Rob Mathis is interning at First PC in Sitka. He began working with the congregation in February 2016. Robe is under care with the CPM in Seattle Presbytery. Rob shares with us some of his journey:
I spent about 28 years in law enforcement, starting out in Southern California, and then moving with my family to King County, WA in 1990. I retired in August of 2013. My wife, Jan, left her work here in the Seattle area, and we moved with our then 11-year-old daughter to rural South Africa.
Jan and I started a preschool in “Riverview”, an “unofficial settlement” or “squatter’s camp”, on the edge of the small town of Citrusdal, in the Western Cape of South Africa. We lived in Citrusdal for about a year, developed the school, helped oversee an old folks home for indigent elderly, and built a nutrition center for the many poor and hungry kids in the little settlement.
Our then 20 year old daughter Natalie contracted Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome while we were in Africa (she was living in Seattle and attending college at the time). We were summoned home on an emergency flight, and found Natalie paralyzed and critically ill. We spent over five months in the hospital with her, during which time she became temporarily quadriplegic and continued to be incredibly ill. She is now two years into recovery, but has miles to go.
We must live here in Seattle, but do travel back and forth to rural Africa for our work there. Also, I began an internship at First PC Sitka in February of this year. My time in Sitka will likely continue for the duration of the calendar year. I travel to Sitka about once every four to six weeks for about 8-10 days. Living out of the church, I provide the preaching, Sunday School classes, and am present for our “Manna Meals” feeding program on Sunday afternoons.
I spend a fair bit of my time visiting parishioners, sometimes in the hospital, at their homes, or at their “new home” in one of the elder care places. I love these precious visits and count them as a real highlight of my time in Sitka. I also have a passion for mentoring and spending quality time with our men, helping them to grow and address those places in their lives that feel “stuck”. That is time very well spent, but not something that can be captured in any type of schedule…it just seems to “happen.”
The folks in Sitka are very welcoming and very willing to share their lives and stories with me. I do recall that when I first arrived to the Presbyterian Church in Sitka, it was dinnertime. Some of the deacons and the couple that live at the church were on hand to welcome my mentor, Pastor George Gilchrist, and me after our afternoon of flying. We sat down to a scrumptious meal, some laughter and a cheery good time. They all told me that they had heard “that Rob guy” was coming and they did not know what to expect. One of the deacons said she had this picture of me being this “bow tie wearing, stodgy looking short-haired bore”. I am not sure why she thought that, but I do work extra hard not to bore her! As for the short hair, I left those days behind and wear my locks down on my shoulders! Oh, and I guess the name stuck, because I am, after all these months, still known around the church as “that Rob guy!”
Jan and I have been married for 36 years. After my indescribable gift of salvation, Jan is the very best thing that has ever happened to me in my life, period. We have five children, all girls...and three grandchildren, all boys...