Jesse Eubanks, Executive Director of Love They Neighborhood, addressed Union students in chapel Aug. 31 with a stirring message about practical gospel living that included information about their outreach program and the stories of people who have had life-changing experiences through that program.
Eubanks started out working for Louisville Rescue Mission, which at the time was called Jefferson Street Baptist Center. Due to some problems in the leadership, the organization was suddenly without an executive director, which made the donors, volunteers, and participants nervous.
“They got together and asked me to be the interim executive director,” Eubanks said. “The only problem was, I had no idea what I was doing. But, you gotta start somewhere.”
During the beginning of this time as executive director, someone had donated a large number of fur coats. Eubanks decided that he and his team should try them all on before giving them away. In a matter of seconds, he and everyone else in his office were wrapped in luxurious, fluffy coats, when someone walked in and handed Eubanks yet another donation — a massive stuffed dog with the words “love puppy” labeled in bright-red, cursive letters on its body. Then, a donor walked in.
“She looks at me, and says, ‘Who’s in charge here?’” said Eubanks, recalling his furry coat and the furry love puppy that was almost as big as him.
Eubanks went on to say that no one wakes up competent. He didn’t exactly feel competent holding a huge stuffed animal and the gaze of a disapproving and skeptical donor; but, when God begins a work in someone’s heart or elevates a person to a certain place of service, it’s a process, a journey, and that person won’t be perfected over night. God isn’t concerned with his people’s outward perfection as much as he is with their willingness to obey and simply take action the best way they know how, Eubanks said.
Eubanks launched LTN in 2014 with the two-fold vision of reaching the local Louisville community as well as others with the gospel and at the same time creating a place for young adults to enter those at risk communities. He wanted them to gain practical experience in loving God’s people, even when it gets uncomfortable, even when it gets messy.
Ashley Jackson, a current year-long intern, had an opportunity during a past LTN summer internship to share the love of Jesus with one of the women at the shelter who seemed at first to be fairly open and friendly with those around her but was rather closed off when it came to personal matters. Jackson, knowing that the woman needed more than what she was currently willing to receive, kept pursuing friendship with her and showing her kindness, even if at times it wasn’t returned. But then, during Jackson’s last week, the woman came to her crying. She confessed that she had congestive heart failure, that her family had rejected her, and that her husband had taken her children and left her for another woman.
“She was just in a really dark place,” Jackson said. “I was just able to be there for her, telling her that God is here, being present with her.”
Jackson’s story proves that God can use people who are willing to be present and patient. Eubanks’s message and the message of LTN is to simply go and to simply do, loving people in a real-life, practical way.