Leaving dark days behind
Rob Varicak has a passion for social justice
Rob Varicak says he lived selfishly "like a parasite on society" until a radical transformation saw him dedicate his life to serving refugees and others.
"Drugs, alcohol, crime and having a good time were all I knew," Rob recalls.
"Then, one day, I picked up a Bible and read it for the first time. It spoke of wars and warriors, people being killed and whole tribes being annihilated. This appealed to me at the time."
This strange fascination with the Old Testament motivated Rob to read it more regularly until he finally made his way to the second part – the New Testament.
While the Old Testament served as a historical record of God's chosen people – the Jewish nation – Rob was even more amazed to discover the character and deeds of Jesus Christ in the New Testament Gospels.
"Jesus stood up for those who were oppressed, marginalised and segregated," Rob explains.
"He met the neglected where they were and without judgement, meeting their immediate needs while telling them about the saving grace that comes from God through believing in Him. He listened to, encouraged, served and helped people overcome their oppression through a new hope in Him."
As he discovered in John chapter 3 verse 17, "For God did not send His Son (Jesus) into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."
"While reading one night, the Bible started coming alive and a thought came into my head telling me I was a child of God," Rob recalls.
"Then, it was like a voice told me, 'You need to get off the drugs and take off'."
Rob knew he needed to break away from the bad influences around him, so he sold all that he could, told his parents he was leaving Geelong and travelled aimlessly for four weeks until he ended up in Darwin.
"Feeling empty and that something was missing in my life, I decided to join a hunting club to meet people," he says.
"As I flicked through a business directory, it stopped on the 'Churches' page (this comes before 'Clubs'). I knew I had to go to church."
After speaking with a pastor, Rob remembers that he could not stop the tears from pouring down his face.
"The pastor told me to come to church as he knew that God was speaking to me, so I did."
Two months later Rob shares that he surrendered control of his life to God and was baptised in water as a public declaration of his faith in July 2001.
However a few years later old temptations crept back into his life when he moved back to Geelong.
"I hooked up with my old mates again and started living a worldly life once more," he admits.
"It took a major motorbike accident to help me realise that I cared more about my so-called 'material blessings' than living a life of obedience to God."
After rehab, Rob once again sold all he had and six weeks later moved to Mackay, Queensland, where he volunteered with The Salvation Army for 12 months.
"This was the most rewarding thing I had done in my life," he shares.
In this work Rob began to understand the blessings that come from living a life pleasing to God and in loving service to others instead of the selfishness that had only left him feeling empty.
After serving people in Malawi, Africa on a short term mission, the "start of the greatest adventure of my life", Rob began helping refugees in Geelong, which led to further work in South Sudan.
"For the past eight years, God has been preparing me through theological training, mission focused studies and practical ministry experience," he shares.
"During this time I also explored Jesus more deeply – I saw that He not only came to pay the ransom and reconcile us to God but He also came to implement social justice.
"My journey with Jesus has been full of trials, tribulations and temptations, some of which I overcame easily and some that brought me to the brink of giving up, but all of which have strengthened my faith, sharpened my focus and helped me grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally," he concludes.
"My journey so far can be summed up by Colossians chapter one, verse 10, '...live a life worthy of the Lord...please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God'."