I was invited to serve on the Board of Directors at Hope Street in the fall of 2001. It was, and still is a volunteer position and I would be expected to donate a few hours, once a month to attend board meetings, our annual Christmas party, and represent Hope Street proudly and with dignity everywhere I went. The first return on that investment came at the end of the first board meeting. Jim Hishmeh, one of the founding board members closed the meeting in prayer. He hadn’t said much during the meeting but then with my head bowed and eyes closed, it felt like he was taking me by the hand, opened the doors to his giant heart, and walked me right in. The walls were lined with compassion, the floor was carpeted with kindness, and the air had the sweetest fragrance of family. He loved our members and prayed so sincerely and selflessly for their wellbeing. And while I didn’t see him (my eyes were still closed) I had no doubt, Jesus was in Jim’s heart, with me, while he was praying. I walked out of that meeting thinking to my selfish self, “I will keep coming to these meetings just to hear men like that pray.” The two hours of time I donated that day changed the way I have prayed every day for the last 20 years.
As I continued to come to our monthly meetings I started coming earlier and lingering longer than the closing prayers. I wanted to meet the members, find out their stories, and learn what it was like to live at Hope Street. This required more time that I would donate, but also more skin. I hate superficial conversations so I am naturally inclined to go deep, and that meant I needed to be transparent and vulnerable. Eventually friendships were made, and investments would follow. I started inviting members out to my house to celebrate their birthdays. which meant I would drive down to Hope Street from Dousman, pick up our members, drive back to Dousman, have their party, sometimes get to meet their kids and grandkids, take them back down to Hope Street, and then drive back home to Dousman. I loved every minute of it. It was at this point I lost track of what I was donating or investing, because the return was so great. We were all members of the same community even though I didn’t live there, I was loved there. And I loved our members as much as I loved my own kids.
Ten years into my love affair with Hope Street and our community, a dream of mine came true; I was the new Executive Director of Hope Street. I served in that capacity for almost 7 years, maybe the best 7 years of my life. Hundreds of friendships, buckets of tears, the elations of marrying, the agony of burying members of our community, seeing babies born, and kids grow up into young adults are the fruits of what started out as a small donation, once a month. I am still a man and therefore, broken, sinful, and flawed. But I am a better man than I was 20 years ago. Like Jim, my heart is filled much more these days with compassion, kindness, and love. I hope that if you happen to see it open in prayer that you would also be sure Jesus was in there too.
And so I invite you as well to make that donation, and watch how it grows into an investment with lavish returns, and become who you were created to be in our community at Shechem.