Or, if you want to keep giving, give in a different way!  You can give directly to IJM by becoming a freedom partner: https://www.ijm.org/give/freedom-partner.  If you do, I’d love to hear about it!

You can give to another missionary or ministry at your local church.

A third option: We also want to let you know of another opportunity to continue to be involved in the work in Ghana through us. Over our two years in Ghana, we developed relationships with multiple aftercare shelters (with IJM clients), a literacy center for impoverished children (where Joy volunteered), a ministry to street kids around our city (Accra). We know the people who run these ministries very well and we are keenly aware of glaring needs they each have.

We are setting up a fund under the umbrella of Aslan Child Rescue Ministries (www.aslanchildrescue.org), run by a friend named John Ramey, that can be used to help with critical needs in these ministries to Ghanaian children in need. All admin costs are donated by the Board of Directors, so 100% of donations goes straight to projects serving children in need. You’ll receive a tax deduction receipt at the end of the year.  We will continue to send updates about how these funds are used to make a difference in children’s lives. If you would like more information about this, please let us know.  You can give online by clicking here.  You can also mail checks to Aslan Child Rescue Ministries, 1110 Rudger Way, Sacramento, CA 95833 (with “Ghana” in the memo line).

Thank you once again for sticking with us in the long haul of this work God in Ghana!

Matt Robbins

Pocket Blogging: Whoops!

Hey Everyone,

Somehow the WordPress app on my phone just randomly posted 6 old draft posts!  Some of these I posted a couple of years ago and others were just random notes. If you follow our blog you probably just got a series of emails containing these and found it very confusing.  Sorry about that!   The Blog equivalent of pocket dialing!

No, we are not back in Ghana.  We are in the U.S. praying and discerning God’s next call for us.  We would love for you to join us in prayer that God would make it very clear to us where He is calling us to serve, and that we would be brave enough to answer that call.

BTW, I officially graduated with my Doctor of Ministry last weekend and had the great privilege to be one of the student speakers, as I was interviewed by Mark Labberton.  Speaking to 4,000 people was a first for me!  I’ll try to get the video and some pictures and post it here in a few days.

Matt

Spider Bite

I hope I’m turning into Spiderman. That’s what happens in the movies when you get bit by spiders. So far, my metamorphosis is taking longer than Peter Parker’s but I expect that’s because my superpowers will be more superpowery.

On a serious note…

First antibiotic didn’t work. Affected area keeps getting larger, though my mobility has increased. I went to my doctor today and he started me on two new broad spectrum antibiotics and a topical steroid cream. He also confirmed its from a spider bite and thought it could be a recluse because of the purple bump that began this joy ride.

We had a nice conversation about all the crazy insects in Ghana and how my doctor thinks it’s funny that this happened to me in L. A. instead of Ghana.

Ive taken daily photos of my elbow and posted them here, but quickly deleted because… Gross.

I’ll post a picture once I’m Spiderman.

Prayer Request

Hey everyone, I hope you might pray for healing for my arm.

Somehow I’ve got an infection in my right elbow. I went to urgent care yesterday and got a shot of antibiotics plus an ongoing course of them, but it is still spreading and the swollen part is growing. It’s already ridiculously swollen and I can barely move or use my arm and its very painful with even the lightest touch. If it’s not starting to improve by tomorrow I plan to go back to the doctor.

I would appreciate your prayers

Matt

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

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.