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Sandi Patty: 'Broken on the Back Row'

Share This article ANDERSON, IA (ANS) -- Sandi Patty sat huddled on the back row of a church in Anderson, Indiana, about 12 years ago, hoping that nobody would recognize her.

For this most talented singer, it was a long way from the three United States Inaugural Gala events that she had sung at and her appearances on "The Tonight Show," "Entertainment Tonight," "A Capitol Fourth with the National Symphony," and ABC's 2002 "In Search For America: A July 4th Musical Celebration," among the many programs she was featured in.

Sandi Patty had been honored with 39 Dove Awards, five Grammy Awards, three Platinum and five Gold recordings, and was the most-awarded female vocalist in contemporary Christian music history, yet on that Sunday morning, her life was in a complete mess and she knew it.

Patty has now written a book about her experiences called Broken on the Back Row (Howard Publishing) and she agreed to speak to ANS about this painful episode in her life.

I began the interview by asking her what the title of the book meant. “It refers to a Sunday morning when I was sitting on the back row of my church – North Anderson Church of God in Anderson, Indiana – and I realized that there were things in my life that just weren’t right,” she began.

“I was visiting that church for the first time and kind of didn’t want people to know I was there and so I wanted to hide on the back row. At the end of the service, the pastor said, ‘If you have been visiting with us here today we are so glad that you have come and if you want to tell someone your name, that’s fine, we just want to know it, but if you just want to sit on the back row of the balcony today and just cry, we want you to do it; that this is a place of healing for you. And that really began a wonderful journey through grace and forgiveness for me.”


“I was going through a divorce and I was coming to grips with some decisions; choices I had made in my life. I had had an affair and I was going down a not so good path. I really needed to get things right; as right as you can be. Sometimes there are choices that you still feel consequences many years after, but you can always start.

“I guess that was one reason that I wanted to write this book. Wherever, you are in your journey, you can always start today to make things right. So that was that day for me.

It was probably about 12 years ago. It was the lowest place in my life. I was tired of playing damage control, wondering if somebody was going to find out. I said to myself, ‘I’m done with this. If I don’t ever sing again or make another record, I just have to be right and clean before you Lord.’”

When asked if she had been feeling guilty about her affair, Patty said, “Absolutely, it was a perpetual thing. You don’t know how to get off but you need to.”


When the news broke about her divorce, she said she received many critical letters from Christians.

“I have to say that I understood every one of them,” she said. “I hurt a lot of people; not just the people in my own family, but the ripples of that are widespread and I hope as people read this book, they are not going to see a bunch of excuses. Here’s why I did this and justification. It is sin and it always will be and there’s no explaining it away. Sin has consequences and my actions and my choices hurt a lot of people.”

Patty went on to say, “I think the main reason I wrote this book – because it’s no fun to sit down and write and tell all the junk about your life – is that there is hope that follows all of that and when you can get in a place when you can go down that road towards restoration, it is a beautiful thing. God is part of truth and wherever there is truth, and even though that truth is hard to bear sometimes, God is part of it!

“He is part of that healing process and I want people to know that they don’t have to be stuck in their sins and they don’t have to be stuck even in their grief and their guilt; that God can move them through and truly He is the God of second chances.”

When asked what she would say to someone who is living this double life at the moment, Patty said, “Stop and go and find someone that you can be completely honest to and speak it out loud. You need to make some bold steps right at first and it is very hard to do, but I have found that if you speak a secret out loud, it gives it a lot less power. And when you can finally begin to speak it out loud and begin to say, ‘What do I need to do?’ It’s more than just repentance, but there may be some restitution involved. There may be people that you have to go to that you have hurt and you need to ask forgiveness from. My pastor encouraged me that there can be restoration and what those steps are.”

Sandi Patty is now married again to Don Pesli who works at the Anderson University. “We have been married for over 10 years now. We are a blended family. We have eight kids altogether. I have four and he had three when we got married and we then adopted our youngest. There are a lot of really fun pictures in the book. The book doesn’t just get stuck in the junk, but it moves forward and moves through the whole thing. I am able to share the joy that is in my life in these days.

“I really stepped off the road for probably six or seven years. I sang a little bit here and there but not a whole lot. It was a good thing as I was able to find God again in the community of faith.”


“I have begun performing again and there is an enormous feeling of thankfulness and gratefulness, because there were initially a number of churches who canceled my concerts, and understandably. I would have done the same thing had I been in their shoes. But now churches have again begun to ask me to come. They told me they knew where I had been in my life and they said they wanted me to come and share about God’s love and grace and forgiveness. I didn’t have to hide the bad, but I could share about the good, so every time I am asked to sing somewhere, it means the world to me.”

She said now that she is back out on the road again, people will come and share with her about their own lives. “It’s just amazing what they tell me,” she said. “I am much more encouraged from somebody else who will share the tough stuff of life. But if somebody just says that life is perfect and you just have to pray more; that’s a tough one for me.”


Sandi then revealed that she has changed her name from Sandi Patti to Sandi Patty. “Patty is the name that is on my birth certificate. When I made my first recording probably 25 years ago, there was a misprint on some of the pre-publicity material and they spelled it Patti and so 11 years ago, I can’t immediately fix all the mistakes in my life at the snap of a finger, but I can fix my name and I want my name back, and so that’s why we fixed the long standing mistake.”


She concluded by saying, “When people have read the book, I hope they will take away a sense that God is the God of second chance -- not so much for my life as my story is my story and me God are really okay -- but for their life. I hope the reader will feel encouraged to perhaps straighten out some things in their life and to give encouragement to their friend or someone in their church or workplace that is going through a tough time.

“I hope that more than anything that they see a hope because it is really about hope.”

For more information on Sandi Patty, go to her web site which is

Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). Wooding is the co-host of the weekly radio show, "Window on the World" and was, for ten years a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC.

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