Mercy on Repeat

07/06/2018 .
Tess Sangree  .  Storytelling Intern

Looking back at his very energetic teenage years, Andy never imagined he’d find himself face to face with a police officer ready to arrest him.

In high school, Andy struggled to find healthy outlets for his energy. Andy and his friends created a game that they thought would be harmless and a little fun — chucking water balloons at cars. When Andy received his driver license and a car, they took their new game on the road.

As Andy drove his friends around, the boys found a target and launched their balloon. SMACK!  It collided square in the middle of a passing driver’s window. Engines revved, tires screeched, and exhaust filled the air as the boys sped away. After a short chase, Andy and his buddies managed to escape.

Next, the team of water-balloon launchers went to a beautiful outlook in Orange County — a place many couples could be found spending time together. Having parked, the boys honed in on one couple and hurled a balloon at the man, who just so happened to be an off-duty police officer. Andy and his buddies leapt in their car and rushed off, but the cop was hot on their tail. Both parties raced down the road until they were side by side. The officer looked over and saw that these boys were just kids full of energy. He figured it was just a water balloon; no real harm done.

But as both vehicles looped into a parking lot to turn around, they came head to head. Time moved in slow motion while the boys made the decision to throw one last balloon, which landed right in the middle of the officer’s windshield.

“Drive!” Andy’s passenger screamed.

The two vehicles spent the next 40 minutes racing down the freeway. The officer flashed his brights several times, but Andy had no intention of pulling over. As the chase was drawing to a close, Andy swerved, nearly hitting a motorcyclist. The officer, recognizing the potential danger, decided to end the pursuit and let them go. The near-miss with the motorcycle and the long chase frightened the boys. They thought they had escaped.

The next week at school, a call to the office jolted Andy’s false sense of security. A police car and that same man who had chased his car stood waiting for him. This time, the man was in uniform, alerting Andy to the seriousness of his actions. Andy’s adrenaline spiked, fear enveloped him, and his heart raced with each step.

Officer David read Andy his rights and prepared to arrest him. Just seconds before taking him away, the officer looked at Andy with compassion saying, “You know, you look like a good kid, and I believe you are good. I just think you’re full of energy and mischief, I’m not going to press charges — but I am going to tell your dad.” Andy was confused but grateful. He did not understand what caused the officer to let him go, but he never forgot that moment.

Ten years later, Andy moved to Japan with his Japanese girlfriend. Soon after, the relationship ended, prompting some soul searching and questions regarding his life’s purpose.  Throughout this time of seeking, his mom sent him sermons from her church to listen to.

Andy found a church in Japan and decided to give his life to Christ. And he kept listening to the sermons his mom sent. One day, while listening to one of the sermons, a guest speaker was introduced. The name made Andy’s jaw drop. It was the same man who showed him mercy many years ago: Officer David.

Andy saw the dots in his life connecting as he realized how God seemed to be watching over him, even when he was causing trouble as a teenager.

Andy decided to stay in Japan and serve in his church. He eventually got married and had two boys, which ultimately led to his return to the United States Because their youngest needed additional care after being diagnosed with severe autism. The family packed their bags and planted themselves in Southern California and began attending Saddleback Church — a place where both his kids could be well cared for in Saddleback Kids and Super Kids during services.

Andy took a job as a special education coach and teacher at a local school. In addition to teaching, he supervises the kids who land themselves in Saturday detentions. Impacted by the mercy shown to him from Officer David and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he was encouraged to make these four hours epic for both him and the kids. Andy learned to nurture these young students, who he could have otherwise just “babysat” each weekend, by teaching them important life skills.

Andy began showing them what mercy looks like. He taught lessons in teamwork, looking out for each other, healthy ways to channel their energy, and effective communication skills. Now, he hopes to equip these young individuals with the ability to make good decisions and to show love and compassion to those around them — the way that God does. Andy committed to showing not only the type of mercy the officer showed him, but also the mercy Christ shows us through salvation.

Learn more about getting a second chance with God at saddleback.com/freshstart.