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Following 25 years of drug addiction and destruction, Matt Van Rhee never really believed his life could be any different. Until he encountered God in a life-changing way and miraculous transformation took place.

From the age of seven, I felt the impact of family breakdown. While I had a committed father who laid a foundation of faith in my life, for a very long time, I felt I only ever knew of God but never really knew Him personally. And the examples of Christianity I had witnessed, had me thinking ‘Sunday Christians’ had no power over destructive patterns in their own lives… so I simply wasn’t interested in the Christian life.

By the age of 16 I got in with the wrong crowd and started using marijuana. This was the beginning of decades of drug addiction. I surrounded myself with a like-minded community and felt like I was just cruising through life on drugs. I was a functioning addict who was able to hold down a job while using.

At the age of 23, everything started to escalate. I progressively began using harder drugs from ecstasy, acid, ice to ketamine. And by the age of 25 I was hit with endocarditis, a condition that causes inflammation and deterioration of vital heart valves. It was explained to me as a disease that eats away at the weak and damaged organs in my body. By the time I arrived at hospital, with a fever of 40.3 degrees, I was told my body was septic. I was in hospital for eight weeks, in which time I had endured a stroke and heart valve replacement surgery. The seriousness of my health conditions still hadn’t motivated me to get off the drugs. A life of drug addiction didn’t allow me to consider the bigger picture, I couldn’t think beyond my next fix and I would describe my mindset at the time as selfish and short-sighted.

Soon after, I moved to Melbourne. There I met my partner at the time and we had three kids together. However, my ice addiction continued to escalate and resulted in me losing my family. While my addiction was robbing me of all the things that mattered, I still couldn’t see my true state. But I knew I needed to leave the world I had surrounded myself with and moved back to Gippsland to live with my dad.

Time with my dad began to strengthen my faith and hunger for God. And while I was deliberately removing myself from circles of drug using friends, I still couldn’t manage to become completely free from drug addiction. So I reached out to an old friend of mine, Brendan. I had known Brendan from a past community of drug users and I heard he was now a Christian, living a transformed life. He began talking to me about God and this started to challenge my thinking and caused me to really pursue God for the first time.

I encountered God in very real and moving ways at that time, even in my current addicted state, it dawned on me, that God had never left me, it was me that left Him. And He was still there.

 

“I encountered God in very real and moving ways.”

 

I started to realise I needed more of God and decided right then that I needed to find a church. That very week, a young man by the name of Rowan Churchill walked into my place of work and invited me to City Builders Church. This was a major turning point for me, my walk with God went to another level at City Builders Church. I had committed to the journey of following God and allowing Him to begin the process of transformation in me. A vital key in this process was allowing myself to be mentored. I was moving forward, even though, my wrestle with addiction was still very real.

One day, I found my dog had been bitten by a snake and was suddenly dying right before my eyes. The destruction of addiction made for a very isolating life at times and my dog was important to me, so I cried out to God asking Him to heal my dog. I gave God my word that if He healed my dog, I’d never touch drugs again. My dog was instantly healed, it was an absolute miracle! I was compelled to immediately dispose of all of my drugs and destroy my drug related equipment. I haven’t touched drugs ever since.

I was baptised at the Avon River with City Builders Church and I have been absolutely victorious over addiction from that day. I didn’t realise the extent of the grace of God in my life until I started to tell people my story. But the reality is, from that day, I have been clean with absolutely NO comedowns, withdrawals or cravings… after 25 years of drug addiction! My life is forever changed.

From there, I found that God just kept turning up for me in my time of need. My aortic valve (heart valve) had continued to swell and I was in serious need of another round of heart surgery. I was told that there was a long wait for surgery, even though time was of the essence. One Sunday at church, Ps Brian asked the congregation to join him in prayer for me. Ps Brian specifically prayed that I would get the call for surgery within a week. Well, I got the call 3 days later. My surgery was fast tracked and after being discharged, my recovery has been ideal.

My relationship with my family is well and truly restored, my health is on track and I have found home. I thank God for that.

I can honestly say that connecting with my family in Christ has been a key factor in my growth and my relationship with Jesus. “I thank God for the family I have in this church. Its phenomenal. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere in my life.”

 

“I can honestly say that connecting with my family in Christ has been a key factor in my growth and my relationship with Jesus.”

 

I think what is next for me is walking in the revelation that I am God’s son. I want the way I live to demonstrate and represent Jesus to a lost and broken world. I carry the conviction that, as followers of Christ, we are either representing Him or misrepresenting Him, and I know where I want to be.

If ‘today Matt’ could say something to ‘past Matt’, it would be: “The Lord is real.”

Joe, Dave, Matt, Davo, Wade & Marc

Matt and his dad, Peter