Today marks the final day in our third annual Week of Hope.  This year has been unprecedented in Summit folks’ creativity and new ways to be a blessing to our community.  We’ve had more opportunities to reach deeper into the heart of the city. We’ve seen more churches come online to partner with us in reaching their neighborhoods and taking on their own projects.  I even heard of one student ministry from close to Wilmington that drove to Durham for a couple of days to serve at the Rescue Mission, because they wanted to get in on Week of Hope.  Now that’s cool.

On Monday, I was able to participate in our first large-scale Hope for the Office.  Several dozen Summit members signed up for a grant to provide breakfast for their co-workers.  About fifteen of those offices were randomly selected to have lunch catered in.  (Since we’re in North Carolina, we should have called it the Lunchmeat Education Lottery.)

I got to hang out with Summit peeps Alaina and Cortnee at their Duke Medical Clinic office.  Since I’m a big fan of food, I stuck around to eat with them and all of their co-workers.  It quickly became apparent that the preacher dude was harshing the mellow of the lunchtime conversation.  I was even careful to leave my televangelist hair at home, and refrained from using words like “sanctification” and “thou.”  Nevertheless, their staff were great people to do lunch with.  And note for next year…no one in that office picked the veggie sub.  Long live meat!

Afterwards, Cortnee and Alaina invited me to look through patient records.  (Just kidding, HIPAA people.)

Friday brought our big projects with three area elementary schools.  I was at Eastway Elementary, and my job was that of Staple Remover Quality Control.  Project Leader Chris Gaynor issued me a pair of needle-nose pliers and told me to inspect bulletin boards, walls, and doors for staples that our vertically-impaired middle schoolers couldn’t reach.  (I just barely missed the job of Bottom of Desk Gum Scraper, which isn’t a bad thing because even though I heart Durham, I heart my hand sanitizer more.)

Let me pause here and ask, “What in the name of all that’s good could all those staples have been used for?”  We’ve been in the middle of a war, people.  Shouldn’t we have been rationing staples?  Someone should alert Al Gore so that he can make another documentary.

At one point I was pretty sure that the staples were actually holding up the wall.  I could just imagine a construction worker building Eastway back in the day saying, “Ah, dang it.  Hanging this sheetrock is too hard.  Hand me that stapler.”

There were staples that stapled in other staples.  It was like a little staple colony, mocking me from their lofty heights, spurning my attempt to extract them from their society.  When I wasn’t looking, staples would actually vault themselves back into the corkboard.  There were staples for days.  As a matter of fact, if you took all the staples I pulled and laid them end to end, there would be a line that would encircle a medium-sized cantaloupe three times.

Editor’s note: What did you expect?  Staples are very tiny.

The best part of the day was getting to work alongside my firstborn.  Jacob and his fellow middle schoolers have spent the better part of this week in various WOH projects.  Today, he and I armed ourselves with the aforementioned needle-nosed pliers and got to work and talk.  True, most of our conversation consisted of, “Hey, you missed one,” but we talked, nevertheless.

Week of Hope is always one of the highlights of my year.  As a pastor, I seem to spend more and more time answering e-mails, returning phone calls, running our membership process, filling volunteer spots, laying out the calendar, parsing Greek words, attending to the crisis du jour, reading books on how to fill volunteer spots, renewing my subscription to Hip Fundamentalist magazine, and inadvertently ticking off friends of British bloggers.

Editor’s note: He’s lying.  He’s never parsed a Greek word in his life. 

The point is: Week of Hope puts this minister back in the ministry.  I love getting to spend time with Summit friends as we try to show the love of God to our city.  I love meeting Duke Medical employees and Eastway teachers who ask, “Now exactly why are you doing this?” and getting to tell them that it’s because Jesus loves people, and we want to be like Jesus.  I love watching my three boys experience sore backs and sweaty heads because they’ve been learning how to selflessly serve.  I love watching brand new Summit members who are partnering with us to love our world.  I love hearing about what other churches in the area are doing, and how we are all getting to see our city change, one life at a time. 

This week has been seamlessly pulled off because of the round-the-clock efforts of super-stud Brad O’Brien and his sidekick detail-guru Matt M.  Both of them have been kept on the straight and narrow by Lori Perdue, who could manage a small country with one hand tied behind her back.  Add to this team an awesome array of Project Leaders, StudentLIFE leaders who are way overdue for a vacation but keep on serving, kidsLIFE leaders who have been doing WOH by day and Hope4Kids by night, and over 1900 volunteers from the Summit alone, and you’ve got a recipe for making Durham a great place to live and raise a family.

So, what’s your Week of Hope story?  And what are you doing in your community next week and beyond?

With that, I’m heading back over to Eastway for the rest of the day.  There are some defiant staples that must be reckoned with.

Check out some of the local news coverage here and here.