Lt. Matthew Beatty once was lost, but now is found
Written by Craig Dirkes, Salvation Army Northern Division writer/photographer
Lt. Matthew Beatty still has the police dash-cam video from March 1, 2008. The footage shows his car stopped at a stoplight in a suburb of Kansas City, Kan., on a sunny Saturday morning. An angry police officer marches toward Beatty’s car and bangs on the driver’s-side window. Beatty opens the door and stumbles out, barely able to walk. His is cuffed, and arrested for DUI.
A few months later, Beatty got caught driving drunk again and was arrested a second time.
“I don’t remember the first DUI, but I remember the second,” admitted Beatty, who at the time worked as a bartender at one of Kansas City’s most popular nightclubs. “My life was a joke.”
Thankfully, Beatty’s life is much different today. The 44-year-old is now a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in Grand Forks, N.D. He and his wife, Lt. Rona Mutcha, lead the Grand Forks Salvation Army in carrying out its many services: food shelf, rent assistance, counseling, and much more.
Beatty also leads Sunday morning church services, preaching to his Salvation Army congregation about God’s power, love, and grace.
Eight years ago, Beatty knew little about God, and next to nothing about The Salvation Army.
All of that changed the moment he stepped inside a Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center.
Beatty grew up in Kansas City with his mom, two older sisters and – after age 8 – a stepdad. He has never had a relationship with his biological father.
“They’re a huge passion,” said Beatty, who went on to get his pilot’s license at age 17.
By age 18, he had secured his commercial pilot’s license. At 19, he fueled jets full-time and also worked as a freelance co-pilot.
“I met lots of celebrities – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Rod Stewart,” Beatty said. “They’d come down to the tarmac to shake people’s hands. It was a neat job.”
Unfortunately, his dream of becoming a full-time pilot for a major airline never took off. He couldn’t afford the training.
At age 21, he changed course and became a bartender.
“I loved serving people, and I loved the cash,” Beatty said. “I thought, ‘Flying didn’t work out, I’ll pursue this instead.’”
He had a knack for bartending, and was quickly promoted to manager at a local bar and grill. The only downside: being around so much alcohol led Beatty to drink slightly more than he usually did.
“I never drank because I was sad or depressed – I did it because it was just plain fun,” he said. “If I was sad or depressed, those are the times I didn’t drink.”
In 1998, at age 26, he switched restaurants and became manager of a popular chain restaurant in Kansas City. He started drinking more frequently.
“That’s when the problems started,” Beatty said. “A few years into that job, I got drunk during a shift. The head manager was my best friend, so I didn’t get fired. But he demoted me to a server.”
After that, Beatty didn’t drink for three years.
Off the wagon
Beatty eventually climbed his way back up the management ladder. Once he reached the top, he started drinking again.
“I was living the party life and drinking heavily,” he said.
His drinking got even heavier in 2007, when he landed a job as bartender and bar manager at one of the largest nightclubs in the Midwest. He earned lots of money, enough to take spur-of-the-moment flights to watch his favorite professional football and hockey teams play games in cities across the country.
“I was rolling in the cash,” Beatty said. “I was making $1,300 in tips on the weekends. On top of that, I got paid an hourly wage and a salary.”
Before long, he couldn’t go a day without drinking … or even an hour. Beatty, by now age 36, had become physically addicted to alcohol. He drank morning, day, and night. He couldn’t survive on less than one liter of hard alcohol per day.
“Without alcohol, my hands would shake so bad that I couldn’t write my own name,” he said. “But after four shots to steady myself, I could perform heart surgery.”
Beatty’s destructive lifestyle caught up with him when he was arrested for the DUIs in 2008.
The first one didn’t faze him. “I called a limo to pick me up at the jailhouse, rented a suite, and partied the weekend away,” he said of that Saturday on March 1, 2008.
His second DUI arrest, on June 21, 2008, was a different story. Not only did it cost him his job, it meant Beatty could be charged with a felony. His only hope: he was arrested for the first DUI by a city police officer, and the second, by a state police officer.
“Basically, one didn’t know about the other,” Beatty said. “If they found out about each other before my sentencing for each DUI, I was sure to be charged with a felony, and my punishment would be much more severe – possibly a year in prison.”
Beatty’s lawyer advised him to enroll in a rehabilitation program before his court dates, which could help him receive a lesser sentence, regardless of whether he was charged with a felony. Beatty agreed.
By September 2008, Beatty was living with his sister and had only $20 to his name. He had drank the summer away, lost his home, and emptied his bank account paying for legal fees.
Searching online, he discovered the only rehabilitation program he could afford – the local Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center, which provides free, residential, faith-based addiction recovery services. The Salvation Army operates more than 140 of the centers across the country, including one in Minneapolis (pictured). All of the centers are funded by sales at Salvation Army Stores.
Beatty enrolled at the center. Immediately, he took a keen interest in the Bible lessons he learned while attending the center’s spiritual classes.
“I had a lot of questions about life, and the Bible had all the answers,” he said.
Then, a few weeks later, on Oct. 20, 2008, something miraculous happened.
God revealed Himself to Beatty.
“I was riding alone in an elevator inside the center,” Beatty recalled. “I felt a rush of the Holy Spirit. I felt something say, ‘If you stay with me, it’s going to be OK.’ I have never felt that kind of peace or calm in my entire life. At that moment, my addiction was gone. Not since that day have I ever craved or thought of alcohol.”
Soon after Beatty’s life-changing experience, his lawyer told him to leave the center – a voluntary program – and go before judges for his DUIs. At that time, Beatty had only been at the center for about 30 days of what was supposed to be a six-month stay.
“My lawyer told me that if I don’t come out now, the authorities for each DUI would find out about each other and I’d be in even bigger trouble,” Beatty said.
He decided to stay in the program, regardless of a harsher punishment. He was too hungry to learn more about the Bible. He trusted what God had told him: If you stay with me, it’s going to be OK.
Beatty stayed at the rehabilitation center all six months. A few weeks before he graduated, his lawyer told him that the city and state had finally compared notes, and that he would indeed be charged with a felony.
“Two days after I graduated, my lawyer said a felony warrant had officially been issued,” Beatty said.
He turned himself in immediately. Beatty’s lawyer guaranteed he’d be going to jail, but he didn’t know for how long – maybe 30 days, maybe a year.
Beatty’s court date came. During the proceedings, the district attorney recommended that Beatty be put in jail for a minimum of 30 days.
“Then the judge started laughing,” Beatty recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t see cases like this too often, where a person has genuinely taken steps to better their life.’”
Incredibly, the judge sentenced Beatty to just two days in jail, along with 88 days of house arrest.
“My lawyer said that was the first time he had ever seen that happen – two days in jail for felony DUI,” Beatty said. “Totally incredible.”
Becoming an officer
With his legal troubles behind him, Beatty went on to become a Salvation Army Store manager in the Kansas City area. He also attended church, every Sunday, at a local Salvation Army.
In October 2010, he embarked on a short-term mission trip to a Salvation Army in the Philippines. While there, he had a spiritual awakening similar to the one he experienced in the elevator at the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center.
“The Holy Spirit came rushing in,” Beatty said. “I felt called to be a missionary and to become a Salvation Army officer.”
Later, through a miraculous series of events, Salvation Army officials asked that Beatty apply for a maintenance job at a Salvation Army training college near Manila, the capital of the Philippines. He got the job and wound up staying for two years.
“I worked in the hot sun landscaping, doing building projects, doing electrical work – everything,” Beatty said. “I didn’t earn a salary, but I didn’t care. I loved it. I was in a foreign country, serving God. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Except it did get better than that. While working in the Philippines, Beatty met his wife, Rona (pictured). She had been involved with The Salvation Army ever since she was a little girl. They got married in the Philippines on April 29, 2012, and moved to the U.S. in late 2013.
During summer 2014, the couple began attending The Salvation Army Officer Training College in Chicago, a two-year program. After graduating last spring, they moved to Grand Forks in June for their first appointment as Salvation Army officers.
Today, eight years after Beatty took his last drink, everything God promised him has come true.
“He blessed me more than I ever could have dreamed,” Beatty said. “New friends, exciting adventures, ever-increasing ministry responsibilities and, most of all, a wife. How was I worthy of all this?”