From the Local Drunk to the Local Life Changer

Published by Vision Editorial Team | vision.org.au

God chooses the most unlikely people to do remarkable things. Geoff Marsh can certainly attest to that. His life had spiraled into a pit of excessive drinking. Geoff thought nothing of himself. He believed there was no way God would have anything to do with him. But when Geoff heard God tell him that he wasn’t nothing, it turned his life around.  

Drunk on Attention

It was as a young teenager that Geoff and his mates first began experimenting with alcohol. He spent the first 15 years of his life living in Mulgrave on the Eastern side of Melbourne with his parents. “I always say I had a really good upbringing”, says Geoff. “I always wanted to be a carpenter and work with my hands.  I went to a tech school to get skilled up, and at the age of 15 and my uncle offered me an apprenticeship. But it was up in Drouin, which meant I would need to leave home, and only come back to see mum and dad on the weekends.” 

Going to the country from the city with no friends was a big adjustment for Geoff. But he loved carpentry, and enjoyed living with his uncle and auntie. His cousin, who was a couple of years older, was already experimenting with booze and he’d taken Geoff under his wing.  “I had no confidence,” says Geoff. “But when I drank, I suddenly had a voice. I was getting drunk and I felt like I slotted into this town and this environment really well.” 

Geoff also loved playing football, and he quickly discovered that this was another environment where everybody drank. “You play footie on Saturday, and win or lose everybody got smashed afterwards,” he says. Geoff became dependent on alcohol for the attention it gave him, and became a massive binge drinker. He would drink so much that everyone would laugh at him, and eventually earned himself the reputation of the town pyscho.  

Geoff was getting so drunk that he’d get locked up. The police would leave him in the cells overnight. Things just got worse and worse. “I met a girl and fell in love and we lived together for a few years, and then I got her pregnant,” continues Geoff. “I had no idea how to be a father at this stage. I was a mess. I couldn’t look after myself, let alone a child.” 

Geoff’s girlfriend had a baby boy, but as much as Geoff loved his son, he couldn’t stay away from the alcohol. It led to the destruction of the relationship, and Geoff found himself alone. 

Thirsting for Hope, Finding a New Life

After many months of tearful conversations with his mother, Geoff finally accepted her invitation to come to church. “The little boy inside me was crying out”, says Geoff. “I was sobbing during worship, wiping away tears so that no one would see.” 

Geoff kept coming back, and after a bit of time he was able to get access to his son, Daniel, whom he absolutely adores.  “I had no idea how to do all this church stuff; no idea what it looked like to let go to Jesus. I just needed a new life. And I wanted to find my heart again. And so I gave my life to Jesus and said, I want to do it your way.” 

“There’s a loving God who wants to release you from all the pain you’ve got. There is hope”,

says Geoff. 

After that, Geoff began attending church regularly with his young son. He eventually met his wife there too. He describes it as feeling like a ‘love bubble’ that never bursts, but just gets better and better.  That’s what relationship with Jesus feels like. Today, 30 years on the bubble is yet to burst. 

About five years after joining the church, Geoff and his wife Linda received an invitation to become pastors. “It was pretty weird,” says Geoff. “I’m a carpenter by trade with no training in ministry or theology. But this church invited my wife and I to join them.” 

Finding the Calling

Geoff says they were still maturing as Christians, but he was sober and loved Jesus. They were active in church ministry, and he believes that people noticed the way they loved others. It wasn’t a preaching role, but an opportunity come alongside and get involved in loving the body of Christ.   

“We took a financial hit to do this, but we absolutely loved it,” Geoff say. “We got thrown in the deep end, and stayed there for nine years.  I spent a number of years setting up homes running a meal midweek for people that were hungry. I worked with addicts and guys coming out of prison. I became entrenched in loving those similar to me, the outcasts.” 

After that time came to an end, Geoff knew his passion was to work on the streets. That’s where the idea for ‘Elisha Care’ was born. It just become an extension of what they were doing with the church. They were working with addicts who were homeless, hungry and broken.  

“We’d go out and we’d find them on the streets,” continues Geoff. “We were able to invite them for a feed, and it wasn’t too scary for them. I’ve met and nurtured a lot of people, and in doing so found my passion and my calling.” 

Seeing Lives Restored

‘Elisha Care’ focused on giving out food.  They kept asking God to lead them to the ones that they might be able to share hope with. And He did.  “It wasn’t long before people started gathering around us. We started to dream of what we could do and began running our own houses and barbecues on the street.  We’d also spend a lot of time in court nurturing guys that had a whole lot of mess to work through.” 

Geoff has also seen his fair share of heartbreak. Some people become like family, and then they overdose or commit suicide. He’s been to a lot of funerals over the years. But these tragedies continue to fuel his passion and intensify the urgency to take hope out on to the streets 

“When I see one life that turns around, or one person catch what I’ve caught, it’s all worth it,” says Geoff. “And that one quite often turns into two or three. The disappointment we feel is overridden by the incredible sense of what God does when we see lives restored.” 

“God uses all of these painful stories and parts of our life to actually make us stronger and more passionate”.

To listen to parts one and two of Geoff’s inspiring story, and learn more about his work with ‘Elisha Care’, click below.

Tune into The Story on Vision for true testimonies from extraordinary people. Click here for your local times.

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