Dakota woke up soaking wet in the freezing water of a creek bed.
“That was my breaking point,” he remembers. “I didn’t want to be homeless anymore.”
Dakota had been living in a range of places in downtown Denver, Colo., from ‘the platform’—a slab of concrete next to a fence that was good for putting up a tarp on wet nights—to ‘the hole,’ the wooded valley where he woke up in the creek.
Dakota felt broken and forgotten during his days on the streets.
“You get into this lifestyle and you keep going day by day and days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years.”
Meanwhile, with support from Resonate Global Mission, George Saylor was in the process of planting Apex Church, a new church in Denver’s suburbs. Since then, God has continually—and somewhat surprisingly—opened the door to minister to the homeless community through Apex.
“I would have never expected that we would become so integrally involved with ministry to the homeless,” says George Saylor. “But people like Dakota have stepped right in for the services we provided and now, because they recognize God is at work in their life, they've been drawn into the community.”
The first time Dakota met Saylor, he discovered they were both originally from Pennsylvania—Saylor was clad in the yellow and black gear of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Initial talks about the Steelers turned into a father-son-like relationship. Saylor and his entire family embraced Dakota as part of the church and their home.
“George has put so much faith and trust in me that it’s unbelievable,” says Dakota. “His home became a cocoon. If I'm’ having an awful day, I know I can go there. They make my life easier.”
Today Dakota uses his unique position to help others who are enduring homelessness.
“I believe that being a Christian is living the Word not just preaching it,” says Dakota. “So as I go about my life, I always try to think, ‘how would this best reflect the church’?”
Dakota regularly volunteers his time with other members of Apex Church, serving meals and talking with people who enter the church during the coldest nights of Denver’s winter.
“Dakota is truly a hero to many of these men and women,” says Saylor. “He is the one they can point to and say ‘I know he was on the street and now he has a place to live, now he has a job.’ He relates to them at a level that i simply can’t. And I don’t try. I let Dakota be Dakota and he can touch lives in a powerful and unique way.”
“A lot of people put a lot into me and there's no way I can repay that,” reflects Dakota. “So I try to pay it forward. I’m paying it forward because I hope that one day they can pay it forward too.”
One recent way he paid it forward was by lending a car to a friend for a month—something he knew makes a big difference from when the Saylor family did the same for him.
But Dakota adds that gifts don’t have to be as big as a car to go a long way.
“A cup of coffee, a warm smile, acknowledgment,” Dakota lists as a few simple gestures. “Making someone [who is homeless] feel good about themselves is the best thing you could do.”
Am I This Worthless? video by Dale Vande Griend