Everyone has a story about Mal Feebrey, a Sydney pastor who died this week after a long battle with liver cancer. He brought convicted drug traffickers Schapelle Corby and Andrew Chan to faith and helped scores of young men break out of the cycle of addiction and rebuild their lives.
As an ACC (Australian Christian Churches) pastor, Feebrey supported Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and other members of the Bali Nine from soon after their arrest in 2005. He helped them to transform their lives during regular visits to Bali’s Kerobokan prison.
Andrew Chan even offered to give Feebrey his own healthy liver
In 2010, facing the prospect of execution, Chan even offered to give Feebrey his own healthy liver after he found out that Feebrey was dying of liver disease.
“He was sort of like, if they want to kill me, then you can have my liver,” Feebrey recalled in 2015. “It wasn’t a passing-the-time comment – he wanted to make it happen. If he could have pulled it off, he would have.”
Feebrey eventually received a liver transplant from another donor, but always treasured that offer of a gift of life from the condemned drug trafficker turned ordained minister (Chan ran a chapel in Kerobokan).
In 2005, a chance meeting led Feebrey to baptise Corby on her 105th day in Kerobokan jail before she faced trial on drug smuggling charges.
When Corby heard there was an Australian pastor visiting the prisoners she reportedly asked him to baptise her. As they were in the pool together, Feebrey asked Corby what the Lord and baptism meant to her.
“She just shared from the heart that, you know, she was in a situation where she was powerless and that she’d sort of surrendered her life and was just praying for a miracle. And this is just what she had to do – you know, this is something that she felt she wanted to do,” he said.
“Dealing with men with addictions of all kinds, Mal Feebrey did tough love.” – Chris Smith
Feebrey spent 30 years helping young people overcome addictions. He first worked as a drug and alcohol rehab nurse at Sydney’s Cumberland hospital and then at ONE80TC, a residential programme that helps young men break the cycle of addiction and rebuild their lives with a positive attitude, responsibility and trust.
He remained a ONE80TC ambassador right up to his death this week.
Chris Smith, NSW ACC Secretary, said Feebrey’s impact on so many lives could not be measured.
“Dealing with men with addictions of all kinds, he was the person who did tough love,” Smith told Eternity. “They’d come into the programme and he would make sure that they kept the rules, was very clear on keeping their boundaries but, at the same point, love them and believed in them. He was always the first person. If they had a court case, he’d go there and support them, would always be the one who would get up and give a testimony in court about who they were and who believed in them.
“So, he was a real champion in just being willing to go the journey in the good and bad times. He was an amazing man.”
Former addicts who heard about Feebrey’s death recalled the time they first saw him at ONE80TC, which was formerly called Teen Challenge.
“He had this ability to just walk up to someone and hit him in the back of the head and fully encourage him. So he got his attention by the little slap in the back of the head and then he’d speak life into him, he’d challenge him and then he’d speak life again – the old sandwich ministry – tough love,” recalls Troy Kitto, a former addict who is now centre manager for ONE80TC.
“Every person that has heard of Mal’s passing has just said ‘Oh, I remember that bloke when I first walked into ONE80TC.’ They always point to his ministry to them – ‘I can remember what he spoke into my life.’ Everyone has just got a Mal Feebrey story.”
“God has to be at the centre of what you want to do in life.” – Mal Feebrey
Kitto was a prime example of the way Feebrey was able to bring new life into people’s lives. Feebrey met Kitto about 23 years ago but Kitto drifted away from Feebrey’s radar for years.
“It was about 13 years later; I was still obviously in addiction,” says Kitto. “My brother had asked him to do some intercessory work; and so I went over there with my wife and we sat at his table. He just challenged and encouraged me and my wife in faith and then prayed out the session.
“He said ‘I can give you all the wisdom of my years in drug and alcohol but, ultimately, God has to be at the centre of what you want to do in life.’ About a week or two later I was enrolled in the One80TC programme.”
Feebrey wrote on his Instagram feed: “The most beautiful people that I’ve known are those that have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and yet found a way out of these depths.”
Entrepreneur Justin Herald, founder of clothing company Attitude Gear, was one of the first to pay tribute on Facebook: “Woke up to the most terrible news. R.I.P Mal Feebrey. You were the most amazing man who was such an inspiration to me. You set the benchmark on being an awesome human being.”
Feebrey is survived by his wife Olive and three adult children.
Feebrey’s son Joel, a pastor at Hillsong’s city campus in Melbourne, wrote on Instagram: “Malcolm Gerard Feebrey, promoted to eternity 17th July 2018. Heaven rejoices! Husband to his Olive Oil, father to the fatherless. Xx.”