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Christians say they believe in loving the poor, but what happens when the poor don’t adopt our agenda? A story about preferences, power and good intentions gone wrong.



#10: Where the Gospel Meets Gentrification

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Hey guys, it’s Jesse Eubanks. Two quick things before we get started. Number one, this is the final episode of season one of the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. If you are just now discovering us for the very first time, I wanna encourage you to go back and listen to episode one because in many ways the episode that you’re about to hear is part two of that story. Number two, please consider applying to be a part of the Love Thy Neighborhood program. We offer social justice internships supported by Christian community for young adults ages 18 to 30. So if you are looking for a service opportunity for a summer or a year, please head over to our website at and apply now. Alright, let’s get to it.


JESSE EUBANKS: So 11 and a half years ago, my wife and I started to look to buy our very first home and the way that we decided that we were going to do it was not we were going to find this awesome home and then we’ll just put up with the neighbors around us. Instead what we decided to do was that we were going to drive around the city and as we drove around the city we were going to pray and we were going to ask the Lord to show us which neighbors he wanted us to have. So we’re driving around, and then suddenly we came into this neighborhood and neither one of us had ever been here before. But we like instantly felt God telling us like, ‘This is the neighborhood that I want you to move into.’ And so 11 and a half years ago, we actually became the very first family from Sojourn Community Church to move into the Shelby Park neighborhood. We start ringing the bells and we’re telling everybody like, ‘Come, be a part of what God’s going to do in Shelby Park.’ And we may’ve rung the bell a little louder than we meant to.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Every episode we hear stories of social justice and Christian community.

JESSE EUBANKS: Today’s episode is where the gospel meets gentrification. We’re taking you back to the neighborhood where our podcast first began, a neighborhood that partly because of the church finds itself faced with a decision — to either protect the long-term residents and make sure that they still have a place here in the neighborhood or to accidentally drive them out. Welcome back to Shelby Park, and welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay so, Rachel, today we’re talking about gentrification. And gentrification, it’s kinda hard to define.

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, so typically when someone says gentrification, what they mean is displacement, so people in a community who are minority or poor getting essentially pushed out because of new people coming in bringing with them development and rising housing costs. And this is actually a big problem in our nation right now. So seven major US cities right now are considered more than 25% gentrified.

JESSE EUBANKS: But displacement is something that’s been happening since the dawn of human history. In fact, the Israelites, they were really familiar with displacement.

So in 722 B.C., the Israelites were displaced to a city called Babylon. And they were sent there because they were no longer keeping the covenant God had made with them.

RACHEL SZABO: And a big part of their disobedience was God’s people were unjustly treating the vulnerable in their society, so they were doing all their religious duties, they were fasting, they were praying, they were sacrificing at the temple, but all while exploiting the poor and the vulnerable among them. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And it’s through the prophet Isaiah that God reminds them of his attitude toward vulnerable people. Isaiah 58 says, ‘Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?’

RACHEL SZABO: And it’s verses just like this one that have sort of become the battle cry of Christians who want to live out social justice.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I mean that’s a large part of why Sojourn Community Church moved into Shelby Park. But before Sojourn ever moved into their building or into the neighborhood, my wife and I actually moved in. And at the time, another Sojourn member also wanted to move into Shelby Park — and her name was Jordan Alberry. 

JORDAN ALBERRY: It just seemed like it made sense financially because we could afford to live there. Also, a goal of ours was to stay in the community where Sojourn was actually planted.

JESSE EUBANKS: Jordan was in her early twenties, and she wanted to embody God’s call to justice. So when Jordan and her husband decided to buy their first home, she immediately looked at homes in Shelby Park. Well, Jordan tells her family where she wants to live. And the response? It was not favorable. 

JORDAN ALBERRY: We got a lot, a lot, a lot of pushback from family members and some friends because it’s dangerous there, high crime rate, we would be in the minority racially. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And she knew that Shelby Park was considered an impoverished, or as one online forum put it, a dicey part of town. 

JORDAN ALBERRY: So here we are, excited about buying our first home, and — which is supposed to be an exciting thing — but we decided to go into a neighborhood that’s pretty depressed.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well Jordan knew where God stood on justice for the poor. And so for assurance, she turned to Scripture — and to song.

JORDAN ALBERRY: And I remember sitting on our front porch discussing it and discussing all of the pushback from our family members and, um, we started singing…

AUDIO CLIP: ‘Let justice roll like a river, like a river let it roll. Let justice roll like a river, like a river let it roll’…

JESSE EUBANKS: So Jordan believed that God cared about the least of these, and she wanted to model that. And so even though her family was not supportive, Jordan decided she wanted to trust God, and so she bought a home in Shelby Park. 

AUDIO CLIP: ‘Let justice roll like a river, like a river let it roll. Let it roll-ll-ll’…

JESSE EUBANKS: When Jordan moved in, there were actually four families from Sojourn living in the neighborhood. One of those was my wife and I. And I don’t know, I guess our presence there was just a bit strange. And to help you understand what I mean by that, let me give you an overview of Shelby Park.

So Shelby Park, it’s almost split down the middle racially — so 48% white, 52% black. It has a 12.7% unemployment rate, which is huge. That means than more than one in 10 people do not have a job. So 34% of residents have never completed high school. And almost half, 47%, of residents live below the poverty line. So here comes Jordan — she’s white, she’s educated, she doesn’t buy her groceries at the neighborhood corner store.

JORDAN ALBERRY: Right now I’m the only one on my street coming home with Trader Joe’s bags.

JESSE EUBANKS: So on the outside, she doesn’t seem like she fits in. But her very first walk in Shelby Park made her feel like this neighborhood was her home.

JORDAN ALBERRY: I had not even stepped foot in the literal Shelby Park before moving into our house. I took my dogs for my first walk in Shelby Park early in the morning, and um, it was my first time and I was just stunned at how beautiful Shelby Park was. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And actually this park, it was designed by Frederick Olmsted. So this is the same guy that was the father of landscape architecture. He designed Central Park in Manhattan. So the park is just beautiful. 

JORDAN ALBERRY: And I just felt so assured, even amidst the pushback that we had received, that this is my home. Going back to my house after, after that, it was just like, y’know, I could be that person that can totally think of this laundry list of ‘Oh, we’re gonna do this cool event on my street and we’re going to do that cool thing and I’m gonna bake bread for 16 neighbors in order to get 16 prayer requests.’ That’s not — that’s just like hitting the surface. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And Jordan — she has big dreams for the folks in her neighborhood. 

JORDAN ALBERRY: But I was a fiesty 23 year old that was just like ‘Everybody’s gonna be—’ I don’t know what I wanted them to be. But something was gonna happen because I showed up.

JESSE EUBANKS: Now it’s important to understand that Jordan — her intentions, they’re good. She genuinely wants to love her neighbors. She genuinely wants people to know Jesus. There’s no ulterior motive there. But growth doesn’t come without change. So in order to see growth in Shelby Park, there’s going to have to be change. And Jordan, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to bring this good change to her new neighborhood. Part of the incoming change came from another Christian named Bryce Butler. So in addition to a lot of poverty, lack of education, another staggering statistic of Shelby Park is the number of vacant homes in the neighborhood.

BRYCE BUTLER: Shelby Park on that list of vacant and abandoned properties had about 330 in a 15-block neighborhood. That’s a lot.

JESSE EUBANKS: So this is Bryce Butler, and he’s a managing partner at Access Ventures, a company that provides capital for entrepreneurs. 

RACHEL SZABO: When he says 330 homes is a lot, what’s like an average amount?

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so just to give you an idea, so Flint, Michigan, which is often in the news for a lot of its own poverty issues, it was actually cited last year as having one of the largest vacancy rates, and that was only 7.5%. Shelby Park nine years ago? The vacancy rate was 23%.

RACHEL SZABO: Holy cow. That’s almost a quarter of the buildings. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, there was a time when my wife and I would actually look out our front door and we were the only occupied home out of the six homes on our corner. And they’re not only eyesores for the neighborhood, they just cause a lot of problems for the people that live here.

BRYCE BUTLER: And that leads to a lot of other neighborhood instabilities — crime, increased prostitution, drug trafficking. Just, I mean, any number of things.

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Bryce is all about investing and capital, he starts figuring out some numbers in his head.

BRYCE BUTLER: Could I buy and renovate a home, and can we simultaneously take some of this vacant and abandoned housing stock and repurpose it for 50 to 60,000? Now it’s not going to be the most amazing home in the world, but it’s gonna have better HVAC, it’s actually gonna have insulation, the windows are going to be improved…

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Bryce tested it out. He flipped eight homes but still rented them out at a fair market price. 

RACHEL SZABO: Well that’s pretty cool. So he’s using his talents and his job skills to help the residents of Shelby Park.

JESSE EUBANKS: Except for the folks who ended up renting those eight homes. Uh, they weren’t like long-time folks that had come from Shelby Park. They were other Sojourn church members. And they had heard about the efforts happening in Shelby Park, they wanted to move in, they wanted to be an active part in what God was doing in that community, but at the end of the day, it was more middle-class white folks moving into the neighborhood. And in its most basic definition, that is gentrification. So when a lot of us from Sojourn began to move into Shelby Park, a lot of us were middle class, and so not only were we bringing sort of our middle-class ideas about Shelby Park to the table, but we also were bringing our ideas about how we thought God wanted things done. And what became apparent pretty quickly was that we were changing a lot of things. 

MARY OWESLY: I think they changed too much too fast.

JESSE EUBANKS: When helping actually kinda hurts. We’ll be right back.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Today’s episode is where the gospel meets gentrification.

JESSE EUBANKS: So we’ve been following Jordan as she and other Sojourn members move into Shelby Park to live out God’s command to do justice. 

RACHEL SZABO: And Jordan wasn’t the only one who was excited about moving into Shelby Park and bringing some change in the neighborhood. I sat down with a long-time resident. Her name is Mary Owesly. And when all these Sojourners started moving into the neighborhood, Mary was pretty excited too.

MARY OWESLY: And most of the people that had moved are younger people that are moving into the neighborhood, which I love. And it makes the neighborhood, um, more appetizing to other people.

RACHEL SZABO: So Ms. Mary has lived in Shelby Park for 30 years in the same house. And during those 30 years, she’s seen a lot of things come and go in this neighborhood.

MARY OWESLY: The restaurant on the corner was the only business. There was no store, y’know… Well, let me take that back. After I think about it, there was a bakery on Shelby, right there on the corner. There was a bakery there, oh they had the best doughnuts. And then they had, when I first moved here, they had a library…

RACHEL SZABO: Another interesting fact about Shelby Park is that it also boasts this historic community center, and Ms. Mary would see people going in and out of this community center all the time.

MARY OWESLY: They had it where you could go over and do your taxes and you could go over there and, y’know, if you wanted to send things, emails and all that…

RACHEL SZABO: But due to various things, like lack of participation, vandalism, changes in ownership, all these things Mary mentioned — They’re gone. They’re no longer in Shelby Park. Leaving the neighborhood with not only a huge number of vacant homes, but now also a huge number of vacant businesses.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so remember Bryce Butler, the guy who flipped those eight homes? Well he decides that in addition to flipping those homes, he’s also going to do something about these vacant businesses.

BRYCE BUTLER: In 2010 at the census, there was only one person that both lived and worked in Shelby Park. And part of that problem was there aren’t any jobs in Shelby Park. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Bryce, along with other partners, brought several businesses back to Shelby Park.

BRYCE BUTLER: We saw the architecture firm, they moved in. We saw the engineering design firm, the coworking space, shared office. We have a coffee roastery. Some of our borrowers on the business side have moved into Shelby Park. So it’s been really neat to see new business activity.

JESSE EUBANKS: And so you look at the work that Bryce and his company Access Ventures is doing and they’re starting up all these businesses and it’s good. I mean, you look at what was formerly this, y’know, business corridor in Shelby Park that was completely vacant, and now you drive, and there’s businesses everywhere. I think that the ongoing concern is not about these new, wonderful businesses. It’s just — where does somebody who’s grown up impoverished and grown up without an education and, y’know, doesn’t go to coffee shops, like where do they fit in this picture?

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, and you know, unfortunately, Jesse, this was kinda true for you and the folks at Sojourn as well.

JESSE EUBANKS: I can remember one time, like I had this neighbor and she sold popcorn on the side to make money. And I remember that at Sojourn we were throwing a film festival and so we were showing all of these indie films, but my wife suddenly realized ‘Hold on, people eat popcorn at movies. We should have our neighbor come and sell popcorn.’ And it was a resounding no from everyone else that was involved. And the bottom line was — that she wasn’t cool enough, she wasn’t hip enough, it was not the right aesthetic, we didn’t want her selling her, y’know, cheap popcorn from the corner store when we’re trying to portray a certain kind of hipster image. And uh, y’know, it was a real indictment on us.

RACHEL SZABO: And in fact, Jordan remembers a similar story that still haunts her to this day.

JORDAN ALBERRY: There was a church on, on our street, and there was a handful of people — I wanna say just like a dozen or maybe less of congregants at that church. It was still an active church when we moved in — and it was a historical neighborhood in Shelby Park…

JESSE EUBANKS: It was this old brick church, and you would see just like a dozen cars parked actually in the lawn in front of the church every single Sunday.

JORDAN ALBERRY: And there were so many times that I wondered what’s going on in that church. They’re doing outreach on my street. This church had been there for a long time. And we ignored them. We just threw our own block party with a bigger bouncy house.

JESSE EUBANKS: But then one day, it was just gone. And I don’t mean, like, the congregation stopped attending. I mean that a bulldozer pulled up to the building and started to demolish it, and within a matter of days all that was left was just a field. 

RACHEL SZABO: Did you invite the folks from that church to the block party?

JESSE EUBANKS: I can’t say that it ever even crossed our thought to invite people from that church to our block party. We were focused on our agenda and what we were there for and what we were gonna do and our way of doing things, and we didn’t have the patience to put up with other people’s lack of efficiency.

JORDAN ALBERRY: And every time I walk past that empty lot, I regret not stepping foot in that building and saying ‘Can I partner with you all in your outreach to the neighborhood that I now belong in?’ instead of thinking my ideas of my church are more advanced or whatever. And it’s kind of, I mean it looks like a scar on my street, of a place of outreach and love and welcome that my neighbors had for generations upon generations that’s literally not there anymore. And that I unknowingly feel like I participated in.

JESSE EUBANKS: Today, often with well-meaning Christians at the helm, Shelby Park is becoming a hotbed of activity. Where once only four Sojourn families lived in the neighborhood, there’s now at least 30 Sojourn households. And seven businesses have moved into the neighborhood just within the last three years. 

JORDAN ALBERRY: I was talking to one of my neighbors, um, on the street. He had surgery not that long ago to remove a tumor in his chest, and he said that his, uh, rent is going up and he’s just worried — how’s he gonna pay for medical bills? How’s he gonna pay for his rent? And his rent is going up because property values are going up. And so this is where we find ourself, in this really sticky situation. New Sojourners have come in, more projects are taking place, like, um, ‘Oh, we’re going to do these things for these people because we showed up,’ and then I thought to myself, “Wait a second. Have they not thought to ask some of us who have been here for awhile — ‘What’s the best thing for your neighbors?’”

JESSE EUBANKS: But amidst her criticism, Jordan remembers that there was somebody else who hadn’t thought to ask anyone either. It was her, at least her 23-year-old feisty self that had moved into Shelby Park to do great things.

JORDAN ALBERRY: It’s a, it’s a, poor theology that I, that I, came from, a poor, American evangelical cultural theology that says ‘Your work, your efforts, your giftings that you bring to the table are going to create change.’

JESSE EUBANKS: And here’s the thing. It’s a fine line, and it’s hard because you look in Scripture and you see this picture in the New Testament of God’s church being extremely diverse, racially, economically, age-wise. And so you’ve got these repeated commands for those who are wealthy to care for those that are poor, but also, those that are poor, they’re a blessing and a gift to those who are wealthy. So you get this picture of this beautiful diversity. The problem is that we just don’t know how to do diversity. What we know how to do is to come in and know how to be an infestation. We just, we only know how to take over. We don’t play well with others. We tell ourselves we’re going to, but then, man, when push comes to shove, we just think we’re the stuff. Y’know, we just think we know best, and we think that we know the way to get things done and what the healing answers are, and if you would only listen to me, y’know, who needs a Savior when the world’s got us?

RACHEL SZABO: Here’s Ms. Mary again.

MARY OWESLY: I think they changed too much too fast because a lot of things was in place. Uh, but it was always a disagreement on when and where or how and, y’know, as far as being segregated, we’ve been segregated enough. But a lot of the churches do not want to do that; they want to make it centrally theirs. And it’s not yours. It’s for everybody. It’s diversity.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Rachel, y’know, it’s almost impossible to talk about gentrification without also getting into the topic of race. And even though the term gentrification is a buzz word right now, this is, it’s just not a new narrative.

So back in the 1950s, white flight started happening. Do you know what white flight is?

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, white flight is when all the white people moved out of the city and they all went to the suburbs. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Right, y’know, white folks are the majority in this country and the way that we leveraged that power back in the ‘50s is that when people of color began to receive equal rights, the way we respond to that is that we built suburbs and we moved out and away from the cities and we abandoned our urban neighbors. And now all of a sudden all these years later, we’re going ‘These long commutes suck. I don’t wanna drive this far. I’d much rather live closer to downtown.’ And so we’re moving back in, but I don’t know that we’re always doing it with the intention that we want our urban neighbors to be our neighbors long-term.

JORDAN ALBERRY: I don’t want, even if they’re, y’know, one of the “bad” neighbors that my, that other neighbors have labeled, I don’t want them to go. And so, so what is it look like? We come in and we flip these homes and we are quote missional in this neighborhood, all the while pushing out people who need Jesus? I wish there had been somebody to talk to us about what is our presence doing for the good and for the bad. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I find myself asking the same thing. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Today’s episode – where the gospel meets gentrification.

JESSE EUBANKS: We’ve been following the relationship between Sojourn Community Church and a neighborhood called Shelby Park. As Shelby Park leans further and further into gentrification, Sojourn — a church that meant well — ended up adding to the problem. So where do they go from here? Well, for starters, they installed their first African American pastor, Jamaal Williams. And you can hear his story if you go all the way back to episode number one — where the gospel meets racial reconciliation. And second, they partnered with an organization called Seed to Oaks.

JAMES WESTBROOK: And so we partner with churches like Sojourn Midtown by saying, ‘Hey, how can we help you understand your neighborhood better?’

JESSE EUBANKS: This is James Westbrook, director of programs for Seed to Oaks. And what they do is train and equip churches on how to be involved in their communities in truly beneficial ways. 

JAMES WESTBROOK: We can do so many different things. We can offer this, we can offer that. But if it’s not speaking to the needs of the community, uh, you’re literally having a conversation with yourself. If everything is about the rising narratives, the new people coming in, or a new Shelby Park, that is done to such degradation of the folks that are there. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Now remember, Shelby Park, it’s diverse, and now you’ve got this growing middle-class population living right alongside folks that are living in poverty and have almost no education. It’s real easy in these kinds of situations to live someone behind. Well, Seed to Oaks, in order to ensure that no one is left behind, they conduct what’s called a neighborhood survey.

JAMES WESTBROOK: We knock on the door and we just simply ask them, ‘Hey, can we ask you some questions about your experience here in this neighborhood?’

JESSE EUBANKS: They go around to as many homes in the neighborhood as possible, and they ask questions like, ‘How long have you lived here? What do you like about your neighborhood? What would you change if you could?’ 

JAMES WESTBROOK: Uh, what the survey allows us to do is step out of ourselves and get a different perspective of what the community needs are.

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so did they do one of these surveys in Shelby Park?

JESSE EUBANKS: You betcha. You wanna know what they said?


JESSE EUBANKS: Alright… So Rachel, right here in my hand, I’ve got the five key findings from the Seed to Oaks neighborhood survey of Shelby Park. 

So number one, diversity and unity. Folks in Shelby Park, just a lot of pride in how diverse the neighborhood is. 

JAMES WESTBROOK: People really enjoy the fact that their neighbor could either be making the same as them or they could be making twice as much as them.

JESSE EUBANKS: Number two, economic opportunity. So folks are really excited about all of these businesses moving into the neighborhood. However, it also became clear that local residents do not view the churches in this area as helpful in this regards. 

JAMES WESTBROOK: Hey, what does it feel like to be trained and feel like we’re equipped to land some of these jobs?

JESSE EUBANKS: So number three, children and youth. 

JAMES WESTBROOK: Uh, there was a deep awareness of the need to teach and train and mentor the youth in the neighborhood.

JESSE EUBANKS: Number four, community events and festivals.

JAMES WESTBROOK: Sojourn specifically, uh, are that church on the corner. They say, ‘Uh, do you guys still do the medical clinics? Do you guys still do the fall festival?’

JESSE EUBANKS: And number five, trash and beautification. And from these survey results, they then create an action plan.

JAMES WESTBROOK: The way in which we’ve designed our pillars, uh, with the medical clinics, with our events, uh, with economic opportunity, with education and training, the way that we’ve designed it is speaking directly to the primary cares of Shelby Park. 

JESSE EUBANKS: One of the things that’s really tough for folks that don’t have a lot of money is when Christmas rolls around and they wanna buy gifts for their kids. And so Sojourn and Seed to Oaks came up with this other idea. 

JAMES WESTBROOK: Affordable Christmas is about providing a dignified opportunity for the less fortunate to provide Christmas gifts for their children.

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, so, y’know, I went to the Affordable Christmas event. And so in the sanctuary of Sojourn Community Church’s building, they had all these different tables set up with all these different Christmas gifts.

JESSE EUBANKS: So that’s cool. So it’s just like, uh, like Christmas presents all over the place, like Christmas presents for sale?

RACHEL SZABO: Mhm-hm. Yeah, yeah, so that people can come in and they buy these gifts at like 70 to 80% off the retail price.

JESSE EUBANKS: Aw, that’s cool. So the idea is basically like, instead of people feeling like they’re charity cases where they’re, y’know, getting a bunch of free gifts to give to their kids, instead like they actually purchase it. They have the dignity of buying the gifts themselves, just at a price that’s actually affordable for them.

RACHEL SZABO: And so I spoke to one woman that came through. She was a single mom with four kids, and I asked her, y’know, ‘What does this mean to you?’

MOM: My oldest son got a bike, which was really awesome. I got a bike for like 10 bucks. He still rides the bike, he goes out in the rain and still rides it. Um, got my daughter some really cool stuff, my other kids some really cool stuff. It was really, really, really great, and I don’t know, I guess it’s difference between when someone gives your kids gifts and when you’re able to do it yourself. It just makes me feel better as a parent to be able to do it myself. I like, I wanted to cry, like I did. I think I cried, and I was like ‘Thank you because I didn’t even know how I was going to pay, let alone get the kids some Christmas presents.’ They were really surprised, they really was. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So what’s interesting about this scenario is you’ve got Sojourn’s building, where folks on the lower end of the economic spectrum are getting affordable gifts for their kids, and then like literally across the street from the building is this higher end local boutique where folks in the middle class can do their shopping. So, it’s not about either/or. Literally side by side in Shelby Park, we see this picture of both/and.  

Today, Sojourn with the help of Seed to Oaks conducts job skills training, hosts free medical clinics, and provides after-school tutoring for kids. So it’s not always big and flashy and grandiose, but it really does serve their neighbors. 

RACHEL SZABO: So here’s what Ms. Mary had to say about what Sojourn is doing now in Shelby Park.

MARY OWESLY: People want to be, y’know, to be around other people, and I’m not just talking about, y’know, black and white. I’m talking about being around everybody because everybody’s got good ideas, and now that’s what I’ve seen that Sojourn has set — you know, you, it’s diversity. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Y’know, Shelby Park really has not gentrified nearly to the extent that a lot of other cities have. And there’s a lot of long-term residents that are still here in the neighborhood, at least for now. But the truth is this: Shelby Park is at a crossroads, and in the next few years we’re really going to see what trajectory the neighborhood is going to take. And for Jordan, she knows that it’s going to look different than it did when she first moved in, but her hope is that it will be to the benefit of her neighbors and not at the expense of her neighbors.

JORDAN ALBERRY: Wherever crossing the tracks is for people, are we going in there thinking that, um, these people need us so greatly? In the meantime there are always people who have always been in these areas and Jesus Christ has been present. And so, what will it take for us to lay down our pride in order to seek instruction and to, and to walk into a space assuming that we are a student?

JESSE EUBANKS: In Isaiah, God rebuked his people for not considering the vulnerable among them. Shelby Park — it’s a diverse neighborhood, one that includes both black and white, middle class and below poverty, folks with PhDs and folks who never finished high school. And to do justice — is not to leave any of these people behind. 

JAMES WESTBROOK: The greatest of the commandments can be summed up in two — love God with everything within you, essentially, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

JESSE EUBANKS: And I guess what’s happening in Shelby Park is really just a picture of what we’ve been exploring all season long. In every episode it seems like it always just boils down to one simple phrase — relationships change lives. This isn’t about everybody moving into the inner city. For some of you, maybe that is what God’s calling you to do. But whether you live on a farm or you live in the suburbs or you live in a high rise — it all boils down to the same thing. In this moment, how can you love God and love the people around you? Because relationships change lives. Let’s go build those relationships.


JESSE EUBANKS: You can learn more about Seed to Oaks by visiting their website at To get more resources on this topic or to hear past episodes of this podcast, you can visit our website at


JESSE EUBANKS: This is the last episode of season one. And we really do, we wanna thank all of our listeners for being a part of this journey over this last year to release these 10 episodes and tell these 10 stories. And in the end, the truth is this, is that it’s all God’s great story and we’re just given the joy and the pleasure and the benefit of just recording what the Lord is doing right now. And we’re just so excited to begin work on season two, and we look forward to being back. We will be back sometime in summer 2018. So between now and then, please tell all your friends about the podcast, go on iTunes, leave us a review, uh, send us love letters in the mail — we just appreciate all that you do by listening and supporting this podcast. We will see you soon. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thank you to our interviewees for this episode — Jordan Alberry, Bryce Butler, Mary Owesly, and James Westbrook.

RACHEL SZABO: Our senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks.

JESSE EUBANKS: Our co-host today is Rachel Szabo, who’s also our producer, technical director, and editor.

RACHEL SZABO: Additional editing by Janelle Dawkins.

JESSE EUBANKS: Music for today’s episode comes from Lee Rosevere, Sojourn Music, Podington Bear, Scott Holmes, Murphy DX, and Wooden Axle.

RACHEL SZABO: Apply for your social justice internship supported by Christian community by visiting Serve for a summer or a year. Grow in your faith and life skills.

JESSE EUBANKS: Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, ‘Go, and do likewise.’


This podcast is only made possible by generous donors like you!


Fastest Gentrifying U.S. Cities

The Down-sides of the “Back to the City” Movement

Is Gentrification Really a Problem?

“There Goes the Neighborhood” podcast

Seed to Oaks

Reading List:
When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
Restoring At-Risk Communities by John M. Perkins
Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission by Caleb Crider and Larry McCrary


This episode was produced and mixed by Rachel Szabo. Additional editing by Janelle Dawkins. This episode was written by Rachel Szabo with Jesse Eubanks.

Senior Production by Jesse Eubanks.

Hosted by Jesse Eubanks and Rachel Szabo.

Soundtrack music from Lee Rosevere, Sojourn Music, Poddington Bear, Scott Holmes, Murphy DX and Wooden Axle.

Thank you to our interviewees: Jordan Alberry, Bryce Butler, Mary Owsley and James Westbrook.