One line of the song stood out.

Teach us to serve, not just to observe the world around us.

The words made a deep impression on me as I sat in the back row at a Resonate Church service, feeling compelled to go on an upcoming mission trip to Mexico. I asked myself, “What makes you think you’re qualified to go on a mission trip? That’s good people stuff, real Christian stuff; that’s not for you.” The idea of genuinely loving people was foreign to me. I didn’t even know what serving meant.

Senior year of college found me buried in depression, desperate for escape, desperate to feel. I chased anything that numbed my reality and made me feel good: bad relationships, alcohol, and cheating in school to get ahead were only a few of my vices. Everything I did ran me further into the ground. I had built a frail empire for myself that was beginning to crumble around me. It was 2009, and the economy was sinking. My identity was wrapped up in my career path, and when the job market crashed, I no longer knew who I was. Everything I had worked for was shot.

God had once been a part of my life, but I had “built Him a home in my heart with rotten wood, and it decayed from the start.” I grew up knowing the gist of it all, I heard all the stories in Sunday school, I said the prayer that would get me to heaven, but my faith was weak and self-absorbed. I spent most of my life entertaining myself with anything my flesh desired. Intellectually, I knew Jesus; I would claim it on paper, but no one would have ever known by the way I was living. I had never experienced Him. By the end of college, my faith was a distant memory—God was silent, and I had silenced Him. I had hit rock bottom, and I was waiting for someone to offer me hope.

I had met a couple of Christians earlier that year randomly. We had nothing in common. To be honest, I don’t even know why I hung out with them, but for some reason I found myself tromping across campus in the Pullman snow on Friday nights to play board games with them instead of playing beer pong with my roommates.

They invited me to what they called Village, a small group that met during the week. It sounded really lame, but I obliged. The first time I went, the ice breaker question was “When was the last time you cried?” I thought, “Seriously? I honestly don’t even know, like four years?”

I didn’t hate Village, so I figured I would give church a shot. Eventually I made it to a service at Resonate. Something felt different. It wasn’t the sermon, the lighting, or the electric guitars. It was looking around the room and seeing college students worship passionately. It seemed like all eyes were on me; I felt like having my hands in my pockets instead of in the air made me stick out.

The night they talked about the mission trip, the meaning of the words hit me:

Teach us to serve, not just to observe the world around us.

What was I doing with my life? It was such a waste. I went home that night and prayed for the first time in months.

God, I can’t even remember the last time I talked to You. If You don’t listen to me, I get it. I’m a complete failure; the dirt I’ve piled on Your name warrants me nothing from You but dirt itself. But for some reason I feel like I should go on this mission trip. But I’m not really a Christian. And I can’t afford to pay for it. What am I doing? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m at the end of my rope. I’m desperate.

A couple of days later I got an envelope in the mail from my grandparents. Inside was a check made out to me, signed by my grandma, for the exact amount of money the mission trip to Mexico cost. I freaked out. I hadn’t told anybody about the trip, and my grandparents never randomly sent me money in the mail. I called and said, “Grandma, why did you send me a check?”

She said, “Jacob, Grandpa and I woke up in the middle of the night earlier this week thinking about you. We prayed for you, and felt like God told us you needed this money. Do you need the money?”

I didn’t know what to say. My heart was in my throat.

Something came alive in me during that phone call. I said, “Yes, Grandma, I do.”

God became real to me in that moment, and I knew I had to choose either death or life. So I went to Mexico. Sinful, confused, prodigal Jacob Dahl went on a mission trip to Mexico. I discovered a love for people for the first time on that trip. I got wrecked by Jesus for the first time on that trip.I fell in love with a girl on that trip that I would later marry. But that’s another story.

After years of me living with absolute disregard for God and for people, God met me and drew near to me that week. The community of Resonate swept me up and away into a love and acceptance I had never known. Christ was evidently working in my new friends’ lives, and their passion for Him was completely contagious—I wanted to be a part of it. When I experienced the hope and freedom in Christ for myself, it was all over. Everything I once knew was flipped on its head, and I suddenly couldn’t care less about finding my worth in things of this world. My goal shifted from figuring out how I could get the most money and have the coolest job to figuring out how I could leverage my career to further God’s kingdom.

Growing up, I only knew of a harsh, finger-pointing God, but that year I encountered the preposterous and unwavering grace of the gospel. Something fundamentally changed in me over the course of those last few weeks of college. God reached down into the miry pit and cut the “cords of death that entangled me” and gave me new freedom and life in Christ.

God rescued me through Resonate Church. And I’ll never be the same.


Jacob Dahl is the site pastor at Resonate Church's church plant in Ellensburg, Washington.