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Christians say we should love our neighbors as ourselves, but does that include the stranger next door? Stories about the oddity of trying to be a good neighbor in the 21st century.



#8: Where the Gospel Meets Neighboring

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. I’m gonna be really quick about this. We’re heading towards the end of the year, and we wanna make a season 2. We’ve got a ton of great stories in the works, but the truth is this. You’ll never get to hear any of those stories unless we get funded. So if this podcast has helped you or encouraged you or given you tools or resources or conversations that have somehow benefited your life, head over to Gifts of 25 bucks, 50 bucks, 500 bucks help us make more stories. Thanks. Let’s get to the episode.


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so if there had to be a modern patron saint of neighboring, I would totally vote for Mister Rogers. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: Which makes sense, and I think the vast society would, but before you do that, I do think some questions need to be answered.

JESSE EUBANKS: Of what? Who — what questions? It’s Fred Rogers. There’s no questions.

LACHLAN COFFEY: There — I can agree with you to a certain extent, but think about this. Have you ever really heard the lyrics of his song?

JESSE EUBANKS: They’re wonderful, yeah.

LACHLAN COFFEY: But you hear it in the voice of Mister Rogers. Change the voice just a little bit. Just change it to a little bit of a creepy voice, and this is what you get. (creepy voice) ‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day, would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?’ (laughter) Listen, it gets worse. ‘I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you. Won’t you please – won’t you please – won’t you please be my neighbor?’ 

JESSE EUBANKS: You’re such an idiot. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: I’m just saying, there’s question marks there.

JESSE EUBANKS: Why do I have you on this show?


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

LACHLAN COFFEY: And I’m Lachlan Coffey. Every episode we hear stories of social justice and Christian community.

JESSE EUBANKS: And today’s episode is where the gospel meets neighboring. And we’re actually not going to be talking about Mister Fred Rogers. Instead we’re going to one neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky where Christians have decided to take Jesus’ command to love their neighbor — in the most literal sense possible. Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, how many folks on your block did you talk to over the last week in your neighborhood where you live?

LACHLAN COFFEY: Uhhh… let me count… none. Zero.

JESSE EUBANKS: Really? Like, none?

LACHLAN COFFEY: Does a wave count as talking?

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so how many people did you talk to over Facebook or email, Snapchat?

LACHLAN COFFEY: I’m 37 years old. I don’t chat in snaps (laughter)…. Uhhh, it was a fair amount. A large amount of emails and Facebooking primarily. What’s your point of this?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, what I’m getting at is this. Okay, so there was a study in 2015 from the City Observatory. So one-third of Americans say that they have never interacted with their neighbors, not once. So one in three Americans not once have ever interacted with the people who live next door to them. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: Which totally makes sense. I mean, that’s not like that’s surprising of a stat because when people think of their neighbors they tend to count their family, their coworkers, their friends, people on Facebook or snappy — the snap one — Snapchat. So ultimately, you know, who cares? We don’t have to actually hang out with our neighbors, per se. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well okay, see that’s the thing. We have broadened this term ‘neighbor’ to refer to any human relationship, and so we no longer take it to include the people that live, well actually, next door to us. 

At the beginning of the gospel of John, the author describes Jesus like this: it says ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ But my favorite translation of this verse actually comes from Eugene Peterson’s The Message. It says it like this: ‘The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.’ It gets at this idea that God is not just a “commuter” God — he didn’t send Jesus down for a day to take care of business and then just jet out. He lived where we live, and he experienced life how we experience it. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: But we live in a commuter society. I travel, I drive to work 12 minutes away from my home, I go to a church that’s a few neighborhoods back. Like for me personally, I have a million things to do, I have a million responsibilities, different hats I wear. And I — y’know, I use technology, so to speak, to keep up with everyone and keep things progressing and moving along.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so we’ve all got our Netflix and our smartphones and our social media accounts, and we literally have the world at our fingertips. While the physical people that we live next to? They feel like a world away from us. And I don’t know, I just wonder — like what does it say to our neighbors — the very people who live where we live — if we aren’t willing to engage them? It’s this very question that started to change the life of a guy named Nathan Ivey.

So at the time, Nathan was a pastor at a church in an inner-city neighborhood. So Nathan made the decision to move into that neighborhood. He wanted to be in the neighborhood where his church was. But shortly after moving into the neighborhood, Nathan felt convicted.  

NATHAN IVEY: Especially when I moved into the inner city of Louisville, where I was sleeping literally 15 feet from my physical neighbor, and I realized how much time I was spending with my neighbor just 15 feet away and never knowing their name.

JESSE EUBANKS: And when he talks about being 15 feet from his neighbor, he’s referring to the fact that in the inner city the houses are built very close together. And Nathan didn’t even know the names of the people who were living so close to him. And to Nathan — though that seemed normal — it didn’t necessarily seem right.

NATHAN IVEY: We’re really good at being strangers in America. We are really good at kinda keeping to ourselves. And you couple that with this great command of loving God and loving your neighbor, I began to really kinda get convicted and I asked myself ‘What if Jesus was serious? What if Jesus was serious about literally loving our neighbors?’

JESSE EUBANKS: And so — Nathan decided he would get to know and love his literal neighbors.

NATHAN IVEY: And my very first endeavor was one — to smile cuz it’s hard to turn down a smile, and then wave and introduce myself as Nathan, which is my name.

JESSE EUBANKS: That’s it. Pretty simple. ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ And the neighbors? Well, they also responded pretty simply.

NATHAN IVEY: Initially met with ‘Oh, well hi, that’s nice to meet you, I’ve got things to do’ and it would be a, y’know, a five second exchange. And then they would walk into their home…

JESSE EUBANKS: So whenever we try something for the first time, it’s often helpful to have other people that have gone before us, other people that have done that same work. And so, Nathan, he decided that he would use this. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: It looks like a tic-tac-toe grid. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so this comes from a book called The Art of Neighboring, and this is sort of a visual guide to help you learn how to interact with your neighbors. So, here’s how Nathan explains it.

NATHAN IVEY: It is a square with nine different squares inside of it, a three square by three square. And in the very middle square is a icon of a house, and that’s representative of where you live. If you were to write out these nine different squares and put your house in the middle, then the one above would maybe be the house across the street from you and the one to your left would be your neighbor to your left and the one to the right would be the neighbor to the right. And don’t forget the neighbor behind you, which we often do. 

JESSE EUBANKS: There are three layers of depth to this chart, and so we’re gonna actually go through all three of those layers. So layer one is really simple. It’s actually just get to know your neighbors’ names. Okay, so Lachlan, can you name all of your neighbors?

LACHLAN COFFEY: Yes, but to be honest, I have to think really hard. Uhh, Joe, Joe is one. Mary’s another… I don’t know if Mary’s right. I’m gonna take that one back. Joe is his name. And then uh — oh, what’s the one next to me? I forget… oh my goodness. Chris? No. I don’t know.

JESSE EUBANKS: So on my block, I only know — let’s see, I know Richard and Elizabeth one side and I know, um, uh, Ryan and — uhh — oh that’s terrible. So — but my point is this. I score low on this. You and I were able to name less than five of our neighbors. But I want you to listen to this guy Mike Bellucci, and we asked him this same question.

MIKE BELLUCCI: Uh, so I got Brian, Daisy, and Jenna. And then I have Kenny and Lynelle, and then Miss Carol, and then an abandoned house, and then there’s my house, and then there’s Patrick, uhh, Miss Ruth. Then I got Miss Deirdre and Terriana and, uh, Albert….

LACHLAN COFFEY: Wow, that guy is impressive. That guy would give Mister Rogers a run for his money, that’s for sure. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, this guy’s amazing. So this is Mike Bellucci, and he lives in the same neighborhood that Nathan Ivey moved into. And the reason that we wanted to talk with Mike is because Mike’s got this reputation as being almost like a super neighbor. 

MIKE BELLUCCI: …Uh, a new group of people that moved in not too long ago, and her name’s Courtney and Meredith…

JESSE EUBANKS: 12 houses and an apartment complex on his block, and he can name every single person who lives in every one of these houses.  

MIKE BELLUCCI: …And then I have Vivan and Cece. And then I have Miss Sonya…

LACHLAN COFFEY: He needs to run for mayor. Mike the Mayor. He would win.

JESSE EUBANKS: Check this out, so we counted — by the time that he was done speaking — 37 neighbors. That’s how many folks that he remembers by name.

MIKE BELLUCCI: …I think that’s it. And then on the corner, I have, uh, Angela and Craig.

LACHLAN COFFEY: That is absolutely amazing. Blows my mind.

JESSE EUBANKS: So I asked him how does he remember so many of these names.

MIKE BELLUCCI: I just know how important it is, so I’ll try to really emphasize it. Uh, I met a girl last week so I probably said her name wrong to her about 20 times. Shermiya, Sheriya… but it’s Shemiya. So I remember it, but it took me 20 times of telling her the wrong name. I think that’s why everybody — I don’t want to say that’s why everybody knows me because I have a distinct look — but I remember their names and I call them by their name. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And when Mike says he’s got like a distinct look — he is not kidding.

MIKE BELLUCCI: I would describe myself as a bearded man with tattoos.

JESSE EUBANKS: He’s kinda a big guy, he’s tall, long beard, tattoos covering every inch of his arms and his legs. So if you think of like Aquaman in the new Justice League movie… like Mike kinda looks like an urban Aquaman. He’s just a tough guy, he’s kind of intimidating… So how is Mike able to get to know every single person on his street?

MIKE BELLUCCI: Right when I moved in, me and my roommates, we made some brownies and cookies and took them to each house, and as we were there, I asked for each person in the house’s birthday. And I said I know it’s a random question, but if you could give me your kids,’ your uncle, whoever lives there’s birthday. And then on their birthdays, I had red balloons and pink balloons and I wrote ‘em handwritten cards, took a red or pink balloon, and delivered it.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Wait, so let me just get this straight. You have a bearded man, tattoos everywhere, going door-to-door asking names and birthdays. This is the birthday brownie bandit. (laughter) Bearded birthday brownies! (more laughter) This sounds crazy.

JESSE EUBANKS: Dude, it is. It’s totally crazy. And for Mike, it’s not only ridiculous because of how he looks, but when he delivered one of those birthday balloons in particular, he got the age completely wrong…

MIKE BELLUCCI: The ones directly across the street, Angelo, he’s 19 now. So for the first card I wrote him, he was turning 18. But I was under the impression his sister said he was a newborn. So I wrote ‘Happy first birthday, Angelo’ because I had never met him yet. And I was like ‘Yo, you might not be able to read this, but I just wanted you to know that your neighbors are praying for you on our street and we care about you and we hope you grow up to be like healthy and strong.’ And then I found out he was 18. And like I went directly over and I was like ‘’Bro, I did not mean to say I don’t know if you can read this like… ‘you probably can’t read this, but’… dude, I thought you were one.” And he just said, uh, ‘Yeah, I was like what the heck?’ He said a different word, but he was kinda like ‘What in the world? Like dude thinks I can’t read.’ But I was like, ‘at least you got a red balloon.’

JESSE EUBANKS (laughter): He thought he was one. ‘You probably can’t read this.’ 

LACHLAN COFFEY (laughter): He got a red balloon. That’s gold. That’s amazing. 

Okay, so it’s, yeah, I — that’s amazing to hear what Mike did. What about Nathan? Did Nathan do the same thing? Was it all about beards and brownies, birthdays?

JESSE EUBANKS: No, so what Nathan decided to do to learn his neighbors’ names was to invite them to his own family tradition. 

NATHAN IVEY: We’ve always loved throwing a Christmas party, and so we’ve always thrown a street party for our neighbors. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So this year, Nathan and his wife invited all their inner city neighbors to come to their home for a Christmas party. Surely their neighbors would wanna celebrate Christmas together right? Well the day of the party comes. But — the neighbors? They don’t come. Not a single one. And not because his neighbors don’t like Christmas. There was something about his new neighborhood that Nathan just hadn’t learned yet.

NATHAN IVEY: It just so happened, unbeknownst to me, that in the inner city where we were, where we were living, people really don’t go into people’s homes. It was… ‘we’re a porch culture. We hang out outside, and now you’re kinda inviting us into your home. We don’t really do that here’…

LACHLAN COFFEY: So help me out here. Why don’t people in the inner city go into each other’s homes?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, there’s a few different reasons, but it can kinda be boiled down to two. And the first reason is that when you live in the inner city, you don’t open up your home to other folks because when people come in, they might steal something or they might be casing your house, ways to break in later… The other part of it has to do with pride and shame. Y’know, a lot of folks are poor and they don’t have the nicest houses or the nicest things. In general, just at the end of the day, folks don’t really go into others’ homes. But Nathan wasn’t going to give up that easily, so he made a new plan — and that was that anytime he noticed his neighbors go outside, Nathan went outside too.

NATHAN IVEY: When your neighbors are outside cutting the grass, I would say ‘your grass probably needs to be cut too.’ And so if they’re outside raking the leaves and you’ve got some leaves to rake in your yard, that’s a good opportunity for you to grab the kids or grab the rake and go out to the front yard and rake some leaves and you can have a conversation about raking leaves and say ‘Hey, your yard’s looking really good over there’ and, you know what, they’re probably gonna respond ‘Hey, I’m glad you’re raking your leaves too. Isn’t this a pain in the you know what?’ and, y’know, an opportunity to laugh and maybe crack a joke. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: Yes, because there’s so many jokes to crack when you’re raking leaves. I can see how most people would think that this is so trivial or just almost like a boring task — because when we think about serving God or serving our neighbors, it always has to be like radical, we have to do something that’s crazy. But sometimes it’s just something as simple as raking your leaves.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah dude, I love how just non-epic this whole thing is. It’s just very, very normal, everyday life. And it was really through these normal, everyday interactions that Nathan ended up learning the names of all of his neighbors.

LACHLAN COFFEY: I actually have a joke about raking leaves. These leaves must be maple leaves because they may pull my back out. Ma-ple. (laughter)

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so layer one is getting to know people’s names. Now let’s move on to layer two. So layer two in getting to know your neighbors is to find out some fact about them, something you learn from conversation with them. Do they have any hobbies? What’s their favorite movie? And so for Nathan, well he learned very quickly that his neighbor Gene, Gene loved football.

NATHAN IVEY: My neighbor Gene is a huge, huge football fan, so huge that even when the windows are closed we can hear him screaming in our house in football season.

JESSE EUBANKS: Now here’s the thing. Nathan is, actually himself, he’s not a football fan. In fact he knows very little about the sport. But nevertheless, Nathan did see this as an opportunity to hang out with Gene. 

NATHAN IVEY: I said ‘Hey Gene, I can tell that you love football so much. I don’t really love it, I don’t really understand it. Do you mind if I come over for a game to experience all this joy that’s coming out of your house during this football game? Guess what his answer was on that?

JESSE EUBANKS: Stay with us.


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

LACHLAN COFFEY: And I’m Lachlan Coffey. Today’s episode is where the gospel meets neighboring.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, we’ve been following the story of Nathan Ivey as he tries to take Jesus’ words to “love your neighbor” literally. He’s now learned the names of all his neighbors, and he’s trying to go deeper. So he finds out that his neighbor Gene loves football, so he asks Gene if he could come over to watch a football game with him.

NATHAN IVEY: Guess what his answer was on that? — ‘Yes! Of course!’ He’s like a football evangelist. He wants to throw as many football parties as he can, and so he set off with the task of introducing me to football and the joys of football.

LACHLAN COFFEY: And then Nathan introduced him to Jesus. And now they’re best friends.

JESSE EUBANKS: Wait, what? What are you talking about?

LACHLAN COFFEY: Well, that’s like, that’s the end game, right? We’re all just trying to get Gene to know about Jesus. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well yeah, but I don’t know if Nathan’s just like walking through the door and going like ‘Here’s chips and salsa and my evangelism tract. Read this literature please.’ Like I don’t think that’s what he’s going for. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: Yeah, I remember taking these like evangelism classes, and it was all about how do you get people to talk about Jesus. ‘Oh, that team scored a touchdown. Do you know what the greatest touchdown of all time is? Jesus.’ (laughs) Yeah, we just get caught up in this idea all the time, like just get to Jesus as quick as possible, and we bypass opportunities to love your neighbors. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And last time I checked, that’s a salesman. A salesman goes in with a quota and an agenda, and I totally believe in the Great Commission, like I totally think that we go and we make disciples of all nations. But I don’t know man, we just try to microwave these relationships to like get to the spiritual sales pitch as fast as possible. Like, I carry with me a sense of like now. I want an answer now, I want fruit now, I want evidence now. I think that we’ve lost some of our grit, like our ability to stay with it over the long haul. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: Yeah, and what’s interesting about neighbors is these are people who are not fleeting. They’re not gonna be gone the next day. They’re gonna still be there. So developing that long-term relationship with them, that’s beneficial to them and to you. Like you don’t have to microwave the relationship, so to speak, and rush into a Jesus conversation so fast.

JESSE EUBANKS: The other thing that’s true is like our faith can be offensive to people. And sometimes it’s offensive because of the truth of the Gospel, and that offends people. But sometimes there’s people that just have stories and history with the church that’s just hard for them. They’ve been hurt or abused by Christians, and so as Nathan got to know one of his neighbors, it turns out that she really just didn’t want anything to do with the church. 

NATHAN IVEY: I introduced myself to my neighbor Julie and she asked me what I did and I said ‘Hey I’m a pastor at a local church’ and immediately her eyes shot straight down to her feet, she wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and she pretty much hustled back into the house, and it was really quiet with my neighbor Julie for a great number of months.

JESSE EUBANKS: Nathan continued to say hi to Julie whenever she was outside. And she’d be cordial and say hi back. But that was about as far as it went. She seemed to have no interest in befriending a pastor. Until football season rolled around.

NATHAN IVEY: Luckily for me, she was married to Gene! And so when Gene invited me into the house, I was able to meet Julie on a more personal level. I was tapping into some prior experience of hers with the clergy or with the church. And they’re like ‘Hey, this guy is pretty cool. He may not know anything at all about football, but you know what? I’ve enjoyed him in my home’ and our conversations picked up from there.

JESSE EUBANKS: And this, this brings us to our third and final layer of the neighboring chart. So layer one, get to know peoples’ names. Layer two, get to know something important about them. And layer three? That’s knowing who your neighbors are on a more personal, heart level.

NATHAN IVEY: Like what motivates them to get up and go to work every day? What drives them? What keeps them up at night? What are some of their fears? What are some of their life struggles? Do you know if your neighbors had any dreams that just never came true?

JESSE EUBANKS: So as Nathan is spending time with Gene and Julie watching football, he learns that they actually did have a dream — and that dream was to one day have grandchildren. And they have an older daughter, but due to circumstances that weren’t exactly clear to us, Nathan came to realize that Julie and Gene were never gonna have grandkids.

Well Nathan and his wife, they have two young children. And his children love to draw and fill their grandparents’ fridge with pictures and cards they’ve made. So Nathan thought — why not have his kids do the same? But this time do it for Gene and Julie.

NATHAN IVEY: Mr. Gene was in the hospital for five weeks, and so both Katherine and Jack, my children, were praying for them and wrote him ‘get well’ cards on a regular basis. And then that was when I visit him in the hospital then we posted that up on the wall, and that was just a means of encouragement to them.

JESSE EUBANKS: Even though they’re just neighbors, Gene and Julie, they’ve become almost like family.

NATHAN IVEY: And so anything that we do for my parents or my wife’s parents, we also do for our neighbors. And so they love treating our children as grandkids. They bought a little swimming pool, and it’s just fun to send my kids over there and let them play with them in the pool, and that brings me such great joy knowing that it brings them great joy.

LACHLAN COFFEY: So what I’m hearing is, y’know, I’m gonna get this tic tac toe grid, neighborhood chart, I’m baking brownies for neighbors, I’m putting kids in pools, I’m raking leaves, and then I win the tic-tac-toe prize, right? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well that’s the thing. I mean, our neighbors aren’t a formula. This grid is to help serve as a guide, but every person is different. It just never goes quite the way that you think it’s going to, and you’ve gotta learn to adapt. So our team members at Love Thy Neighborhood actually experience this all the time. They come to love their neighbors, but it ends up being never quite what they expected. And this was certainly true for team member Daisy Cooper.

Daisy came to serve for a summer with Love Thy Neighborhood. Now, Love Thy Neighborhood, we offer social justice internships supported by Christian community in low-income neighborhoods. And as part of their time in their neighborhood, they began to invest in the life of their neighbors. They begin to get to know them, reach out to them. So Daisy, who had come to serve with us, she and her other teammates got to work right away,  thinking of ways that they could get to know and connect with their neighbors.

DAISY COOPER: Go play with neighbors in the park… inviting someone over… sitting on your porch… whatever you want it to look like, which is the good thing and made it a little easier in theory…

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, easy in theory. Not so easy in practice. All summer, Daisy tried to do the same things that Nathan had done in his neighborhood — she smiled, she introduced herself, she waved to neighbors when she saw them. But for Daisy — loving her neighbors wasn’t going to be as easy as that.

DAISY COOPER: Me and my roommate made cookies and took them around to some neighbors, wrote a nice note. And no one opened their door, like people would peek out the little blind but not open their door. And we would see their TV on because their front door is open, but they’re not coming and answering. So we just laid them on the doorstep.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Daisy came up with a plan B — she started spending a lot of time at the local park. And she went there because it was summertime and there’s always people hanging around at the park. Except that every time Daisy went to meet people — no one was there. It wasn’t like she wasn’t trying — she just couldn’t connect with anybody.

DAISY COOPER: It was discouraging because like we come here to love on our neighbors and I didn’t meet a single neighbor.

JESSE EUBANKS: Despite the discouragement of not meeting any of her neighbors, Daisy decided to turn her summer term into a year-long term. She wanted to continue to serve at her service site and live in Christian community. But of course, the thing she was not looking forward to was neighboring.

DAISY COOPER: Didn’t want to do that part at all. If it didn’t happen in the summer, what makes you think it’s gonna happen for a year, living in the same place? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, even though Daisy’s not excited about neighboring, she gets a new group of teammates and they are excited. So the first weekend they’re all together, they’re discussing what they can do to try to meet people in the neighborhood. And her teammates come up with this great idea: let’s all go to the park.

DAISY COOPER: And I’m thinking ‘Guys, it didn’t work in the summer. It’s not gonna work now…’

JESSE EUBANKS: Going to the park is what Daisy had done. All summer. She knew from experience — it’s not gonna work. So when her teammates leave for the park, Daisy decides to stay home. After a couple of hours of being home by herself, she goes outside to see if her teammates have had any success. She spots them inside the community center in the middle of the park. But Daisy doesn’t wanna go inside because she still thinks this whole idea of meeting neighbors, it’s pointless. So she sits down outside the door and waits for her teammates to come out. And while she’s waiting, a lady walks out of the community center.

DAISY COOPER: She’s this pregnant lady who is waddling, and her kid is like running circles around her. I could tell she is not having it. She wants to sit down, he wants to throw a ball…

JESSE EUBANKS: So this lady comes out and she’s pregnant and she’s got her son running all around her. He’s probably about two years old. And Daisy’s sitting there, and she’s got this instinct inside of her that says she could go and she could help this woman. But she also knows it’s not going to make a difference because it never has before. And so she sits there for 15 minutes. And then she just can’t take it anymore. She’s gotta go help this woman.

DAISY COOPER: And then I go over to her and I’m like ‘Hey, do you want me to play with your son? Like is it okay?’ And I’m expecting her to be like ‘No, you’re a stranger. Get away from me and my son.’

LACHLAN COFFEY: What was the woman’s response?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, her response actually ended up changing everything. 

DAISY COOPER: And I was shocked…

JESSE EUBANKS: Up next — a baby shower, a baptism and a weed-eater? Stay with us.


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

LACHLAN COFFEY: And I’m Lachlan Coffey. Today’s episode is where the gospel meets neighboring.

JESSE EUBANKS: Daisy Cooper is serving with Love Thy Neighborhood. She’s at the park, and she sees a pregnant lady with a two-year-old son running circles around her. This woman looks exhausted, and Daisy decides to roll the dice and ask this woman if she can help her with her son. And what does this woman say?

DAISY COOPER: ‘Yeah, sure, go ahead.’ And I was shocked.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Daisy throws a ball around with the little boy. And she learns that the woman’s name is Jamecia.

JAMECIA: My first impression of Daisy — I just actually thought she was like somebody in the neighborhood. She was like ‘Do you mind if I play with your son?’ And I’m like ‘Oh, yes, take him off my hands. Like I got this huge belly, I would love to sit down for a second.’

JESSE EUBANKS: Daisy’s teammates eventually come over, and they also start playing with the little boy. So as her teammates are playing with the little boy, Daisy walks over and sits down with Jamecia. And she learns that Jamecia is a single mom, she’s in her third trimester of pregnancy, and she moved here a year ago with her son Kobe.

JAMECIA: I was miserable, stressed out that I would never like get anywhere and stuff at the time. I was pregnant and had Kobe, so I couldn’t work. I was like really struggling, but it was very like stressful and miserable for me. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So they’re really enjoying their conversation with each other, Daisy’s really excited because she’s finally met a neighbor, Jamecia’s excited because she’s got people playing with her kid. And so they exchange phone numbers, and then suddenly a rain shower happens. 

DAISY COOPER: It started raining, so we just like literally ran home. And she’s like struggling. Seven months pregnant, she can’t run.

JESSE EUBANKS: So they part ways and each go home. And Daisy figured she probably wouldn’t see Jamecia again, that this was just some random meeting. 

DAISY COOPER: It was strange that I never saw her my whole summer ‘cuz she lived like two blocks from us. We always went to the park. She said she always went to the park. But no, it’s really weird.

JESSE EUBANKS: But Jamecia was really curious about these people.

JAMECIA: Actually I was hoping to run into them again after she talked to me about how much they were involved into the community ‘cuz they just seemed to be so happy, y’know, and just calm about things.

JESSE EUBANKS: Now remember, when Daisy and Jamecia met at the park, they exchanged phone numbers. And Jamecia is the only neighbor that Daisy has gotten to know. And so Daisy starts texting Jamecia — often — asking her if she wants to come over, asking her if she wants to go to church, asking if she wants to meet up for dinner, wanting to spend time together. And it’s just hard for Jamecia. Jamecia’s a single mom with a baby on the way. And so Daisy starts asking herself, ‘You know, if I were in Jamecia’s shoes, what would I want right now?’ And so she decides to throw Jamecia a baby shower.

DAISY COOPER: She was seven months pregnant when we met her, and she didn’t have things for this baby.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Daisy gets on Facebook and starts asking her friends to donate things and help throw this shower. And her teammates, they start doing the same thing.

DAISY COOPER: And it was really awesome also to see my roommates just come behind that idea because for six people who’ve never had a baby to like throw a baby shower — We’re like ‘Yeah, that’s crazy.’ People donated tons of stuff from baby clothes to a bouncer, food for the party, decorations for the party, they came to our party.

JESSE EUBANKS: And because Jamecia didn’t really have friends to invite to the shower, Daisy just invited some of her own friends. It was a bit strange asking people to come to a stranger’s baby shower. But they did. And some of the strangers that came to that shower — Jamecia is friends with some of them now. Here’s Jamecia remembering the shower.

JAMECIA: It was amazing. They brought lots of gifts. I can say that, so I went home with a lot of stuff that I was not expecting. (laughs) After that I just felt happy and joyful, y’know, just excited like ‘Yay I have friends now.’ 

JESSE EUBANKS: That baby shower ended up being a turning point for Daisy and Jamecia. After the baby shower and after seeing that Daisy was committed to be a part of her life, Jamecia accepted her invitation to go to church. And she started going to church every week.  And then to Daisy’s community group, which is a small, more intimate gathering of people from her church. A few months later, Jamecia’s baby was born. Daisy and her teammates would often babysit for Jamecia so she could go to community group, so she could look for a job, and even so she could attend a baptism class at church. And on the Sunday of her baptism during her testimony, there is one person she specifically mentions by name. Here’s a clip of someone reading Jamecia’s testimony at her baptism service.

CLIP FROM BAPTISM: I got pregnant again, and that’s when I broke and I cried out to God. I prayed and I asked God for help. But more than that, I needed redemption. He then placed Daisy Cooper into my life. Daisy became my friend and introduced me to Sojourn, where God really started revealing himself to me and molding my heart. He gave me clarity on what his Word meant when he says ‘I am your stronghold.’ My faith began to grow more and more because I believe as it says in 2 Corinthians 3 that my story is written not with pen and ink but with the spirit of the living God.’ Amen. (applause)

DAISY COOPER: So when I heard my name, I froze. It was just like everything in me stopped moving, and I just like started crying. Just broke down crying. I just didn’t expect to be in her story, her testimony by name. It was real that I was a part of someone’s story.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Daisy’s finished her time with Love Thy Neighborhood, and she still lives in the neighborhood where she served. And she doesn’t have any neighborhood requirements anymore, any outreach hours she has to meet. But she still sees Jamecia all the time. Because they’re friends now. 

DAISY COOPER: I see her probably twice, no three times a week. We probably talk every other day. And it’s funny to see how that’s changed because at first she wasn’t even responding or we weren’t talking not even once a week, and to go to every other day says a lot about our friendship now. 

JAMECIA: I would say thank you for being a huge blessing in my life. I just really appreciate everything that you do and have ever done for my kids and I. You’re amazing, and we love you. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: I think the common thread through all these stories is initiative. Neighboring is not natural. We do not naturally go and put our kids in our neighbor’s pool, y’know, to let them swim or rake leaves at the same time, like that takes initiative. It takes initiative to get to know your neighbors’ names. But that’s the initiative that Christ has called us to. That we moved into our neighborhood, so to speak, and we’re called to take action, to take initiative. It’s practical and it seems so small, but it has obviously huge implications.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, we’re going to do a pop quiz and we’re going to see how you do on this. So I’m gonna give you five seconds. I want you to think of five sermons that deeply impacted your life.


JESSE EUBANKS: Yes. And go. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: There was a sermon on scheming for the Kingdom. There was a sermon…

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, done.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Okay. Oh, five seconds. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, now I want you to take five seconds and I want you to think of five people that have deeply impacted your life. Go.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Jim, Mark, Mike, Dale, Chris.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so which one was easier?

LACHLAN COFFEY: The five people. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Sooo, relationships are what change lives. The two most important commandments in Scripture, they’re relational. Like everything in the Scriptures is about relationships.

LACHLAN COFFEY: And that’s why I love this topic of neighboring, because it’s such an easy way to apply being a change agent in the world and effecting change in this world for the glory of God. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So I asked Nathan if he’d had any neighbors that he’ll never forget. And he told me one last story. This one was about his neighbor Justin.

NATHAN IVEY: Uh, I met Justin because Justin’s weed-eater broke. And in the inner city sometimes your lots aren’t big enough to really need a lawn mower so you just buy a weed-eater, and because I had been saying hi to him and I happened to be outside he comes over and he sees that I have a weed-eater and he said ‘Hey, can I borrow that weed-eater? Because mine just busted and I’d love to get my yard done,’ and so I said ‘Sure Justin, I’d love for you to take it,’ and so he started borrowing my weed-eater.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well Nathan and Justin started talking every time he needed the weed-eater, and eventually this weed-eater, it helped form their friendship.

NATHAN IVEY: And so after I saw a rhythm that maybe they couldn’t afford a weed-eater and maybe he just liked coming over and chatting to get the weed-eater, but it dawned on me — I said, ‘Justin, why don’t you just keep the weed-eater at your house and when I need the weed-eater I’ll come get it from you’ and something happened when I made that offer cuz he took me up on it. He said ‘You know what, I’ll keep the weed-eater’ and he took better care of that thing than I ever would have. And whenever I needed the weed-eater, I would go over and it’s a beautiful opportunity to knock on his door and talk to him for a few minutes. But we became really close friends after that, and it wasn’t but about a year later that — I remember very clearly — it was 12:12 a.m. I get a phone call and it was Donna, Justin’s wife, and she said ‘Nathan, Nathan. Justin, Justin, he’s in the bathtub. He’s not breathing. I think he might be dying. Come over.’ And I said, ‘Did you call the police?’ And she said ‘No, I called you. I called you.’ And I said ‘Well hang up. I’m coming over, but call 911.’ 

JESSE EUBANKS: Think about that for a second. They had fostered a relationship that was so deep that when an emergency happened her first instinct was not to call the police. It was to call her neighbor.

NATHAN IVEY: And we got 911 over. Unfortunately, he had a heart attack and passed away. 

JESSE EUBANKS: The family asked Nathan to sit with them frequently in the days that followed Justin’s death, just to be with them in their time of loss and their pain and their confusion. And then they asked him to conduct the funeral, his very first one. And then they gave him something.

NATHAN IVEY: They gave me a copy of his Bible. He was, he was a believer, and he would’ve said that our relationship helped foster a closer relationship with God for him. And those are the kinds of relationships that I’ll never, I’ll never forget, where it begins with a hello, it deepens with a weed-eater, and it culminates in a funeral where eventually I’ll see him face to face again and I look forward to that day.


JESSE EUBANKS: Nathan is the Founder and Executive Director for Seed to Oaks. Seed to Oaks mobilizes local churches to respond to poverty and injustice in their surrounding neighborhoods. And 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 go to our website at


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thank you to our interviewees for this episode — Nathan Ivey, Mike Bellucci, Daisy Cooper, and Jamecia Buckhannon.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Our senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks.

JESSE EUBANKS: Our co-host today is Lachlan Coffey. Lachlan is doing amazing work with his partner-in-crime Mike Cosper over at Harbor Media. They are a producer of great podcasts, and you can check out their work by going to

LACHLAN COFFEY: And our producer, technical director, and editor is Rachel Szabo. Additional editing by Janelle Dawkins.

JESSE EUBANKS: Music for today’s episode comes from Lee Rosevere, Podington Bear, Broke for Free, Blue Dot Sessions, and Wooden Axle.

LACHLAN COFFEY: 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: You said social justice internships so much better that time. 

LACHLAN COFFEY (laughter): I did practice that this week.

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.’ 


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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 Lachlan Coffey.

Soundtrack music from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Broke For Free, Blue Dot Sessions and Wooden Axle.

Thank you to our interviewees: Nathan Ivey, Mike Bellucci, Daisy Cooper and Jamecia Buckhannon.