That there is currently a place on earth called Sodom and Gomorrah, and that the residents named it that themselves is amazing enough. But the fact that there is now a fledgling church planted in its midst where the love of God is pronounced and a better life is detailed is beyond beautiful. Residents emerge from shacks and makeshift storefronts, walk down narrow alleys filled with the rubble of cast-off materials now made useful, and pick their way around the labyrinth of a community compressed and over rivulets of human waste to a little room where "What a Mighty God We Serve" is being sung. The Community Restoration Fellowship is in worship of a God big enough to lift this community to a new place. Started by two graduate students a year ago, this fellowship of 55 adults and 44 children from this mega slum of 50,000 has been threatened, moved several times, and struggles to create a sustainable ministry in a complex ministry environment.
As I sat with my students soaking this miracle in, I looked out the door and saw a community that has migrated here to survive, but that is living in the grips of the vice so epitomized by its name. Prostitution and crime are rampant, illiteracy and chaos oppress families, and the grinding rhythms and routines required to stay alive dominate each waking moment. They look in pensively, hearing the music, wondering if the song that is sung about the might and love of God is for them.
But this place is not condemned to the same fate as the first Sodom and Gomorrah. There is a redeemer, and through his people this place of sweat and labor and permanent transition can become new. What will the new name be? "They shall be called, 'The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord' and you shall be called 'Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.'" (Isa 61:12)