Troubled Youth finds God, Lifelong Work in Rescue Ministry
After nearly 20 years in rescue ministry, Michael Gotschall is still excited about his most recent milestone: celebrating his first year on staff at the mission. “The team, the culture—the mission is making a difference,” he said. “We’re all sold out for Jesus, and we really have the best interests of the program men at heart. We aren’t perfect, but we work well together and are focused on what the men need and how we can make it work. All we’re trying to do is honor God here.”
Michael has made a lot of changes since his younger years. “I was a troubled youth—very rebellious,” said Michael, who got involved in drugs and crime early in life. “I had a great childhood with good parents who were really engaged. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do.”
Michael landed in juvenile hall when he was 14, followed by a boys home. “I got out the day I turned 18. I was just wandering—getting loaded, partying around—having a good time.”
In 1994, Michael got into an altercation and was hit in the head with a steel bar. “My mom found me after three days, just lying on the couch, trying not to die, I guess,” he said. “She took me to the hospital and the doctor told her they were operating for life—not quality of life.”
Michael had a broken jaw and brain injuries, but recovered. “I laid low for a while after that,” he said. “I sold weed and smoked weed for the next five or six years, and got busted for sales in 2000. I ended up back in jail. The first week in jail was the worst week of my life. It was just awful. But it was like the darkness before the dawn kind of thing.”
Michael found God while he was in jail. “When I was saved, I didn’t know anything about sinners, prayers, any church stuff,” he said. “I just said, ‘God, I’m 36 years old. I’m losing everything I own again. I’m so done. You lead, I’ll follow.’”
When Michael got out, he started taking classes in Stockton to become a drug counselor. He also met the director of the local rescue mission. After nine months of volunteering, the Gospel Center Rescue Mission in Stockton created the chaplain position for him, which he held for seven years.
“As a chaplain, I’d be sitting across from guys asking them, ‘What happened?’ Because of my own fear of going back, I’d want to know,” Michael said. “It was always, ‘I quit going to church,’ ‘I quit reading the bible.’ They quit doing whatever was working. I spend time in the bible every morning because it’s working. It’s not because I’m a holy guy. I’m scared. I know where I’ve been and I know where I don’t want to go.”
Michael met his wife Tandy at church and they married in 2006. Michael went back to college and became chief operations manager at the mission before resigning in 2014. He helped start the Manteca Gospel Rescue Mission before relocating to Arroyo Grande to be closer to a new grandbaby. Shortly after, the Central Coast Rescue Mission created the operations and volunteer coordinator position for Michael.
“When I got saved, I knew that I had this whole eternal security,” Michael said. “It was like Jesus told me, ‘Do whatever you want. If you’re going to go out and drink and get in a wreck and spend your life in prison, be in hell on earth, do it. You’re going to heaven when you’re done. But how do you want to live your life?’ I didn’t have to rebel anymore. That’s what changed everything for me. I can choose to have a good life or not. That’s what (we) are trying to instill here in the program—free will, with boundaries. You can have more or less, it’s up to you. What do you want out of your life? … God is moving us and we’re just following.”