Peace at last has come to the Meadows. With a name like Meadows, one might get the impression that it had always been a peaceful place. But to anyone who knows urban Atlanta, the Meadows had become synonymous with all that is wrong with public housing. It became known as "Little Vietnam" to residents who had to endure the cross-fire of deadly drug wars that erupted at any provocation, day or night. Christmas in the Meadows brought with it special dangers - gifts to guard and parties that could turn violent without a moment's notice. Children lucky enough to get roller blades or bicycles under their tree had to be kept on a very short leash and ever under the watchful eye of a parent. Like Eva Davis, long time president of the East Lake Meadows resident's association, lamented, "There's no peace, no joy here anymore." But peace has indeed come to the Meadows, a peace like no one could have imagined just a few months ago. This complex that once teemed with trouble now lies silent, razor wire around its perimeter, some buildings bulldozed to the ground, others boarded up. Faded graffiti is a bleak reminder of the forces who once controlled this war zone. The devastation has all the appearances of the "scorched earth" tactic used in Vietnam. As one field officer put it, "We have to destroy this village in order to save it!" But the Meadows is not an example of a peace-at-any-price strategy. The Prince of Peace is up to something very different here.
Just across the street the sure sign of a new Meadows has sprung up. On overgrown land predators once used for hiding drugs and stolen goods, beautiful new town homes have been built. A trash-strewn swamp has been drained and in its place a scenic Lake and golf course has appeared. The first group of Meadow residents has moved into their new community - which they have named The Villages of East Lake - and soon many others will follow. And on the land behind the razor wire, Phase II of "The Villages" will soon begin, creating several hundred more attractive homes Another nine holes of golf will be developed where community youth in the new Junior Golf Academy will play. An assortment of other excellent educational, recreational and community life amenities will soon follow. But The Villages is no mere real estate development. It is a divine invasion by the Prince of Peace and "on those living in the land of the shadow of death a Light has dawned."
What seems a bit strange is that God would choose an unlikely assortment of theologically untrained people with secular sounding titles to be the bearers of His peace for the Meadows. He first entrusted the vision to a real estate developer, a public housmg official, a welfare grandmother, and a handful of other non-clergy folk, all quite humbled at being selected as instruments of divine intervention. But I suppose this should not be so surprising. It was, after all, to three wealthy strangers and a group of uneducated shepherds that He revealed the Prince's first entre.
The new Villages of East Lake is a sign that peace once again has broken into our world. Here welfare families live side-by-side with middle-income neighbors sharing friendship, rides to the grocety store, and hopes and dreams. Here committed property managers ensure that the playgrounds are safe and children can run carefree about the property. A full-time community chaplain - himself a fellow neighbor - encourages neighbors to engage together in mentoring, recreation, Bible studies, celebrations, and a host of other community-enhancing activities. Faith-motivated residents, recruited from area churches, initiate block parties and house warmings that are building trusting relationships among their diverse neighbors. Peace is being waged here with intentionality.
Joy to the world and to the Meadows, the Lord is come! And He has surprised us once again. He has come in the form of ordinary people of good will. People like you and me.