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I met Jesus on my first mission trip.

It was the summer right before my senior year, and I thought I had my life figured out. I’d graduate high school, go to college, and become an elementary teacher. But as I crossed the Ohio River in a church van, I had no idea that the course of my life was going to be drastically changed.

I’d been invited by a youth group to join them on a mission trip. At the time, I was pretty unsure of my faith. I knew God existed, knew I needed to be a good person, but was hesitant about this whole Christianity thing. The idea of a personal God was foreign to me. But for some reason, I agreed and headed to Louisville, KY.

I knew God existed, but the idea of a personal God was foreign to me.

When we arrived at YWAM Louisville, I was immediately welcomed by the staff. Even though I didn’t know them, it felt like I was being welcomed home. I knew plenty of Christians – and honestly, I didn’t like most of them. But these people were different. They encouraged me, sincerely cared about me, and went out of their way to serve me. I had never met Christians like these crazy YWAMers.

During our mission trip, I began to feel my heart soften towards the Lord.  We’d have worship times every day, and at first I wouldn’t even sing but as the week went on I started to actually believe what we were singing.  We went to parks and presented dramas for the neighborhood kids, and while doing them Jesus kept showing me his love and his desire to be known by me. It was wild – I was getting my life turned upside down by kids’ dramas!

For me, the week came to a climax on Thursday night. As usual, we spent some time in worship and then listened to a teaching. To this day I can’t remember a word that was said, but I know one thing for sure: Jesus became alive to me. After the session I sat outside by myself, asking God to speak to me. And in the quiet he responded with three words that changed my life: “I love you.” In that moment, the idea of God being distant became a thing of the past. Knowing God loved me and wanted to walk closely with me changed everything.

Jesus became alive to me.

When we got back from the mission trip, I decided that instead of college I’d do a YWAM Discipleship Training School after I graduated. During my DTS, God began to stir up a passion in my heart to see the nations transformed by his sacrificial love. God called me into missions then, and I haven’t looked back since.

No longer the guy who wouldn’t sing along in worship, Gabe now heads up YWAM Louisville’s worship department, leading others with a passion to see Jesus glorified. He also helps run our Mission Adventures program, so teenagers can encounter Jesus and learn how to share God’s love, just like he did.