God's good plan for Chris
31 March 2020
For 30 years, Chris Roby’s life was consumed with alcohol. “I was dying but I couldn’t stop drinking,” he says. “Mum was an alcoholic and sadly died an alcoholic. Over the years, I also became a burned-out drunk. I was hopeless.”
But in the midst of his despair, the hope of freedom emerged unexpectedly.
“I turned up to the Salvos at Coffs Harbour because I was living on the street and they told me you could get a free feed up at the Salvos on Wednesday night.”
It was there Chris met (now retired) Salvation Army officer Major Steve.
“He challenged me to pour out my grog and that’s how it all started. I poured out three longnecks of beer and a bottle of rum on the steps of The Salvation Army. I had a massive anxiety attack. I tried every excuse not to, but I did it.”
God is always at work
Even though he wasn’t from a religious family, Chris admits he used to pray to a God he didn’t understand.
“Sometimes in my drunken stupor I’d say, ‘Please God, don’t let me keep doing this,’” he shares. And when facing prison not long after meeting Major Steve, Chris prayed for deliverance. He was still sentenced to prison, but God was at work in his own way.
“I wasn’t going to be able to stop [drinking] without going to prison,” says Chris. “I know that now. Prison turned into rehab and the set of circumstances that happened in jail weren’t accidents.”
While in prison, Chris was encouraged to pray for healing over something in his life. He’d been battling hepatitis for 29 years – “my eyes were yellow, I was grey, my liver was swollen” – but the doctors could not treat him because he was always drunk. After finishing his prison sentence, Chris entered Adele House (now run by the Salvos) for rehabilitation and gave up his drinking.
“I’d prayed for healing to get rid of my hepatitis and I believed,” says Chris. “The doctors say it’s rare for it to go out of your body by itself without treatment. And when I got sober, they couldn’t find it. I don’t believe I can cure people, but I know that God can.”
Thanks to a continued relationship with Major Steve and The Salvation Army after rehabilitation, Chris found a transformational relationship with Jesus.
“When I was 45, I was full of hepatitis, I couldn’t put two words together, I was unshaven, filthy dirty and was just existing,” says Chris. “I’ve been born again. Not my old life fixed up a bit. A whole new life. Freedom … Putting down the drink would have been enough, but I’ve got a whole lot more. I can talk to people now; I can look them in the eye … My health is getting better, I’m losing weight.”
Chris’ new life inspiring others
As Chris approaches Easter and reflects on the message of Good Friday, he is reminded of his salvation because Jesus rose from the grave.
“I’m so grateful for the suffering Jesus went through for us. It overwhelms me. It’s the biggest sacrifice out of the love he has for us,” he says.
It’s been about 10 years since Chris first found himself at Coffs Harbour Salvation Army pouring out his alcohol. His new life with Jesus now sees him trying to share that hope with others battling addictions and living on the street.
Chris is involved in pub ministry and is a member of a Salvation Army motorbike club and another Christian motorbike chaplaincy group. He also coordinates the local Salvation Army Emergency Services, which saw him actively involved in the NSW bushfires earlier this year. The group has hosted free barbecues in the park, which gave Chris another chance to connect with people who need hope.
“I’d tell them, ‘Don’t give up. You can do this. I did it,’” he says. At these outreach events, Chris would also encourage them to come along to a Wednesday night meal and lowkey church service (which is where he began) to then, “let God do his work”.