Matthew 19:19 KJV says “Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” In most cases it is easier to honor our father and mother than it is to love our neighbor as ourself. However, loving our neighbor is the second greatest commandment. Jesus was asked by a scribe, which is the greatest commandment of all? Mark 12:29-31 ESV, Jesus answered “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Romans 15:1-3 ESV says, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” What does it mean to build up a neighbor? What does it mean to build up a block, community, or subdivision? It means building relationships and showing love to your neighbors. It means your neighbors become family.
I had the privilege of learning about Love Thy Neighborhood (LTN); an organization that’s building up their neighborhood. LTN is an organization located in Louisville, Kentucky. They originally started in 2005 and worked mostly with their local homeless shelters and churches. Their primary focus was to help the homeless in their neighborhood. Although they started out very small, working with one church and 12 people, they made great strides.
With the continued support of local churches and family, LTN grew and is now partnered with seven different ministries and can have close to 50 people serving with them. Not only do they assist with homelessness, they also help individuals affected by the sex industry and those in various crisis situations.
Through the power of the gospel, LTN shows young adults (who participate in internships) how to become productive in their current environment. These individuals come from at-risk neighborhoods and are shown leadership skills. LTN provides a structure that educates individuals on a spiritual, personal and professional level. They work on time management, resume building skills and fellowship. Ultimately their interns become “servant leaders,” says Kiana Brown, LTN Operations Administrator.
In a questionnaire I sent over to LTN, Kiana Brown explains that an intern stays quite busy during their time in the program. Each servant leader spends fifteen hours a week doing neighborhood outreach and another fifteen hours a week for personal discipleship. This rings true to their expressed passions. LTN is all about the Gospel and building relationships.
The mission of LTN is to spend time with their neighbors, churches, each other and God. Each member is encouraged to find a church to call home. Kiana noted that prayer and fellowship remains vital to their success. Their organizational passions include affirming the Christian presence in the neighborhood and spiritual formation.
Learning about LTN was pretty awesome, especially since my oldest son attends Northern Kentucky University. I thought of him and how he loves to help out. I thought of others who might want to help or may need help.
“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like” (Luke 6:47 ESV).
So upon hearing all this, I had to ask Kiana, “Do you have to live in Kentucky to become a member?” and “Does LTN have any ‘sister’ organizations?” She answered with good news!
First, anyone can apply to be a member. When you become a member, you choose your Service Terms. A Service Term is held in Louisville, Kentucky and consists of two eleven month schedules, one starting in September and the other in January. They have a summer term where you can serve from late May to mid-August. According to their website, lovethyneighborhood.org; you could even come in the summer and stay all year. Nevertheless, you will live within a community based on faith, fellowship and healing. Second, LTN is a unique organization and has inspired many, including the neighborhoods in Seattle, Washington. Kiana shared with me that Serve Seattle is considered their “sister” organization. They work pretty much the same way as LTN.
So what does it take to build up a neighborhood? I wanted to know. How does someone start an organization like LTN in their own neighborhood? The answer I got was not what I wanted. However it was real and honest. It was the best advice one could get. Kiana simply said, find like-minded individuals, get advice, do a ton of research and pray a lot! Her answer showed me the difference between a salesperson and a person truly working from the heart. As a society, we have become accustomed to hearing the glamour stories, used to hearing that there’s a quick fix or that success is bliss. Often we are blindsided by the work it takes to truly succeed, we lose faith, hope or interest.
Remember as in Luke 6:46 when Jesus spoke to the multitude of people from Judaea, Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do the things which I tell you?” It is so easy to cry out to the Lord and then not love thy neighbor as thy self. God will give us grace, but never promised it would be easy. Maybe you’re not quite sure how to love your neighbor. It’s going to take even more time to love a neighborhood. Maybe you have to start with introducing yourself first. Stay encouraged and don’t forget those who are on this path; organizations like LTN and Serve Seattle. So spread the word, donate and find ways to serve. You can even start right at your own local church. Being an active member of a church was a significant factor in the creation of LTN. Kiana wrote, “We love the local church and participation is a crucial piece of our program.” Their continued efforts echo throughout their community. For more information or to get involved visit lovethyneighborhood.org